“On Your Mark”
Religious Unbelief (Chapter 11 Verses 27-33)
The confrontation comes now, and no doubt would have gathered a few folk, all these ecclesiastical gentlemen quizzing Jesus about his work (v27-28). Not having their stamp of approval, their theological credentials is the issue. But their method of approach, of criticism does not ever seem to vary, or progress much, it is always the same and they are always getting left with egg on their faces. But unbelief never does progress, does it? But of course they wanted him to stop doing what he was doing. They did not really want Jesus’ credentials. In fact they really knew the basis upon which Jesus performed his ministry, his authority was from God, his Father. In his answer (vv29-30), Jesus rather than evade their question puts John the Baptist in his own place, whose ministerial authority was exactly the same as his. He has immediately snared them because they already know on whose authority John ministered, and had themselves acknowledged it. And they cannot answer without damaging themselves or acknowledging the divine authority of Jesus actions. ‘Answer me’, Jesus demands with amazing authority. Under all this Sanhedrin authority most men would be cowed, not Jesus.
They actually start thinking. Amazing! Wow even! (v31-32). Hopelessly caught they answer equally hopelessly, ‘cannot tell’, will not tell (v33a). A pitiful and disgraceful answer. These were the theological brains of Israel, these were the men entrusted with the word of God. These men were supposed to know, it was their job to know. And having confronted Jesus in order to silence him and end his ministry, having been counter-questioned they dare to stand there and say they do not know! They prove themselves to be what they are, religious cowards. The same men who knew John was from God, yet stood back and watched Herod imprison and murder the Baptist. In fact they were glad to be shut of him. Spirit-filled preaching about repentance and faith is the last thing unbelieving religion wants to hear. And of course the nice Herod had built them a nice Temple, and it was more important for political reasons that they please and keep on the right side of him, men-pleasers (Luke 6.26). They stand defeated before Jesus and the people they were supposed to lead to God. Jesus continues with some scathing parables. Us? We are staying with Jesus, all the way, no matter what the cost, that is the fruitful way, the only way (John 15.1-15).
(© James R Hamilton, written September, 1996)