Mark 11:27–28(ESV) ~ And they came again to Jerusalem. And as he was walking in the temple, the chief priests and the scribes and the elders came to him, and they said to him, “By what authority are you doing these things, or who gave you this authority to do them?”
This time feels different. They’ve been here before. Jerusalem. The city has never been great to them, but the moments of fear and tension have always passed. Usually the Chief Priest is too busy to care, and the Pharisees, his henchmen, are easily defeated by His superior wit. They ask, He answers, most often with questions and they go away astonished. More than once, He’s had to escape with help of distraction, but it’s never seemed to be that big of a deal. He leaves, they lose interest, and life goes back to normal.
This time though, there is a tension to the air – thick enough to cut with a knife. Everyone seems on edge, including Him, and they’re all just waiting for someone, or some thing to push them off. The entrance had been different – a spectacle – complete with the donkey and palms. Usually, they’ve walked in and out with barely a scene. Speaking of scenes, that thing yesterday in the temple is still on ALL of their minds. What was He thinking? Didn’t He know that too much attention was a bad thing? That Passover was coming and the city was full? That everyone was on high alert, and the whole city was like a pot of water ready to boil over? The last thing they needed was more eyes on them.
But He didn’t seem to care. It’s as if He was dancing with them, daring them to make a move different than all the last. Their poking and prodding has turned into following and threatening, and there are eyes all over. Their questions are growing more intense and more direct, and now they seem to contain accusations. Accusations that could get Him, at best, jailed, and at worst, stoned. Stoned to death. And then all of this would be over. Everything they’ve worked so hard for, everything they’ve sacrificed – done, just like that. Surely, He would stop before that happened. He always has before.
But this time feels different. Usually He answers them with relative ease, almost laughing them off. But this time He pauses long. He hems and haws. He takes His time and breathes out deeply before answering with words more confusing than helpful;
Mark 11:29–30 (ESV) ~ Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one question; answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. Was the baptism of John from heaven or from man? Answer me.”
Answer me? Baptism of John? Had He even heard them? Was He LOOKING for a fight? Why did He always answer them in riddles? Why couldn’t He just tell them who He was? Surely then they would understand. They would see Him as they see HIm. They would follow and believe. They were growing frustrated now, you could see it in their faces and hear it in their voice;
Mark 11:31–33 (ESV) ~ And they discussed it with one another, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But shall we say, ‘From man’?”—they were afraid of the people, for they all held that John really was a prophet. So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.”
There. They didn’t know. He had done it again. Caught them in their own foolishness and now He was going to tell them. He would enlighten them, and His followers with some incredible truth about their God and why they should trust Him. He would share with them about things He alone seemed to understand. Everything was going to be fine, the relief was palpable as He opened His mouth to speak.
Mark 11:33 (ESV) ~ And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”
Suddenly, again – this time feels different.