We’ve mentioned it before, but it is one of the sad ironies of the Gospels that Jesus’ worst opponents were not the flagrant sinners, nor the Roman authorities, but the religious leaders. I guess it shouldn’t be that surprising, however, since that’s often the case today.
They came to him and brought up a bone of contention that had been bothering them since he had first made his appearance. Who did he claim to be? Who did he think he was, anyway? They all prized religious education, especially by the more prominent teachers (Paul cited his teacher when giving his testimony), and Jesus had none of these credentials. If you could quote so-and-so when you were teaching, that would add more weight, but Jesus never quoted anyone except the Old Testament. It was almost as if he considered himself higher than--and superior to--any of the religious teachers of their day.
So they asked him this obvious question, and as he commonly did, he answered back with a question. In fact, he promised to tell them where he got his authority if they just answered him. The passage explains their dilemma pretty well, so I won’t repeat it. They refused to answer his question, so he declined to answer theirs. Their final confrontation over this issue would have to wait until his trial.
So what does this matter to us today? For a very important reason: Many people treat the Bible today like they did John the Baptist back then. What do I mean by this? Well, what was their thought process here? They couldn’t just simply dismiss John’s ministry, nor could they acknowledge its divine origin. Ask a lot of people today: “Is the Bible divine or just a human book?” They’ll hem and haw and dodge and weave, and completely avoid the question. If they’re honest they have to concede that the Bible is the cornerstone of Western civilization and the source of a lot of things they like, such as respect for human life and dignity. They might even admit that it has some good advice. They might say “Of course I respect the Bible,” but really they don’t. If you respect someone, then you take what they say seriously. The Bible doesn’t claim to be a source of good advice. It claims to be the very words of God himself. It's either that, or it's essentially worthless.
It’s really the same issue with how someone approaches Jesus. They don’t want to dismiss him completely (at least not in public), but they show no respect for him when it comes to his own claims about himself. Either he’s the Lord God in human flesh, or he’s a crazy man, or he’s a very evil man. The one thing he can’t be is a good teacher.
But what about you? You might be a believer, you might even have placed your trust in Christ. But if you aren’t obeying him, if you’re dismissing his word with your lifestyle, then aren’t you making the same sort of mistake? He’s not Dear Abby. He claims to be a lot more, and he has claims on you and me.
Lord Jesus, you are Lord of Lords and King of Kings. Your word is truth, and heaven and earth will pass away before it does. I need to live like that’s true, don’t I?
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