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Recall that Jesus was confronted by a delegation of Jewish leaders from the Sanhedrin about His authority to teach and go about cleansing the temple as He was doing.  They assumed that because they were in a position of authority in matters relating to God that they were the final authority in such matters and because they had not authorized Him to do what He was doing He was violating their law.  But who in fact is the final authority in such matters?  Is it those who have been entrusted with God’s authority, or God Himself?  What does this teach us about what our final source of authority as Christians must be: a pastor or church or denomination or religious council that interprets the word of God, or the word of God itself?  What does it teach us about who our responsibility is to obey and follow when there is a conflict of authority?  Cf. Act 4:18-20, 5:29.

How did Jesus answer the question of the delegation of Jewish leaders?  See Mat 21:24-25a.  In what way was Jesus’ question to them also the answer to their question to Him if they answered it honestly?  See Mat 21:25b, Joh 1:15,19-27,32-34, 5:33.  Even apart from them answering it honestly, how did it force them to consider the same question as applied to Jesus’ authority?  I.e., what does His question remind them about a higher, ultimate source of authority that trumps the authority of men?  How does it address their insinuation that He had no authority for what He was doing because it didn’t come from them?  Was it necessarily the case as they supposed that Jesus had no authority because it didn’t derive from them?  What evidences were there that John’s baptism was from heaven?  See Mar 1:1-5, Joh 1:19-21.  What evidences were there that Jesus likewise had authority from heaven for the things He was doing?  Cf. Mat 9:6-7, 21:15, Joh 11:47, 14:11; see also Act 4:16, Mat 7:16.

What dilemma did Jesus’ question to the delegation of Jewish leaders create for them?  See Mat 21:25b-26.  What does their discussion about how to answer Him indicate about any real desire on their part to know the truth about John or Jesus?  Think: Did they even consider the merits of John, or Jesus?  At that point was the truth even on the table for consideration?  How had the many choices they had made over time in dealing with the life circumstances and pressures they faced prior to this event inevitably brought them to the point that they had already made up their minds about John and Jesus, and were so convinced they were right that the truth could no longer touch them?  How had this made the issue of dealing with Jesus not one of truth, but expedience?  How is this like politics and politicians today?  Is it like us in regard to any predisposed suppositions we might have in regard to any of the things of God?  What does the example of the Jewish leaders teach us about the importance of each of the seemingly small choices we make that like a winnowing fork sifts our hearts for eternity?  What does it teach us about the great danger to our souls of becoming so convinced that we must be right about something that we will no longer consider the truth of a matter but only what is expedient in regard to it?

How did the delegation answer Jesus’ question about John’s baptism?  See Mat 21:27a.  Although they supposed they had given Jesus a “safe” reply, did they in fact escape incriminating themselves by their refusal to answer?  Why not?  See Mat 21:32 and think: Did Jesus’ question and the obvious results of John’s ministry leave them that middle ground?  Cf. Rom 1:18-19.  In this light, how was Jesus’ question like a winnowing fork that sifted their hearts?  What does their answer to Jesus’ question indicate about the way that John had prepared the way for Jesus even in regard to them?  See Luk 7:29-30 and think: as those who heeded John’s call to repentance were prepared to accept Jesus as their Messiah, what choice did the Jewish leaders’ rejection of John’s ministry also force them into in regard to Christ’s? Cf. Mat 12:24. Again, what does this teach us about the importance of even our small choices, and how each hardening of our heart and rejection of God’s truth makes us all the more fit for destruction as it becomes harder and harder to repent of the choices we have made?  Cf. Rom 9:22.  What does this also help us to understand about the manner in which Christ separates the wheat from the chaff that John spoke of in Mat 3:12, and the part John himself had in that process?  Do you think that a similar sifting process happens even today that the saints of God have a part in?  Are our own lives such that they force a sifting choice upon others?  Are we ourselves being sifted by the choices we make?

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