Matthew 21:23-46   “Jesus answered and said unto them, Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done.  And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.”
When Jesus returned to the temple and began teaching, the leading priests and elders came up to Him and demanded, “By what authority are you doing all these things?” (v.23).

A recent televised interview captured my attention. The author of a controversial book kept responding to questions by saying, “That’s a great question.” And then he would orbit that “great question” without ever landing on an answer.  Jesus surely frustrated the “interviewers” who came to see Him in Matthew 21. “By what authority are you doing all these things?” they demanded to know (v.23).  The Lord promised to answer them if they would first answer His question: “Did John’s authority to baptize come from heaven, or was it merely human?” (v.24).  Jesus wasn’t hiding behind a muddy stream of words.  He wanted to show the religious leaders how spiritually lost they were. So He told them stories and asked more questions to help them see their condition (vv.28-44).

But they chose to hate Jesus all the more. Later that same week they would crucify Him.  The Bible shows us a remarkable contrast between the questions Jesus asked and those that His enemy posed.  In Genesis 3, the serpent subtly planted a seed of doubt in Eve’s mind: “Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?” (v.1). The question was not designed to bring clarity but to cloud the issue. Adam and Eve’s response to it introduced the curse of death into our now-broken world.

The fact that we live in a dying world poses a question for all of us: How will we be reconciled to God? Are we with the “tax collectors and prostitutes” who repented? (Matthew 21:32). Or are we with the religious leaders who refused to believe Jesus and had Him crucified? Our answer makes all the difference in the world.

—Tim Gustafson

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