By What Authority?
I. People refuse to submit Jesus’ authority because of pride (vv. 27-28).
The temple was the central institution of Israel’s religious, political, and economic life. Economically, it dominated more than just the skyline of Jerusalem. It also served as the central bank, the capital building, and Wall Street. For most people living in the city, the temple was their means of employment. Politically, the temple was the power base and source of wealth for the priestly hierarchy, who ruled Judea under the Roman governor. Religiously, the temple marked the separation between the holy and secular, and it became the symbol of God’s abiding favor and presence among the people. The Holy of Holies was regarded as a radioactive core of holiness that could fend off and purify the evil that surrounded Israel
The “chief priests, scribes, and elders” were the three groups that comprised the Sanhedrin, although in this instance they represent a delegation from the Sanhedrin rather than the entire council. The Sanhedrin, a buffer organization between Rome and the Jewish nation, was composed of seventy-one members who held near complete freedom in religious matters and restricted power in political matters.
II. People refuse Jesus’ authority because of a fear of man (vv. 29-30)
III. People refuse Jesus’ authority because they don’t want to be held accountable for their actions (v. 33)
God does not teach us new truth if we have rejected the truth He has already revealed. This basic principle is expressed in John 7:17: “If any man is willing to do His will, he shall know of the teaching, whether it is of God, or whether I speak from Myself” (NASB). “Obedience is the organ of spiritual knowledge,” said the British preacher F.W. Robertson. The Jewish religious leaders had not accepted what John had taught, so why should God say anything more to them? Had they obeyed John’s message, they would have gladly submitted to Christ’s authority, for John came to present the Messiah to the nation.
To those unwilling to commit themselves, Jesus refuses to commit himself. “ ‘Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.’ ” Those who cannot be honest with themselves cannot be honest about Jesus.
The root of the trouble lay not in their intellect, but in their stubborn wills: they stood self-condemned