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Mark 11:31

ESV And they discussed it with one another, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’
NIV They discussed it among themselves and said, 'If we say, 'From heaven,' he will ask, 'Then why didn't you believe him?'
NASB And they began considering the implications among themselves, saying, 'If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say, ‘Then why did you not believe him?’
CSB They discussed it among themselves: "If we say, 'From heaven,' he will say, 'Then why didn't you believe him? '
NLT They talked it over among themselves. 'If we say it was from heaven, he will ask why we didn’t believe John.
KJV And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say, Why then did ye not believe him?

What does Mark 11:31 mean?

The chief priests, scribes, and elders of Jerusalem are faced with a choice. The first option is to affirm John the Baptist's message of repentance; that logically leads to accepting Jesus' identity as Messiah. The other option is to publicly admit their rejection of John's authority and lose respect with the crowd gathered in Jerusalem for Passover.

The bulk of John the Baptist's message was that people needed to repent from their sins and, in so doing, reconcile earthly relationships (Luke 1:16–17). That part of his message was innocuous enough, and may have even led people to be more faithful in their offerings to the temple. But John also preached that Jesus was the Messiah (John 1:29). The religious leaders find both messages distasteful in their own ways. They cannot fully embrace John's call for repentance, since it would imply their leadership practices are sinful—they will lose the power, positions, and money they have worked so hard for. And they certainly can't admit that Jesus, a Galilean from Nazareth, is the son of David and the Jewish Messiah.

John the Baptist had dealt with religious leaders during his ministry. When Pharisees and Sadducees came to be baptized, John called them a brood of vipers and told them God could turn stones into men who would be truer sons of Abraham than they were. He then inferred that the Messiah was coming and would burn them like chaff in an unquenchable fire (Matthew 3:7–12). For their part, the religious leaders claimed John had a demon (Matthew 11:16–19) and rejected his message (Matthew 21:32). To remind the crowds of their rejection of John would be political suicide.

That, as it turns out, will be the deciding factor in this challenge. Instead of declaring their position, regardless of popularity or outcry, these men will slink away in order to protect their influential positions. Their hypocrisy is crystal clear: comfort and control are higher priorities than truth.
What is the Gospel?
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