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Matthew 21:23-27: By what authority are you doing all these things?

Posted by adventbiblestudy on June 23, 2012


Matthew 21:23-27 When Jesus returned to the Temple and began teaching, the leading priests and elders came up to him. They demanded, “By what authority are you doing all these things? Who gave you the right?” (24) “I’ll tell you by what authority I do these things if you answer one question,” Jesus replied. (25) “Did John’s authority to baptize come from heaven, or was it merely human?” They talked it over among themselves. “If we say it was from heaven, he will ask us why we didn’t believe John. (26) But if we say it was merely human, we’ll be mobbed because the people believe John was a prophet.” (27) So they finally replied, “We don’t know.” And Jesus responded, “Then I won’t tell you by what authority I do these things.

 

 

The disciples thought about how Jesus caused the fig tree to wither during the entire journey to the temple. As the grand walls came into view, it finally hit James. This temple had little in common with the Tabernacle described in the books of Moses. James asked himself, were the tall walls intended to keep people in, or out? Why the gated doors? The Tabernacle was always open. James decided he would pay closer attention to the details inside the temple this time to see how much they had been altered, or eliminated.

 

When Jesus and His disciples reached the temple gate they were the first to arrive in the early morning. They had to wait outside the locked gate for some time. While waiting, a small group of people began to gather. Others went to gather their friends and family to go see Jesus teach. Once the gates open, Jesus entered with a large group of followers. He continued His lesson inside the temple court.

 

James noticed quite a contrast. Jesus positioned Himself where the sacrificial sheep were housed the day before. Since the pens had to be repaired, the animals were kept outside the temple court for the evening. James decided to begin his observation the moment he stepped into the courtyard. He stood at the gate, carefully looking over the scene. On one side a large group of people gathered around Jesus to listen to Him teach. On the other side the priests began supervising the clean up. Tables, chairs, and other debris were still scattered about. It was hard to believe one man could cause such a mess in so short a time.

 

James could hear Jesus teaching in a soft manner and tone, yet His voice carried to the ear of every person willing to listen. On the other side of the court priest barked out orders and continually complained, cursing the man who caused such damage, as if they were unaware Jesus was across the court. Then one of the priests yelled out. , “By what authority are you doing all these things? Who gave you the right?” While James was trying to determine if the priest was referring to the over turned tables, or Jesus’ teaching, Jesus answered him, “I’ll tell you by what authority I do these things if you answer one question”

 

The entire crowd turned around to look at the priests. The disciples wondered what question Jesus was going to ask them this time. Jesus waited a moment for a reply. When none was offered, He continued. “Did John’s authority to baptize come from heaven, or was it merely human?”

 

This was exactly what the priests wanted to avoid. The group of priests first began to ask why he decided to engage Jesus in another debate at this time. They had enough to worry about at the moment. They had to get their operation up and running as quickly as possible. Every moment they hesitated, valuable revenue was being lost. They quickly gathered in a circle to discuss the question among themselves. “If we say it was from heaven, he will ask us why we didn’t believe John. But if we say it was merely human, we’ll be mobbed because the people believe John was a prophet.”

 

Several minutes passed before they finally replied, “We don’t know.” Everyone looked back at Jesus, now showing a smile on His face as if knowing the priests finally spoke a word of truth. Jesus responded, “Then I won’t tell you by what authority I do these things.”

 

James could easily see Jesus’ question was a simple one showing where the priests stood in their religion. For years Jesus had been patiently teaching His disciples how to tell the difference between mere human beliefs, and those from Heaven. From their answer, “We don’t know,” James could see they were so drawn by their worldly thoughts, they could not understand any message from Heaven. Their answer allowed James to finally see and understand the spiritual lesson. Jesus taught truth in His simple and direct manner, while the priests were busy reconstructing their concept of religion, the one Jesus had over turned. He could also see they were to busy tending to their misguided beliefs to listen to Jesus and learn.

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