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Mark 11:30

ESV Was the baptism of John from heaven or from man? Answer me.”
NIV John's baptism--was it from heaven, or of human origin? Tell me!'
NASB Was the baptism of John from heaven, or from men? Answer Me.'
CSB Was John's baptism from heaven or of human origin? Answer me."
NLT Did John’s authority to baptize come from heaven, or was it merely human? Answer me!'
KJV The baptism of John, was it from heaven, or of men? answer me.

What does Mark 11:30 mean?

The chief priests, scribes, and elders have asked Jesus for the source of His authority to drive out the money-changers and bird merchants in the temple courtyard. He agrees to tell them only if they answer His question. Returning a question for a question was typical of that era, but refusing to answer unless an answer was first given would have been unusual.

John the Baptist was the son of Mary's relative Elizabeth and the priest Zechariah. Zechariah was lighting incense in the temple when an angel told him his elderly wife would have a son, John, who would be filled with the Holy Spirit, even before he was born. John's purpose in life would be to encourage people to obey God and prepare them for the coming of the Messiah (Luke 1:5–17).

John did just that. He preached in Perea, on the other side of the Jordan River from Judea and baptized in the river. With the authority of Elijah, he convinced people of their need to repent to receive forgiveness from God and warned them that the Messiah was coming (Mark 1:1–8). His ministry was popular: "Then Jerusalem and all of Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins" (Matthew 3:5–6). When Jesus arrived to be baptized, John specifically identified Jesus as the Messiah (John 1:29).

Now, John is dead, killed by Herod Antipas and his wife for criticizing their incestuous relationship (Mark 6:14–29). But the apex of his ministry was only three years before the religious leaders' confrontation with Jesus. Jerusalem is filled with people from around the area and beyond who have come for the Passover. Many of them had heard John preach and been baptized by him.

And so, Jesus puts the chief priests, scribes, and elders on the spot. John preached what he knew to be true with no regard for the approval of others or even his own life. Will the priests, scribes, and elders do the same: to stand firm on their supposed beliefs? Will they affirm John's message and thereby affirm Jesus is the Messiah? Or will they protect their own positions of power and authority? As it turns out, Jesus' unusual tactic exposes their hypocrisy (Matthew 3:7–10; 11:16–19; 21:32). Though they don't believe John's message, these religious leaders aren't willing to say something unpopular if it jeopardizes their positions of influence.
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