Commentary on Mark 11:27-33
Jesus is now in Jerusalem. It is the last phase of his public life. Hostility is building up against him. In today’s reading, while walking in the Temple area, he is confronted by a group of Jewish leaders, chief priests, scribes and elders. These are the people who formed the supreme council which will later condemn him to death.
“By what authority are you doing these things?” they ask. The implication is that he is not doing it on their authority which they regard as supreme. In his usual manner, Jesus counters with another question. He asks them if the work of John the Baptist was of human or divine origin.
They immediately realise that answering Jesus’ question raises a serious dilemma. If they were to say John’s baptism was from God, then it could be asked why they did not take part in it (as large numbers of the ordinary people did – and as Jesus himself did). The Gospel describes the leaders as simply coming to observe John as outsiders and judges.
On the other hand if they were to say they considered John’s baptism as merely a human thing, then it would offend all those people who had the highest respect for John and saw in him a prophet of God.
Weakly Jesus’ questioners reply: “We do not know.” A strange and not very convincing reply from the spiritual leaders of the people! Jesus then refuses to answer the question they asked him.
But Jesus’ case was similar to that of John. The people, who had heard Jesus speak (“No man has ever spoken like this”) and saw his cures (“God has visited his people”), had no doubts whatever about the source of Jesus’ authority. “The people were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as the Scribes” (Mark 1:22).
The leaders’ own question was a clear indication of their prejudice and wilful
blindness in the face of overwhelming evidence.
We too, of course, can have a similar blindness. We can refuse to see the presence and activity of God in situations where we do not want to see it, in people where we do not want to see it. But God can use any person, any experience, good or bad, pleasant or unpleasant, to communicate with us. “Help me, Lord, to seek and find and respond to you in every experience of my life.”