Read: Mark 11:27-33
As we finish chapter 11 today, we see Jesus and his disciples return to Jerusalem. As Jesus enters the temple courts, various religious leaders approach Him with malcontent on their minds:
…while Jesus was walking in the temple courts, the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders came to him. “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you authority to do this?” Mark 11:27-28
They are so confident in their wisdom, knowledge, and experience, that they approach Jesus with a question they have created as a means of quieting Him. In their minds, I believe, they somehow think Jesus will simply go away and stop causing trouble.
Jesus makes a wager:
Jesus replied, “I will ask you one question. Answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. John’s baptism—was it from heaven, or of human origin? Tell me!” Mark 11:29-30
The riddle leaves them puzzled and Jesus dismisses their feeble attempt to prevent Him from teaching in the temple courts and surrounding area.
They’re unable to answer His question because they are completely self-focused. Their systems simply promote themselves and feed a ritualistic method for artificial repentance.
Before we walk away from these few verses, consider that the group of men represented here represent the top leadership for the entire Jewish nation. Chief priests, not underlings; teachers of the law, not students; Elders, not junior members of society. Depending on your view of today’s contemporary Christian spokespeople, this might be Billy Graham, Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, or other renown Christian leaders of our day. They’re based in Jerusalem, so their credibility factor is high and their inability to solve the riddle is a major factor in their secret plans to kill Jesus.
None of that is news. We’ve thought about this lots of times, basically, every time we talk about Pharisees. What I hope to learn from this interaction is that Jesus is kind to them, even if He knows He’s asking a question they can’t answer.
His words are not aggressive. His desire is that all would come to the table, even those who should know better.
In this tense holiday season, I pray we will learn to be kind as we continue to be a beacon of hope for those who are far from Christ.