By What Authority

Because next Sunday is Palm Sunday, I have been reading again the passages in the Bible that record what happened between Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, in triumph, at the beginning of the week, and the crucifixion and resurrection at the end of the week. I noticed one of the moments where temple leaders were trying to entrap Jesus with a question.

…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 11:27b-28

They were not asking an honest question to try to understand how and why Jesus did what He did. I am wondering whether you have ever asked a similar question but from honest motives? Have you wondered and wished God would answer questions like these: Why is this happening to me? Why have you let this happen? Why haven’t you changed things? What do you think you are doing!? What am I supposed to do now? Underneath these is some version of the same question the chief priests asked: by what authority have you acted to interfere in my life like this?

We have a bit of an advantage over the priests, teachers and elders in this scene. We know how the week ended. Jesus died. Jesus lives again! He is Risen. That’s a fact. Jesus demonstrated that He has authority over Death since it couldn’t hold Him. But they didn’t know that yet.  

I was wondering about this when I noticed that Jesus really does not answer their questions. Instead He responds to them with a question that reveals their motives. While trying to entrap Jesus, they become entrapped. I don’t think your motives for asking your questions are suspect in any way. You believe you’d be better at this grief business if you just knew some answers. You honestly want to know more. But I wonder whether He plans to give you the answers you seek. Or will He also deal with you in such a way to help you know more about who you are as you stand before God or who He is in your life. He may be dealing with you to accomplish deeper things in your heart than a direct answer could accomplish. He has authority over Life and Death, and He wants to give you Life. Eternal, abundant Life.

Here is the rest of the passage that describes this scene:

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 from men? Tell me!”

They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From men’…” (They feared the people, for everyone held that John really was a prophet.)

So they answered Jesus, “We don’t know.”

Jesus said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.” Mark 11:29-33

I say: ask your questions freely. Examine your motives. Then ask good questions. And finally, accept God’s dealing with you. Accept when answers come. Accept when they don’t. Both conclusions are created by Him for your good. Either way, trust His authority. Trust that He uses His authority for Life and for good purposes.