It was not a friendly audience that confronted Jesus, and their motives were not particularly pure. They pressed Him on the issue of authority (Matthew 21:23-27). Who gave Him the right to do what He was doing? Their hope of cornering Him failed. It always did, but they never stopped trying. Threaten the power structure, and it meets with stiff opposition. Yielding to a superior is not something that humans tend to do willingly.
He met their interrogation with a question. Their concerns revolved not around truth but trouble. What answer would cause the least of it? They finally concluded with a shrug of the shoulders and left with their question unanswered. We might find the reason for much of today’s religious confusion in that ancient encounter. Indeed, it may explain much of our cultural erosion.
Jesus in a post-resurrection appearance declared that all authority had been placed in His hands (Matthew 28:18). There is no need to look elsewhere. It is a settled matter. Decisions become much easier when we recognize that fact. We will then come to His word for direction not debate. Jesus came to set sinners free from sin and its consequences, and He has provided the information that is necessary to liberate us (John 8:31-32).
Only the Lord can break those bonds. Those who imagine that they are free to do as they please cannot see their chains. They are manipulated by impulses within and societal pressures without. The evil one corrupts their thoughts and actions. They are captives on death row (Ephesians 2:1-3). How sad it is that the slaves do not recognize the emancipation that is possible when they yield to the ultimate authority.
The Son of God demonstrated His dominion over every aspect of creation during His time on earth. His teaching brought a different air than those before Him. He calmed storms, transformed water, dictated to demons, healed the sick and raised the dead. He did not simply claim the authority; He proved it. It was such a conclusive demonstration that none of His followers challenged Him when He announced it. After all, when someone who was dead just a couple of days before speaks to you, who could argue. Resurrection showed that even death is no match for His authority.
The wide world of religion has hundreds of sub-groups. Their teachings vary, and some have their own book of beliefs. Many have strayed far from the teachings of the authoritative one. His high standards do not match with their low desires. So, they face that same old question: By what authority are you doing these things? People may shrug as the inquisitors of Jesus did as they seek the least objectionable route. Popular opinion is a poor authority. It will probably be less controversial but will always be ineffectual in dealing with the sin problem. The lost will remain lost…forever.