“By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you authority to do this?” (Mark 11:28)
Jesus has been quite plain to the disciples: The influence of the Jewish leadership over the kingdom of God is quickly drawing to a close, to be replaced by a servant people whose trust is supremely in God, evidenced by a life of prayer.
But he has also challenged the Jewish authorities directly with his cleansing of the temple, to which they have challenged “Who do you think you are?” That’s the question behind their questions.
Jesus answers with a question of his own, and in telling us the story, Mark introduces us to this very contentious section (11:27-12:44) in his gospel – perhaps the most contentious of all – and exposes us to the dishonesty of his opponents. The section is not about either the questions or the answers. It’s about attitude. Christ’s opponents are not concerned about answers, nor are they concerned with truth. They are concerned with burnishing their image and discrediting Jesus.
I find it helpful to note Jesus gave them no answer. Not every question deserves an answer, and not every challenge deserves a response. Sometimes, you just have to move on. There is wisdom in knowing when to do what.