One day, as Jesus was teaching the people in the temple and preaching the gospel, the chief priests and the scribes with the elders came up and said to him, “Tell us by what authority you do these things, or who it is that gave you this authority.” He answered them, “I also will ask you a question. Now tell me, was the baptism of John from heaven or from man?” And they discussed it with one another, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From man,’ all the people will stone us to death, for they are convinced that John was a prophet.” So they answered that they did not know where it came from. And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.” Luke 20:1-8
Why did the priests and scribes question Jesus? Because they did not accept his ministry or authority. Jesus did not have official scribal or priestly authority, according to their standards. Instead of answering them, Jesus asks them about the forerunner, John the Baptist. Why does Jesus do this? Because John had been sent by God, not man. And if they did not accept John how much more will they not accept the Son of God.
In Luke 9 right after the disciples are arguing about who is the greatest. John says, “Master we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow us.” And Jesus gives the famous response, “Do not stop him, for the one who is not against you is for you.”
Do you know what Luke writes just before the challenge to Christ’s authority in Luke 20? Just turn the page and go back a few verses.
“And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold, saying to them, ‘It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of robbers.’” And Luke goes on to say that Jesus was teaching in the temple daily and the chief priest and scribes (and other important people) were trying to destroy him. But here is the kicker, they couldn’t.
Who has the authority to speak or teach? Who has the authority to kick people out of the temple because they are buying and selling instead of praying? Jesus is the one with the authority. He paid for it with his life. The Father gave him all authority in heaven and earth. And Jesus also gives authority to whom he chooses.
If we only accept those who speak from the authority of governmental or religious organizations, then it is possible we will miss a significant portion of the Kingdom. John the Baptist did not have either governmental or religious authority, yet he was the forerunner to Christ! And more importantly, the same is true of Jesus himself. He was not accepted by the leaders because he did not have their official permission or authority. But I am pretty sure he was still supposed to be teaching!
Let us operate in godly wisdom and realize that while the apostles of Christ were arguing over who was the greatest, some no-name was casting out demons in the name of Jesus. The apostles first response was to stop this madman. But Jesus corrects them. And by the same principle, many of the great and influential are very busy arguing about who is the greatest. And yet all the while, “Amos” is prophesying, “John” is baptizing, Mr. or Mrs. No-name are casting our demons, the nobody prayer warriors are praying, and the books you never read written by people you never heard of changes nations.
When the leaders ask, “Tell us by what authority you do these things,” the question is never answered, all we hear is crickets… But when we try to stop God’s work, what he has divinely established, giving as our reason, “he does not follow us.” Then God answers… “Do not stop him, for the one who is not against you is for you.”