It is Tuesday of the Holy Week. Jesus engages with the Jewish leaders and calls out their errors.
Sunday is coming.
But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God.” – Matthew 22:29
Picture this: the King of kings, Lord of lords, almighty and everlasting Savior of the world is walking the earth. Previously during the week, Jesus had been praised when entering the town of Jerusalem (Mk 11:1-11). He had cleansed the temple and cursed the fig tree (Mk 11:12-26). Now, his authority is being questioned by the Jewish leaders.
Tension amongst the Jewish leaders had been steadily rising as Jesus had administered authoritative teachings, discussing the Kingdom of God, throughout his ministry (Mt 7:29). As Jesus was walking into the Temple he was met by the Jewish leaders (Mk 11:27). How did they respond? They scrutinized, challenged, and doubted the authority God has given to his son, Jesus Christ. Instead of having open ears and tender hearts, the Jewish leaders immediately saw Jesus as a threat to their own righteousness.
Jesus debates with the Jewish leaders while covering several topics (Mk 11:27-12:40; Mt 21:23-23:39; Lk 20:1-21:4). The Jewish leaders had intended to entrap and find fault in Jesus’ teachings to discredit him. They sought to belittle and ensnare Christ through their questioning and prompting. The Jewish leaders hated Jesus because he claimed to not only be from God but to be equal to God (John 5:18). They could not accept his authority.
These religious leaders were supposed to be the trained or ‘certified’ ones when it came to such matters, involving the Scriptures. Jesus comes swooping in. He interferes, in the best way, with the Jewish leaders and their inability to uphold God’s teachings as they have now turned Scripture into fallible human tradition. For the Jewish leaders, Jesus is a threat to their way of life. He is a threat to their identity. Jesus was not ‘certified’ by man, but was given all authority – in heaven and on earth – by the God of the universe (Mt 28:18).
As Jesus stated, the Jewish leaders were wrong (Mt 22:29). They did not know the Scriptures. They did not know the power of God.
In application, the Christian has to know the Scriptures as they reveal the power of God. The Christian has to know the power of God in order to see the value of the Scriptures. This is not surface-level knowledge. The knowledge Jesus is referring to requires soul change. Jesus Christ and the Salvation he provides has to threaten our own self-perceived and sinful righteousness, just as it threatened that of the Jewish leaders.
While our sinful nature dashes our hopes of being justified by our good deeds, Jesus’ death and resurrection demand an internal change that translates to an eternal change of our very soul. Jesus interferes in our lives in the best way. He requires a change in the depths and crevices of our soul, which then produces an outward transformation.
We have no righteousness outside of Christ. Because of Christ’s authority, we can be hidden, in him, by his wondrous acts on the cross (Col 3:3). As Christ’s authority comes from God and only by the work of Christ, we can be made righteous.