Advent Meditation by Steve Skiffington
Monday, Dec. 1, 2008
Luke 20: 1-8
One day he was teaching the people in the Temple, proclaiming the Message. The high priests, religion scholars, and leaders confronted him and demanded, “Show us your credentials. Who authorized you to speak and act like this?” Jesus answered, “First, let me ask you a question: About the baptism of John—who authorized it, heaven or humans?” They were on the spot, and knew it. They pulled back into a huddle and whispered, “If we say ‘heaven,’ he’ll ask us why we didn’t believe him; if we say ‘humans,’ the people will tear us limb from limb, convinced as they are that John was God’s prophet.” They agreed to concede that round to Jesus and said they didn’t know. Jesus said, “Then neither will I answer your question.”
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“The chief priests, scribes and elders were questioning Jesus, who was teaching to the people in the temple and preaching the Gospel. They asked him, “Tell us by what authority are you doing these things? Who is it who gave you this authority?” Jesus, being Jesus, then asked them a question, which he knew, Jesus being Jesus, that they could not answer without compromising themselves and revealing their true intent, which was to discredit him. When they replied that they did not know and could not answer, he replied, ‘Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.’ Which was Jesus’ way of saying ‘Na-na-na-na-na-na!’, or as my elementary school students are fond of saying, ‘Talk to the hand.’ Jesus sure could be testy.
If we are to model our lives on Jesus, what example could we take from this exchange with his interrogators? First we need understand what Jesus had been doing just prior to this passage. He had just chased the money changers out of the temple and reminded the people there that the temple should be a house of prayer. Thus it was a combination of his actions and his teaching that the priests, scribes and elders objected to and were trying to thwart. Jesus’ response, ‘Neither will I tell you…’ illustrated that his questioners were unable to figure out, or afraid to acknowledge, by what authority he was operating. Had they really heard what he was saying, that the temple was a place of prayer, they would have known that Jesus’ authority was God. Thus the example we can take from this is that our authority is also God, and our lives should be guided by prayer, not ‘things of the temple’. Further, we don’t have to answer to anyone but God.