HEARTS OF STONE
Loving Father, I praise you in astonishment, I adore you in gladness, I thank you in gratitude for who you are, and for what you do.
Read MATTHEW 21:23–27
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.
ReflectMeditate on Proverbs 2:6. Keep this verse in mind as you go on to encounter Jesus in Matthew’s gospel today.
‘Just answer the question!’ How many times have you said or thought that as you watched or listened to a politician respond to an interviewer’s question with anything but a direct answer? You could be forgiven for thinking that Jesus is attempting to evade the question put to him here by the chief priests and elders, but his interrogators wouldn’t have seen it that way. Responding to one question with another, to elucidate more precisely the matter in hand, was common practice in first-century rabbinic circles.
The focus of the debate is authority (v 23). Jesus’ actions on arrival in Jerusalem had asserted his own authority and, therefore, challenged the authority of the Jewish religious leaders. Understandably, they wanted the upstart rabbi to lay out his credentials. Their question immediately betrays their conviction that Jesus has no authority, and so reveals their spiritual blindness.
Christ’s counterquestion (vs 24–25) exposes the hardheartedness of his inquisitors. Since they refused to accept John the Baptist as a prophet acting under God’s authority (vs 25–26), they are hardly ready to recognize the authority of Jesus whom John publicly endorsed as God’s Messiah through baptism (John 1:29–34). So, there is little point in Jesus answering their question (v 27). Here is the wisdom of God at work to disarm deceit.
Are there areas where you need courage to exercise the wisdom that God gives?
Lord, I need wisdom from you as I navigate the daily decisions I must make. Help me avoid landmines and to follow the Spirit’s directions.
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