Matthew 21:23-32; Mark 11:27-33; Luke 20:1-8
Acknowledging the Authority of Jesus Through Obedience
These last few days of Jesus’ life before his crucifixion are filled with our Lord’s precious words in both parables (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) and discourses (John). Today’s lesson begins confrontations between Jesus and those who plot his death as they try desperately to catch him in his words that they may bring some accusation against him. However, in their hypocrisy, they fear the people, which is why when they finally arrest him, they do so at night in a lonely place where no one will see.
The chief priests and elders of the people come upon Jesus while he is teaching, and, interrupting him, demand to know where he received authority to “do these things.” Well, of course, Jesus’ authority comes from his being the second member of the Triune God, but Jesus does not refer to that. Instead, he meets their question with one of his own, saying that he would answer their question when they answer his. His question is direct: “The baptism of John, from where did it come? From heaven or from man?” The question Jesus asked was actually an answer to their question, because John pointed to Christ, saying, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29, 36). If they say it was from heaven, then they will be saying that Jesus is the Messiah – which, of course, they’re not about to do. Such an answer would also leave them self-condemned since they did not believe John as they figured Jesus would counter. But they wouldn’t say from man either, for they feared the people. So they “chicken out” of answering his question, and so Jesus refuses to answer theirs. Then Jesus tells a parable to show their hypocrisy: A man had two sons. He asked the first to go and work in his vineyard. He first said, “No,” but then repented and went. The second son said that he would go but never did. So Jesus asked which of the two did his father’s will? They answer the first. And it is here that Jesus catches them in their words and deeds: “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and prostitutes go into the Kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him.”
The chief priests were the second son who said they would go and work in the vineyard but did not go; the tax collectors and prostitutes are the first son who said, “No,” but then repented and went. So the tax collectors and prostitutes proved Jesus’ authority by responding to John. Do we also prove Jesus’ authority over ourselves through our repentance and obedience?