Matthew 21:23-27 (Jesus’ Authority Questioned)

Who was it that confronted Jesus?  See Mat 21:23, Mar 11:27, Luk 20:1.  Who did they represent?  See Mar 15:1, Luk 22:66, Act 4:5-7,15, 5:21,27, etc… and note that the NAS “Council” refers to the Sanhedrin or ruling body of the Jews (see text notes).  On what day of Passion Week would it have been when they questioned Jesus’ authority?  Compare Mat 21:17-23 with Mar 11:11-27 and recall that Matthew compressed his account of these events without regard to a strict chronology in order to emphasize to His Jewish audience that the first thing Jesus did upon entering the city was to set about cleansing the temple.  Although that cleansing likely had some beginning on Sunday when He had first entered the temple and was “looking all around” (Mar 11:11), from Mark’s account it is clear that it happened in earnest on Monday, after Jesus had cursed the fig tree that morning and before they observed it completely withered the next morning.  In this light, why does it make sense that it was Tuesday when the authorities confronted Him?  Cf. Mar 11:17-18, Luk 19:45-48 and think: what “things” had Jesus been doing that they were questioning His authority about?  What does this again help us to understand about the temple cleansing being more of a process than a singular event?  Although Jesus was opposed by the puppet leaders of the Jews who were controlled by Rome, what do these two passages from Mark and Luke indicate about the popular support He had among the people?

What was Jesus doing when the authorities confronted Him?  See Mat 21:23, Luk 20:1.  What does Mark’s account indicate about the manner in which Jesus was teaching the people and preaching the gospel?  See Mar 11:27.  Consider again the size of the temple (over 35 acres) and the number of people who would have been thronging to it for the Passover (Josephus estimated over 2.5 million!); what does this help us to better understand about how many people would have been exposed to Jesus’ teaching and preaching—which astonished the people (Mat 22:33)—and why the religious authorities were so alarmed at His actions?  See again Mar 11:18 as well as Joh 11:47-50.

What was the intended purpose of sending a sizeable delegation of Jewish leaders from the Sanhedrin to confront Jesus in the presence of those He was teaching in the temple?  In questioning Him about His authority to teach the things He was teaching and to set about cleansing the temple as He was doing, what were these authorities insinuating?  Although Jesus was not acting with their authority, was He in fact acting without any authority?  Who is the ultimate source of all authority?  Cf. Joh 19:10-11, Luk 4:6.  Should we ever assume that God is unable to give authority to whomever He wishes, especially when those who have been entrusted with authority don’t exercise it for the purpose for which it was intended, or abuse that authority?  Cf. 1Sa 13:13-14, 16:1.  How were the actions of the Jewish leaders typical of all those who wield authority on the basis of their position as opposed to doing so on the basis of their innate power or real ability, and especially typical of those who abuse the authority of their office?[1] What does this also remind us about how the exercise of authority in God’s kingdom differs from the exercise of authority in the kingdoms of the world?  Cf. Mat 20:25-28.  As Christians, should we ever seek the authority of an office in order to assert our will over others without the wisdom and grace from God to use that authority the way God intended it in service to others?

The religious leaders assumed that Jesus had no authority for what He was doing because it didn’t come from them and it was making them look bad; how is this like many religious leaders throughout history and even today?  In publicly confronting Him about His supposed lack of authority they hoped to intimidate and embarrass Him before the people so as to diminish His standing in their sight and turn the tide of popular opinion against Him; how is this just like the politics we see in operation today?  Does such indicate that they were operating from a heavenly perspective of the kingdom of God, or a worldly perspective of the kingdoms of men?  How did their attempt to shame Jesus turn out, and what does this teach us about the power of God’s truth to repulse all the schemes of His enemies?  Cf. 2Co 10:3-5.

 


1. “Note, It is common for the greatest abusers of their power to be the most rigorous assertors of it, and to take a pride and pleasure in anything that looks like the exercise of it” (Matthew Henry).

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