The Trap: Mark 11:27-33
“27) They *came again to Jerusalem. And as He was walking in the temple, the chief priests and the scribes and the elders *came to Him, 28) and began saying to Him, “By what authority are You doing these things, or who gave You this authority to do these things?” 29) And Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one question, and you answer Me, and then I will tell you by what authority I do these things. 30) Was the baptism of John from heaven, or from men? Answer Me.” 31) They began reasoning among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say, ‘Then why did you not believe him?’ 32) But shall we say, ‘From men’?”—they were afraid of the people, for everyone considered John to have been a real prophet. 33) Answering Jesus, they *said, “We do not know.” And Jesus *said to them, “Nor will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”” Mark‬ ‭11‬:‭27‬-‭33‬ ‭
As you study the context, the chief priests, and scribes and elders of the people were most likely asking about His authority to cleanse the temple and make reforms to buying and selling sacrificial supplies in the temple grounds.
The scribes were most likely present to argue Deuteronomy 14:24-26 with Him. In this text, Moses permitted those coming from a distance to exchange their goods for money and purchase new sacrificial goods in Jerusalem for their sacrifices. They were eager to pit the authority of Moses against Jesus.
Of course, the problem was that the religious leaders had cashed in on this captive audience and moved the merchants and money changers right into the temple grounds. They were reaping a profit on everything bought and sold. Prices were inflated and they were getting rich. Moses by no means would have approved of this practice.
But instead of engaging in religious debate, Jesus asked them about the ministry of John the Baptist. “Was the baptism of John from heaven or from men?”
It was a valid question because the people held John in high regard. Being the elders son of Zechariah, John was also of priestly descent. (See Luke 1:5-25; 57-80, 3:1-20) The circumstances of his birth and the scope of his ministry were widely known. His whole life and ministry were stamped with heavy finger prints.
It was non other than John the Baptist that called the Pharisees and Sadducees a brood of viper and warned them of pending wrath from God. He called them to repentance. (See Matthew 3:7-8)
The trap from the religious leaders was defused. They were exposed and reduced to fools. The implication was that John called them to repentance because of their sinful and devious ways.
However, the question of authority was important. Jesus had both heavenly authority and self authority as the Son of God. This was the very claim the religious leaders one week later used to convict Jesus of Blasphemy and crucify Him.
I believe that was their hidden agenda behind this meeting with Jesus in the temple. But the timing was not right. The Lamb of God had to be sacrificed on the Passover.
Keep in mind, It was non other than John the Baptist who had introduced Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. (See John 1:19-24) When Jesus brought John the Baptist into this conversation, He was laying out a much deeper case before the people.
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global
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