December 28

Text: Matthew 21:23-27

And when He had come into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to Him as He was teaching, and said, "By what authority are You doing these things, and who gave You this authority?" And Jesus answered and said to them, "I will ask you one thing too, which if you tell Me, I will also tell you by what authority I do these things.  "The baptism of John was from what source, from heaven or from men?" And they began reasoning among themselves, saying, "If we say, 'From heaven,' He will say to us, 'Then why did you not believe him?' But if we say, 'From men,' we fear the multitude; for they all hold John to be a prophet."  And answering Jesus, they said, "We do not know." He also said to them, "Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.” (NASB)

Matthew saw Jesus as a person who understood that following God involved more than authority.  On this occasion, Jesus knew an “authority swap/confrontation” would solve nothing.  Divine mercy and grace (Ephesians 2:4, 5) are beyond what we call authority.  Jesus knew a trap when a trap existed.

All that typically occurred in the temple area/site occurred because proper authorization existed.  The buying, selling, and exchanging money had proper authorization.  Then Jesus, without authorization, disrupted those activities.  He disrupted everything as the area was filled with pilgrims coming for Passover.  He continued on by healing the lame and blind.  Needless to say, Jesus’ acts drew lots of attention from the people assembled.

Those in charge of temple activities were indignant.  When Jesus returned to the temple area the next day, these indignant people decided to end Jesus’ disruptions.  They would ask him for his authorization and prove that he had no right to do what he did.

They decided there would be no more events that misled the people and undermined the leaders’ authority.  However, those “in control” were in an awkward position—and they knew it!  Whatever they did, they dared not alienate the people.  The leaders hated Jesus, but they were afraid of the people.

Jesus knew they did not have control over the people.  He asked a question with the promise to answer their “authority” question if they answered his question first.  The people’s opinion of John kept the leaders from answering Jesus’ question, so Jesus did not answer their “authority” question.

Suggestion for reflection:  Do you think all religious questions can be correctly answered by determining authority?  Why?  (Read 2 Chronicles 30:1-20).

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