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"One day He was teaching the people in the Temple, proclaiming the Message. The high priests, religion scholars and leaders confronted Him and demanded, 'Show us your credentials. Who authorised you to speak and act like this?'
"Jesus answered, 'First let me ask you a question. About the baptism of John -- who authorised it, heaven or humans?'
"They were on the spot, and knew it. They pulled back into a huddle and whispered, 'If we say 'heaven', He'll ask us why we didn't believe Him; if we say 'humans', the people will tear us limb from limb, convinced as they are that John was God's prophet.' They agreed to concede that round to Jesus and said they didn't know.
"Jesus said, 'Then neither will I answer your question.'" Luke 20:1-8 (The Message).
Jesus was smart. He knew that the religious leaders had no interest in the answer to their question other than to use it against Him. They were building their case against Him and the answer to this question was an important weapon in their arsenal.
Jesus was a rabbi with authority, which meant that He had the right to determine how He would interpret the Torah and how He would apply His interpretation in His own life and teaching. This was called His 'yoke' and was binding upon His disciples as well; they were obligated to wear His yoke and to 'bind' in on their followers, loosing them from the yoke of any other rabbi. Any deviation or addition meant that they were automatically disqualified from being His disciples.
Since Jesus had the supreme authorisation of His Father and the anointing of the Holy Spirit, ("When all the people were being baptised, Jesus was baptised too. And as He was praying, the heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on Him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, you are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.'" Luke 3:21,22. NIV), His yoke carried more authority than the yoke of any other rabbi.
The religious leaders were following the yoke of the chief rabbis of their day, which was in conflict with Jesus' yoke. They strictly and rigidly stuck to the Law of God, and the many additions made by their religious authorities through the years, which distorted the character of God until He was unrecognisable as the God of their fathers. The God who had revealed Himself to Moses as 'gracious, compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love and faithfulness, forgiving sin..."Exodus 34:6, was buried under a terrible weight of do's and don’ts which effectively made the people slaves of religion.
Jesus came to reveal the true nature of the Father and to set His people free from the terrible yoke of legalism. No wonder He earnestly extended His invitation to His harassed people, "'Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.'" Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV).
Since Jesus came to reveal the heart of a loving and compassionate Father, it was inevitable that He would clash with the religious leaders because they held the power over the people and would not easily relinquish it to the likes of Jesus who continually humiliated them by the way He applied His yoke of mercy and compassion to suffering people. Like all false religions, they ruled the people by the fear of punishment and hated the exposure of their own wicked hearts.
Jesus was always one step ahead. Instead of answering their question as they wanted Him to, which would have been, for them, an admission of blasphemy, He asked them a question, 'Who gave John his authority?' Their response would incriminate them, one way or the other. To admit that John was a prophet of God would expose their guilt because they refused to acknowledge or believe him, and he had come to introduce Jesus as Messiah! To deny his heavenly calling would be to admit their guilt and risk the loss of their power over the people.
The very fact that Jesus lived and acted in harmony with God's revelation of Himself in the Torah was proof enough that His credentials were impeccable - He was the living embodiment of the Father and the religious leaders could not fault Him. In fact, they had no answer to His challenge, 'Who of you convinces me of sin?'
They had trapped themselves and they had to concede defeat.
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