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Matthew 21:23-32 The Authority of Jesus Questioned

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Challenging Jesus’ Authority: Matthew 21:23-32


Matthew 21:23-32 The Authority of Jesus Questioned, brothers and sisters in Christ, I am truly delighted that you’ve taken this moment to dive deeper into God’s Word. As we journey through the Scriptures today, may our hearts be open to the lessons and truths that the Lord wishes to reveal to us. Together, let’s cultivate a spirit of humility, hunger, and passion for God’s Word.


Prior to the verses we’re about to study, Jesus made a triumphant entry into Jerusalem. The city was stirred, and the Temple was a focal point of activity. Jesus had recently driven out money changers and sellers from the Temple, emphasizing its sanctity and purpose. This not only grabbed the attention of the many followers but also the chief priests and elders who began questioning His authority.

Scripture: Matthew 21:23-32

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.
28 “What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’
29 “‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.
30 “Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go.
31 “Which of the two did what his father wanted?” “The first,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.
32 For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.

Bible Study Outline:

  • Challenging Jesus’ Authority:

    • The chief priests’ confrontation.
    • Jesus’ counter-question regarding John’s baptism.
    • The religious leaders’ hesitancy and evasive response.
  • The Parable of the Two Sons:

    • The father’s command to both sons.
    • The contrasting responses and actions of the sons.
    • Jesus’ question highlighting the true obedient son.
  • Jesus’ Condemnation of the Religious Leaders:

    • The acceptance of John’s message by tax collectors and prostitutes.
    • The chief priests and elders’ refusal to believe.
    • The call for genuine repentance and belief.

Jesus is approached by the chief priests and elders while He is teaching in the temple. They question His authority, seeking to challenge Him in front of the crowd. Instead of answering directly, Jesus, with His divine wisdom, turns the table and asks about John’s baptism, leaving them in a predicament.

Explanation and Reflection:

Matthew 21:23-32 The Authority of Jesus Questioned, the religious leaders tried to entrap Jesus with their question. However, His reply demonstrates divine wisdom and a deep understanding of human nature. He knew their hearts weren’t genuinely seeking truth but were trying to discredit Him. The incident serves as a reminder that truth often confronts us in ways we don’t expect.

Commentary on Christian Discipleship and Spiritual Growth:

In our journey with Christ, it’s essential to question and seek with a genuine heart, not out of pride or to challenge God. Seeking with humility leads to growth and deep understanding.

Multiple Choice Q&A: Which question did the religious leaders ask Jesus?

  • A) Why are you here?
  • B) Who are your disciples?
  • C) By what authority are you doing these things?
  • Answer: C) By what authority are you doing these things?

Personal Reflection:

Have I ever questioned God’s authority in my life? If so, was it from a place of genuine seeking or doubt?

The Parable of the Two Sons:

Jesus shares a parable about a father and his two sons. While one son initially refuses to obey but later repents and does as asked, the other son agrees but doesn’t follow through. Jesus then uses this parable to illustrate genuine repentance and obedience.

Explanation and Reflection:

The parable vividly illustrates the difference between mere lip service and actual obedience. It’s a powerful reminder that actions speak louder than words, especially in our walk with God.

Commentary on Christian Discipleship and Spiritual Growth:

Following Jesus requires more than just words; it demands action. True discipleship involves genuine repentance and consistent obedience to God’s word.

Multiple Choice Q&A: Which son did the will of his father?

  • A) The one who refused but later obeyed.
  • B) The one who agreed but did not obey.
  • C) Neither of them.
  • Answer: A) The one who refused but later obeyed.

Personal Reflection:

Are my actions aligned with my commitments to God? Or do I just pay lip service without genuine obedience?

Jesus’ Condemnation of the Religious Leaders:

Jesus pointedly tells the religious leaders that even those they looked down upon – tax collectors and prostitutes – believed in John’s message and repented. Yet, these leaders, despite seeing the evidence, remained unrepentant and unbelieving.

Explanation and Reflection:

This confrontation reveals that genuine faith and repentance are available to everyone, regardless of their past. However, pride and self-righteousness can blind us to the truth.

Commentary on Christian Discipleship and Spiritual Growth:

Never let pride or a sense of self-righteousness hinder your relationship with God. Be open and humble, always willing to repent and grow in Him.

Multiple Choice Q&A:

Who did Jesus say believed John and repented?

  • A) The Pharisees.
  • B) The disciples.
  • C) The tax collectors and prostitutes.
  • Answer: C) The tax collectors and prostitutes.

Personal Reflection:

Do I sometimes believe that I’m “better” than others in my spiritual journey? How can I cultivate a more humble heart?

In Closing:The entire passage, from questioning Jesus’ authority to the parable of the two sons, underscores the essence of genuine faith, repentance, and obedience. It reminds us to be wary of mere outward displays of religiosity and to genuinely live out our faith with humility and sincerity.

Closing Prayer:

Lord, as we reflect on Your Word today, let our hearts be filled with genuine love and obedience to You. Strengthen our faith, deepen our understanding, and give us the courage to invite others into Your Kingdom. May our lives be a true reflection of Your love and grace. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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