As I was reading Matthew 21, this conversation between Jesus and the Pharisees caught my particular attention:
23 Jesus entered the temple courts, and, while he was teaching, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him. “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you this authority?”
24 Jesus replied, “I will also ask you one question. If you answer me, I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. 25 John’s baptism—where did it come from? Was it from heaven, or of human origin?”
They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ 26 But if we say, ‘Of human origin’—we are afraid of the people, for they all hold that John was a prophet.”
27 So they answered Jesus, “We don’t know.”
Then he said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.
The Pharisees make themselves known as opposition to Jesus. They were not friendly or kind, and were blatantly rude and angry with Jesus. I imagine them as the school bullies, always hovering and whispering, waiting for a moment to jump in and assert their dominance and power over Jesus.
Yet each time they are surprised by Him, unable to trip Him up or get the better of Him. This is one of those moments as well.
The Pharisees ask Jesus to reveal how He got His authority. Jesus says He’ll answer their question if they answer His. He asks them about John’s baptism, they debate among themselves, and say ‘We don’t know.’ So Jesus refuses to answer.
During my last reading, it dawned on me why Jesus doesn’t answer: the Pharisees were not looking for truth. We see this in their deliberation over how to answer about John’s baptism. They don’t debate what the right answer is, they debate how their answer will be perceived by the people they’re surrounded by. They don’t care about the truth–they care about being wrong.
Jesus knows this, which is why, rather than answering their question, He asks them one. The Pharisees were only wanting an excuse to antagonize Jesus. They did not actually care what authority was with Him–if He would have answered “God” they likely would have called Him a blasphemer and had Him arrested.
This made me think about my own relationship with Jesus. Am I looking for truth or am I trying to use my relationship with God to further my own agenda? Which do I care more about, comfort, success, money? Or truth?
If my heart is not postured to learn and grow in faith, then I certainly won’t. I can’t be focused on me and my agenda and expect to learn truth and grow spiritually.
On the other hand, Jesus explained parables to His disciples. They had given up their lives to follow Him and Jesus knew they would spread His gospels long after He was gone. The disciples were eager to hear this truth and would make it known in various ways for the rest of their lives.
How can we posture ourselves to be like the disciple? Eager to learn and to spread the good news of Jesus’ truth? I believe it starts with a humble heart, knowing that there is so much we do not yet know and a willingness to hear truth and receive it as well.
Prayer: Jesus, I want to know your truth. Help me set aside my own pride and agenda and fully accept what you have to teach me. Give me a thirst for Your wisdom and peace, and ears to hear. Amen.