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By what authority do you do these things?

When he (Jesus) entered into the temple (Jerusalem AD 30), the chief priests and the seniors among the people came near to him as he was teaching, and stated, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” Jesus made this discerning assessment to them, saying, “I likewise will ask from you one word and if you say that to me then I likewise will say to you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John, from where was it? From heaven or from humans?” They then discussed among themselves, stating, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From humans,’ we fear the crowd, because all firmly hold John as prophet.” So, making discerning assessment, they said to Jesus, “We do not see.” So he declared to them, “Neither will I state to you by what authority I do these things.” Matthew 21: 23-27
 
Looming like a dark cloud over the whole world is a huge mountain of debt. A week or two ago the International Monetary Fund formally drew attention to debt as a major global vulnerability. 

There are really only two ways out of debt – default or inflation. Almost all developed countries – like the US, the EU, Japan and so on are trying to bring about controlled inflation. 

Three years ago a British journalist, writing about the Euro and what should be done to ensure that inflation got under way in the eurozone suggested that an official forecast be released. It would state that inflation three years later was going to hit 2 per cent. That forecast might cause the desired inflation.

Was there anything wrong with that? The forecast would be an official lie. But the reason for an official lie would have been “good” – in the eyes of the authorities and the thinking journalists. Do such things actually take place? Present eurozone inflation is 2.1%
 
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‘The greatest homage we can pay to truth is to speak it and live it.’ (Anon.)
Back-pedal now to AD 30 and let’s look at the incident in bold above faithfully recorded in Matthew’s eyewitness biography of Jesus. Two power groups are there - all burdened with their own interests.  Who are they? First, the chief priests (with religious and political power), second, the seniors (the great and the good). In AD 30 their position and their authority is waning terribly because of Jesus. He is giving sight to the blind and making the lame walk. Angrily they demand, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?”

In reply they’re asked by him, “I likewise will ask from you one word and if you say that to me then I likewise will say to you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John, from where was it? From heaven or from humans?” 

What’s all this about John’s baptism? Well, a year or two earlier, John the Baptist had captivated the minds and hearts of tens of thousands who flocked to him to hear God’s message urging them to turn from their sinful lives and seek forgiveness from the LORD God. Huge numbers responded and, to say so, were baptized by John in the Jordan river. 

The Jerusalem authorities were being asked a simple question. “Did John’s message and his call to people come from above or not?” They all put their heads together to decide. But, like the journalist mentioned earlier, they only thought about the effect that alternative answers might have. They had no interest in objective fact – no interest in objective truth. Was John from God?

If they answered “from above”, they reasoned, Jesus would ask them, “Why then didn’t you follow him?” (The authorities hadn’t – they weren’t sorry for anything like “sins” and certainly would never publicly admit any secret guilt.) If they said “from humans” the people wouldn’t respect them anymore because they were all convinced that God had sent John to call them to change their minds. So, both power groups agreed. They would all say that they didn’t know where John’s baptism came from. They were agnostics.

Who can be relied upon in this deceitful world? Does anyone speak – and live out - the truth? Even the question that these respected authorities asked of Jesus wasn’t asked so as to get to the truth. By asking Jesus to state by what authority he was doing good they hoped to nail him for blasphemy. They hoped his answer – that he was the Son of God - would make their plans to kill him much easier. Maybe a journalist had recommended the question.

 
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‘I thirst for truth, but shall not drink it till I reach the source.’ (Robert Browning, poet, 1812-1889) 
They did kill him. Of course they did. They had authority over him. They knew all about public manipulation. But he rose from the dead three days later. These truth-less authorities are long gone. Not so this Jesus. No tomb for him.

 
Sinner Syvret

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