“By what authority are You doing these things , or who gave You this authority to do these things?” (Mark 11: 28 NASB)
Upon His arrival at the temple in Jerusalem, the chief priests and the teachers of the law and the elders confronted Jesus and asked these questions. This was the day following His driving the money changers and merchants from the temple, so they had seen his demonstration of “authority.”
For three years, Jesus had taught and performed miracles, not far removed, physically, from where they stood as the words rolled off their tongues. His questioners had at least heard about Jesus’ ministry, and some of them may have even been eyewitnesses to what He had been doing. But they still felt compelled to ask the question. The answer should have been obvious. But Jesus played along with them. We see just one chapter later in Mark, when being asked again by the Jews about paying taxes, Jesus knew their hypocrisy. And it would be safe to assume He knew their motive in this situation as well. So, rather than give them a one word answer, He answered their question with a question: “Was the baptism of John from heaven or from men?” What was implicitly being asked was this: Is my authority from heaven or of my own, as a man? When the priests refused to answer, knowing they had been boxed-in tactically, Jesus simply said that He would not answer their question, the answer to which was so plain to see.
The question that Jesus posed back to those religious leaders seems in some ways related to the one that He had asked of his disciples sometime earlier: “Who do people say I am.” (Mark 8: 27). Their answer to that question simply parroted the conversations of the people they encountered…”John the Baptist, Elijah, or one of the prophets.” So, Jesus asked the question in a more personal way. “But what about you? Who do YOU say I am?” Peter famously answered the question. If you are Roman Catholic, you believe that his confession elevated Peter to the role of founder of your church. For the rest of us, we understand Peter’s confession, to be the prototype of faith-in-Christ, upon which the church universal, would be and is built.
The questions that Jesus asked are timeless. I believe today, He is still asking people “Who do YOU say I am? Do you believe my authority comes from heaven? Or am I, simply acting on the authority of being a prophet, or a wise teacher, or just a good man?”
Pretty important questions. And giving no answer, as the priests did at the temple, is a “NO” answer to the Son of God when He’s asking the most important question a person can be asked.
P.S.: The way in which Jesus posed the question to his disciples has not been lost on me. “Who do people say I AM?” Might this be another example of the self-declarations of God who says of himself, “I AM who I AM”?