This is in the sequence of what we now call Holy Week. Jesus entered Jerusalem meekly to a triumphant reception, and he cleaned out the temple in fulfillment of prophecy. Immediately the religious leaders were on his back, but interestingly not to protest what he did, only to ask by what authority he did it.

Jesus cleverly paints them in a corner, showing that they know the truth but refuse to acknowledge it or live by it. They and all the people believed John to have been a prophet, but they know if they admit that, then they have to accept Jesus’ claims. They try to snake their way out of it, but they’re caught in their hypocrisy. Here it is in a nutshell: They have chosen what they’re going to believe, and no truth will shake them out of it.

Jesus proceeds to tell a poignant story of judgment: Those who willfully refuse to accept Jesus are in for big trouble. God’s patience has a limit, and eventually no more chances will be given. He has made his position clear, and he has made his personal claims clear. But he also says that anyone has the chance to accept, and anyone has the freedom to reject. Our destiny and fate lie in our own hands.

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