Don’t you just know that this walk through the temple must have played out in complete slow-motion?
Let me catch you up – On Sunday, Jesus had arrived in Jerusalem . . . his final destination. He was riding on the back of a colt and being welcomed by a crowd of people; some who had spread out their cloaks on the road and others who had laid down freshly cut palm branches . . . and they followed him into the city shouting
“"Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!
This was a deliberate counter-demonstration to the entrance by Pilate and his army that some experts think would have been happening at the same time on the opposite side of the city.
Jesus immediately went to the temple. Remember, the temple was a place where . . .
- people were to meet with God,
- celebrate with one another with meals and songs,
- Offer thanks giving to God
But what Jesus found was that it had been reduced to mere empty ritualism, moralism, and a place of common commerce. The people had turned his father’s house into a “den of robbers” but it was too late to deal with it . . . which is why he returned the next day waving a whip, turning over the tables and driving out those who were corrupting the place.
And now, he is heading back into the temple . . .
I’m sure people were trying to look the other way, hoping to not make eye contact with him. Some were probably standing there pretty upset over the fact that he had crashed their businesses and yet no one says anything to him or his disciples . . . except for the chief priests, the scribes and the elders.
These three groups were those who made up the Sanhedrin. The Sanhedrin was composed of 71 members who had complete freedom in religious matters and they had some say in political matters.
Now remember, Israel is under the Jurisdiction of Rome and the Sanhedrin served as a buffer organization between Rome and the Jewish nation.
So, Jesus wasn’t facing a few political or religious zealots nor did he upset a few Sunday school teachers. He had gotten the attention of the most powerful religious group in the Middle East and now they are breathing down his throat.
I want to make clear to you that Jesus did not come to simply hide out in the shadows, dodge the hard stuff, not get his hands dirty, play religious games and make sure that he attended all the right events with his shirt tucked in, clean-cut, new hair product, and seek to glad-hand those who could “promise” him “success in ministry.”
In fact, if you’ll recall, Mark has shown us that Jesus has regularly concealed his divinity over and over again. Remember how he says things like “tell no one I did this for you.” And now we see Jesus, in the dialogue to follow, not concealing, but walking out onto the center stage and revealing his true identity.
They ask him, “By what authority are you doing these things and who gave you that authority”
They want to know . . .
- Who endorses him?
- Who supports what he's doing?
- Who is funding this campaign?
- By what means are you going about your business?
It's not simply what Jesus was doing, but his right to do these things that is being called into question. They want to see Jesus admit that he has no authority to do the things and teach the things that he was.
But instead of playing their silly religious game, he sternly puts them in their place by answering the question with a question, a common tactic used by Rabbis.
Was the baptism of John from heaven or from man?
With this question, he calls to remembrance his own baptism from a couple of years earlier when John baptized him amongst thousands of others in the River Jordan.
This is where Jesus goes into the water, comes out, the Holy Spirit descends upon him in the form of a dove and God speaks saying "this is my Son."
With that in mind, he asks: "Is that from man? Did that originate with simply man? Was that a movement of man? Thousands repenting . . . God moving? Is that really just man?"
If they reply, "Yeah, that's just a man” then the Sanhedrin were going to have major issues because the crowds all thought John was a prophet and believed him to be sent from God.
And yet, if they say, "Well, we remember John baptizing you and everyone else and we believe he was a prophet sent from God and that what he did was inspired by God.". . . Then they are stuck because Jesus can say . . . "Well, theologians, if he's a prophet, shouldn't you be obeying him and believing what he said about me instead of challenging me?”
You see, Jesus completely trapped these men.
- If they say “from God” - he’s got them for not being obedient.
- If they say “from man” - they lose their credibility in the eyes of the public and as the religious “experts”, they can’t do that.
- You see, people who find their identity in their religious performance and not in their relationship with God are easily threatened.
Jesus forces these men to give the answer that they wanted him to give. They wanted to hear “I don’t know” come across Jesus’ lips so bad they could taste it, but instead his counter-question forces them to confess their ignorance instead.
You see, what Jesus now asks them can't be simply answered from their power base in the Torah, the temple or Roman authority.
So, they say "they don't know."
But that's not true. They just don't want to know. Or they just don’t want to admit what they do know . . . because if you acknowledge the truth, you are exposed and when you are exposed you have to change and repent . . . and that’s just not something they were willing to do.
Jesus doesn’t feel bad for stumping them. Instead, he takes the opportunity to further scorn these men. “I won’t tell you either!” If you won’t make up your mind, then why am I going to waste my time with you?
This whole story is a vivid example of what happens to people who will not face the truth.
The person who faces the truth may have the humiliation of saying that they are wrong, but the person who will not face the truth has nothing but the prospect of deeper and deeper involvement in a situation which renders them helpless and ineffective.
And this is the truth
He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our sins, the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.
We are healed by his sacrifice . . . in the life that he gave
We are healed for he paid the price
By his grace we are saved,
We are saved.
Ignorance may be bliss but it's not an excuse when you’re looking Jesus in the eye.
This morning, we have come here in the presence of a Holy God . . . a God who has given all authority to his son, Jesus Christ to offer to us restoration and healing.
But we are faced with the same question . . . do we believe it?