By his own account, Moses believed himself to be feeble when it came to speaking. And yet when it came right down to it, he spoke with great power and authority. There was a term for this kind of no nonsense, no holds barred, absolute trust in what one was saying, kind of speech. It was called by the rabbis, “smicha" and meant ordination or authority.
“One day as Jesus was teaching the people in the temple courts and proclaiming the good news, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, together with the elders, came up to him. ‘Tell us by what authority you are doing these things,’ they said. ‘Who gave you this authority?’ He replied, ‘I will also ask you a question. Tell me: John’s baptism—was it from heaven, or of human
origin?’ They discussed it among themselves and said, ‘If we say, “From heaven,” he will ask, “Why didn’t you believe him?” But if we say, “Of human origin,” all the people will stone us, because they are persuaded that John was a prophet.’ So they answered, ‘We don’t know where it was from.’ Jesus said, ‘Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.’” Luke 20:1-8
And it is how Jesus spoke. He was different from the Jewish leaders of the time. Their teaching was weak, feeble, lacking authority. But Jesus came and His teaching wasn’t just powerful or authoritative, it was punctuated by great miracles and healings and under-girded by absolute truth.
When Jesus spoke, demons fled. When Jesus spoke, seas calmed. When Jesus spoke, life returned. This was the greatest “smicha" the world had ever seen. It was the same voice that echoed through the universe at the creation of the world.
The chief priest, scribes, and elders came and demanded, “Tell us by what authority you are doing these things. Who gave you this authority?”
Oh, they thought they were so clever. They thought they had Him, but Jesus asked them a question first. “Tell me: John’s baptism—was it from heaven, or of human origin?”
And they could not answer because if it was from heaven then why had they not followed John’s call to repentance? If they said from men then the people would stone them because the crowd absolutely believed John’s message.
A catch twenty-two, either way they would be in trouble with the crowd. So, they answered that they did not know where it came from.
Jesus answered them. “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”
Smicha, absolute authority… Jesus had it. They saw it. They knew it. Too bad they didn’t believe it.