The chief priests and elders pretended concern about Jesus’ authority, but what was their true motivation?
“For Aaron’s sons you shall make coats and sashes and caps. You shall make them for glory and beauty. And you shall put them on Aaron your brother, and on his sons with him, and shall anoint them and ordain them and consecrate them, that they may serve me as priests. Exodus 28:40-41
And when he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came up to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” Matthew 21:23
God instructed Moses to establish the priesthood of Aaron for His people, Israel. They were duly installed within the law governing the priesthood. At the time of Jesus, the priests had exercised this authority for centuries.
It seems appropriate that the chief priests and the elders should be concerned about anyone teaching among the people. Was this teacher from God or merely speaking on his own? Their concern was appropriate but their attitude was not. They jealously guarded that authority given to them in the Law of Moses. They were ready to silence anyone whose teaching was not from God.
Jesus’ popularity was a threat to the priests control, just as John the Baptist’s had been. Jesus wisely uncovered their hypocrisy showing that they were more fearful of getting into trouble with the crowds than in protecting the people from false teachers. They pretended to be concerned about Jesus’ source of authority, but their true motivation was to maintain their own authority and power at all costs.
What began “for glory and beauty” had become ugly and corrupted. A showdown was imminent in which the Jewish and Roman leaders of that first century society would join forces to stop Jesus.
Think about it
We should be warned here to hold any proper authority we have (in the church, in the home, in the marketplace, in government) as a stewardship from God. It is to be used for His purposes “for glory and beauty” but not to be held at all costs. Do you use your authority for God’s glory, and not your own? Think about it.