To some extent (though I do weary of it) I enjoy watching political talk shows. From both sides of the spectrum, hosts will often have a guest to be interviewed that clearly holds a viewpoint that is antithetical to both the host and his or her network. The goal of the host is to trap the guest with a “gotcha” question, while the guest is attempting to answer in a way that that entirely thwarts the question and silences the hometown, prevailing perspective. I always find some admiration for anyone who can escape such entrapment on the hot seat with a well-worded response that takes the air out of the room.
Did you ever have an argument with someone where you drop a perspective on them that you think will silence them, only to have them come back with a counter statement you don’t know how to answer? You still think they’re wrong, but you don’t know what to say. How did that feel?
Jesus was the ultimate master at answering a probing question with a response that flipped the entire scene upside-down. He especially was good at dropping the chief priests and Pharisees on their collective head!
The religious leaders had delegated authority from the Romans to supervise what went on around the temple. And to some extent, we can understand why they would not be excited about Jesus just taking the initiative to teach in the courts without their blessing. I would be upset if some of you came into church one Sunday and told me there was a liberal universalist preaching in our parking lot telling people they could get to heaven by simply being good and following him.
Of course, the difference in our story is that the Jewish leadership, beyond the masses of the people, should have recognized the preaching and the miracles as the fulfillment of Scripture in the person of the Messiah.
Jesus stumps them by answering a question with a question, positioning them where any response was, from their perspective, a bad response. We can only imagine how they went back to their conference room and ranted about how the time had surely come that Jesus must be eliminated. With every paragraph, every teaching, every event now as we approach the culmination of the life of Jesus, we can feel the temperature rising.
(Speaking of our 2018 calendar…) We have arrived at the beginning of Holy Week. Our studies in Luke will continue for another three weeks, so the sequence of these writings will quickly fall behind our Palm Sunday / Good Friday / Easter calendar this year.
But the feelings of this passage (and the several that follow) are such a part of the story that gets Christ to the cross. And these emotions will be on display in our upcoming drama at church on the nights of the 28th-30th. This weekend, make plans to be with us and experience the program. It is a sign-up event for a reserved time (as we walk groups of about 15 each through the building, every 10 minutes, covering 8 scenes). And beyond coming yourself, how about praying about who God might put upon your mind to invite to come with you. Be an attender / be a bringer.
Luke 20:1 – One day as Jesus was teaching the people in the temple courts and proclaiming the good news, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, together with the elders, came up to him. 2 “Tell us by what authority you are doing these things,” they said. “Who gave you this authority?”
3 He replied, “I will also ask you a question. Tell me: 4 John’s baptism—was it from heaven, or of human origin?”
5 They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Why didn’t you believe him?’ 6 But if we say, ‘Of human origin,’ all the people will stone us, because they are persuaded that John was a prophet.”
7 So they answered, “We don’t know where it was from.”
8 Jesus said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”