Throughout Jesus' engagement with Pharisees, they continually pepper Him with questions. On this particular occasion they ask Jesus, "By what authority are You doing these things?" (Mk. 11:28; Mt. 21:23; Lk. 20:2)
Jesus responds by asking a question of His own: "The baptism of John-where was it from? From heaven or from men?" (Mt. 21:25). Jesus' question places them in a predicament. The Pharisees weigh three different responses to Jesus" question: "'If we say, "From heaven," He will say to us, "Why then did you not believe him?" But if we say, "From men," we fear the multitude, for all count John as a prophet." So they answered Jesus and said, 'We don"t know'" (21:25-27). Jesus subsequently refuses to answer their question, and they cling to their unbelief.
The Pharisees hide their unbelief behind a wall of non-essential questions, empty excuses, and fear of man.
Obviously, even to the Pharisees, Jesus has authority to teach as He does and do the miracles that He does. They question Jesus' authority simply because they don't like His message.
Many hide their unbelief today by asking non-essential questions. Who was Cain's wife? Will providing a satisfactory answer to that question address man's need for salvation and God's provision of salvation through the substitutionary atonement? Of course not! These kinds of questions are simply straw men used to distract men from the confrontation of the Gospel, and the need for repentance and faith in Christ alone for salvation.
Fear of man
Bottom line, the Pharisees are enamored with the approval and applause of man rather than the truth. They are afraid of being honest about their unbelief, lest the people turn against them. They, these "doctors of the Law," will never be upstaged by an upstart preacher with no credentials and a sketchy background!
Instead of answering Jesus' question truthfully, the Pharisees say, "We don't know." Unbelief often hides behind pretended ignorance. "We don't know," however, is an unacceptable answer to God. Ignorance is not an excuse, but rebellion against the truth.
In reality, the Pharisees simply want personal autonomy. They will not submit to Jesus' authority, but are determined to follow the traditions of man.
Unbelief, therefore, is a commitment to personal autonomy-rebellion against authority because you are your own authority.
What do the story of the two sons, the story of the evil farmers, and the story of the wedding feast have in common? What do these stories reveal about human nature? About life and spiritual reality?
What do the three accounts of the taxes for Caesar reveal about the Pharisees? About Jesus?
What does the conflict over the resurrection reveal about conflict between religious people?
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The 365 Daily Devotion, written by Iva May, is a brief devotion drawn from the day’s reading of the One Year® Chronological Bible delivered to your email. Each daily devotion concludes with several questions that strengthen reading engagement.