Authority of Jesus questioned

When Jesus returned to the temple, the Jewish religious leaders came to trap him with a question. They hoped to find something in his answer that would enable them to bring a charge, civil or religious, against him. They asked him by what authority he acted the way he did, particularly in overthrowing the established practices of the Jewish temple (Matt 21:23).

Instead of answering directly, Jesus adjusted the question and turned it back on the religious leaders, so that they were the ones who found difficulty in answering. In doing this, Jesus was not trying to avoid telling the truth, but trying to make them see the truth. If they gave him a correct answer to his question, they would have the answer to their own question. Jesus’ question concerned the authority of John the Baptist. If they acknowledged that John was sent by God, they were acknowledging that Jesus also was sent by God, because John’s message was to announce the arrival of Jesus as God’s chosen Messiah. If they denied that John was sent by God, they could expect trouble from the crowds, because many people still held John in high esteem (Matt 21:24-27).

When the leaders would not answer, Jesus told a story to rebuke them once more for their refusal to repent. He likened sinners such as tax collectors and prostitutes to a son who at first disobeyed his father but later changed his mind. The sinners repented of their wrongdoing and so entered God’s kingdom. He likened the Pharisees to another son, who pretended to be obedient but, in fact, did not obey. The Pharisees claimed to be obedient to God, but they refused to obey John’s call to repentance (Matt 21:28- 32).

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