Revelations from the Word

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By what authority do you do these things?

by Jean-Louis Coraboeuf

"Now when He came into the temple, the chief priests [archiereus] and the elders [presbuteros] of the people confronted Him as He was teaching, and said, By what authority [exousia] are You doing these things? And who gave You this authority? But Jesus answered and said to them, I also will ask you one thing, which if you tell Me, I likewise will tell you by what authority I do these things: The baptism of John – where was it from? From heaven or from men? And they reasoned among themselves, saying, If we say, From heaven, He will say to us, Why then did you not believe him? But if we say, From men, we fear the multitude, for all count John as a prophet. So they answered Jesus and said, We do not know. And He said to them, Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things" (Matthew 21:23-27).

At the time of Jesus, the Sanhedrin consisted of 71 members. These were the main priests [archiereus] as well as the chief priest who carried out the function of president of the assembly. No one could teach or judge if he was not ordained to this function by the Sanhedrin, that is to say if he had not received the authority [exousia]. The Greek word exousia also means 'the ability' and 'power'. The ordination was done by the laying on of hands according to the example of Joshua, who was ordained by 71 leaders, that is to say Moses and 70 elders (Numbers 11:16-17,24-25; 27:18-23). An ordained rabbi therefore had the authority to judge or decide on a point of the Torah, but only if he was accompanied by a committee of three elders [presbuteros], of whom at least one was himself also ordained.

Jesus did not reply to the question, "By what authority [exousia] do you do these things, and who has given you this authority?" for He did not have to justify Himself before men. His Father had already given His approval at the time of Jesus' baptism (Matthew 3:17). It was Jesus' custom to go to the synagogue in Nazareth and to read the scrolls of the Haftarah (Luke 4:16-17) and to comment on them, He had not received the authority of the Sanhedrin who also gave permission to comment on the Torah. At most, He was authorised to read the commentary of a rabbi. That is why those who were present in the synagogue in Nazareth were astonished at His commentary on the Haftorah (Luke 4:20-22), as they also were at His teachings in the synagogue at Capernaum (Mark 1:21-22).

However, it was permitted for a father to teach his own family without the authorisation of the Sanhedrin. When His mother and His brothers asked to see Jesus, He replied, "Who is My mother, and who are My brothers?" Then He stated that His new Family is "The one made up of those who do the will of God" (Mark 3:32-35). By having approved His Son, God the Father gave Jesus the authority to be able to legally teach His new Family. After His death and resurrection, Jesus who was however, not a descendant of Aaron, went through the heavenly Tabernacle and entered once and for all into the Most Holy Place as Chief Priest (Hebrew 9:11-12). God has thus established Him over His House in order that we may have access, through His blood, to the heavenly sanctuary (Hebrew 10:19-22).