Jesus courageously stood his ground, refusing to answer their question until they answered his – Was John’s baptism from heaven or was it of human origin? This put the temple authorities on the spot. Clearly, John the Baptist was sent by God, they knew this but couldn’t admit it. Logically, since John was sent by God to prepare the way for Jesus who he pointed out was the Lamb of God, to admit John was sent by God was to admit Jesus was sent by God. But they couldn’t deny the fact that John was sent with God’s authority because everyone knew he was. To state that John wasn’t sent by God would be to admit they were spiritually clueless and had no idea of what God had been doing. To do with was to risk the crowd turning against them, and they feared the crowd! The chief priests and elders could not affirm John’s authority and they could not deny it, so they opted for a weak and dithering – we don’t know.
Jesus then replied, neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things. In essence Jesus is claiming an authority he knows the chief priests won’t recognise. Jesus is not evading their question about his authority, but taking authority to answer as he sees fit and to expose their lack of authority. Jesus’ authority had been clearly revealed to all with eyes to see it and is recorded for us in the gospels. Jesus had authority: over nature even the wind/waves obey him (Matt 8.26-27); over sin – saying to the paralysed man your sin is forgiven; take up your mat and walk (Mark 2.9); over disease – healing many (Matt 4.23); over demons, - a new teaching—and with authority! He even gives orders to evil spirits and they obey him (Mark 1:27); to do miracles (Luke 7.21-22); and over death – his resurrection (Matt 28.7).
Jesus, the most authoritative person to have ever walked the earth, said, All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. (Matthew 28:18–20) Jesus is the ultimate authority and he could not be trumped by these wayward religious leaders who called his authority into question.
Jesus’ authority is an affront to our consumer culture in which we say it is all about me! I am worth it! My rights! My independent authority to chose my way for my life! Part of our human problem is the illusion we have of personal freedom, when in fact we are captive to sin and only Jesus has authority to set us free … “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36)
Jesus’ authority is comforting to us, because he is able, he has the power, he will keep his promises. He who had authority to calm the sea of Galilee can calm the storm in me. He who has authority to call Lazarus from the tomb, can bring life to me. He has authority to forgive you and adopt you into God’s family. Authority to give you eternal life.
How do you respond to the authority Jesus claims to have?
In what ways is his authority challenging or comforting for you?
Rev John Malcolm