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Tuesday
Aug182015

By What Authority

Luke 20:1-8—This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty on August 16, 2015.

Recently in SW Colorado, cleanup work being done at an old mine, accidentally released up to 3 million gallons of wastewater filled with heavy metal contaminant.  The pictures of a river turned orange from the toxic mistake went national and went into Native American Reservation land.  How did this happen?  Why were they there and under what authority?  Within our society these questions are being asked.  But there is also an underlying desire to find someone to blame and make responsible.  The company that was working there was acting under authority of the EPA, a federal government agency.  They had the proper authority to be there doing what they were doing.

Our passage today is quite concerned with authority.  But often enough, the objection of authority is raised when something bad happens or someone doesn’t like what the authority is doing.  Let’s look into this passage.

The Leaders Confront Jesus

In Luke 19:47-48 we see that the leaders of Israel were in quite a predicament.  Jesus had kicked out the merchants and was daily teaching in the temple.  This was “bad” to them.  Of course, from God’s perspective it was a good thing.   The other side of the issue is that their authority over the temple and what went on there was being usurped by Jesus.  The chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people were so angry at this that they sought to destroy Him.  Yet, they were unable to do anything because all the people were very attentive to hear Him and did not see his actions as wrong.  In fact they were content with it.  This put the religious leaders in a bind.  If they exercise their authority and arrest Jesus, they run the risk of a revolt among the people they govern.  Authority can be held in check by the will of the people, for good or for bad, for a while at least.

Thus, the leaders devise a public confrontation in hopes that it would give them a legal cover for arresting Jesus.  Let’s take note that the actions of Jesus were being done in public and thus it was only proper to confront him publically.  However, it is also an attempt to intimidate Jesus and the people watching on.  It appears that much of the Sanhedrin (the ruling body of Israel) were there to confront Jesus in such a way as to regain their control. 

Their question is simply, “By what authority are you doing these things?”  Now they already have rejected Jesus as being a legitimate prophet and much less the Messiah.  Most of their objections had to do with stretched interpretations and understandings of the Law.  An example would be the charge that a godly person wouldn’t heal (i.e. work) on the Sabbath.  They believe that only they have the proper authority to do what Jesus is doing in the temple.  And yet, he is directly challenging their authority.  We should note that though the source of their authority was legitimate, their self-serving mal-practice of that authority had taken them beyond their proper authority.  As the messiah of God, Jesus had full authority to step in and reestablish proper worship.  Yes, the crowds had received Jesus in a way that suggested he was the messiah, but he had not publically stated it yet. 

Jesus refuses to answer until they answer a question that he has regarding the authority of John the Baptist.  Of course he knows that the question poses a problem for these leaders because they had been able to escape the fallout of dealing with John.  John stayed around the Jordan river far away from Jerusalem, and he was eventually imprisoned by Herod because of his public judgment of Herod’s divorce and remarriage to his brother’s wife.  On top of this, he was executed in response to a dance of the daughter of Herodias.  They had skirted around the issue of John’s authority.  By why press this point?  This is the same John who publicly went on record as saying that Jesus was the messiah.  “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!” 

More Concerned With Authority Than Truth

Jesus is not playing a game.  He knows their hearts.  They are not interested in truth, but in power.  If you are truly looking for truth then God welcomes our questions and answers what we need to know.  But, if we are looking for self-justification and reject His every attempt to show us the truth, then we should not expect him to answer our every question.

Jesus highlights two possibilities: John (and thus he) have been given authority from heaven (i.e. from God) or, their authority is from men.   Even our Revolutionary war hung on this issue of authority.  By what authority did they revolt?  They appealed to God rather than their great military power and ability to convince enough men.  The result of the war became proof that God granted them that authority.  The religious leaders had ceased to look to God for the exercise of their authority and had replaced it with the politics of men. 

After reasoning among themselves, they claimed to not know the source of John’s authority.  If these men were interested in truth they would answer the question of Jesus.  But instead they are playing games.  If you are logically trapped then you should question the suppositions that you started with.  Instead, this only makes them angrier.  They refuse to answer because if they say heaven then John’s declaration of Jesus must be accepted by them.  But if they say men, then the people would stone them for blasphemy.  It is interesting that, as leaders, they have no end of judgments upon all activities, especially those of Jesus.  But suddenly they claim ignorance.  “I don’t recall.”  “It’s above my pay grade.”

These kinds of insincere, game-playing answers do not impress God and His judgment will be poured out on those who retreat into such childishness.

So Jesus leaves them with no answer because they do not want to believe anyways.  The time for Jesus to die is close, but not yet.  He is not afraid to, rather, they deserve none.  What was obvious to the crowds of people listening to him was unable to be seen by the leaders because they had retreated into justifications of themselves and resulting condemnations of Jesus.

God loves the lost and has worked hard to give answers to a world that claims to seek truth.  That doesn’t mean every answer under the sun has been answered.  However, what more can he say?  Today is the day to face truth and make a decision.  What will you do with Jesus?  When we approach Jesus with intellectual honesty we will find Him to be a fountain of refreshing truth.  But when we approach him with prejudice and arrogance, we will find him strangely silent.

By What Authority audio