Mark 11:27-33 NASB
²⁷They came again to Jerusalem. And as He was walking in the temple, the chief priests and the scribes and the elders came to Him, ²⁸and began saying to Him, “By what authority are You doing these things, or who gave You this authority to do these things?”
²⁹And Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one question, and you answer Me, and then I will tell you by what authority I do these things. ³⁰Was the baptism of John from heaven, or from men? Answer Me.”
³¹They began reasoning among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say, ‘Then why did you not believe him?’ ³²But shall we say, ‘From men’?” — they were afraid of the people, for everyone considered John to have been a real prophet.
³³Answering Jesus, they said, “We do not know.” And Jesus said to them, “Nor will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”
The questions of an official delegation of the Jewish Council about Jesus’ authority are partly a result of their formalistic thinking (Mark 11:27,28 — In Mark 11:27-12:44 we find a series of disputes with the Jewish leaders. The questions about Jesus’ authority are also a cover up to be able to argue against Him – cf. Mark 11:18).
Jewish leaders occupy their position on the basis of all kinds of relationships, Old Testament study, birth, and other existing or acquired privileges. They formed a kind of caste of authorities. To them, Jesus was just anyone, someone who had come out of nowhere.
Of course, Jesus recognizes that background to their thinking, but He is not defensive for His own sake.
Jesus does ask them a counter-question, which is very sensitive to them: what do they think of the authority of John the Baptist, who was recognized by the people as a prophet (Mark 11:29,30)?
That question presents them with a difficult choice.
They assumed that they themselves held their position on behalf of the Lord.
If John the Baptist was also sent by God, why didn’t they believe him? But they laid all kinds of burdens upon the people, and this in God’s name (Compare Luke 11:46).
Although the Jewish leaders assumed that the LORD had appointed them, they themselves go to great lengths to secure their place (Compare John 11:46,47). But with Jesus, obedience to his Father is the sole motive for his action (Compare John 5:30).
The assessment of his position by people, also by these people, who considered themselves very important, does not affect Him. In order not to go on thin ice, the Jewish leaders therefore come up with an evasive answer (Mark 11:33; a big lie! Compare Luke 7:29,30).
After this answer, Jesus stops this meaningless conversation, which arose only out of a desire for self-maintenance.
Believing in the Lord and speaking from the relationship with Him and yet maintaining yourself, that cannot go together.
Jesus’ refusal to answer the Jewish leaders (Mark 11:33) is an indirect call to return to that sphere in which questions and answers have only meaningful place: the sphere of faith and repentance, of openness and sincerity.
Question for self-reflection
▪︎ How do we get to know ourselves? (Compare John 16:5-15.)
▪︎ Ask the Lord to show you the way you are allowed to go
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