Jesus returned to the temple and began to teach. The top ranking priests along with the elders of the people confronted him and demanded his credentials, asking, “Who authorized you to storm through here, to act like a prophet over-turning tables, to practice medicine, and to teach?”
24 Jesus replied, “If you answer my question, I’ll answer yours and tell you about my authority.” 25 Then he asked them, “Where did John the Baptizer get his authority -- from heaven or from humans?”
Jesus put the religious officials in a tight spot -- which became more evident as they tried to talk through their response among themselves. They reasoned, “Well, if we say John’s authority came ‘from heaven,’ he’ll say to us, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ 26 But if we say that John’s authority was ‘merely human’ the crowd will turn on us because they all think he was a prophet.”
27 So they responded to Jesus’ question, “We don’t know.”
“Well, then,” Jesus said to them, “I’m not going to tell you where my credentials come from.” (But, of course, his wise response was clearly an indirect answer to the question.)
28 “I’ve got a story for you,” said Jesus, “Tell me what you think. A certain man had two sons. The father approached the first and said to him, ‘Son, I need you to go do some work in the vineyard today.’
29 “‘No,’ he replied, ‘I don’t want to.’ However, later on he came to his senses, changed his mind, and did as his father instructed.
30 “Meanwhile, the father said the same thing to his other son, who replied, ‘Yes, sir. Will do!’ But then that son didn’t go.
31 “So, which of these two sons did what his father wanted them to do?”
They replied, “The first, of course.”
Jesus then said to the religious leaders, “Don’t miss the point -- corrupt tax collectors and prostitutes are walking ahead of you into God’s kingdom. 32 For John the Baptizer came to show you the righteous road to justice. But in spite of your religious credentials, you blew him off and believed neither him nor his message. Tax collectors and prostitutes, on the other hand, believed. And yet even after you saw the change in them, you didn’t come to your senses and change your minds. You certainly didn’t believe!