Jesus has entered the temple. He has driven “out those who were selling things there.” He has been at the temple every day teaching the people. One day while Jesus is teaching, the leaders of the temple show up. They ask a very reasonable question, “by what authority are you doing these things?” They were responsible for what went on in the temple and so it is only reasonable that they ask this question. If it were not for the last verses of the previous chapter we would know of their murderous intent. The men asking Jesus this question had their own authority. The chief priests authority came from their heredity. The authority of the scribes came from their education while the authority of the elders came from social position and wealth. Jesus recognized the challenge in their question. He then answers their question with one of his own; turning this into a tournament of intellects. The temple leaders quickly find that they have been out maneuvered. So they punt, “We don’t know where it was from.” These leaders were concerned about losing positions of power and honor. Because of this they lost face with the people.
Do we as a church punt on the hard questions of our time?