One day as Jesus was teaching the people and preaching the Good News in the Temple, the leading priests, the teachers of religious law, and the elders came up to him. They demanded, “By what authority are you doing all these things? Who gave you the right?”
“Let me ask you a question first,” he replied. “Did John’s authority to baptize come from heaven, or was it merely human?”
They talked it over among themselves. “If we say it was from heaven, he will ask why we didn’t believe John. But if we say it was merely human, the people will stone us because they are convinced John was a prophet.” So they finally replied that they didn’t know.
And Jesus responded, “Then I won’t tell you by what authority I do these things.” – Luke 20:1-8
One of my go-to sayings to my children when they were young was a response to their unreasonable and insceccant questioning about my reasons for what I was telling them to do. “Why?” they would ask. “Because the sky is blue when the sun shines,” I would reply. In other words I was not going to answer to them. It was my responsibility as their dad to tell them what to do. It was their responsibility to do what I told them to do.
C.S. Lewis calls this kind of attitude – when we demand an answer or justification for his actions – putting “God in the Dock.” The dock is the place in a British court of law where the defendant stands trial. They are there to be examined, called to account, and give an answer to the judge. It is not proper to put God in the dock. We answer to him. He is not required to answer to us.
Jesus is not yet standing trial, but he is being called to account for his actions and his teaching. “By what authority are you doing these things?”
Jesus will not play their game. He doesn’t even offer a “because the sky is blue when the sun shines” snarky remark. He simply won’t answer to them.
He will, however ask them a question. In doing so, he actually does answer their question. He shows them that they were willing to pick and choose what they challenged and what or who they accepted. They really didn’t want to know the truth. They simply wanted to sustain their power. They didn’t want to risk themselves for the sake of truth. They would rather keep their skin than learn the truth, or reveal what they thought of John’s baptism. Jesus had caught them in their duplicity.
Jesus has the authority of truth. He has the authority of faithfulness. He has the authority of his submission to his Father in heaven. He has the authority of a truly righteous man. He has the authority of being on his mission to save the world. It will take him to a place of complete submission and absolute subjection to the wiles of man. He is committed and he will give his all for our sake.