7712 - Authority Questioned

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In our study through the gospel of Luke we have come to the events in the last week of the life of Jesus.

The last week in the life of Jesus is very significant. The space allotted by each gospel to this week indicates this. Luke gives about 23% of its space to this last week. Matthew gives 28%, Mark gives 37% while John gives 45%,

This really should not surprise us since the events of this week — his unjust suffering, his accusation and crucifixion, and then his resurrection, were the very reasons Jesus came to earth.

I pray the Lord will bless each of us as we study the events of this week in detail.

One thing we will notice in these chapters is the increased hostility toward Jesus from the Jewish leaders. They resisted the truth of his life and message from the beginning. They scorned and rejected John the Baptist as he proclaimed Jesus to be the Lamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world. They ridiculed and disdained his miracles and his teaching. Many times the Bible relates to us that they schemed how they could put Jesus to death.

Listen to Luke 20:1-8 about this kind of deal.

Luke 20:1-8 One day as he was teaching the people in the temple courts and preaching the gospel, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, together with the elders, came up to him. "Tell us by what authority you are doing these things," they said. "Who gave you this authority?" He replied, "I will also ask you a question. Tell me, John's baptism --was it from heaven, or from men?"

They discussed it among themselves and said, "If we say, `From heaven,' he will ask, `Why didn't you believe him?' But if we say, `From men,' all the people will stone us, because they are persuaded that John was a prophet."

So they answered, "We don't know where it was from." Jesus said, "Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things."

The Temple courtyard was the place Jesus did a great deal of teaching in the last days of his life. The spiritual hunger within the people was satisfied by the teaching of Jesus.

The Jewish leadership was somewhat puzzled. The authority with which Jesus spoke and handled himself was a mystery to them. The Roman government had granted to the Sanhedrin the authority over the Temple of God and its area. On this day a cross section of leadership — chief priests, teachers of the law, some elders, all came to Jesus and questioned him. With the most open challenge up to this time they said: “Tell us by what authority you are doing these things. Who gave you this authority?”

Other passages tie into this one to lead us to believe they were not so interested in who gave Jesus this authority. They really were interested in trapping Jesus to say something which would give them reason to arrest him, or he would do something or say something which would discredit him in the eyes of the people.

If Jesus claimed he was acting on the authority of God, they would arrest him and prosecute him for blasphemy, a crime deserving the death sentence under the Levitical law (24:10-23),

If Jesus claimed he was acting on his own authority, they could dismiss him as a fanatic and know that the crowd would eventually see through him.

With great wisdom Jesus countered with a question of his own: “Was John’s baptism from heaven, or from men?”

The Jewish leaders were in a dilemma. If they replied that it was from heaven, then Jesus would censure them for unbelief because they did not respond to John. However, they could not possible be honest and say: From men.”, because they feared the people would stone then, because they knew that the people believed John was a prophet since many had responded to his preaching and were baptized by him.

They were forced to answer: “We don’t know.”

Their refusal to give an answer gave Jesus the perfect authority to withhold a direct answer.

So the leaders beat a retreat having made no progress in their objective. Be sure though, they would continue in their efforts.