DEC. 14. ADVENT. WK. 3. MON. MATT. 21. 23-27
Jesus had gone into the Temple and was teaching, when the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him and said, ‘What authority have you for acting like this? And who gave you this authority?’ ‘And I’ replied Jesus ‘will ask you a question, only one; if you tell me the answer to it, I will then tell you my authority for acting like this. John’s baptism: where did it come from: heaven or man?’ And they argued it out this way among themselves, ‘If we say from heaven, he will retort, “Then why did you refuse to believe him?”; but if we say from man, we have the people to fear, for they all hold that John was a prophet.’ So their reply to Jesus was, ‘We do not know.’ And he retorted, ‘Nor will I tell you my authority for acting like this.’
In this reading Jesus is teaching in the temple and the chief priests and elders saw this task as being their own, so they challenged him and asked from where did he get the authority to do this, as they had been appointed to this role of teaching!
This was an important moment as prior to this time the authority to teach in the temple was granted by these questioners, but Christ had taken the role on his own authority as the Son of God, as he was clearly entitled to do?
But before doing this he had borne witness to his divinity by his preaching, and above all by his miracles, so the crowds recognised the authority that Christ had claimed for himself, but the chief priests did not.
The reason the priests and elders could not accept the teachings of Christ was their hearts and minds were closed as Christ had assumed their teaching role on his own authority; - and the time had now come for them to challenge his actions.
The response of Christ could have been to simply perform yet another miracle in front of his questionnaires, but he had performed so many of these he chose instead to demonstrate in front of the crowd how hard of heart the elders had become!
Instead of proving his divinity yet again he asked them: “John’s baptism: where did it come from: heaven or man?” The reason he did this was to make them demonstrate themselves that they were hard of Heart and were not prepared to listen to his message or to learn, in contrast to the crowd before whom they stood!
This immediately presented the elders with a problem, which they articulated themselves: “If we say from heaven, he will retort, “Then why did you refuse to believe him?”; but if we say from man, we have the people to fear, for they all hold that John was a prophet.’ So their reply to Jesus was, ‘We do not know.’ A response that demonstrated how unwilling they were to listen to Christ or to change their ways!
And Christians in today’s world are not exempt from this attitude of not being prepared to listen or to believe Christ’s message of how to live in this world and how to find peace and happiness!
Do we really believe the necessity of Humility, Meekness, Charity, Self-sacrifice and all the other virtues Chris both lived and taught; - or like the priests and elders, do we prefer to trust instead in our own wisdom and ability; - as we have now done for many years.?