Read Matthew 21
I enjoy it when we read about the confrontations between Jesus and the Pharisees or the Teachers of the law. We like to see hypocrites get their due. Sometimes we see Jesus being creative in his responses to these self-righteous men.
The chief priests and elders came to Jesus while he was at the temple and asked:
“By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you this authority?”
The men who thought that they were the ultimate authority on this earth, at least pertaining to the things of God, asked Jesus: Just who gave you this authority?
Jesus countered: If you can tell me where John the Baptist’s authority came from, then I will answer your question. Here’s the question.
“John’s baptism—where did it come from? Was it from heaven, or of human origin?”
The hypocrites needed to huddle and discuss this. Yes, it was a huddle of hypocrites. The scripture reduces their discussion to a simple dichotomy, but I suspect there was a protracted discussion.
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, ‘Of human origin’—we are afraid of the people, for they all hold that John was a prophet.”
This was not a discussion of theology, godliness, or right standing with God. This was pure politics. What are the human consequences of our answer?
The hypocrites answered that they didn’t know.
Jesus replied that he would not answer their question either, but he was not through talking and teaching as he launched into another parable, that we will examine in the next section.