Who Made You Boss?
"Who made you boss?" That was the gist of the question asked of Jesus during the final week leading up to His death. It seems that it was Tuesday, the 12th day of the Jewish month of Nisan, which would correspond to our own April 4th. Jesus had traveled to Jerusalem to die for the sins of the world. By week's end, His tortured body would lie dead in the tomb, but not for long.
It had already been decided by the Jewish leadership to kill Jesus. It was just a matter of how and when. That problem would be solved with the aid of the traitor Judas in the darkness of night in just a couple of days.
In fact, this was the last public appearance of Jesus as far as His ministry was concerned. The previous day, Monday, He had ridden into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey. He had also chased some merchants and moneychangers from the temple. Now it was Tuesday. After this day passed, He would spend the remainder of His time alone with His apostles and other close associates until His arrest.
He was at the temple in Jerusalem, far from His Galilean home. We find our text in Mark 11:27-33.
"And they came again to Jerusalem. And as He was walking in the temple, and the chief priests, and scribes and elders came to Him, and began saying to Him, 'By what authority are You doing these things, or who gave you this authority to do these things?' And Jesus said to them, 'I will ask you one question, and you answer me, and then I will tell you by what authority I do these things. Was the baptism of John from heaven, or from men? Answer Me." And they began reasoning among themselves, saying, 'If we say, 'from heaven,' He will say, 'Then why did you not believe him?' But shall we say, 'From men?'-they were afraid of the multitude, for all considered John to have been a prophet indeed. And answering Jesus, they said, 'We do not know.' And Jesus said to them, 'Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things." (Mark 11:27-33).
Where is the Authority?
"By what authority are you doing these things, or who gave you this authority? (Mark 11:28). The enemies of Jesus asked for authority. What gave Him the right to preach and teach the things He was? From whom did He get permission to heal the lame and blind? (Of course, the answer should be obvious). What did He think, that the temple was His own private property? Who gave Him the right to drive out the moneychangers?
People then and now put way too much importance on meeting the qualifications of men for religious authority and not nearly enough on meeting God's qualifications. Many consider a modernist theologian who graduated from Harvard Divinity School as being more worth listening to than a preacher who has studied and believed the Scriptures. They would have fit well into this group of leaders who attacked Jesus. We must learn not to think so highly of men (or women); any man or woman; but rather let the Scriptures be our authority (1 Corinthians 4:6). Remember, it was the counterparts to our modern day Seminary graduates and respected theologians that demanded Jesus' crucifixion.
On top of all that, yes, the temple was His private property. Centuries before the Lord had promised to personally come to His holy temple in Jerusalem (Malachi 3:1). Well, here He was.
From Heaven or From Men?
"Was the baptism of John from heaven, or from men? Answer Me." (Mark 11:30). This question asked of the religious leadership by Jesus is a good one indeed; one that we should also be asking of our own religious practices and beliefs. So much of what the religious world practices today is not of heaven at all, but of men.
Things not authorized by the new covenant of Jesus Christ our lord include infant baptism, annual holy days, exalting of religious leaders, religious titles such as "father" or "reverend", denominational creeds, names and division. Are these from heaven or men?
With reference to John's baptism, it was of heaven's authority. John was sent by God to prepare the way for His Son (Matthew 3:1-17). Who can forget John's introduction of Jesus to the world, "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!" (John 1:29).
Today, baptism in the name of Jesus Christ so that our sins may be forgiven as we call upon His name is authorized by heaven (Acts 2:38; 22:16; Romans 6:3,4; Galatians 3:27; Colossians 2:12; 1 Peter 3:21). Most teach other things about baptism today than what you can read in these and other passages from the covenant of Jesus Christ. As such, these other teachings are of men, not of heaven.
Politics as Usual
"And they began reasoning among themselves, saying, 'If we say, 'from heaven,' He will say, 'Then why did you not believe him?' But shall we say, 'From men?'-they were afraid of the multitude, for all considered John to have been a prophet indeed. And answering Jesus, they said, 'We do not know." (Mark 11:31-33a). The chief concern of these religious leaders is not religious purity or righteousness or truth. It is not what pleases God. The motive for the questions asked of Jesus was not a fair minded search for truth.
There are two motives at conflict within these leaders. On the one hand, they do not accept John. They would like to be able to say that John was a false prophet and therefore so is Jesus. But, on the other hand, the people think John is a great prophet. It would not be a popular thing with them if the leadership admitted their true feelings and answered Jesus honestly. It would not at all be politically expedient to tell the truth!
Worldly men and women always deal with truth this way. Today we see the moral, ethical and spiritual standards of Scripture ridiculed in the media. We see politicians who in one breath cry for repeal of a law that would protect babies from being murdered in the most horrible and gruesome way and then in the next breath talk of belief in God and lofty moral standards. God's children must learn to be "as wise as serpents and as harmless as doves" in this present day. We will not get a fair treatment by those who despise the things of Christ.
Where is the Hunger for Righteousness?
"Jesus said to them, 'Then neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things." (Mark 11:33b). Jesus had taught on the sermon on the mount "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness; for they shall be satisfied." (Matthew 5:6). These leaders had no such hunger. Without it, men and women are spiritually starved and can never be filled. It is not who gets crucified at the end of the exchange that loses the battle; it is he who will not accept God's truth.
The same is so today. Man "does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God." (Matthew 4:4). Our nation will be healthier and happier only to the degree that we allow the Bread of Life to nourish and sustain us. Without it, our society will continue in its depraved, unhappy state. Let it not be so with you.
By Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 3.11; November 1996