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Mark 11:27-33 By What Authority

Posted by adventbiblestudy on February 16, 2013


Mark 11:27-33 NLTse Again they entered Jerusalem. As Jesus was walking through the Temple area, the leading priests, the teachers of religious law, and the elders came up to him. (28) They demanded, “By what authority are you doing all these things? Who gave you the right to do them?” (29) “I’ll tell you by what authority I do these things if you answer one question,” Jesus replied. (30) “Did John’s authority to baptize come from heaven, or was it merely human? Answer me!” (31) They talked it over among themselves. “If we say it was from heaven, he will ask why we didn’t believe John. (32) But do we dare say it was merely human?” For they were afraid of what the people would do, because everyone believed that John was a prophet. (33) So they finally replied, “We don’t know.” And Jesus responded, “Then I won’t tell you by what authority I do these things.”

Once again Jesus entered the temple. The temple guard was ordered to keep everyone out while the priests supervised clean up and repair efforts. Their goal was to get back into business as quickly as possible. Jesus walked past the guards who seemed to be frozen in place. Not one protested. The disciples were sure they would be stopped and made to wait outside the gate with the other people. Jesus walked up to the gate, put His hand upon it and it opened.

The disciples still wondered why Jesus concentrated on the temple and not Herod’s palace. Their understanding of the prophecies told them the Messiah will come to take David’s throne. Looking back at David’s rule, it shows he appointed priests and Levites to temple services long before the temple was built. If Jesus took the throne, He could instantly reappoint every leadership position in the temple. Some of the disciples wondered if they should counsel Jesus on this matter.

The disciples watched as Jesus entered the temple court. He held His head high. Even in His simple garments, His appearance gave the impression of royal dignity. Peter thought of their trip to the mountain where Jesus’ appearance changed. He wondered if he would see the miracle again. John thought Jesus’ kingly appearance was the reason the guards let Him into the court. John looked behind to see the people waiting at the gate filing in behind them.

Jesus did not get far before the leading priests, the teachers of religious law, and the elders came up to him. They demanded, “By what authority are you doing all these things? Who gave you the right to do them?” Jesus could tell they demanded an immediate answer based on the way they repeated their question. The priests considered themselves as direct descendants of Moses and Aaron. They believed they had the gift, authority, education, and direct connection with God which established their leadership role. They not only wondered about, but detested the way Jesus seemed to bypass their authority. They would not admit it publicly, but they also feared Jesus and His increased following.

Jesus turned to face the leading priests and teachers of religious law gathered at the top of the steps, behind the tables set up for the money changers. John observed the difference between the opposing forces. John began to understand, Jesus came here to deliver a message to the religious leaders. John was not sure, but he could see Jesus did not count them as an ally. They all waited for Jesus’ answer. “I’ll tell you by what authority I do these things if you answer one question,” Jesus replied. “Did John’s authority to baptize come from heaven, or was it merely human?” John looked from Jesus back to the contingency of temple leader, back to Jesus, who added, “Answer me!”

They talked it over among themselves. “If we say it was from heaven, he will ask why we didn’t believe John. But do we dare say it was merely human?” For they were afraid of what the people would do, because everyone believed that John was a prophet. So they finally replied, “We don’t know.” And Jesus responded, “Then I won’t tell you by what authority I do these things.”

Why didn’t Jesus want to answer their question? It should have been obvious where the Son of God, the Messiah gets His authority from. But would they believe Him? Jesus already sent them back to scripture. That didn’t work. They questioned and ignored the miracles Jesus performed. They went as far as accusing Jesus of working with Satan. It was not difficult to see battle lines were drawn. You can see them in the text.

Looking at the text in Mark 11:27-33, you can see a battle for authority, which is repeated four times. Jesus is repeated three times, along with leading priests, the teachers of religious law, and the elders. Heaven and human are repeated twice.

Looking at the entire story in Mark’s Gospel we see a number of battles for authority. Satan and his agents challenged Jesus. The leading prieststeachers of religious law, and elders opposed Jesus. The leading prieststeachers of religious law , and elders also opposed king Herod and Pilate. Herod’s wife and her daughter challenged his authority. Jews were separated from Gentiles. A number of battles ranged, each challenging the authority of the other. This is the game Satan plays with this world, and they are all blind to the fact. The leading prieststeachers of religious law , and elders brought this fact to light when they answered, “We don’t know.” Jesus wanted His disciples to understand the worldly battles raging in and all around us. This was an important ingredient to conduct a successful ministry. It was a conflict the disciples would have to contend with soon after Jesus’ ascension. Establishing a new religion made up of Jews and Gentiles was not going to be easy. At times the answers would seem obvious. Other times there may seem to be no logical answer. Jesus wanted them to see there are only two forms of authority, Heaven and human, and to be able to distinguish between the two. Jesus knew the disciples had to learn how far worship drifted from Heaven, so they would never allow human authority to gain a foothold in the form of worship they were about to reestablish in the world. Soon Jesus was going to show them what it means to serve.

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