“Jesus entered the temple courts, and while he was teaching, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him. ‘By what authority are you doing these things?’ they asked. ‘And who gave you this authority?’
“Jesus replied, ‘I will also ask you one question. If you answer me, I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. John’s baptism – where did it come from? Was it from heaven, or of human origin?’
“…What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’
“‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.
“Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go.
“‘Which of the two did what his father wanted?’
“‘The first,’ they answered.
“Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.’”
– Matthew 21:23-25, 28-31
The chief priest and elders of the temple questioned Jesus’ authority, because earlier in the text, Jesus had challenged their authority when he overturned the money changer’s table and chased them from the temple. The people who were doing business in the temple had to have the approval of the religious authorities to do so.
The religious authority decided to use the temple incident to build a case against Jesus. To trap him into incriminating himself, they asked him to explain his authority. However, Jesus turned the question around and asked them about John’s baptism. “Did John’s baptism come from heaven or from man?”
This question placed them in a precarious situation. They had to be careful how they responded. If they said John got his authority from God, then they were guilty of not listening to God’s prophet, John. But, if they said his authority was not from God, they would enrage the people. Even though they tried to entrap him, they trapped themselves.
There are many today who challenge Jesus’ authority as the Son of God. They even question his redemptive work on the cross.
To give the religious leaders a glimpse of themselves, Jesus used a parable to teach them. He told them a parable of two sons. The sons were instructed by their father to go into the field and work. The first said no, while the second promised that he would.
However, later, the son who gave a bad answer to his father had a change of heart and went into the field and work. But the second son who said yes, he would go, never went.
Here, Jesus compares the tax collectors and prostitutes to the first son. They were having a change of heart, repenting and entering the kingdom of heaven in large numbers.
The religious leaders, the scribes, Pharisees, the chief priest and elders and the Jewish nation were like the second son. They had promised to serve God but ignored John’s baptism.
The kingdom of heaven was near to them in the Messiah, but they refused to hear him. Instead, they challenged him, asking for his authority.
Where did he get the authority? He got it from God the Father.
Scripture says Jesus taught as one having authority (Matthew 7:29). The Roman centurion saw him as one with authority. He demonstrated this in his request to Jesus: “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed.” (Matthew 8:8)
In Matthew 16:19, he gave his disciples authority, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
And finally, in Matthew 28:18, he commissioned his disciples and the church with these words: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Amen.
• Rev. Samuel M. Boodle, pastor at The Lutheran Church of Nassau, 119 John F. Kennedy Drive, can be reached at P.O. Box N 4794, Nassau, Bahamas; or telephone: 426-9084; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; website: www.nassaulutheranchurch.org.