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“Then they came again to Jerusalem. And as He was walking in the temple, the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders came to Him. And they said to Him, ‘By what authority are You doing these things? And who gave You this authority to do these things?’ But Jesus answered and said to them, ‘I also will ask you one question; then answer Me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things: The baptism of John—was it from heaven or from men? Answer Me.’ And they reasoned among themselves, saying, ‘If we say, “From heaven,” He will say, “Why then did you not believe him?” But if we say, “From men”—they feared the people, for all counted John to have been a prophet indeed.’ So they answered and said to Jesus, ‘We do not know.’ And Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.’”—Mark 11:27–33 (NKJV)
We’re in that pivotal point in Jesus’ ministry where He’s in what we might call “the landing stage.” This is His last week before His arrest, crucifixion, and resurrection; and He spends the great majority of it in the heart of Jerusalem, in the temple area, teaching the common people and confronting the religious leaders for their misrepresentations of God. Just a few verses prior, He did the unthinkable and overturned the tables of the moneychangers.
This, of course, prompts the rulers to verbally attack and bait Him into saying something that will give them what they need to execute Him. So, they publicly challenging Jesus on His authority to say and do what He’s been doing. If they can coax Him into confessing that He lacks authority, it’s game over. And because they assumed He didn’t have this authority, being that they didn’t confer it on Him, they think they’ve got Him.
But they didn’t! Jesus responds to their question with a question of His own, and with this He’s setting the scene that will reveal they are the ones who lack authority, not Him. He frames this scene around the ministry of John the Baptist by asking them about the source of his authority. What is given to him by God or was it simply man-based?
After giving it some thought, they quickly realize they’ve been painted into the proverbial corner! They play out the potential answers to the two possible scenarios; one has them at fault for not listening to someone authorized by God, the other has them falling out of favor with the Jewish people. Jesus has placed them on the horns of a dilemma, and the attackers are now desperate to avoid saying something wrong. So, they devise a strategy to shake loose Jesus’ question by saying, “We do not know.”
That’s the best response they could come up with on an important spiritual issue! This is what Jesus was driving at all along, because it exposed their lack of spiritual authority, which was the real issue. Jesus, being God incarnate, had no deficit of authority, spiritual or otherwise—and the masterful way He turned the tables on His accusers perfectly demonstrates this. But because they were unwilling to accept who He was and the authority He had, they had to be shown the truth about themselves . . . and it wasn’t pretty.
The application is simply this: Jesus has all authority and the sooner and more fully we understand this, the better!
Pause: What was at stake here and why did Jesus act as He did?
Practice: Consider how the Lord tends to remind you of His authority in your life.
Pray: Lord, may I never forget who You are and what that means to me. May I always bow to Your authority and will for my life. Amen.
Pastor Dan Hickling serves our online community, also known as the Calvary Chapel Online Campus. He and his wife Becky have been married for 22 years and have two children, Lauren and Danny. Both Dan and Becky have been part of the CCFL church family for 22 years and have served in full time ministry for 20 of those years.