THE WISDOM OF GOD
Lord, who is able to withstand You?
Read LUKE 20:1–8
The Authority of Jesus Questioned
20 One day as Jesus was teaching the people in the temple courts and proclaiming the good news, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, together with the elders, came up to him. 2 “Tell us by what authority you are doing these things,” they said. “Who gave you this authority?”
3 He replied, “I will also ask you a question. Tell me: 4 John’s baptism—was it from heaven, or of human origin?”
5 They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Why didn’t you believe him?’ 6 But if we say, ‘Of human origin,’ all the people will stone us, because they are persuaded that John was a prophet.”
7 So they answered, “We don’t know where it was from.”
8 Jesus 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.
“Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’” (1 Corinthians 1:30,31, ESV )
Luke leaves out the cursing of the fig tree (eg., Mark 11:12–21), though he mentions fig trees elsewhere (eg., Luke 13:6–9). Instead, Luke’s Jesus is back teaching in the temple courts. He does not seek to provoke revolt but enters into debates over matters of authority and law. The first encounter comes from Jewish leaders who challenge Jesus’ authority. These religious leaders are determined to protect their status and prestige. After all, “who does this upstart rabbi think he is?” These leaders are observing the rise of a popular newcomer and feel threatened. They remind me of the prodigal’s older brother. In reality, their question is ridiculous, since Jesus has earlier challenged them quite directly (Luke 11:37–52). In addition, they have observed him for three years now and have seen his power to heal and perform miracles. Indubitably, such authority can come only from God. Their problem is hardness of heart (Mark 3:5).
Jesus’ response highlights his debating skills. As he is fond of doing, he answers a question with his own question. He forces them into a corner. Here, if they state that John’s baptism was not divinely authorized, they will incur the wrath of the people who believe he was a prophet. If they admit that John’s baptism has the backing of heaven, then they admit that Jesus does too, because John has publicly endorsed Jesus (Luke 3:16 )! To evade Jesus’ snare, they refuse to answer. To no one’s surprise, Jesus responds in kind. No answer.
Four things stand out. First, we must search our hearts for hard spots and ask God to soften them. Second, God is always at work doing new things, raising new workers. Like Priscilla and Aquila with Apollos (Acts 18:18–28), we must celebrate this and nurture it. Third, we learn one of the essential skills of sharing our faith – meeting questions with questions that challenge people’s heart-states. Finally, we are reminded that Jesus embodies the Wisdom of God.
Read Ezekiel 36:26: ask God to soften our hearts. Ask Him to show us what He is doing. Pray for it and join in.
Lord, keep our hearts in the proper posture toward You and Your authority.