Read Mark 11:27-33
After the cleansing of the Temple, those in “authority” are offended. They ask Jesus, “By what authority are you doing these things, or who gave you this authority to do them?” It is a rhetorical question, because they already “know” the answer! Jesus is not a priest, nor even of the Levitical tribe. Levites were the recognized authority in matters relating to the Temple. He is not a scribe. The scribes were the “accredited” teachers—the true rabbis. And neither was Jesus an elder, that is a member of the Sanhedrin. They were the court of judges who ruled on all matters relating to the Jewish community. Jesus, in effect, had overruled every recognized authority by cleansing the Temple of the moneychangers. From the perspective of the Jewish elite Jesus had no authority in the Temple or the wider community.
But Jesus is a good Jew. He answers their rhetorical question with one of His own: “Was the baptism of John from heaven or from men?” Like any rhetorical question, the answer should be obvious. It was from heaven, but the “authorities” cannot go there, for “they were afraid of the people.” St. John Chrysostom summarizes the situation for us, saying, “Because they were crafty and said, ‘We do not know,’ He did not say, ‘Neither do I know,’ rather ‘Neither will I tell you.’…And how was it that they did not say the baptism was of men? ‘They feared the people.’ Do you see their perverse heart? In every case they despise God and do all things for the sake of men. On account of men they were not willing to believe in Christ. As a result, all of their evils were engendered to them.”
Mark has already shown us the dangers of following the crowd (meditations in Week 3). And here Jesus offers a presage of the crowds frenzy on Good Friday. Will we stand on the word of the “authorities”? The word of the crowd? Or the Word of Truth? Thy Word is Truth!