Checkmate- Saturday, 8th week in ordinary time – Mk 11:27-33
The prime movers of the plot to trap Jesus consist of the chief priests, scribes and the elders. It is these three sets of Jewish leaders who will appear again at the passion narrative as the accusers of Jesus at his trial. This is the third time Jesus has entered the temple since his entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. He has cleansed the temple causing much anxiety among the Jewish rulers who fear Jesus because he has challenged their authority in the presence of the people but were helpless as the “whole crowd was spellbound by His teaching.” (11:18)
So the Jewish authorities decided to trap Him. The trap is set around His claim to authority; did it come from God or does He claim it of himself? If he admitted publically to such authority then the charge of blasphemy could be made against Jesus. Jesus sees the trap and chooses not to walk into it. He simply asks a counter question which threw the ball right back into the court of the Jewish leaders. “Did the Baptism of John the Baptist come from heaven or from human origin?”
There were many followers of John at that time, that held that John the Baptist was a prophet from God. For the Jewish authorities to deny that such a holy man came from God would be suicidal for the people would turn against them. If they admitted that it did come from heaven then Jesus would simply ask them what their problem with his authority coming from God was and why they did not welcome Jesus?
The strategy of Jesus reduces the opponents to silence while making clear the divine origin of Jesus’ authority. While the text seems to end in a stalemate, Jesus has in fact checkmated the Jewish leaders into admitting that His authority does indeed come from God. They who set a trap for Jesus are now caught in their own web of deceit.
Fr Warner D’Souza
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