The Question

When he came into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people confronted Him as He was teaching, and said, “By what authority are You doing these things? And who gave You this authority?”

But Jesus answered and said to them, “I also will ask you one thing, which if you tell Me, I likewise will tell you by what authority I do these things: The baptism of John—where was it from? From heaven or from men?”

And they reasoned among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From men,’ we fear the multitude, for all count John as a prophet.” So they answered Jesus and said, “We do not know.”

And He said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things. (Matthew 21:23-27)

“Don’t you know who I am?” How many celebrities have uttered those words when they don’t believe they’re being treated as well as they think their fame entitles them? The religious establishment didn’t believe who Jesus was. So they asked Jesus who gave him the right to do what he was doing: coming into Jerusalem, cleansing the temple, teaching things contrary to established custom. Jesus’ responded with a question, the same question he asks of all who come to him, even now. The question of John the Baptist. Was John’s baptism from heaven, or was it from men? That is, was it from God, or did he just make it up?

The religious establishment refused to answer Jesus’ question. Instead, they pleaded ignorance. But in reality, they had already decided on an answer. An answer that they were too afraid to speak. They had decided that John was not from God. Likewise, they had already decided that Jesus was not from God. Their question was not designed to relieve their ignorance. They only hoped to get Jesus to say something that would confirm what they believed. They wound up disappointed. Jesus made it even harder for them to deny the reality of who Jesus was.

Jesus is either God, or he is nothing but a human being. Which is it? Everything depends on your answer to that question. If he’s just a human being, then he can safely be ignored. But if he is God, then nothing about him is safe at all.

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About R.P. Nettelhorst

I'm married with three daughters. I live in southern California and I'm the interim pastor at Quartz Hill Community Church. I have written several books. I spent a couple of summers while I was in college working on a kibbutz in Israel. In 2004, I was a volunteer with the Ansari X-Prize at the winning launches of SpaceShipOne. Member of Society of Biblical Literature, American Academy of Religion, and The Authors Guild
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