Looking for the Safe Answer
Sunday the crowds were going crazy waving their palm branches and laying their coats in the road as Jesus arrived in Jerusalem, riding a donkey, just like the prophets said. Their streets were alive with cries of
“Hosanna! BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD” (Mark 11:9–10)
But, on Friday they would scream “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” (Mark 15: 12-14)
What happened between the cheers of the crowd and the cross?
Monday an angry Jesus drove the money changers out of the Temple. They had a good thing going and were not happy when their meal train came to a stop! However their business was interfering with those Gentiles who came to the Temple seeking the One True God! Jesus would not tolerate that.
Tuesday was a busy day. Matthew dedicated four full chapters and part of two others. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John also devote a lot of time to the events of Tuesday.
Since this is a blog and not a book I want to simply focus on the early events that set the context for the rest of the stories of that day.
As Jesus walked back into the Temple area He found the religious leaders waiting for Him!
The chief priests, scribes, and the elders were demanding to know by what authority He acted and taught as He did! (Mark 11:27-28, Matthew 21:23). Translated that means, “What gives You the right to interfere with our business?”
Why did they ask that question now?
The priests, scribes, and elders were the religious leaders of Jesus day. They were the “Spiritual Formations” Team of their time. It was their duty. The Sanhedrin, the ruling religious body, even had teams who would go out and investigate every popular teacher or rabbi to make sure their teaching was appropriate and to challenge any messianic type claims. And there were a lot of men claiming “to be somebody” in that day as the Pharisee Gamaliel noted (Acts 5:33-39)
Because of their responsibility to oversee the things being taught, their question was legitimate. Well at least on the surface.
The Pharisees and scribes had been following Jesus’ ministry since it began. They had already studied Him. They objected when He forgave sins, and were furious when He healed on the Sabbath. They knew His authority and His power. So our question is, why did they decide to ask this question now?
Perhaps they were feeling threatened as they saw and heard the reaction of the crowds on Sunday.
To be perfectly honest, it was probably Jesus’ outburst of anger and the authority He demonstrated as He drove the money changers out of the Temple area. That display by Jesus hurt them deeply, in their pocket book!
How does Jesus answer their question?
Honestly they had their answers. For the last three years they have followed Jesus’ ministry – they knew the answer to their question. The problem was not a lack of knowledge, it was much deeper.
And Jesus said to them, I will ask you one question, and you answer Me, and then I will tell you by what authority I do these things. Was the baptism of John from heaven, or from men? Answer Me. (Mark 11:29–30)
It’s seems like an odd answer, even evasive. But, it’s not. Jesus was asking a very straight question of the leaders, and it was one they refused to answer!
The Jewish leaders were looking for a safe answer
They reasoned among themselves to try to find the safe answer.
• If we say the baptism of John was from God then He will ask us why we didn’t believe him.
• If we say it was from men then the people might stone us because they think John was a prophet. Hmm…
What is the safest answer? Their safe answer was “We do not know”
In the words of Warren Wiersbe “The Jewish leaders were caught in a dilemma of their own making. They were not asking “What is true?” or “What is right?” but “What is safe?” This is always the approach of the hypocrite and the crowd-pleaser.” (Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 1, p. 151). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.)
In the crisis of the moment they wanted to be safe!
That appeals to many of us. Safety is always a great concern for most of us, however
- John the Baptist never played it safe. “You brood of vipers” he said to the Pharisees and Sadducees when they came testing the waters.
- Jesus never played it safe either. He formed a one man revival team and drove the riff raff out of the Temple area. Knowing that death by crucifixion was only a few days away Jesus walked right into their back yard and declared the truth of God.
With His next breath Jesus tells them a thinly veiled the parable of a man who owns a vineyard and rents it to vine growers. When he sent his servants to collect the rent, they beat, shamed, and even killed the servants. Finally he sent his son. The vine growers killed the son and threw him out of the vineyard.
And the chief priests, scribes, and elders knew He was talking about them. That is not safe. But, then again, perhaps it is right and true. Jesus came to die, so safety was not really the issue.
Have you been playing it safe?
When was the last time “playing it safe” kept you from bold obedience to Christ? How often have you traded safety for obedience?
Too many times I have not shared the gospel because it just seemed awkward (unsafe) at that moment.
Or how many times have you chosen not to be involved in things around you or in people’s lives who needed help, because
“This is just not a good time”
“If I say anything it won’t make a difference anyway”
Don’t those sound like a good and safe answers?
Something to think about
- John the Baptist never played it safe. He spoke the truth, without compromise.
- Jesus never played it safe. He walked into the vineyard and confronted the vine growers who had beaten, shamed, and killed the owner’s servants. He walked in knowing that they would also kill the son.
- Your God is not safe. He sent His only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. And He sent His Son to die. And that is the point of Easter or Resurrection Sunday!
This is just one of Tuesday’s stories but it carries a heavy punch!
So that you don’t miss out on the events of Jesus’ journey to the cross I recommend you read the Scriptures listed below.
- Matthew 21:20–26:5
- Mark 11:19-14:2
- Luke 20-21
Have you been playing it safe? I would love to know what your plan is for not playing safe in the future. You can start the conversation by writing in the comment box below.
I am looking forward to tomorrow as we move forward in the journey.