Luke 20 One day as Jesus was teaching the people and preaching the Good News in the Temple, the leading priests, the teachers of religious law, and the elders came up to him. 2 They demanded, “By what authority are you doing all these things? Who gave you the right?”
3 “Let me ask you a question first,” he replied. 4 “Did John’s authority to baptize come from heaven, or was it merely human?”
5 They talked it over among themselves. “If we say it was from heaven, he will ask why we didn’t believe John. 6 But if we say it was merely human, the people will stone us because they are convinced John was a prophet.” 7 So they finally replied that they didn’t know.
8 And Jesus responded, “Then I won’t tell you by what authority I do these things.”An understanding of the Hebrew method of rabbis training disciples is helpful here, but the most interesting part from this passage is the fact that Jesus was not only a rabbi, but a rabbi with s'mikhah.
A rabbi with authority to reinterpret the text was and is said to have s’mikhah, the Hebrew word denoting authority. The ceremony of giving s’mikhah would involve two rabbis already with s’mikhah who would place their hands on the new rabbi, thus vouching for their exceptional competence...
John laid his hands on Jesus, and became Jesus’s first witness for his s’mikhah. At the same time that John baptized Jesus, God came down on Jesus as a dove. Any Pharisee reading Matthew would instantly recognize that Matthew was making an argument.
God was Jesus’s second witness, and Jesus now had s’mikhah.
Whenever the Bible talks about Jesus teaching as one with authority, that is what it is referencing. He was a rabbi that was given authority to reinterpret the text.
Matthew places the “sermon on the mount” almost immediately after Jesus gets his s’mikhah and calls his first disciples. Notice how much of the sermon on the mount takes the form of “You have heard that it was said [old teaching on the Torah] but I tell you [new interpretation of the Torah].”....
Jewish children who go through Bet Midrash are trained to respond to questions with questions. In fact, the answer to the original question is usually in the responsive question itself. As you will see, Jesus’s answer is that his s’mikhah came from (1) John the Baptist and (2) God.
And that's what Jesus does in this passage in Luke. Fascinating!
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage: Joshua 22:21-23:16, Luke 20:27-47, Psalm 89:14-37, Proverbs 13:17-19
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