27 And they came again to Jerusalem. And as he was walking in the temple, the chief priests and the scribes and the elders came to him, 28 and they said to him, "By what authority are you doing these things, or who gave you this authority to do them?" 29 Jesus said to them, "I will ask you a question; answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. 30 Was the baptism of John from heaven or from men? Answer me." 31 And they argued with one another, "If we say, `From heaven,' he will say, `Why then did you not believe him?' 32 But shall we say, `From men'?" -- they were afraid of the people, for all held that John was a real prophet. 33 So they answered Jesus, "We do not know." And Jesus said to them, "Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things."
Meditation: Do you accept the authority of God's word and
submit to it with trust and obedience? Many religious leaders took
offense at Jesus because they could not accept his authority as
coming from God. After Jesus had dramatically cleansed the temple
of the traders and money-changers, the Jewish leaders question
Jesus to trap him. If he says his authority is divine they will
charge him with blasphemy. If he has done this on his own
authority they might well arrest him as a mad zealot before he
could do more damage.
Jesus' authority to speak and act in his Father's name
Jesus, seeing through their trap, poses a question to them and makes their answer a condition for his answer. Did they accept the work of John the Baptist as divine or human? If they accepted John's work as divine, they would be compelled to accept Jesus as the Messiah. John, a true prophet of God, had in fact attested to Jesus as the Son of God and Messiah who would redeem his people from their sins. The Jewish authorities dodged the question because they were unwilling to face the truth. They did not accept the Baptist and they would not accept Jesus as their Messiah. Jesus told his followers, "if you continue in my word... you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free" (John 8:31-32).
The truth will make you free
The Lord Jesus poses the same question to us today. Do you accept the claim of Jesus - that the Father in heaven sent his only begotten Son into the world to set us free from slavery to sin and to give us eternal life (John 3:16-18). Many want to mold Jesus to their own way of thinking and preferences and to reject or ignore whatever is disagreeable to them. Jesus came to give us the greatest freedom possible - freedom from ignorance, deception, and sin, and the freedom to live as sons and daughters of God in the power of the Holy Spirit. Do you know the joy and freedom of living according to God's word of truth, joy, and eternal life?
8 the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes;
9 the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever; the ordinances of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.
11 Moreover by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.
Daily Quote from the Early Church Fathers: Fearing the truth, by Augustine of Hippo, 354-430 A.D.
"Fearing a stoning, but fearing more an admission of the truth, they answered the truth with a lie, reminiscent of the Scripture: 'injustice has lied within herself' (Psalm 27:12). For they said, 'We know not.' And because they had shut themselves up against him, by asserting that they did not know what they knew, the Lord did not open up to them because they did not knock. For it has been said, 'Knock and it will be opened to you' (Matthew 7:7; Luke 11:9). But they not only had not knocked that it might be opened, but by their denial they barricaded the door itself against themselves. And the Lord said to them, 'Neither do I tell you by what authority I do these things' (Matthew 21:27; Mark 11:33; Luke 20:7). (excerpt from TRACTATE ON JOHN 2.9.4)