December 14, 2020

Gospel MT 21:23-27

When Jesus had come into the temple area,
the chief priests and the elders of the people approached him
as he was teaching and said,
“By what authority are you doing these things?
And who gave you this authority?”
Jesus said to them in reply,
“I shall ask you one question, and if you answer it for me,
then I shall tell you by what authority I do these things.
Where was John’s baptism from?
Was it of heavenly or of human origin?”
They discussed this among themselves and said,
“If we say ‘Of heavenly origin,’ he will say to us,
‘Then why did you not believe him?’
But if we say, ‘Of human origin,’ we fear the crowd,
for they all regard John as a prophet.”
So they said to Jesus in reply, “We do not know.”
He himself said to them,
“Neither shall I tell you by what authority I do these things.”

Reflection

When Jesus had come into the temple area,
the chief priests and the elders of the people approached him
as he was teaching and said,
“By what authority are you doing these things?
And who gave you this authority?”

The chief priests and elders were legalists. Earlier they had also asked John the Baptist to explain who he was; John did not answer their question. He simply replied, “I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness. Make straight the way for the Lord.” (John 1:22-23)

The Jewish leaders did not understand that belief in Jesus is not a matter of credentials but a matter of faith.

Jesus said to them in reply,
“I shall ask you one question, and if you answer it for me,
then I shall tell you by what authority I do these things.
Where was John’s baptism from?
Was it of heavenly or of human origin?”

The people came in droves to be baptized by John in the Jordan River. By posing this question Jesus trapped the Jewish leaders, for the people believed John to be a prophet sent by God.

They discussed this among themselves and said,
“If we say ‘Of heavenly origin,’ he will say to us,
‘Then why did you not believe him?’
But if we say, ‘Of human origin,’ we fear the crowd,
for they all regard John as a prophet.”
So they said to Jesus in reply, “We do not know.”
He himself said to them,
“Neither shall I tell you by what authority I do these things.”

It was the responsibility of the Jewish leaders to expose people they thought to be false prophets. But rather than saying what they believed, they chose the cowardly way out and replied, “We do not know.”

“Fear is not in the habit of speaking truth.” Tacitus