7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. 9 And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. 10 Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. (Matthew 3)
23 And when he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came up to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” 24 Jesus answered them, “I also will ask you one question, and if you tell me the answer, then I also will tell you by what authority I do these things. 25 The baptism of John, from where did it come? From heaven or from man?” And they discussed it among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ 26 But if we say, ‘From man,’ we are afraid of the crowd, for they all hold that John was a prophet.” 27 So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things. (Matthew 21)
Basically, they asked Jesus to trace his succession. On human terms, and if that is the parameters of the debate, they had him cornered. There was no response. While Jesus doesn’t actually answer their question, we can anticipate his response. To do so, we will see how the post-Resurrection disciples handled it. In Acts 4 the disciples were asked by the chief priests (who could claim an Aaronic succession), “By what power or name do you do this?” In terms of human succession, they had the apostles beaten. But the apostles argue in terms of God’s revelation in Jesus of Nazareth. What justifies the apostles’ (and by implication our) preaching? The fact that God raised Jesus of Nazareth from the dead.