How well do you handle confrontation? Before launching into today’s note, ask the Lord to prepare your heart to learn from him.
Read Matthew 21:18–27
Jesus Curses a Fig Tree
18 Early in the morning, as Jesus was on his way back to the city, he was hungry. 19 Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!” Immediately the tree withered.
20 When the disciples saw this, they were amazed. “How did the fig tree wither so quickly?” they asked.
21 Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done. 22 If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”
The Authority of Jesus Questioned
23 Jesus entered the temple courts, and, while he was teaching, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him. “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you this authority?”
24 Jesus replied, “I will also ask you one question. If you answer me, I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. 25 John’s baptism—where did it come from? Was it from heaven, or of human origin?”
They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ 26 But if we say, ‘Of human origin’—we are afraid of the people, for they all hold that John was a prophet.”
27 So they answered Jesus, “We don’t know.”
Then he said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
ReflectHave you ever had someone confront you about your faith?
The context of today’s passage is the aftermath of the Temple-cleansing (Matt. 21:12–17). The priests and elders, who made up a large segment of the Sanhedrin—the council before whom Jesus would soon stand trial—regard Jesus’ words and actions as having undermined their authority.
To their questions about authority (23), Jesus counters with a question of his own (24,25). From the hurried, and rather worried, discussion that follows (26), it’s evident that their questions don’t arise out of a genuine desire to know, but are a thinly veiled attack, springing from a stubborn refusal to believe. These leaders have already made up their minds about Jesus. They’re not information gathering, they’re stockpiling ammunition for later use!
How do you typically respond to hostile questioners? Are you more apprehensive or aggressive? Jesus’ response (24,25) is a winning combination of wisdom and unruffled reasonableness, which leaves his adversaries cringing. In the end, they take refuge in agnosticism: “We don’t know” (27). Let’s learn from Jesus the art of asking questions which invite those with whom we speak to examine their hearts and their presuppositions.
If someone asked you why you believe in Jesus, do you know what you would say? Could you answer with truth and love?
Pray for wisdom so that you may “always be prepared to give an answer… for the hope that you have” (1 Pet. 3:15).
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