Luke 20 begins with a phrase that we should not overlook.
— Luke 20.1– One day, as he was teaching the people in the temple and telling the good news . . .
It is easy to allow the next verses in this section to obscure Jesus’ purpose for going to the Temple. He was teaching people about the good news.
What is the good news that Jesus taught?
(1) The message of God’s saving activity through Jesus is good news.
(2) The presence of God’s kingdom on earth with the arrival of his Son is good news.
(3) The fact that God is just and is an advocate for all people is good news.
(4) God’s care for the physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being of all humans is good news.
(5) The message of the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) is good news.
It must have been a great honor and opportunity to listen to Jesus explain and proclaim the good news of our loving God.
As we carefully read the Gospels, we have an opportunity to see the good news in action through Jesus’ ministry. As we read his teaching, we can learn the message of the good news from him as did his audience in the first century.
Not Everyone Was Happy
The Temple officials did not appreciate Jesus’ good news teaching.
— Luke 20.1b-2 – The chief priests and the scribes came with the elders
And said to him, “Tell us, by what authority are you doing these things? Who is it who gave you this authority?”
The Temple authorities believed that they were the rightful ones to be in charge of Temple activities. Jesus had recently arrived in Jerusalem with great fanfare, followed by the symbolic act of cleansing the temple.
The question of authority asks, “Who is in control here?” Behind the question was an underling assertion that they were the authentic leaders and he was not.
Power structures are tricky to navigate for citizens of countries, members of churches, and other realms where leaders command allegiance.
In a few weeks, Rudy Ross and I will begin a study of First and Second Corinthians. First Corinthians was written to uphold Paul’s authority over a divided church.
Paul’s methods were contrary to popular culture in Corinth. He didn’t use clever words or manipulation to obtain a following. Rather, he imitated the humility of Jesus and used gentle logic to direct the congregation.
As we align ourselves in situations where authority is an issue, we do well to analyze the attitudes and behavior of the those who desire control over us.
If coercion or manipulation is a method of persuasion, we should be on our guard.
Answering a Question with a Question
Jesus did not directly answer the religious authorities question. Instead, he posed a question of his own.
— Luke 20.3-4 – He answered them, “I will also ask you a question, and you tell me:
“Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?”
If John the Baptist was an authorized prophet from God, and John authenticated Jesus’ mission, then the authorities should have welcomed him too.
The authorities didn’t recognize John for much the same reason they rejected Jesus. John was proclaiming a baptism of repentance and the offer of forgiveness to those who redirected their lives.
The Temple officials believed that the Temple was the only place where forgiveness could be granted, and thus opposed John.
They had a serious problem if they answered Jesus’ question truthfully. The crowd was listening to Jesus and believed John was a prophet.
Beware When They Won’t Answer
Jesus posed a question to the religious authorities that had a simple answer. Their refusal to answer revealed the heart of their problem.
— Luke 20.5-7 – They discussed it with one another, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why did you not believe him?’
“But if we say, ‘Of human origin,’ all the people will stone us; for they are convinced that John was a prophet.”
So they answered that they did not know where it came from.
The Temple officials knew exactly what they thought about John the Baptist, but they weren’t willing bring their thoughts out in the open. They didn’t want the crowd to know their true feelings.
Those in control desire our willingness to follow their directions. A good gauge of whether to follow them or not is their willingness to be transparent and answer direct questions.
Why should we follow someone who is unwilling to answer straight-forward questions with honest answers?
Like the Temple authorities, Jesus refused to answer.
— Luke 20.8 – Then Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”
Actually, Jesus did answer the religious authorities. The parable in Luke 20.9-19 was his answer. That will be tomorrow’s blog study.
Rudy Ross brings a wealth of study and love for God to our YouTube video. You will certainly appreciate his perspectives on this passage. The video is on the Bob Spradling YouTube channel.
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