Question of Authority

Mark 11: 27-33
Sir 51:12cd-20 / Ps 19

“By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you authority to do this?”
(Mark 11:28)

To gain wisdom, Lord, we have found
Submission is what You require.
The crafty and smart You confound,
The humble of heart You inspire.

They arrived again in Jerusalem, and while Jesus was walking in the temple courts, the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders came to Him. “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you authority to do this?” Jesus replied, “I will ask you one question. Answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. John’s baptism—was it from heaven, or of human origin? Tell me!” They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ But if we say, ‘Of human origin’ …” (They feared the people, for everyone held that John really was a prophet.) So they answered Jesus, “We don’t know.” Jesus said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.” (Mark 11:27-33)


The chief priests and scribes were clearly plotting to trap Jesus with their question. If our Lord answered that His authority came from God or on His own, then they would have enough reason to accuse Him of blasphemy. If He answered from others, then they could brand Him as an impostor or a fake messiah. But our Lord simply turned the tables on them, and asked their opinion where John the Baptist got his authority to baptize – “from heaven, or of human origin?” And they were trapped in the same quandary that they had planned to entrap Jesus in.

Instead of answering their faithless question, Jesus instead gave His detractors some things to think about. First of all, by the brilliant way He was able to elude their trap, and coming up with a response without a moment’s hesitation to their cleverly contrived question, they should have realized that this uneducated carpenter must indeed be more than what they thought He was. Secondly, they should have asked themselves the same question that Jesus posed to them: Why indeed did they refuse to believe that John’s baptism was divine in origin? They had rejected him outright without even giving him the benefit of a doubt, in spite of the multitudes that had come to revere John as a holy man. The plain truth was, they were too proud to accept the authority of John or of Jesus Himself because they were also a bunch of cowards, who were afraid to lose their influence over the Jewish population.

Many times in our lives, don’t we find ourselves faced with the same predicament that the Jewish religious authorities experienced with Jesus? In the matter of paying our taxes, for instance. How easy it is for us to say that as Christians, we must be honest in all our dealings. But when it comes to settling our obligations as mandated by the authority of God handed down to our government, we find “extrajudicial” ways to evade paying the right amount of taxes, justifying it by saying politicians are only stealing our hard-earned money anyway.

Or in the doctrines taught by our Church: if we say we believe that its authority emanates directly from God, then why do many Catholics oppose its stand on the Reproductive Health Bill that our legislators in congress want to pass? Why do we condone the proliferation of condom use, which our Church condemns as promoting more promiscuity and immorality? We have much to reflect on and correct about the contradictions in our life. Only the Word of God is our source of great wisdom.

Dear Lord, we acknowledge You as the ultimate authority in our life, and through Your Church here on earth we pray that we may always be obedient to all Your commands and decrees. Grant all our leaders in the government and in our Church the grace of discernment to lead us in the right paths according to Your will. Amen.

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