The Authority of Jesus Questioned
27 They arrived again in Jerusalem, and while Jesus was walking in the temple courts, the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders came to him. 28 “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you authority to do this?”
29 Jesus replied, “I will ask you one question. Answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. 30 John’s baptism—was it from heaven, or from men? Tell me!”
31 They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ 32 But if we say, ‘From men’….” (They feared the people, for everyone held that John really was a prophet.)
33 So they answered Jesus, “We don’t know.”
Jesus said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”
Battle Between True and Correct
I know that for many of us, being from a movie-based narrative culture, we always need villians. In the Bible, the Pharisees fill the role of the villians of the gospels, characters that we hold at arm’s length and find no familiarity with. But in general, I find that I learn so much about myself by looking at the attitudes and actions of the Pharisees.
Jesus asks them a very basic question, whether John came from heaven or men – they talk amongst themselves, and finally say: “We don’t know”…What kind of a response is that? Their little internal dialogue reveals why they say this: because there is a difference between a true answer, and a correct one.
The correct (factually correct) answer to Jesus’ question would be “Yes, John obviously came from heaven, and so did you.” But though correct, they didn’t really believe it, so it wouldn’t be true. The true (their belief and conviction) answer would have been, “No, we didn’t believe John, and we don’t believe you either”, because this is how they really felt. But this wasn’t the correct answer, and this response would have embarrassed them in front of people who had seen both John’s and Jesus’ ministry. They don’t want to acknowledge Jesus, and they don’t want to embarrass themselves, so they say nothing.
What can we learn from this?
We have to realize that in our own context and lives, we also have a similar internal debate. Some of us know the correct answers, but we really don’t believe these answers we give all the time. Maybe you grew up going to church and knowing all the answers, but never took the time to really ask if you believed these answers at the same time. Some of us have strong faith and conviction, but we don’t really know why we believe what we believe. People ask us about our faith, and we have no answers, no way to help them understand why we believe. Some of us have neither conviction nor answers…and need to take a long and serious look at the state of our faith.
When it comes to this debate between correct and true answsers, strive for balance. Take time to understand what you believe. Take time to believe what you understand. The closer you can come to this balance, the more rich and full your faith will become!
1. Is there a particular area of your life where you understand a biblical concept, but have a hard time really believing it in your heart?
2. Is there a part of your life where you are deeply convicted that something is true…but don’t really know why, and have a really hard time explaining it to others?
3. What are some practical ways in which we can strengthen our knowledge?
4. What are some practical ways in which we can strengthen our sense of belief and conviction?