And they came again to Jerusalem. And as he was walking in the temple, the chief priests and the scribes and the elders came to him, and they said to him, “By what authority are you doing these things, or who gave you this authority to do them?”
Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one question; answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. Was the baptism of John from heaven or from man? Answer me.”
And they discussed it with one another, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But shall we say, ‘From man’?”—they were afraid of the people, for they all held that John really was a prophet. So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.”
And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.” Mark 11:27-33
Chess is a game of strategy between two players on an eight-by-eight checkered board with no moves or positions. Each player controls fifteen pieces to protect the sixteenth piece, the king. The game’s object is to make moves to endanger the opponent’s king (called check) until there is no way for the king to escape (called checkmate).
Back at the temple, the chief priests, scribes, and elders are probably still stinging for the insult of the day before when he implied that they were thieves. They make their first move with a question that calls out Jesus’ authority to do what he did at the temple the day before (and everything else he has been up to). Under whose direction? The question is designed to out Jesus as a heretic or a fraud. CHECK! Note: These are the same people named in the passion prediction in Mark 8:31.
In the typical rabbinic debate technique, Jesus counters their question with his own question. I will answer your question if you answer this first. Under whose authority did John do those baptisms in the dessert, God or man? Notice the final two words are a direct demand, “Answer me.” CHECK!
His opponents ponder their next move. If we move this way, saying “from God,” he will ask us why we didn’t believe. If we move that way, saying “from man,” this will incite the people who liked and believed John’s message. So they pathetically move their piece to the side and declare they do not know the answer. out of CHECK.
Jesus’ final move with a declaration that he will not answer the pathetic sidestep. They are trapped and lay down their king. CHECKMATE!
Jesus wins in two moves. The irony is that their king was them (man), and Jesus’ King was from Heaven. Brilliant!
When will we learn we can’t outwit or outplay you? We just need to trust that you have a strategy which includes hospitality, acceptance, forgiveness, and LOVE.
I pray in the name of the WORD from Heaven. Amen!