Read: Luke 19:45-20:8
For those who have rendered Jesus as their personal companion, friend, and a buddy of sorts, the scene in the temple courts should provide some evidence that He did not come here to be best friends. The seriousness of His mission comes into focus as we enter the last section of Luke’s gospel. Beginning with yesterday’s triumphal entry through chapter 24, Jesus’ main purpose comes into focus. The first 19 chapters provided the foundation. Events will now speed up quickly.
When Jesus entered the temple courts, he began to drive out those who were selling. “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be a house of prayer’; but you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’” Luke 19:45-46
Forget the image of Jesus as the mild and meek carpenter’s son. Regardless of His physical stature, no one is about to stand in His way as He drives out those who have turned the Temple into a business enterprise.
One thing I find interesting is His physical action here. The wind and the waves obey His simplest of demands to “be still,” but in this instance, He gets physically involved. Once again, we are given an example that we can follow. His actions are not supernatural, though I would certainly not want to be one that stood in His way!
The chief priests and teachers of the law, however, have had enough of this Jesus guy. From their perspective, it’s bad enough that He performs miracles they can’t begin to replicate or preaches sermons they can’t understand, now He’s directly in their business! No doubt each of the sellers doing business in the Temple courts contributed to their bottom-line. Now Jesus is driving them away. Something has to be done!
The foolish priests’ first plan of attack is question Jesus’ authority.
“Tell us by what authority you are doing these things,” they said. “Who gave you this authority?” Luke 20:2
I’m confident they’ve heard all the stories, if not witnessed some of the miracles, and yet they are confused about His authority. Well, actually, they’re not confused. It’s simply a trap to get Jesus to publicly say something that they could use to kick Him out of Jerusalem.
Jesus doesn’t play well with this kind of attitude. He fires back a question that they have no way of answering without recognizing the true authority.
He replied, “I will also ask you a question. Tell me: John’s baptism—was it from heaven, or of human origin?” Luke 20:3-4
They hold an emergency council meeting to debate the pros and cons of possible answers, but ultimately they give up and admit, they don’t know. Their position in the church (to use a contemporary term) would be severely compromised if they take a position on His question. If they confirm John’s baptism was from God, they are at fault because they did not present themselves to John for baptism. However, if they affirm his baptism was human, all of the public support for John would turn against them.
These leaders of the Jewish faith are more concerned about appearances than facts. Their position, their status, even their livelihood is based on maintaining their authority and high status in society.
I wish this were only a story from ancient days, but sadly this is a theme we witness in our ultra-conservative, postmodern society. At the risk of showing my age, I’ll quote a Billy Joel song,
Honesty is such a lonely word, but mostly what I need from you.
Lord, help us to expand Your kingdom on earth by being honest with each other. Teach us to wade into the pool of transparency without drama. May we each find brothers or sisters in Christ that we can openly confide in. May we be the church you meant when you reminded us to forgive one another, to love uncontrollably, and to reach out to the least, the lonely, and the lost.