27 Again they entered Jerusalem. As Jesus was walking through the Temple area, the leading priests, the teachers of religious law, and the elders came up to him. 28 They demanded, “By what authority are you doing all these things? Who gave you the right to do them?”
29 “I’ll tell you by what authority I do these things if you answer one question,” Jesus replied. 30 “Did John’s authority to baptize come from heaven, or was it merely human? Answer me!”
31 They talked it over among themselves. “If we say it was from heaven, he will ask why we didn’t believe John. 32 But do we dare say it was merely human?” For they were afraid of what the people would do, because everyone believed that John was a prophet. 33 So they finally replied, “We don’t know.”
And Jesus responded, “Then I won’t tell you by what authority I do these things.”
The religious authorities confront Jesus in this passage because of his disruption of the Temple trading (see yesterday’s post), demanding to know what makes him think he has the authority to undo the trading system they themselves had put in place and were overseeing. Their question is not genuine though, they are not trying to decide whether he has such authority or not, it is both an accusation and an attempt to trap Jesus into saying something self-incriminating. Jesus does not rebuke them for questioning his authority and he even offers to answer, if they can prove their inquiry is sincere. But it’s not so they can’t. In their ensuing discussion of John’s authority, the question of whether it was actually from God does not even get discussed. There is no search for truth here, only sheer political manipulation. At other points in the Gospels, Jesus is quite open about where his authority comes from. He also regularly engages in questioning authority. Questioning authority is an important part of the life of a disciple of Jesus, because all human authorities are secondary for the disciple to the authority of Jesus himself.
New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.