Who’s the Boss?


In today’s passage, Jesus returned to the temple to teach. The leaders of the day confronted him with the issue of authority. Essentially, their question was, “Who gave you permission to do this?” or “Who made you the boss?” Let’s see how this plays out.

  • Consider this past week. When have you had to acknowledge authorities in your own life?


27 And they came again to Jerusalem. And as he was walking in the temple, the chief priests and the scribes and the elders came to him, 28 and they said to him, “By what authority are you doing these things, or who gave you this authority to do them?” 29 Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one question; answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. 30 Was the baptism of John from heaven or from man? Answer me.” 31 And they discussed it with one another, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ 32 But shall we say, ‘From man’?”— they were afraid of the people, for they all held that John really was a prophet. 33 So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”

English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


  1. The chief priests and the scribes and the elders represented the religious, political, and legal structure and authority in Jewish society. What do you think was their real question to Jesus? What were they worried about?
  2. What do you learn about Jesus from how he answered their question?
  3. How did the leaders respond to Jesus? Whom does it appear that they feared the most?
  4. Consider the differences between God’s authority and cultural authority. Like the leaders in this passage, do you seem to fear people more than God?


Acknowledging authority is one thing, but responding with submission to it is another. We all have authorities over us, and we are more comfortable with some than with others. We might appreciate the authority of law enforcement when they are protecting our homes but not so much when we are getting a speeding ticket. We might recognize the spiritual authority of pastors but might resent this same authority when they are pointing out sin in our lives.

  • Acknowledge those who are in authority over you, and ask God to show you if you are truly submitting to them.
  • Ask God to allow you to clearly recognize his authority in your life today, and respond to that authority by submitting to him.