(Matthew 21.23-27; Luke 20.1-8)
27Jesus and his disciples returned to Jerusalem. And as he was walking through the temple, the chief priests, the nation's leaders, and the teachers of the Law of Moses came over to him. 28They asked, “What right do you have to do these things? Who gave you this authority?”
29Jesus answered, “I have just one question to ask you. If you answer it, I will tell you where I got the right to do these things. 30Who gave John the right to baptize? Was it God in heaven or merely some human being?”
31They thought it over and said to each other, “We can't say that God gave John this right. Jesus will ask us why we didn't believe John. 32On the other hand, these people think that John was a prophet. So we can't say it was merely some human who gave John the right to baptize.”
They were afraid of the crowd 33and told Jesus, “We don't know.”
Jesus replied, “Then I won't tell you who gave me the right to do what I do.”
Even though Jesus doesn’t answer their question, he answers their question. John the Baptist had his authority from heaven, as everyone with any spiritual insight recognized. The leaders couldn’t deny John the Baptist’s authority, plus they were afraid of the people, so they refused to say that his authority was from human beings. On the other hand, they couldn’t admit that John the Baptist’s authority was from heaven, because that meant acknowledging that Jesus’ authority was from heaven, too. After all, John the Baptist pointed everyone to Jesus! He said that Jesus was greater than he was and that everyone needed to listen to him! If John the Baptist’s authority was from heaven, and Jesus was greater than John, then Jesus’ authority was from heaven as well.
The conclusion was inescapable, but the leaders refused to accept it. Rather than acknowledge the truth, they said they didn’t know where John the Baptist’s authority came from. In response, Jesus informed them that he wouldn’t tell them where his authority came from either. But, in reality, Jesus had already answered their question. He had given them the opportunity to acknowledge that his authority was from heaven. He had pointed them to John the Baptist who was pointing them to Jesus!
Yet they would not believe. This is the frightening reality that comes from deliberately hardening your heart against the truth of God. Even when you know the answer, you won’t admit it. Even when all the signs and all the evidence show that Jesus’ authority is from God, you won’t accept it. This is not a matter of intelligence, evidence, or riddles – it is a matter of the heart. Jesus is the Son of God and his authority is from heaven. Every one of us needs to open our hearts to this truth.
Lord God, help us to bow before the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ. Help us to see him clearly. Soften our hearts to receive his rightful reign over our lives. Help us to submit to him and love him. In Christ’s name, Amen.