Jesus Confounds the Priests

(Matthew 21:23-28)

When Jesus entered the temple and began to teach, the priests questioned his authority. They asked, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” But Jesus knowing their malice turned the question back on them.

Now it was evident to all that the deeds he did could have come from one authority only, from God. The people recognised Jesus as the Son of David and worshipped him as the Son of God, but the priests, the Pharisees and the scribes refused to accept him as such. They believed they were the ultimate authority in the temple and thus they questioned Jesus’ authority. Had they recognised Jesus as the Messiah and the Christ, they would not have queried him. Had they bothered to take any notice of his works they would have seen who he was. And had they checked the scriptures they were charged to teach the people, they would have seen him for who he was, the true Messiah who was to come. But they did none of these things and chose instead to try and undermine his authority.

Jesus was having none of that though. Instead he threw the ball back into their court and asked them a question. He said, “I also will ask you a question; and if you tell me the answer, then I also will tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John, whence was it? From heaven or from men?” This was a very clever response for whichever way the priests chose to answer, they would have to admit they were in the wrong. If they said John was of God, then Jesus could legitimately say, “Why then did you not believe him?” Just as they rejected Jesus they previously rejected the teachings of John. And after Jesus died they would reject the teaching of the Apostles to come. However if they said John’s ministry was from men they would be rejected by the crowd and the people who rightly believed John to be a prophet. Any way they went they would have to admit fault in their teaching and beliefs.

So they took the easy way out, which was a lie, and said, “We do not know.” Since they refused to answer Jesus’ question, Jesus refused to answer theirs.

Now Jesus showed the power of the gift of wisdom and knowledge in his answer. He also said that in out times of need when we are delivered up to the counsels as he was, that we need not fear. He tells us that in those times we should not meditate beforehand how we will answer such charges against us. In the time of need he says, “…for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict.” (Luke 21:15)

Just as Jesus confounded the priests who were arrayed against him to question his authority, so too he will give us the right words at the right time to stand against opposition. We saw this in the case of Stephen who though he was martyred, could not be faulted in the words he spoke in his defence. (Acts 7)

Jesus will give us the words we need when we need them. In every way he cares for us, protects us and shows us what we need. The priests questioned his authority, but his authority comes from God. God has given all power to Jesus and all authority is in his hands. Against his power no earthly man or power can stand for he says, “…for it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.” (Romans 14:11)

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