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Ipoh Garden Baptist Church, English Section,
A Question of Authority.
Mark 11: 27 - 33
There is a short and seemingly insignificant verse written in the book
of Zechariah which subsequently materialised as a very significant
event in the lives of the people of Jerusalem, witnessed by the
disciples themselves. This verse is Zechariah 9:9 -
greatly, O daughter of Zion,
Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem.
Behold, your King is coming to you;
He is just and having salvation,
Lowly and riding on a donkey,
A colt, a foal of a donkey"
Ps 118:25-26 : "O Lord, save! (Hosanna! - a familiar expression
used by the Jews in prayer) Blessed is the one who comes in the
name of the Lord!" Both Matthew and John, when
writing the gospels, recognised that what was written in Zechariah 9:9
eventually took place on the day the Lord Jesus rode a donkey into the
streets of Jerusalem for the last time in his ministry on earth.
Earlier in this chapter 11 of Mark's gospel, we read that the
Lord spent the first evening in Bethany, the home of Mary, Martha and
Lazarus whom the Lord raised from the dead. This place was about
two miles SE of Jerusalem and should not be confused with another
Bethany (also called Bethabara) mentioned in John 1:28 as a city
located across the Jordan River where John the Baptist was doing his
work. The name Bethany means "house of unripe figs". It is particularly
meaningful in this chapter of Mark because we read that the next day as
the Lord Jesus and his disciples were returning from Bethany to
Jerusalem, they came across across a fruitless fig tree which
Jesus cursed by saying, "May no one ever eat fruit from you again!" and
which eventually withered.
Another significant thing which the Lord Jesus did was to drive out
the people who were buying and selling from the temple courts. He even
overturned their tables and chairs. After clearing the temple
courts, he taught them from Isaiah
56: 7 "My house shall be
called a house of prayer for all nations" The chief
priests and the rabbis were alarmed by all this. The crowds were
amazed by Jesus' actions and words. If something is not done soon, the
priests will lose the support and loyalty of all the people of
Jerusalem. So they plotted to kill him. They, the teachers of the Law
of God, the priests who stand before the God in the temple lead people
to worship God and to offer sacrifices to him, they wanted to resort to
murder. Apparently their God could not help them out of their crisis.
Perhaps their God was not available. Perhaps, like the the fool in
Psalm 14:1, they were saying quietly in their hearts, "There is no God".
And so when the Lord and his disciples returned to Jerusalem, they
were confronted by the high priests, scribes and the elders, in the
very same temple courts from which the Lord has chased out all the
merchants and their customers earlier. The enemies demanded an
explanation . . .
1) The Stature of their Position
The chief priests, the scribes (teachers of the law) and the
elders. In the NT "scribes and Pharisees" would often be
mentioned together, e.g. in one of Lord Jesus' public speeches to the
multitudes during his final week in Jerusalem, recorded in Matthew 23,
the Lord openly rebuked the scribes and Pharisees at least eight times
with the words "Woe unto you scribes and Pharisees . . ." The
to one of the most
important and influential religious and political parties of Judaism.
There were more Pharisees than Sadducees. The ancient historian
Josephus estimated that more than 6,000
Pharisees existed in Jesus' time.
The Pharisees were well known
adherence to the OT law and to numerous additional
traditions such as belief in angels and in the resurrection of the
body. As such, they were offended when the Lord rejected
their man-made traditions and were appalled by the Lord's claim of
being the Son of God and also when he pronounced forgiveness of sins to
people who came to him for healing. The Lord Jesus had certainly
antagonised a group of very influential people who held very high
position in the community of Jerusalem.
Consequently, they formed an alliance with their traditional opponents,
the Sadducees and the Herodians, and plotted to destroy the Lord
Jesus. It was under such a threatening set of circumstances that
the Lord Jesus faced the chief priests, the scribes and the elders that
day: for among them were people who wanted to trap him with his own
words, and expose him as a heretic, perhaps some kind of cult leader,
and hopefully to bring a charge against him in court.
So, when they asked the Lord, "By what authority are you doing these
things?", they were demanding an answer on the basis of their
high authority and position. It was like school-master who asks a
student, "Who gave you permission to come into my office?". It
was a "show-cause" letter, and the Lord Jesus had to explain why action
should not be taken against him for his alleged false teachings.
2) The Nature of their Question
In John 12:37 - 41
"Although Jesus had performed so many miraculous signs before them,
they still refused to believe in him, so that the word of Isaiah the
prophet would be fulfilled. He said, “Lord, who has believed our message, and
to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” (Quotation from Isaiah 53:1) For this
reason they could not believe, because again Isaiah said, “He has blinded their eyes and
hardened their heart, so that they would not see with their eyes and
understand with their heart, and turn to me, and I would heal them.”
(in Isaiah 6:10)
John added his comments in verse 11, saying, "Isaiah said these things
because he saw Christ’s glory, and spoke about
- to evaluate / analyse critically: critical evaluation is
an essential ingredient of being learned. Even today,
post-graduates students in universities are expected to demonstrate an
ability to analyse, evaluate and criticise the research findings of
- the learned person will not be satisfied with what is obvious /
apparent, but, instead, search for hidden / latent factors and
underlying causes. It is what you don't see that matters most.
- Thus, like learned people, the chief priests and scribes and
elders, were not easily impressed by what they saw, but rather what
they have "yet to see".
3) The Picture of their
The Lord Jesus pointed out their failure to see their
- they have forgotten to question the authority of another popular
teacher who was also attracting a following of disciples i.e. John the
- they have not considered carefully that their position and power
hanged on the credibility of their decisions and profession - if
they profess that JTB has authority from God, they contradict
themselves by not having believed in John. On the other hand, if
they reject JTB's divine authority, they risk losing support from the
- in verse 32, we read, "They feared the people" . . .
- Illustrate: debate with church member who fiercely
contended the divinity of the Lord Jesus - questioned about his
practice of participating in Holy Communion and public reading of
(1) These people of high position were ignorant of two
- Firstly, that the authority of The Lord Jesus came from God the
Subsequently, in John
12: 44 - 50
"But Jesus shouted
out, “The one who believes in me does
not believe in me, but in the one who sent me,
and the one who sees me sees the one who sent me.
I have come as a light into the world, so
that everyone who believes in me should not remain in darkness. If anyone hears my words and does not obey
them, I do not judge him. For I have not
come to judge the world, but to save the world.
The one who rejects me and does not accept
my words has a judge;
the word I have spoken will judge him at the
last day. For I have not spoken from my own
authority, but the Father
himself who sent me
has commanded me what I should say and what I should speak. And I know that his commandment is
eternal life. Thus the
things I say, I say just as
the Father has told me"
- Secondly, their own authority were merely from men, by constantly
maintaining and manipulating the support of the masses to their
In John 12: 42-43:
"Nevertheless, even among the rulers many believed in him, but because
of the Pharisees they would not confess Jesus to be the Christ, so
that they would not be put out of the synagogue. For they
loved praise from men more than praise from God."
(2) From these we learn for ourselves today, to avoid living the
contradictory life of the scribes and Pharisees, who talk profess to
believe only in things that are "from God", while their very position
and authority in Jerusalem depended virtually on the praise and support
of mere men. Let us ask ourselves, "Is our life a contradiction?" Do we
teach in the name of God but do things in the weakness of man? . . .