Book of Mark

In the face of unjust accusation (Mark 11:27-33)

Lord of my life, because of Christ I can approach you with freedom and faith, knowing that you who are slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love have called me “daughter” and “friend.” With gratitude in my heart, I acknowledge your goodness and your God-ness—that you alone are God, and there is no other. As I read from your word today, align my ways with your ways and tune my heart to sing your praise.

We’ll finish Mark 11 today by reading verses 27-33:
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.”

Do you struggle with feeling like you constantly need to explain yourself?

I do. In fact, during a conversation recently with some friends, when I was being particularly transparent, I acknowledged that I feel a tremendous need to be understood, and when I am misunderstood, I have a tendency to go overboard trying to explain myself. A recent example was just last week, when I was traveling in India. Because of a series of innocent/ignorant errors on my part, I arrived for an overbooked flight after all of the seats had been assigned. I was technically still “on time,” but not early enough to have a seat. Several of the airline employees lectured me about arriving for a flight early, even though was, in fact, within the time frame given by the airline as being “on time.” I felt defensive and it was very frustrating that I felt misunderstood and accused, when I had followed the rules and tried to do everything “right.”

In this passage, we see the religious leaders once again putting Jesus on the spot, demanding an explanation. Not only that, but in their demand, they actually don’t expect him to have a very good one. So there is the added component of accusation. By asking the question, “Who gave you this authority,” they are essentially implying that no one gave him authority, but that he is claiming it for himself.

Jesus faced tremendous injustice. Here he was, the most righteous one, being accused by some of the most unrighteous ones. He who spent his life serving, healing, and loving, accused by those who spent their lives seeking to be served, heaping burdens on people which they could not bear, and condemning. He was being treated unfairly here, and this was just a small taste of what would soon follow, as their indignation increased and his threat to their religious racket gained momentum.

Yet Jesus did not defend or explain himself. Instead, he asked a question which would expose their hearts and motivations: one answer would hold them accountable to God, the other would hold them accountable to people. In a beautiful “win,” Jesus stood firm in the total security of knowing his identity and trusting his Father. He did not win their support, of course, and we must know that we will not always win people over either. But he left the ball in their court, and they could have chosen the right answer. However, fear of man’s opinion and pride in their own status prevented them from doing so.

We have opportunities to do this every day. From small misunderstandings to genuine unjust accusations, we have the opportunity to identify with Christ by responding to accusations with wisdom and confidence. Are you facing someone who accuses or demands an explanation of you? Perhaps Christ’s example will influence us to remember who we are because of Christ and to trust that all things are in God the Father’s hands.


One thought on “In the face of unjust accusation (Mark 11:27-33)

  1. There was clearly a right and a wrong answer here, but Jesus didn’t engage in debate. I don’t think debate usually helps the other person change. They just see an argument they must either win or lose. Jesus’ example is good for us to follow not just when facing outright accusations but also when responding to criticism, skeptical questions, or other milder forms of accusation. Thanks. I’ve never looked at this passage from this angle.

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