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Luke 20:1-8 – John’s authority

During Jesus’ final week, he spent every day in the temple proclaiming the kingdom of God. It was like he had taken over the temple and was employing it for his own purpose. The teaching of Jesus was becoming the people’s focal point rather than the temple rituals. This is not surprising because he is the person to whom the rituals pointed.

For the first time in Luke’s gospel a new source of opposition to Jesus emerges in the text – the chief priests. Whereas formerly Jesus had countered the opposition of the Pharisees from the synagogues scattered around the country, now the opponents belong to the party who controlled the temple. Unsurprisingly, they ask by what authority Jesus acted, who it was that gave you this authority.

The reader knows that Jesus has taught and healed with the power and authority of God. The chief priests however are not asking a genuine question of inquiry but rather stand opposing him. Jesus, as the wise man, answers them accordingly. He asks the source of John the Baptist’s authority – from heaven or from man?

If they answer ‘from heaven’ then they will be challenged to believe John’s testimony of that Jesus was greater than John and therefore is sent from God. If they answer ‘from men’ then they face rejection by the people who were convinced that John was a prophet – which of course he was. If John was a prophet speaking by God’s authority, then he has testified that Jesus is the Son of God. The temple, being the Father’s house, is utilized by the Son who has the authority to teach.

The chief priests are fools trapped by Jesus the wise man. They were unable to give him an answer and Jesus refused to cast his words before unclean swine. However, the reader, knowing who Jesus is, recognizes the Son in his Father’s house and listens to his teaching.