Authority and Responsibility

Matthew 21: 23-27
Num 24:2-7,15-17a / Psa 25

By what authority are you doing these things…
(Matthew 21:23)

Lord, You are my hope and my delight,
I surrender my life to You;
Let Your Spirit lead me day and night
Only to what is good and true.

When Jesus entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to Him as He was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” Jesus said to them in reply, “I will also ask you one question; if you tell me the answer, then I will also tell you by what authority I do these things. Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?” And they argued with one another, “If we say, ‘From heaven’, He will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘Of human origin’, we are afraid of the crowd; for all regard John as a prophet.” So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And Jesus said to them, “Then neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.” (Matthew 21: 23-27)


How ironic it must have seemed to our Lord that these chief priests and elders of the Jewish people who were irresponsible in taking care of the people, and patently ignorant in the proper observance of God’s laws and decrees, should be questioning the authority of the One Who was the source of all authority in the universe. If they had only taken the trouble to reflect seriously on the teachings of Jesus, instead of maliciously trying to catch Him with their silly trick questions, they should have realized that their authority, and much less their intelligence were no match against that of the “Rabbi” teaching in their temple area.

Instead of telling them directly that His miraculous works were enough testimony to His divine authority, Jesus threw their challenge back at them by posing a question that He knew they could never answer, because whatever answer they gave would only expose them for the kind of hypocrites that they really were. They rejected John the Baptist, saying he was “possessed by a demon” (Mt.11:18), and yet they could not stop the people from being baptized by John in the river Jordan. St. John rejected them for their lack of repentance, calling them “brood of vipers” (Mt.3:7).

Jesus made known to His followers that full authority had been given to Him by His Father when He prayed to Him before His passion and death: “Father, the hour has come. Give glory to Your Son, so that Your Son may glorify You. For You granted Him authority over all people that He might give eternal life to all those You have given Him. Now this is eternal life: that they know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent. I have brought You glory on earth by finishing the work You gave me to do” (Jn.17:1-4). Clearly, His authority came hand in hand with the great responsibility that our Lord had to undertake: the salvation of mankind.

All true Christians are bound by a common tenet: our faith in the authority of Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. We all believe that He is the only Way to the Father, all His teachings are True, and without Him in our life we can never attain Eternal Life with God in heaven. As His followers, He has also given us the authority as well as the responsibility to proclaim His Good News of salvation to others. This mandate comes to us through the power of His Holy Spirit.

Grant us Father God, the desire to love Your Word, to spend more time meditating on the Holy Scriptures, so that we may be able to fulfill our responsibility of sharing Your Good News to others, for the glory of Your Name. Amen.

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