We are in the temple in Jerusalem with Jesus and His disciples. Jesus has been teaching, healing people and doing God’s work. He is going to be confronted by the religious leaders over that same fact. Earlier we looked at Matthew and Mark’s account of the incident.
When we examined this event in Matthew, I placed Him in a firsthand event and titled that entry “A Question of Authority.” In Mark’s telling I focused on the fear factor behind the trap the religious leaders were laying out for Jesus. That blog title was “Fear Forbade an Answer.” Their fear, not His, made this an unforgettable encounter. I want to look today at religious leaders’ struggle for an answer.
Jesus has been ministering in the temple every day during this final week here on earth. He is teaching and healing people. He has also upset the establishment’s balance of power when He overturned the tables of the merchants and money changers. The religious leaders are beside themselves. They want Him GONE! He is causing them too much stress. They are trying everything they can to “expose Him for the fraud He is.” This is just one in a long line of attempts to discredit Him during this week.
The people and their opinion of Jesus is keeping the religious leaders from acting on their hatred directly. Jesus is popular and in high demand. The people coming to Him are fully convinced He is acting on God’s authority and is a prophet straight from God. The people would probably love to answer this question for Him.
“Why won’t He answer?” This thought surely must have been in the minds of many in the crowd. Why didn’t Jesus simply answer the question? They were unaware of the true struggle going on that day.
Jesus knew the religious leaders’ hearts when He posed His question. He knew they knew the answer to their own question. He knew they were trying to trap Him. He also knew that the people weren’t ready yet for His complete answer. They were convinced He was a prophet but were still waffling on the “Messiah” conviction and needed to have “plausible deniability” for the events at the end of the week. How could they cry out for His death if they were SURE He was the Messiah? And He needed them to be able to cry out.
When Jesus raised the question of John’s authority He knew the people’s conviction on that matter. John was only on the scene for a few months before he was killed by Herod, but the people recognized him as a TRUE prophet of God. They believed him and took to heart all that he told them to do. John’s only message was for the people to turn back to God because their Messiah was at hand. Jesus was the fulfillment of John’s prophecy.
The religious leaders knew that if they accepted John’s message as being divinely sent, they would also have to recognize Jesus as the one John prophesied about. If they could discredit John they could negate his message. If they found John credible they would have to accept John’s own identification of Jesus as the Messiah. NO WAY were they ready to do that! No wonder they were in a bind by Jesus’ question.
In posing His own question, Jesus trapped the religious leaders. They either had to admit they knew the truth or face the wrath of the people. I wonder how long they debated over their answer. They couldn’t admit that John was sent by God because they didn’t heed his message. John challenged their standing with God. He told them directly that God could raise up replacements for them from the very stones they were standing on and that He was ready to act now. “The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire” (Matthew 3:10). THIS they would NOT buy into! Not that what John said was impossible but that they refused to believe him. And by refusing his message they also refused the One who sent him. There was plenty of evidence to support John’s prophetic authority but the religious leaders refused to accept that proof.
So Jesus’ confrontation boils down to: “You already know the answer, you just refuse to admit it.” They didn’t really want an answer; they simply wanted Him to give them a wedge to drive between the people and Himself. It wasn’t quite time yet for the FULL answer. It would come, but on HIS terms, not theirs.
Lord Jesus, You pointed out the truth so elegantly to this group. You show me the truth just as completely, even when I don’t have the deep religious training they had. God kept the full truth from them because of the part they had to play, but they could have seen it at ANY TIME if they would have truly been looking. They had blinders on. THEY put the blinders on of their own free will. God didn’t condemn them to ignorance; He simply used their stubbornness as part of His plan.
Thank You Father for not leaving us in the dark forever. It wasn’t time to reveal Your full plan that morning but You did eventually show us all the truth. There are still pieces hidden about the end times but not about Who Jesus was/is. He IS my salvation! He IS my Messiah! He IS my only hope! I choose to believe the truth set before me. As much as it pains me to be glad this group acted so egregiously towards Jesus; thank You for allowing it to happen. Only through their rejection of Jesus was my acceptance possible. Thank You for raising up this “stone” to the family of Abraham; Your chosen children.