Lord, You are the master of debate.
Read Mark 11:27–33
The Authority of Jesus Questioned
27 They arrived again in Jerusalem, and while Jesus was walking in the temple courts, the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders came to him. 28 “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you authority to do this?”
29 Jesus replied, “I will ask you one question. Answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. 30 John’s baptism—was it from heaven, or of human origin? Tell me!”
31 They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ 32 But if we say, ‘Of human origin’ …” (They feared the people, for everyone held that John really was a prophet.)
33 So they answered Jesus, “We don’t know.”
Jesus said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”
New International Version (NIV)
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“Isn’t He beautiful; beautiful, isn’t He? Prince of peace, Son of God, isn’t He? Isn’t He wonderful; wonderful, isn’t He? Counselor, Almighty God, isn’t He?” (John Wimber, 1980).
In today’s reading, it’s Tuesday of Passion Week. The Jewish leaders continue their plot to kill Jesus (18). They put to Jesus a question not in search of truth but in search of entrapment. Presumably, they hope that Jesus’ answer will damage His ministry and His following, or frame Him for blasphemy. “By what authority are you doing these things?” they demand to know (28). By “these things” they mean the cursing of the fig tree and the clearing of the temple – that is, the pronouncement of judgment on Israel (Cole, 1995, p 250–251).
But Jesus, true to form, answers their question with a question of His own. “John’s baptism – was it of heavenly or human origin?’(30). Just as John’s ministry was ultimately about Jesus, so is this question. If John’s baptism – and his ministry – are of God, then the Jewish leaders would have to believe all that John pronounced
about Jesus – not least that He is “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world …God’s Chosen One” (John 1:29–34). If John’s authority is from God, so too is that of Jesus – and if His authority is from God, then He is to be heeded and followed.
So it is not Jesus who is trapped – for the Son of God can never be cornered – but those who seek to trap him. They are trapped not by Jesus’ questioning (Cole, p258), but by their own unwillingness to believe based on the evidence put before them during the ministry of John and of Jesus Himself. Many people are trapped in the same way today; let us pray that God in His mercy will open the eyes of the blind and set the oppressed free (Luke 4:18).
“Power and authority, splendor and dignity, bow to his mastery, Jesus is Lord!” (Timothy Dudley-Smith, 1984, “Name of All Majesty”). Make this your prayer; pray it also for someone who is yet to believe in Jesus.
Lord, thank You for opening my eyes and understanding those years ago. Thank You that I am no longer one of Your opponents.
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