Good Morning!Please forgive my absence yesterday (so don’t think you missed 8/28). I had to leave the island early in the morning for a meeting in Miami. We continue with Jesus’ time in Jerusalem, during Holy Week.
Mark 11: 27-33
27Again they came to Jerusalem. As he was walking in the temple, the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders came to him 28and said, “By what authority are you doing these things? Who gave you this authority to do them?” 29Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one question; answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. 30Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin? Answer me.” 31They argued with one another, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ 32But shall we say, ‘Of human origin’?” —they were afraid of the crowd, for all regarded John as truly a prophet. 33So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”
This event takes place on the third day, Tuesday of Holy Week, as they enter Jerusalem, and Jesus goes directly to the temple. The chief priests, scribes, and elders come to him with a challenge, where did he get the authority to challenge the functions of the temple – to enter into their domain and upset things? When Jesus first predicted what would happen in Jerusalem, he had said that it would be done through the chief priests, scribes, and elders. Mark has already told us that they are plotting to kill Jesus. Theirs is not a benign question; they are not seeking information – Jesus knows his power and authority comes from God, but if he tells them that, they will at once arrest him for blasphemy. Their unspoken question is, does his power come from God or is it of human origin? They figure either way they have entrapped him.
But Jesus turns the question to them – what about John? Did his authority come from heaven or was it of human origin? They are forced to choose – the people believe that John was a prophet; if they say he was not they will start a riot. But if they admit that John was a prophet, they are forced to admit that they are not living the repentant life he called for, and that Jesus is the one John said would come after him. And so, they avoid making a choice. They say, “We do not know.” And Jesus says, fine, I won’t tell you where my authority comes from either.
This was more than a shrewd argument on Jesus’ part. He was reminding his adversaries, and his disciples as well, of John’s message of repentance, and forgiveness, and his announcement of the Coming One. It also reminds us of Jesus’ baptism, the voice from heaven saying, “This is my Beloved Son”, and finally, we are meant to remember our own baptism. After all, it is there that we gave Jesus the authority over our own lives.
There is a model of Jerusalem in the first century in Jerusalem. I am attaching a photo to give you some sense of the temple courts where Jesus would have been teaching. It is a large space, but during Passover week would have been crowded!