Authority Figures by Patrick Henry Reardon

Authority Figures

Patrick Henry Reardon on the Question That Jesus Refused to Answer

One of the Bible’s most shocking pronouncements is, I think, “Neither do I tell you by what authority I do these things” (Matt. 21:27; Mark 11:33; Luke 20:8). Those words are truly shocking, because they declared a virtual sentence of damnation on those to whom they were addressed. In effect, Jesus was refusing to discuss with them the source of his own authority—God. To appreciate the gravity of his refusal, we may look more closely at its context.

In all three Synoptic Gospels, immediately after his purging of the Temple, Jesus was queried by the Temple leaders, by what authority he did it. Instead of answering them, Jesus proposed a counter-question, which at first seemed to have nothing to do with their inquiry: “I also will ask you one thing, which if you tell me, I likewise will tell you by what authority I do these things: Where was the baptism of John from? From heaven or from men?”

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Patrick Henry Reardon is pastor emeritus of All Saints Antiochian Orthodox Church in Chicago, Illinois, and the author of numerous books, including, most recently, Out of Step with God: Orthodox Christian Reflections on the Book of Numbers (Ancient Faith Publishing, 2019).

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