Summary: As God’s unique Son sent for us, Jesus is unique and in a category all by himself.
Some people have an amazing ability to walk into a foreign situation and immediately take charge of it. The recent Stephen Spielberg movie Catch Me If You Can is about a guy who’s like that. Catch Me If You Can is based on the real life story of Frank Abagnale, Jr. Frank Abagnale has one of those charismatic personalities that enabled him to charm his way into virtually any situation. That ability made Frank Abagnale one of the most famous con men in history. Before his 18th birthday, he had posed as a pediatrician for a year, the co-pilot for a major airline for a year and an attorney for a year. He cashed over $2.5 million in fraudulent checks in every state and 26 different countries. He was finally captured in France, and after spending five years in prison, he was released to become a consultant for the FBI. In fact, he’s still a security consultant to this day.
Frank Abagnale has an extraordinary gift of being able to walk into any situation and take it over. He used this gift to live a life of adventure and deception. Other people use the same kind of gift to lead people astray into religious lies. I think about people like cult leaders David Koresh and Marshall Applewhite, founder of the Heaven’s Gate suicide cult.
These guys also had an incredible ability to charm people. They were able to persuade the people around them to do things and believe things that under normal circumstances would seem irrational. Whether you call people like this sociopaths, con men, or whatever, the world is filled with them.
And that’s pretty much how the religious leaders 2000 years ago viewed Jesus. They believed he was a deceiver, a con man, a self-proclaimed messiah who was leading people astray. Virtually everyone who came in contact with Jesus during his public ministry on this earth, at some point asked himself, "Who is this guy?"
We’ve been in a series through the New Testament book of Mark called Following Jesus in the Real World. The last few weeks we’ve been looking at the events of what Christians sometimes call "holy week." Holy Week is the final week of Jesus Christ’s life on this earth before his resurrection. Today we’re going to look at the third day of holy week, as we see Jesus debate some religious leaders in the temple. So turn to Mark 11:27 and take out your outline. Today we’re going to go from Mark 11:27 to 12:12.
1. The Debate In the Temple Courts (Mark 11:27-33)
Let’s look at Jesus debating with the religious leaders in the temple courts in vv.27-33. This debate comes on the heels of one of the most radical things Jesus did during his lifetime. I’m talking about Jesus driving the money changers out of the temple, causing the temple sacrifices to come grinding to a halt. That event had red-flagged Jesus as a dangerous man, a potential threat.
So an official delegation of religious leaders come to Jesus, demanding to know who authorized him to make a scene in the temple courts. Now this group was a delegation from the official ruling body within the temple. The chief priests were the clergy, the professional ministers who drew their income from the temple. The teachers of the law were the Bible scholars and theologians. They were the guardians of orthodoxy, the appointed experts in understanding and applying the Bible. The elders were the lay leaders, most of them part of a renewal group called the Pharisees. So you might think of this group as the equivalent of today’s pastors, Bible scholars, and lay elders.
Now the official ruling body over the temple was a group called the Sanhedrin. The Sanhedrin was composed of 71 members, and each member was either a priest, a teacher of the law or an elder. This group had absolute authority in the temple, and they also served as a buffer organization between the Roman government and the Jewish people.
Their question of Jesus is a set up, intended to make Jesus vulnerable to accusation. By publicly demanding Jesus’ authority for his scene in the temple, they’re showing the crowds that they didn’t authorize Jesus’ action. You see, everything that happened in the temple was under their authority, and by publicly demanding to know where Jesus got his authority, they’re telling people that they didn’t give Jesus the authority to do what he did. This was a clever move on their part to discredit Jesus without accusing him outright.
And if Jesus didn’t have any human authority behind his actions, that could only mean that he’s claiming to act with God’s own authority. You see, these religious leaders know that for Jesus to claim to override human authority and act with God’s authority was a very dangerous claim to make. Only someone claiming to be Israel’s true king could do that, which made Jesus vulnerable to the Roman authorities. So by sending an official delegation to publicly question Jesus’ authorization, the Sanhedrin is distancing themselves from Jesus and setting him up for trouble with the Romans.