If you could ask just one question of Jesus, you probably couldn’t come up with a better one than they did. But Jesus refused to answer them. But if you asked Him, would He answer you? Maybe, maybe not. Let’s set the stage:
” Jesus entered the temple courts, and, while he was teaching, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him. “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you this authority?”” (Matthew 21:23)
Trouble with that question is that most of the time it’s not really a question, it’s a challenge. It translates as, “Who do you think you are?” plus, “Don’t you realize who I am?” People ask “by whose authority” in order to assert their own authority. They aren’t really looking for an answer, just a surrender. Jesus knew that and gave a masterful, “chess move” response. He asked them to identify the authority behind John the Baptist’s baptism: was it from Heaven or was it from men? The priests refused to answer because either way they answered would have weakened their own authority over the people.
It was a beautiful trap – too detailed to explain in this short format, but worth reading (Matthew 21:23-27). But with that question, Jesus established that they were not really interested in knowing Who had given Him His authority! They were only interested in putting down His challenge to their own. Think about that: the priests were not really interested in learning more about God!
But if someone really wanted to know the answer, that would be an excellent question to ask Jesus! In fact, Jesus came to earth in great measure to answer that question! God Almighty exists beyond the plane of human sight. Jesus revealed Who He is in ways humans could understand. In the same way you are looking at your computer monitor (or phone screen) to understand what is happening in the invisible realms inside your computer, Jesus came to make God visible and comprehensible. He said:
Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. (John 14:9b)
If the priests and teachers had really been seeking an answer, He would have given them the answer, the answer that would have blown their minds open and transformed them. They had a good question but missed out on the answer. It’s easy to make that mistake when we read the Bible. If you have a chip on your shoulder when you approach the Bible, if you read it to judge it, you won’t find many answers. But if you come with a humble, open heart, the answers will amaze you and nourish your soul.