If Jesus Asked you

Was Johnís baptism from heaven or from men?

Luke 20:1-8 1/8/12 SCC



††††††††††† Luke 20 contains five controversies between Jesus and the official Jewish religious leadership. The leadership tries to catch Jesus in error and so they test him in every sphere whether personal, political or theological. Jesus responds by raising questions of his own. While the leadership is unable to trap Jesus, he is able to embarrass and silence them. Luke 20:1-8 centers on the source of Jesusí authority. The religious leadership asks what gives Jesus the credentials to perform, teach, and then judge them? Jesus raises John the Baptistís ghost to counter their charge and silence their case.




The Setting 1

††††††††††† Here once again Jesus is spending a good part of this day, as he had so many before, at the Temple when he was in Jerusalem. He was amongst the people doing two things:

(1) He was teaching the people. So we can assume he has taken on the official role of a teacher as the people gathered in the temple area.

(2) He is Ďgospelingí or proclaiming good news. There is no object so it must be the good news related to his mission or the kingdom. He has taken on the role of a proclaimer with knowledge of the religious and eternal.


††††††††††† As this is going on, three groups approach Jesus, which immediately introduces tension into the narrative because of their make-up. A mood of confrontation is interjected. The chief priests and the scribes are bunched together along with the elders who have also joined in. Religious authority is always sensitive to anyone who may threaten their authority over the masses. Most of church history is about who gets to dispense the grace of God to people. Who has the authority over people to dictate when or how God is pleased or displeased with us. True biblical Christianity is only concerned about the responsibility we have to one another. The only authority we have in the church is Christ the head and the written teaching of the apostles.


Questions 2-4

††††††††††† 2 Their first question seems to be more general in its demand. What authority does Jesus have presumably to do this teaching in public and in the temple? Their second question demands more specifically who it is that has given him this authority. What is the sphere or quality of his authority? They are demanding an answer. NB: I was also asked this question several years ago while discussing the Bible with a priest on a plane together. After enquiring what I was doing in India, I informed him I had just finished teaching groups the Bible. He then asked whose authority I was under to do something like that. His was from his diocese and from the Holy Catholic Church.


††††††††††† The point here is that this religious leadership does not believe Jesus has the right to do what he is doing despite the evidence. The Catholic priest did not believe I had the right to be doing this either despite the scriptural mandate to the church to make disciples and our individual accountability to God.


††††††††††† 3 Jesus replies to the religious leaders question with one of his own. When they answer his question, he will reply with an answer to theirs. The point of Jesus question is not to dodge answering theirs, but actually an attempt to raise the stakes. He will answer their question by turning up the heat and forcing them to respond. As they commanded Jesus to speak, so, now, Jesus commands them to speak. Here the narrative shifts toward a new development of thought designed to elevate the true issue related to this exchange.


††††††††††† 4 Jesus question centers on John the Baptist with a multiple-choice question with one of two options. Either John came as a messenger from God or he did not. Is he from God or should he be ignored? Why this question?


(1) Johnís ministry and message pointed to the office Jesus claims in Luke 3:16. Johnís ministry pointed to Jesus as the Messiah, the One sent from God as the Lamb of God, not himself.

(2) Jesus also pointed to John and accepted baptism from Him. It was a baptism of repentance that John had been preaching and performing.

(3) John referred his own disciples to Jesus, and two, apparently John and Andrew followed Jesus becoming the first two disciples.

NB: Jesus and Johnís ministries were linked. Since John and Jesus were linked, the answer to Jesusí question is the answer to the leaderís question. Even after his death John the Baptist functions as a forerunner of Jesus.


††††††††††† The crowds of people had responded to both John and Jesus as men, prophets, or possibly even the Messiah sent from God. They had rendered their judgment already approving their ministries to be from God. The religious leadership is not convinced.


PT: When the Jewish leaders asked Jesus, Tell us by what authority you are doing these things, it indicated that Jesus was not part of any Jewish group. He was not a rabbi or a scribe or a Pharisee or a Sadducee or an anything official. That will probably prove to be the most impacting way to do ministry. The more your ministry is tied to a label, the more people will label you rather than learn from you.




Leaderís Quandary 5-6

††††††††††† Again the narrative takes a bit of a turn. This time it centers on the religious leaders response to Jesus question. Two ideas emerge. (1) They cannot confess that John came from God since that would mean they failed to respond to Godís messageórepentance and Jesus as Messiah. Both threats. They did not believe. (2) If they reject Johnís authority then they are left to the ire of the populace who are convinced otherwise. So they deliberate amongst themselves. It is a sham since they will give no honest reply that will threaten their authority over the people. Their interests are over controlling the masses and Jesus threatens this. They consider the best option is to diminish their control for the moment.


††††††††††† The answer is, Jesus had authority from God (Matthew 28:18), but that was what they expected Him to say, so He asked them, was the baptism of John from heaven or from men? This revealed that Jewish leaders got their authority from men rather than God. They were afraid to answer because the people were convinced that John was a prophet. Typical of institutional religious leaders, they were only willing to say what the people were willing to hear (see verse 19).



††††††††††† 7-8 Faced with a dilemma and no good public answer they opt out professing ignorance and agnosticism. So they evade the truth and wait it out for another more advantageous opportunity. They conclude they do not know where Johnís baptism came from. The leadership refuses to be shamed by Jesusí question! In turn, Jesus responds likewise. He will not answer their question since refusing to answer his exposes their unbelief in Jesus message and ministry. That authority is clear for all to see.


1. Jesus authority will always be challenged. That is the nature of the spiritual battle. Satan has set himself against the Son of God. This is often in the form of adding the authority of the church or clergy or some mystical type thinking that we can be a god like Buddhism or new age.

2. We only have the Bible as documented evidence with eyewitness testimony of Jesus authority. Christianity is based on this documentation and evidence alone.