Truth or Consequences
Truth or Consequences (Matthew 21:23-32)
Many refuse to acknowledge the truth about Jesus because they fear the consequences. Events from the last Tuesday of Jesus' public ministry reveal this in a striking way. Two days earlier, the city had hailed Him as King. One day before, He had forcefully reformed the temple. This day, He was teaching in the temple porch, as if He were Owner! All this was too much for the religious professionals. They sent a formal delegation of clergy and laity to challenge Jesus' credentials. Jesus' response revealed their incompetence to judge spiritual authority. The authority of Jesus always puzzles unbelief, but you must act urgently now on what you know.
Jesus' Authority Puzzles Unbelievers
The authority of Jesus Christ does not fit into any known categories of human authority. The nature and source of His authority mystifies unbelief.
The nature of Jesus' authority puzzles unbelief. "By what authority are you doing these things?" Jesus had entered the city as a King, reformed the temple, and was teaching as if He owned the place. The authorities demanded to know what right and the power that went with it to enable Him to do these things. What kind of authority does Jesus have? Physical, moral, ecclesiastical, political, spiritual? The authority of Jesus transcends every human category.
The source of Jesus' authority puzzles unbelief. "Who gave You this authority?" The religious establishment gave accreditation to all religious teachers. Jesus amazed the people "because He taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law" (Matt. 7:29). There was a reality about Jesus' teaching that broke every category.
Non-Christians cannot explain Jesus on the basis of any known authority. You can only accept Him as Lord in His uniqueness, not explain Him.
Unbelievers Lack Competence to Understand Jesus' Authority
Jesus answered their question with a counterquestion. This was not an evasion, but an accepted pattern of religious debate. His question revealed their incompetence to understand any religious authority. If you refuse to act on what you do know, you will be given no more light.
Jesus responds with simplicity. They asked Him two questions. He asked them one— from where did John the Baptist's authority come from God or from man? The Baptist's movement had been the largest intervention with God in 300 years. If the religious leaders could recognize God at all, they should have seen Him in the Baptist's movement.
Unbelief reacts with duplicity. Unbelief refuses to tell the truth because it fears the consequences. If they admitted John the Baptist was from God, they revealed their own inconsistency. They neither believed John nor what he said about Jesus (John 3:25-30). If they denied the Baptist's divine origin, they feared the crowd. The millions in Jerusalem at Passover were easily inflamed.
Most people know the truth about Jesus. They simply do not want to face the consequences of commitment to Him.
Unbelievers Must Act Now on What They Do Know
Jesus refuses to give more of Himself to those who refuse to act on what they already know. The cowardly confession, "We don't know" (v. 27), unmasked the religious leaders. They professed incompetence to decide the greatest religious question of their lifetime. None are so blind as those who will not see.
Jesus bluntly told them that those they considered scum would come to Him before they would. Every word shouts with urgency, "Come now!" God will not give you more than enough evidence. If you do not come on the basis of what you do know, you will never know enough to come.