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Updated on May 7, 2009

Luke 20:8

Why did Jesus refuse to give a straight answer to those who asked, “by what authority doest thou these things”?


It was during ‘Holy Week’, while he was walking in the temple precincts in Jerusalem that some members of Israel’s Supreme Court, the Sanhedrin, came to Jesus and asked him, “By what authority are you doing these things? Who gave you this authority?”


By “these things” they meant not so much his teaching in the outer court but his cleansing of the temple, which had taken place the previous day.

Who gave him the right to put a stop to buying and selling within the bounds of the temple, or to forbid anyone to carry anything through the temple – to use the outer court as a short cut on their business errands? After all, a temple police force was stationed to protect the sanctity of the temple. Who authorized Jesus to act as he did?

His cleansing of the temple was what would have been recognized in Old Testament times as a prophetic action – the kind of action by which a prophet would occasionally confirm his spoken message and bring it home to the people around him.

Jesus protested that the temple was being prevented from fulfilling its purpose as “a house of prayer for all nations” (see Isaiah 56:7).


Gentiles were not allowed to enter the inner courts, but in the outer court they might draw near to the true and living God and worship him, like those “Greeks” who, according to John 12:20, went up to worship at Passover. The outer court was sometimes called “the court of the Gentiles.” But Gentiles were hindered in using it for its proper purpose if space within it was taken up by market stalls and the like.

One of the latest Old Testament prophets had foretold how, when representatives of all the nations were to go up to Jerusalem to worship, “there shall no longer be a trader in the house of the Lord of hosts on that day” (Zachariah 14:21 RSV).

Jesus tested them with a question of his own, to see if they were capable of recognizing divine authority when they saw it. Reminding them of John the Baptist’s ministry, he asked them whether John’s authority came from “heaven or from men”. (See Luke 20:3)


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    • Wehzo profile image

      Nathaniel Stalling Jr 8 years ago from Detroit, MI

      Thank you Mr. Watkins for your gracious comment. I haven't been active on my hubs very much do to work, but that has changed since I work for Chrysler, at least for little while:). There will be more hubs coming while I am off.

      God Bless

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 8 years ago from Chicago

      It is good to see someone on here, blessed by the Holy Spirit, quoting and teaching from Scripture. Excellent work.