(Today's post by Wayne Bunting)
In 21:23 the question posed by the chief priests and the elders of the people “by what authority are you doing these things?” is a direct reference to the things that Jesus did previously in 21:1-22, including His entrance into Jerusalem on a donkey, causing a great many people to worship Him. The peoples’ shouting of “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” is a blatant display by the people that they realized and were affirming that Jesus was the Jewish Messiah that was promised in the Old Testament. They were asking for salvation.
Now fast forward to 21:23-46. Jesus has the authority to save, as God, and as such the chief priests and the elders oppose Him. Jesus gives them a few parables that reflect God’s entire dealing with His people, starting with the prophets and ending in judgment day. The point of this is that Jesus is showing that many of the Jewish religious leaders are not a part of the kingdom of God. They are not a part of God’s plan. Now that Christ has come, He is fulfilling the law. In Israel, saying something about the law was always done so in a manner of authority. Also, it was never done outside of God’s ultimate authority. For example, Jeremiah spoke judgment to Israel through his interpretation of the Law. But He spoke in the name of Yahweh. So Jesus’ use of scripture here and His previous assertion that He is the fulfillment of the law would have certainly angered the Pharisees. Basically Jesus is blatantly displaying that He is God, and the people’s response to this was to acknowledge that and ask for salvation.
The Religious leaders, whose hearts were bent on their own perverse form of religion, oppose Jesus because they do not follow God. Jesus makes this clear in the parables that He gives. The kingdom of God is found and spread into the world by those who seek God. And those who seek must be willing to give up themselves. The Pharisees sought to assert themselves, but Christ asks us to die to ourselves.
The same parables that Jesus spoke apply today just as much as they did back then. Those who love and follow Christ, and seek to make the kingdom of God evident to the world will be opposed by those who are not part of the kingdom. Oftentimes this will happen within the church. A great many people teach, preach, and follow things that are not a part of the kingdom. It is our job to stand for who Christ is, even if it means against others in the church. This is done by seeking Christ. Only through seeking God and His truth will we be able to tell the difference between light and dark, and have the boldness to pierce that darkness with the truth. If we allow perversions into the church then the kingdom will be snuffed out by the world. But if we make Jesus the object of our affection then the world will see who God is.