World English Bible translation
11:27They came again to Jerusalem, and as he was walking in the temple, the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders came to him, 11:28 and they began saying to him, "By what authority do you do these things? Or who gave you this authority to do these things?"
11:29Jesus said to them, "I will ask you one question. Answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. 11:30 The baptism of John - was it from heaven, or from men? Answer me."
11:31They reasoned with themselves, saying, "If we should say, 'From heaven;' he will say, 'Why then did you not believe him?' 11:32 If we should say, 'From men'"-they feared the people, for all held John to really be a prophet. 11:33 They answered Jesus, "We don't know."
Jesus said to them,"Neither do I tell you by what authority I do these things."
Today's Scripture is the beginnings of the direct confrontations between Jesus and the religious rulers of Jerusalem. Jesus had come to Jerusalem and entered the city to the acclamation of the multitude. On the next day He entered the city and drove out the moneychangers and merchants that had set up shop in the Court of the Gentiles at the Temple. Each action had continued to provoke the chief priests and scribes. Jesus understood that His actions were provocative. He knew how this confrontation would end. But this is the role that had been given to Him by the Father and the Son was obedient to the will of the Father, even unto death.
The chief priests, scribes and the elders came to Jesus on the third day and put Him to the test with a question. "By what authority do you do these things?" Many times when those who have ulterior motives are questioning Jesus He will answer a question with a question. In this case, He puts these learned men to the test. "The baptism of John - was it from heaven, or from men?"
These men knew immediately that Jesus had turned the tables on them. They had thought to trip Him up, but Jesus had turned the tables on them. They knew that they could not say that John the Baptist was a prophet from God because when John was alive they had not supported him. John was a prophet from the wilderness. He had never had the support of the Temple and its authorities. But they could not say that John was not a prophet either. The vast majority of the people had believed that John was a prophet sent from God. They had gone out to see Him in the wilderness near the Jordan River. He had baptized many of them. The rulers would have lost the support of many people if they had condemned John outright.
Because they would take no position, Jesus refused to answer their question. If they refused to acknowledge that the Spirit of God had led John, then they would never acknowledge that that same Spirit drove Jesus to do the things that He did. God demands that we take a position. That is why Jesus is called the stumbling block over which men fall. God demands that we take a position. We cannot be neutral. We either believe what Jesus taught and believe in the things that he did or we do not.
What do you say? By whose authority did Jesus of Nazareth act? Was He from God, or from man?
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