Reading the Word
Matthew 21:23–27 (ESV)
23 And when he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came up to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” 24 Jesus answered them, “I also will ask you one question, and if you tell me the answer, then I also will tell you by what authority I do these things. 25 The baptism of John, from where did it come? From heaven or from man?” And they discussed it among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ 26 But if we say, ‘From man,’ we are afraid of the crowd, for they all hold that John was a prophet.” 27 So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.
Parallel Texts: Mark 11:27-33; Luke 20:1-8
Understanding and Applying the Word
The last time Jesus was in the temple he had driven out the money changers and those selling pigeons. So when Jesus returned, the chief priests and elders were quick to confront him. Who did Jesus think he was? Who gave him the authority to do the things he was doing? After all, the temple was under the authority of the priests.
When Jesus heard their questions, he responded with a question of his own. He asked the priests and elders, “The baptism of John, from where did it come? From Heaven or man?” The priests and elders refused to answer this question because no matter how they would have answered it, they would have been in a difficult situation. On the one hand, they would admit that John acted on behalf of heaven (i.e. God), which means they should have listened to him. On the other hand, they would deny that John was a prophet and anger the people who believed John. Since the leaders would not answer Jesus, he refused to answer them.
If the priests and elders had been willing to acknowledge the source of John’s authority, they would have also known the source of Jesus’. John’s entire ministry emphasized that Jesus would come and he would be greater than John. The leaders were unwilling to see this even after all they had witnessed through John and also through Jesus. They had heard the teaching, witnessed or heard about the miracles, but they refused to believe. Their hearts were hardened to the truth.
Today, many have hardened their hearts towards Jesus in much the same way. Many refuse to see Jesus for who he is because they do not want to, regardless of the truth that is available. What should we do? We must continue to share the gospel and pray that the Lord would soften their hearts and open their eyes.
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