THE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF THE JEWS looked on Jesus as a rival or antagonist, especially from the time of His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, when the whole populace had gone forth to greet Him. They particularly resented His dismissal of the Temple merchants and set out to find some means of getting rid of Him.
Later that day, while Jesus was walking in the Temple, the chief priests, Scribes, and elders came to Him in a group and began to question Him.
“By what authority dost Thou do these things?” they asked. “Who gave Thee this authority to do these things?”
This was the first of many interrogations of Christ by the Jewish leaders–all of them aimed at getting Jesus to make some assertion or claim to authority which would incriminate Him or, in any event, weaken His influence over the people.
The question appeared to be cunningly conceived; any direct answer might be used against Christ. But He well knew their intention. Turning against them the fears and anxieties which had motivated their question, He left His interrogators on the horns of the very dilemma they had prepared for Him.
“I also will ask you one question, and answer Me; then I will tell you by what authority I do these things. Was the baptism of John from heaven, or from men? Answer Me.”
The wary Sanhedrites were distraught. If they were to reply that John had baptized by authority from heaven, Christ would ask why they had not believed in him. If, on the other hand, they were to say that the Baptist’s authority was human in its origin, they might well expect to be stoned to death, for the people regarded John as a genuine prophet.
They reasoned together for some time, afraid to risk an indiscreet answer, unwilling to admit their frustration. Finally, they admitted: “We do not know.”
And Jesus replied gently:
“Neither do I tell you by what authority I do these things.”
Meditation: The Temple officials who questioned Christ were jealous. They feared this new leader who might take from them some of the popularity they enjoyed with the people. They feared for themselves and their own positions. Rather than investigate honestly the claims of Jesus, they sought for a way to discredit Him and to be rid of Him. Jealousy can lead to great sins-even to the murder of Christ. Do I rejoice when others succeed, or does jealousy make me resentful of others’ success?
Information from The Life of Christ “Our Lord’s Life with Lesson in His Own Words for Our Life Today” The Catholic Press, Inc. 1959. 201-202. © 1954 edited by Reverend John P. O’Connell, MASTD and Jex Martin, following mainly A Chronological Harmony of the Gospels by Stephen J Hartdegen OFM NIHIL OBSTAT John A McMahon; IMPRIMATUR Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago August 1, 1953. Print. Drawing by Albert H Winkler.