Advent Devotion for December 9
Candle Lighter says: “By what authority are you doing all these things?”
Response: “I’ll tell you by what authority I do these things if you answer one question.”
SCRIPTURE: Mark 11:27-33
27 Again they entered Jerusalem. As Jesus was walking through the Temple area, the leading priests, the teachers of religious law, and the elders came up to him. 28 They demanded, “By what authority are you doing all these things? Who gave you the right to do them?”
29 “I’ll tell you by what authority I do these things if you answer one question,” Jesus replied. 30 “Did John’s authority to baptize come from heaven, or was it merely human? Answer me!”
31 They talked it over among themselves. “If we say it was from heaven, he will ask why we didn’t believe John. 32 But do we dare say it was merely human?” For they were afraid of what the people would do, because everyone believed that John was a prophet. 33 So they finally replied, “We don’t know.”
And Jesus responded, “Then I won’t tell you by what authority I do these things.”
SOME THOUGHTS: Yesterday we wrote about how Jesus was Prophet, Priest, and King. One of the things prophets did was to proclaim the truth. Often that got them in hot water. In this case, this conversation took place during Holy Week. A little context will help us grasp the significance of this interaction with the religious leaders. Previously Jesus had cleansed the Temple of moneychangers. He had healed a blind man. He had forgiven people of their sins. The religious leaders came from three groups of people, the teachers, priests, and elders. They were the religious authorities. It is important to note that authority to interpret the Scriptures was given to very few persons. This status did not occur until the person was at least thirty years of age. Only the most brilliant ever attained this position. Typically, these persons had memorized the entire Old Testament. The religious leaders came at Jesus again and again demanding proof of His authority, particularly since it countered their interpretations. This passage is another example of the conflict. In discussions among rabbis the normal pattern was to answer a question with a question. (That was the pattern here as well.) The question of the rabbi who responded to the initial question needed to demonstrate, not only an answer, but also a grasp of the implications of the first question. You see how insightful Jesus’ question was. He forced the religious leaders to confront the choice between a prophet speaking God’s truth from heaven (John) or simply view John as an ordinary man speaking human ideas. Public opinion was in favor of the former. The leaders were unwilling to believe John because it would destroy their position and they would have to acknowledge Jesus was the Messiah. They were also unwilling to go against public opinion, which would expose them as religious bigots. So, they refused to answer Jesus’ question. Jesus followed with a parable in which He further exposed their hypocrisy. Do you look at these religious leaders as hard-hearted people protecting their position by refusing to acknowledge the Lordship of Christ? How often does the authority of Jesus in your life cause you conflict? (Just following the rabbi’s pattern!) If the Lord always agrees with you, you are in trouble!
MUSIC: O Come, All Ye Faithful by Pentatonix (YouTube)
PRAYER: O Lord, let me not henceforth desire health or life, except to spend them for Thee, with Thee, and in Thee. Thou alone knowest what is good for me; do, therefore, what seemeth Thee best. Give to me, or take from me; conform my will to Thine; and grant that, with humble and perfect submission, and in holy confidence, I may receive the orders of Thine eternal Providence; and may equally adore all that comes to me from Thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
—Blaise Pascal, 1623-1662