Jesus and the Pharisees, scribes, priests and elders were on a collision course.
Out in the open, Jesus taught for several days in the Temple while behind the scenes the leaders plotted against Him. A confrontation was inevitable. The leaders wanted to choose the time and the issue to give their team the best chance of shutting Jesus down. The issue they chose was authority. They could not attack His power to heal for the evidence was overwhelming and very human. They could not denounce His teaching for He was bringing the words they had studied all their lives to vivid life. The only thing left to the opposition was the 1st century version of “Who do you think you are?”
By what Authority?
“Tell us, by what authority are You doing these things?
They were the ones with the God-ordained authority. How dare He instruct the people in the things of God, the Temple, and the right way of living! That was their job. They wore the priestly robes, the lawyers’ regalia, and the invisible trappings of time-honored power and privilege. Where were His robes? Who were His teachers? Where did He study? His power was undeniable so they tried to cast doubt on the source of it.
“…who is he who gave You this authority?”
They demanded Jesus’ credentials. It wasn’t enough that blind people could now see or that deaf people now heard perfectly. They needed more than anecdotes—disputable testimonies of people who were healed at His touch—witnesses can be bought. Everyone knows that. They needed footnotes: His teachers, school, and other sources. False Messiahs rose up with pitiful regularity in and around Jerusalem, all of them ending up in prison or in the graveyard. How was He different from them?
They seemed to say to the crowd, ignore the healings and think for a minute. Power must have a source and if the source of Jesus’ power was not linked to the established religious system, what was that source? Doubt was the mission of the leaders, to sow seeds of doubt in the minds of the people. How could God move in direct opposition to the religious system He Himself had ordained? It was a good issue for this public showdown. What possible answer could Jesus give that would not discredit Him or even incriminate Him?
“I also will ask you one thing…”
Instead of falling into their credentials trap, He asked them about the authority of John the Baptist. This issue was settled in the minds of the people—John was a prophet from God.
“…answer Me: The baptism of John — was it from heaven or from men?”
Now who was in a trap? The leaders went into a defensive huddle. How could they answer? They could not say John’s authority came from God because they did not follow him. To declare John to be less than a prophet, would be to invite a stoning from the people and there were always lots of stones around.
The Temple crowd fell into a deep silence awaiting the answer. Finally, they confessed that they did not know the source of John’s authority. The silence broke into roars of laughter. Whatever the source of Jesus’ authority, it was greater than that of His opponents. Jesus, laughing with people, replied,
“Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”
Godly authority speaks for itself.
Now it happened on one of those days, as He taught the people in the temple and preached the gospel, that the chief priests and the scribes, together with the elders, confronted Him and spoke to Him, saying, “Tell us, by what authority are You doing these things? Or who is he who gave You this authority?” But He answered and said to them, “I also will ask you one thing, and answer Me: The baptism of John — was it from heaven or from men?” And they reasoned among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From men,’ all the people will stone us, for they are persuaded that John was a prophet.” So they answered that they did not know where it was from. And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”
Psalm 40:7-9 KJV
Then said I, Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me,I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart. I have preached righteousness in the great congregation: lo, I have not refrained my lips, O Lord, thou knowest.
Hebrews 10:7 KJV
Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God.
Lord Jesus, I have felt the authority of Your touch. I have heard the authority of Your voice. I have lingered peacefully in the authority of Your presence. I don’t need footnotes or credentials—I have You! Yet, with You stands the authority of Your Word, for I indeed find You “in the volume of the Book.” I also walk with You every day. I tell Your story today and even with my humble telling, Your unmatched authority still flows. Thank You, Lord! Amen.
Words and Music: Debbye Graafsma
Mighty Warrior dressed for battle Holy Lord of all is He.
Commander in Chief, Bring us to attention.
Lead us into battle To crush the enemy.
1. Satan has no authority here in this place. He has no authority here,
For this habitation was fashioned for the Lord’s presence; No authority here.
2. Jesus has all authority here in this place. He has all authority here
For this habitation was fashioned for the Lord’s presence. All authority here.
© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved