On Tuesday during the last week of his life, Jesus was at the Temple. This happened:
One day as Jesus was teaching the people in the temple courts and proclaiming the good news, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, together with the elders, came up to him. 2 “Tell us by what authority you are doing these things,” they said. “Who gave you this authority?”
3 He replied, “I will also ask you a question. Tell me: 4 John’s baptism—was it from heaven, or of human origin?”
5 They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Why didn’t you believe him?’ 6 But if we say, ‘Of human origin,’ all the people will stone us, because they are persuaded that John was a prophet.”
7 So they answered, “We don’t know where it was from.”
8 Jesus said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”
Luke 20:1-8 NIV
The thing is, the chief priests and teachers of the law wanted to take the safe route. They didn’t want to admit what I suspect they knew – that Heavenly forces were aligned with Jesus. John had proclaimed Jesus as the Messiah. If the chief priests and teachers of the law said John’s baptism was from God, they would be admitting that there was a case for the Christ – that, indeed, Jesus was the Messiah.
On the other hand, if they said John’s baptism was of human origin, the people would turn against them. For the people believed John was a prophet. Their power over the people was already precarious, threatened by the Roman occupation and by this young upstart Rabbi.
Jesus is asking them to be hot or cold. To affirm him or deny him. To own what they believe.
They chose to be lukewarm. They chose to neither affirm nor deny. They refused to own their opinions. And therefore, Jesus tells them that he has nothing further to say to them. He will not tell them about the authority he has been given by his Father in Heaven, because they are more concerned with saving face than having a serious theological conversation with him.
When I was in seminary, my Old Testament prof used to remind us that God cares where our hearts are at. Clearly, Jesus does, too – he has all the time in the world for someone who is seeking God, but no time at all for someone who is seeking to save face.
This Holy Week, may we all be a lot more than lukewarm. May our hearts seek God with passion. May we long to meet Jesus on the road, and hear all that he has to say to us.