Quid Pro Quo

November 10, 2021

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?” 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. 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?’ But if we say, ‘From man,’ we are afraid of the crowd, for they all hold that John was a prophet.” 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” (Matthew 21:23-27).

The Jews were first hand witnesses to the ministry of Jesus. They saw many amazing things: the feeding of 5,000 people on one occasion, and 4,000 on another, with a few barley cakes and fish; the restoration of sight, hearing, speech, and paralyzed limbs; the casting out of demons, healing of leprosy, and the raising of the dead to life again. They heard the teaching of Jesus and were astonished and amazed at the clarity, simplicity, and forcefulness of His words. Jesus was a man who, without question, possessed divine power and authority (Mark 1:22). But the Pharisees Scribes, and Sadducees refused to believe He was the Messiah of God.

After witnessing the powerful things Jesus had said and done, the Chief Priests and Elders wanted to know the authority that gave Him the right to do those things. Their question was framed in such a way as to trap Jesus. If He answered that His authority came from man or that no one gave Him any authority, the religious leaders could safely discredit Him before the people because He repeatedly told them His authority came from His Father in heaven. On the other hand, if Jesus answered that His authority came from God, the leaders could charge Him with blasphemy for claiming to be God, since He also claimed to forgive sins (Matthew 9:2-7).

It was clear to anyone who actually cared about the truth that Jesus ministered under divine authority, for as Nicodemus recognized, no one could do the things Jesus did unless God had sent Him (John 3:2). The Chief Priests and Elders knew the truth, but they suppressing it in wickedness (Romans 1:18-19). Therefore, the question they asked Jesus did not deserve a strait forward  answer. "Christ did not make a direct reply to them . . . because they wickedly and shamelessly interrogated him about a matter which was well known" (John Calvin).

Jesus answered them indirectly by posing a question of His own about John's baptism (Matthew 21:23-27; Mark 11:29–33). Jesus turned their trap back on themselves. Their reluctance to answer His question demonstrated they did not really want to hear what He had to say in the first place, and it exposed their godlessness in rejecting Him as Lord and Savior of Israel.

“Holy Spirit, open the spiritual understanding of the unsaved people we minister to so that they may come to know Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior. We know the Lord is patient with them, not willing that any of them die in their sin. This I ask in Jesus’ name, Amen.”


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