Summary: Those who accept Christ must live under His authority.
I want to begin with a few questions. Feel free to shout out the answer.
Q: An electric train is moving north at 100 mph and a wind is blowing to the west at 10 mph. Which way does the smoke blow?
A: There is no smoke with an electric train.
Q: If there are 6 apples and you take away 4, how many do you have?
A: The 4 you took.
Q: How far can you walk into the woods?
A: Half way. After that you are walking out of the woods.
Q: How many times can you subtract 10 from 100?
A: Once. The next time you would be subtracting 10 from 90.
We could categorize these as trick questions. There were times when Jesus was asked trick questions and there were many other times He used questions to confound and convict His listeners.
On 25 occasions, Jesus was asked a direct question that required a simple answer. Interestingly, He only gave a direct response to four of these inquiries. The other 21 times, he answered questions with a counter-question.
This week I read ahead in Mark 12 and circled seven questions that Jesus asked! In an article called, Let Me Ask You Something, Becky Brodin suggests that there are at least three types of questions that Jesus asked in the Gospel of Mark.
1. Probing Questions. These kinds of questions cause the listener to think. An example is found in Mark 3:4: “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?”
2. Personal Questions. Instead of just drawing out more information, personal questions help people reveal their personal feelings and beliefs. In Mark 8, Jesus asked his disciples who people say that He is. They answered by saying John the Baptist or Elijah or one of the prophets. But then Jesus personalized the question in verse 29: “But who do you say that I am?”
3. Provocative Questions. A third kind of question creates conversation and discussion and can also put people on their heels. That’s what we’re going to see in our passage today.
Please stand and listen for the questions as I read Mark 11:27-32. Also take note of the four times the word “authority” is used: “And they came again to Jerusalem. And as he was walking in the temple, the chief priests and the scribes and the elders came to him, and they said to him, ‘By what authority are you doing these things, or who gave you this authority to do them?’ Jesus said to them, ‘I will ask you one question; answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. Was the baptism of John from heaven or from man? Answer me.’ And they discussed it with one another, saying, ‘If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But shall we say, ‘From man’?—they were afraid of the people, for they all held that John really was a prophet. So they answered Jesus, ‘We do not know.’ And Jesus said to them, ‘Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.’”
Here’s a sentence that summarizes this section of Scripture: Those who accept Christ must live under His authority.
I see three ways Jesus utilized questions that we can put into practice as well.
1. Absorb Questions. We learned last weekend that after cursing the fig tree and cleansing the temple, Jesus went back to Bethany to spend the night. Mark 11:27 tells us what happened the very next day: “And they came again to Jerusalem. And as he was walking in the temple, the chief priests and the scribes and the elders came to him.” Jesus was using His Temple as a classroom to teach those seeking truth. It was common for teachers to walk and talk as they taught. Luke 20:1 mentions that Jesus was “teaching the people in the temple and preaching the gospel.”
Jesus had predicted earlier in Mark 8:31 that these three groups of religious leaders would turn on Him: “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes…” These three groups were representatives of the 70-member Sanhedrin, the Jewish Supreme Court.
• Chief priests. These priests made up the upper echelon, including Caiaphas the high priest.
• Scribes. These lawyers were charged with interpreting the Law of Moses. It was also their duty to hand copy the Scriptures.
• Elders. These lay leaders were representatives of the major tribes and families of Israel.
We see in verse 28 that they come with a two-part question that is both blunt and bold: “By what authority are you doing these things, or who gave you this authority to do them?” How sad that they don’t want the truth taught in the temple! Their question reveals that the ultimate issue in life is authority. They want to know what He is doing and who it is that gave Him the right to do it. They’re basically saying, “Who do you think you are?” In one sense, this is a legitimate question and was part of their job but they were actually personally threatened by everything Jesus was doing and teaching.