Matthew 21:23-27 – Trying to Preserve the Temporary While Missing the Eternal!

Posted: February 29, 2016 in Gospel of Matthew

Matthew 21:23-27

Religious Leaders Challenge Jesus’ Authority

 

The political arena for the past few years is full of politicians who speak but say nothing. You see it all the time from them in debates or when asked questions in passing by reporters. Politicians today are often so afraid of not winning elections or so afraid of not losing their jobs that they speak in generalities and say nothing. Or they avoid the question asked altogether and go off on a tirade of their choosing that has nothing to do with the question being asked. It’s even true of certain what I would call shock-jock candidates for president. They are here to tell you what they are against but have nothing to offer about what they are for. When penned down for a position that speak out of both sides of their mouth. For example, recently, a presidential candidate was asked about a previous comment where he said publicly that he would remain neutral in the Israeli-Palestinian issue and try to broker a deal, since he is famous for making deals. At the same time of claiming neutrality, he said that he was pro-Israel. In the same sentence, he conflicted himself. How can you be pro-Israel and remain neutral on the Palestinian issue. Wow, what little respect I had for that candidate, and it was very little to begin with, was lost at that moment. It is the spin that matters in today’s politics. As long as you can keep your polling numbers up, you can contradict yourself all you want. American politics is no longer about who is best for the job but rather who has the best quips and sound bites. Carefully crafted personas have taken the place of men of conviction and substance. And, we, Americans are too stupid to realize it. We are about to elect either a bafoonish clown or a borderline socialist as President because we care more about image than we do about what’s best for our country. Tomorrow, on Super Tuesday, we will find out if style or substance wins. In this passage, today, we see religious leaders acting like politicians today. Here, we see the religious authorities trying to trap Jesus into saying something that would be blasphemous and thereby discredit him in the public arena of the Temple. When Jesus turns the tables on them, they go into politician mode to try to preserve themselves:

 

 

23 Jesus entered the temple courts, and, while he was teaching, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him. “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you this authority?”

 

24 Jesus replied, “I will also ask you one question. If you answer me, I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. 25 John’s baptism—where did it come from? Was it from heaven, or of human origin?”

 

They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ 26 But if we say, ‘Of human origin’—we are afraid of the people, for they all hold that John was a prophet.”

27 So they answered Jesus, “We don’t know.”

 

Then he said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”

 

 

This group of religious leaders wanted to get rid of Jesus. They wanted to discredit Him at the least or gain evidence to have Him arrested at the best. It would be comparable to candidates in election years today trying to dig up dirt from the past of another candidate and use it to discredit them. That’s the kind of thing these religious leaders were up to. They wanted to get rid of Jesus so they tried to trap Him with a question. If Jesus would have answered that His authority came from God or if He stated openly that He was the Messiah and the Son of God, they would have accused Him of blasphemy and had Him arrested right there on the spot and bring Him to trial. Jesus would have none of their games. Instead, He turned the question on them. As we can see, they consulted among themselves because they would have contradicted themselves if they had said that John the Baptist’s authority to baptize came from heaven, it would have looked bad for them because they sat idly by as he rotted in prison before He was beheaded. They did nothing to help John. So, if they said his authority came from heaven, they would have indicted themselves for allowing a prophet of God to be killed without even as much as lifting a finger to save him. If they had answered that his authority had come from within himself or had been bestowed on him from religious authorities then that would have inflamed the crowd because to the common Israelite, John the Baptist was a great and ultimately martyred prophet, a true man of God. By saying this too, they would have said that they were the ones that gave him his authority but yet they did nothing to save him. Jesus skillfully turned the tables on the religious leaders and put the hot potato in their court. They ultimately decided to say nothing by saying they did not know because they were more concerned about their polling numbers. Today, they would not have said directly that they did not know but rather would have spent about 1,000 words to say the same thing without saying anything. Kind of like Sheldon Cooper saying to Amy that “I would not be opposed to us not characterizing you as ‘not my girlfriend’”

 

So, what is it exactly that we can learn from this passage that we can use in our daily lives in the 21st century? I think that one point that we can take away from this is that there are those who are always going to want proof that Jesus is the Messiah. Although people the world over acknowledge collectively that Jesus existed, only a percentage of the world’s population believes that Jesus is the Son of God, that Jesus is truly God in the flesh. Many find it difficult to believe that a Supreme Being would break into human history and live among us. First, that would involve admitting there is a God. By admitting that there is a God, they would be admitting that we are not in control of our own lives and that there is a higher authority to answer to. That’s why the big bang theory appeals to them because the randomness of the beginning of the universe eliminates the need for God. If there was no intelligent designer to the universe then there is no God and there is no need to live any differently than I choose to live. If they make Jesus not God too it means He was just a man. If He was just a man, we can choose whether to believe Him or not. If He is just a man and not God himself, Jesus becomes an option. When Jesus becomes an option then we can pick and choose what we want to believe of what He said and what we want to believe about Him. There will be those who will not choose to have the faith that Jesus is the Messiah until they see Jesus coming in the clouds to a loud trumpet sound. That will be their proof but it will be too late. Even if Jesus does not come in the clouds during our lifetime, we do have to answer the question of whether Jesus was the Messiah before we die. It takes faith to believe in that which you cannot see. I can prove historically that Jesus existed but it takes faith to believe that He is God in the flesh and that He dwelt among us and that He died for our sins on the cross and that He arose from the dead to give us victory over sin and death. It takes faith to see Jesus as the Messiah!

 

Which is it that you are more concerned with – this life or eternity? This life is very short compared to eternity and even the atheist struggles with what happens after death. We are wired by our Creator to think that there is something after death. Every religion and even self-made belief systems see that there is some reward or punishment at the end of this game called temporal life. Even an atheist desires that there be something good that comes from our existence. We are wired to believe in eternity after death. Then if there is an eternity that awaits us, then, we have to take a position on Jesus. He claims to be God in the flesh. He claims to have broken into human history to reconcile you to God by dying on the cross for every sin you have committed and as a result have been separated from the positive eternity that comes in the presence of God. It takes faith to see Jesus as the Messiah, as the real deal, as the One we must believe in to spend eternity with God in heaven. Have the trappings of this life so enamored you that cannot see the Messiah? Are you so convinced that you are the determiner of your own destiny that you ignore the wiring in your soul? You were made to believe that something comes after this? Don’t let the trappings of this life blind you to the eternal? Don’t let this life and its temporary realities blind you to your eternal need for a Savior named Jesus Christ, the Messiah!

 

 

Amen and Amen.

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