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The authority of Jesus questioned

Gospel Reading: Mt 21:23-27
Jesus had come into the temple area, the chief priests and the elders of the people approached him as he was teaching and said, “By what authority are you doing these things? And who gave you this authority?” Jesus said to them in reply, “I shall ask you one question, and if you answer it for me, then I shall tell you by what authority I do these things. Where was John’s baptism from? Was it of heavenly or of human origin?” They discussed this among themselves and said, “If we say ‘Of heavenly origin,’ he will say to us, ‘Then why did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘Of human origin,’ we fear the crowd, for they all regard John as a prophet.” So they said to Jesus in reply, “We do not know.” He himself said to them, “Neither shall I tell you by what authority I do these things.”


Jesus is being challenged by religious and civil authorities in the Temple because they are displeased by his earlier behavior. Prior to this incident, when he first arrived at the Temple, Jesus drove out the merchants and overturned the tables of the money changers (Mt 21:12). When Jesus returns to the Temple and teaches in its precincts, the authorities get back at him. But they make a big mistake in the formulation of their question. “By what authority…”

Jesus exploits their question to unmask where the chief priests and scribes are coming from and to affirm the importance of John’s baptism, which they have never paid attention to. First, they did not believe the baptism of John. The fact that people from all places were going to John in droves for baptism should have meant something to them. But they were not keen on it. Instead, they kept their routine as if nothing extraordinary was happening in the countryside and now in Jerusalem itself. Second, the baptism of John is the key to understand where Jesus is coming from. Without conversion or metanoia, all the words and deeds of Jesus are meaningless. Jesus’ actions in the Temple cannot be seen as authorized from above.

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Can you demolish your personal structures that make you practice obsolete religion in favor of Jesus who is establishing God’s Kingdom here on Earth?

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SOURCE: “366 Days with the Lord,” ST PAULS, 7708 St. Paul Rd., SAV, Makati City (Phils.); Tel.: 895-9701; Fax 895-7328; E-mail: publishing@stpauls.ph; Website: http://www.stpauls.ph.