The Scribes Questions Jesus’ Authority – Mark 11: 27-33

jesus authority scribes

Bible Study Lesson:

  • Mark 11:27-33
  • Matthew 21:23-27
  • Luke 20:1-8


  • Mark 11:27 starts with ‘they arrived in Jerusalem again.” If we check the background of this event, there had been significant drama already played in Jerusalem in last few days. Let us look at last three days of Jesus.
  • Day 1:
    • Jesus arrived in Jerusalem from Bethany. (Mark 11:1-10) This was his last week before crucification. He entered Jerusalem and was greeted by people as a ‘great messiah’, it was a triumphant entry.
    • On that day, he observed all that was going on in the temple, and went back with his disciples to Bethany. (Mark 11:11)
  • Day 2:
    • Next day (Mark 11:12), Jesus on his way to Jerusalem, he passed by fig tree, when he did not find any fruit on fig tree, he cursed the tree. It was a visual parable for the disciples regarding the ‘barrenness of Israel’.  (Also check, bible study on Parable of Wedding Feast)
    • He then went to the temple in Jerusalem and drove out all the merchants and money changers. (Mk 11:15-18)
  • Day 3:
    • Next day, disciples, on their way to Jerusalem, noticed that the fig tree was withered to its root (Mk 11:20)
    • Finally they arrived again in Jerusalem (v. 27). And were confronted by the chief priests and scribes in the temple courts.
    • By this time, the chief priests and scribes were already indignant by Jesus’ lack of respect of their ‘authority’, and were plotting to somehow trap him and kill him!

Q. Where was Bethany?

  • Bethany was situated about 2 miles SE of Jerusalem, on the mount of Olives. (John 11:18)
  • Meaning of Bethany: ‘house of unripe figs’!
  • Home of Lazarus and his sisters Mary and Martha (Jn 11:1-2)
  • Home of Simon the leper, where Jesus attended the feast of unleavened bread (Mark 14:1,3)
  • It was around the city of Bethany, Jesus ascended into heaven. (Luke 24:50-51)

Q. Who were the scribes (Teachers of the Law)?

  • Experts in the Law, whose profession was the systematic study and exposition of the Law
  • Scribes were also called ‘teachers of the Law’.
  • They often associated themselves with the Pharisees. (Mt 5:20, Mk 7:5, etc)
  • They had developed and added many traditions and practices to the requirements of the Law, to insure sanctity of the Law. (Mk 7:3) These teachings were called ‘the traditions of the elders’. (Matthew 15:2-6)
  • Jesus accused them for loading the common people with the “burdens that they can hardly carry.” (Luke 11:46)
  • Scribes closely observed Jesus’ activities and ministry. And when Jesus refused to follow their traditions, they fiercely opposed him and tried to trap /kill him. (John 5:10-18, Mark 7:1-13)

Q. What questions did the Chief priests and the teachers of the Law ask to Jesus?

  1. By What authority are you doing ‘these things’?
  2. Who gave you authority to do this?

Q. What do their questions imply? What were the ‘things’ Jesus doing?

  • Chief priests were the recognized authority in the matters of the temple, they allowed the money changers and traders to be in the temple courts. So when Jesus cleared the temple by driving out money changers, without their (chief priests) permission, it ticked them off.
  • They assumed that Jesus did not possess any authority. They implied, “we did not give you this authority, then how can you do this?”

Q. What was so unique about Jesus’ reply?

  • Jesus was not shaken by this sudden confrontation. He did not step back or withdraw himself. But he answered their question with a counter-question.
  • Jesus’ question to them was, “who gave authority to John the baptist to baptize people? was it from men or from heaven (God)? (Ministry of John the Baptist)
  • By his question, he took the matter to the objective level, Jesus indirectly asked, “Who ultimately gives the authority?”
  • (So often, when we are confronted with some fundamental question about our belief, we try to defend ourselves by giving reasons after reasons, or plainly withdraw from the scene. But, asking a counter-question is an excellent way of shifting the focus from subjective level to the objective level.)

Q. What was the high priests’ response?

  • They were baffled by this intelligent counter-attack.
  • Their answer, “we do not know”, reflects their state of mind, they did not want to admit their failure, and at the same time, they wanted to please people also. So they stepped back by avoiding to answer.
  • Jesus however, did not reply, “even I do not know!”, he replied, “I will not tell.”
  • Jesus did not answer to them, but he did answer to his disciples. Matthew 28:18 – “Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” (John 17:1-2, John 5:26-27)


  • How do you respond when you face confrontation?
  • What do you think, Jesus’ authority is from?


If you are blessed with this Bible study, I’d be very grateful if you’d help it spread by sharing it on Twitter, Facebook or your preferred social media network. Thank you!

—Amit Christian (BibleSEO Editor)



  1. says

    Beautiful, informative, educational, inspiring site
    devoted to spreading God’s love for all…

    Your site teaches much…and one can gain great wisdom from reading your work.

    I will be back to visit again.

    K. Frangeskos at
    Jesus Knows You Best

  2. Rev. Suresh Massey says

    Thanks for being so kind and supplying the Bible lessons. These are indeed helpful
    and blessing to me.
    God Bless

  3. Edgar I. Raquino says

    I thank to our Lord Jesus Christ because your site is helping me more knowledge and wisdom. Your Bible study tools and topics will help me to learn more and teach to our beloved brethren in Christ. More power and strength from the Holy Spirit. God bless.

  4. linda kelley says

    This is my first visit to this sight. From what i have seen already i will be visting this sight again. It gives important nuggets

  5. says

    most of the time when I am faced with confrontation, i only breathe in and then draw from the holy spirit what i need to do. I always try to calm as possible. it is hard but it is possible in Jesus name. Blessing


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>