Today’s Scripture Reading: Matthew 21:23-27
23 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?”
24 Jesus replied, “I will also ask you one question. If you answer me, I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things.25 John’s baptism—where did it come from? Was it from heaven, or of human origin?”
They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ 26 But if we say, ‘Of human origin’—we are afraid of the people, for they all hold that John was a prophet.”
27 So they answered Jesus, “We don’t know.”
Then he said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.
Jesus is questioned by the chief priests of the temple courts in regard to the events in versus 12-17, as well as the many other miracles that were displayed by him previous to this event. The question was to test Jesus’ authority – but the premise of this questioning can easily be perceived in today’s voice as, “who is this guy?” or “who does this man think he is?” As if they have a problem with Jesus and indignant of his bold practice of authority. Were they threatened by him? Were they jealous? We can assume they were. It could easily have felt for them like they were slowly being displaced from their job, and there were more people following him than they likely had at the synagogue.
Even after witnessing with their own eyes the wonderful things Jesus had been doing and heard his great teachings, they were consumed with their thoughts of contempt. Verse 25 reveals that they were not only attempting to trap Jesus with their question of authority, but that they were also insecure and unwilling to admit their disposition. Thus Jesus held back his answer to their questions because of their dishonesty and unwillingness to be forthright with their problem. He knew that they only meant to trap him – regardless if he told the truth or not.
There may have been times for some of us that we hoped the Lord would answer our prayers a certain way, but he didn’t. So we question the Lord and attempt to put him in a trap by saying “are you there, Lord?” or “do you truly love me?”. We cannot leverage God to answer the way we want him to.
Although our questions or requests of God are not always as sinister as that of the priests in this passage, it is important for our motives to be checked. Why do we ask of the Lord for certain things? We must constantly check our motives in our prayers to the Lord and be truthful about our disposition. We can test these motives by asking the question “if the Lord denies this request, will I still love him and worship him?”, or “if things do not go the way I hoped they would, will I still worship the Lord and have joy in him?”.
Christ desires to be in relationship with us – a truthful one. To hear plainly your discomforts, your insecurities, and areas where you need help and deliverance. These areas of brokeness are never too big for him. As we check our motives, it is also a check for the condition of our hearts – do we truly love God and can I trust in him even more today than I did yesterday with my problems?
The great (and bad) news is, that Christ already knows the motives of our hearts. The greater news is, he intercedes for you and I on our behalf and knows our hearts better than we do (Rom. 8:34).
As you spend time in the word today, bring prayers to the Lord that are then forthright with the troubles on your soul. Surrender the outcomes of those prayers, and may you trust in His good and perfect will.