The Authority of Jesus (Matthew Sermon 102 of 151)
June 07, 2009 | Andrew Davis
Exaltation of Christ, Deity of Christ, Government & Authority
So we come today, in Matthew 21, to the question of Jesus' authority. And we have to begin by asking: what is authority? It is, I think, the power to influence or to command thoughts or opinion or behavior, it's the right to rule or the right or privilege to act in a certain way. These words all tend toward the understanding of the word authority. And I remember eight years ago I had the privilege of attending an inaugural to the President of the United States. I got a ticket from a friend, to stand there at the mall there in Washington and watch the president get inaugurated.
Now, if I had been a dignitary from a foreign country, I would have had a better view. I would have been able to be up on the steps of the capital. If I had been a representative, I would have had an even better view. And a senator, even better than that. If I had been a Supreme Court justice, I would have been able to sit right there just a few rows back, unless of course I was the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, in which I would be front and center and get to stand up at a certain point and pick up a Bible and face the president-elect. And yet I wasn't any of those things, I was a peon, and my ticket enabled me to go into a cordoned area and stand on muddy ground in the drizzle and look 300 yards away at the only live view I've ever had of a president. That's what my ticket got me. And there were people there checking tickets and checking credentials and passes and all that. And you were not getting further than your credentials allowed that day. It was impossible.
I think we bump into the issue of authority every single day. We may not even realize it. You walk into the bank, and there's some bulletproof glass and there's a little spring loaded swing gate there and some people can go behind there, the tellers and the bank employees, and you can't. And you know it, and you don't have the right to go back there. You just understand that.
Parents have the right to discipline their children. They have the right to train them in godliness, to correct them when they're wrong. Others don't have that same right. We don't have the right to step in and interfere. We can give advice, we can pray, but we don't have that right. It's not given us by God. A little over 10 years ago, this congregation voted me as a senior pastor, and gave me the right and the privilege of preaching here week after week. And it's a great privilege, and I consider it a great responsibility. That's something this congregation had the right to bestow on me. However, if I were to go to another Baptist church in this city next week and just at a certain time in the service just get up and presumed to preach, I would not have that right, it wouldn't be my responsibility, I wouldn't be my right. I haven't been given that credential to do that.
Recently, I served as a juror in a court trial right nearby here in Durham. And I was chosen to be a juror, and for a short period of time, for two days, I had the right to walk into a certain place in the courtroom and sit in a certain seat. And when the trial was over, the judge very graciously dismissed the jury and that right evaporated at that moment. If I had been there the next day and tried to walk in there, the bailiff would have arrested me probably, if I had persisted. I didn't have the right to be there. So, we bump into this every single day.
Now, in our passage today, Jesus' enemies come to him to question him about his rights, what right he had to do the things he had been doing. And what's amazing as I consider it as a Christian, stepping back, taking in the full biblical instruction about who Jesus is, who he was, it's astonishing to me the unbelief that led them to come and do this and to treat him as they did. Because I say two things to you about Jesus and authority: No man in all of human history has so completely lived his life in submission to authority so perfectly as did Jesus. He lived a whole life in perfect submission to God-ordained authority. And secondly, no one in history has had as much authority as Jesus Christ. And so these two themes will be in our minds as we look at this text today, and as we consider the authority of Jesus.
The Authority of Jesus Questioned
The Jews Confront Jesus
So what we have here, the chief priests and the elders of the people come up to Jesus. They are the leaders of the Jewish nation. They also happen to be Jesus' most determined opposition. They are constantly challenging him, constantly opposing him, laying traps for him, Debating with him, scheming behind his back. Ultimately plotting to take his life.
Well, here they try the frontal assault method. And this time the topic is authority. Look at verse 23, “Jesus entered the temple courts and while he was teaching, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him. ‘By what authority are you doing these things?’ they asked. ‘And who gave you this authority?’” Now, certainly I think they have in mind here Jesus' recent and, to them, shocking actions. The riding on the donkey, the triumphal entry, coming in with kingly accords coming to him: “Hosanna to the Son of David.” The cleansing of the temple in which Jesus overturns tables and benches and sets doves free, and he's doing all of these things and saying amazing things like, “Get these out of here. How dare you turn My Father's house into a marketplace, a den of thieves?” His acceptance of worship by the children. That's what we talked about last time.
And just the fact that he would presume to stand up there in the temple area and teach. All of these things were very offensive and very shocking to these Jewish leaders, and so immediately the chief priests and the elders had one question in mind, the question of authority. By what authority are you doing these things, these shocking things? Now, the Jews were people under authority, and they sought to respect authority. Now here the chief priests and the elders assumed, I think, that they were operating from a position of strength as they came and attacked Jesus. In their way of thinking, all actions should be done under authority, done by the will of someone who has the right to grant a privilege. No one acted as a free agent. There must be some superior human rule that gives someone the freedom to act in these kinds of ways. And as they believed, they were the religious authorities in Jerusalem, the authorities of the Jews. There was no higher religion authority than them.
So if Jesus claimed to be acting under human authority, they would be able to pull the rug right out from under him, and say, “We never gave you that authority. You have no right to do this.” By the way, even the Romans acknowledge this. Josephus tells us that when Pontius Pilate came to his rulership as governor there, he made some serious blunders and greatly underestimated the religious zeal of the Jewish people and got into great difficulties. To the point where it seems, I think, that Caesar commanded him to back off on religious issues, and so signs were put up around the temple area meant for Romans, saying that if any Roman soldier even, or a Gentile at all, would go into the area that they were not permitted go in, they would suffer the penalty of death. The Romans upheld Jewish authority over religious things. And so in effect, Jesus having cleansed the temple without their permission, teaching in the temple area, they wanna say, “Show us your credentials. What right do you have to do this?”
Now, I think the Jewish leaders felt they had Jesus either way. Either Jesus would say, he would have to acknowledge he had no human authority to do this, no right to do it, in which case he would be discredited in front of the crowd. Or he would be, as they have supposed he would, claiming to be acting under God's direct authority, in which case they would have him on blasphemy. This is exactly how they killed him. Either way, they figured they had him. Jesus seemed to them, I think, like a loose cannon, somewhat like an anarchist operating under his own whims and overturning not just tables but authority itself. And their unbelief clouded their minds from seeing the truth, that no one in history has ever submitted as perfectly to authority as Jesus did, and that no one in history has ever had as much authority as Jesus does.
What is Authority?
So, as we come to this question of authority, we've already had a definition from the dictionary. What does the New Testament teach us about authority? Well, Romans 13:1 says that all authority comes from God. Ultimately it comes from God. Romans 13:1, “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God,” says Paul. And so this sets up, very much, a hierarchical view of the universe. God is the ruler of all. God Almighty, sitting above these ever-ascending spheres of influence and power. God sitting on his throne. He, the King of Kings, he, the Lord of Lords, ruling over all things. And everything below him exists to serve his pleasure and to do his will. That's the Almighty God, but the scripture reveals that God in his wisdom and for his pleasure, ordained that created beings would be given measures of authority under him. They would be rulers under him, so that the title King of Kings means something. There are kings under the ultimate King, there are lords under the ultimate Lord. And they're given dominions, they're given spheres of influence.
And so, God created for example, spiritual beings, angels. And they're called powers and principalities and rulers and all that, and they're given spheres of influence. Some of them, of course, rebelled and went wicked. And that's a topic for another time. But he did create, therefore, archangels or ruler angels, who are given authority over other angels. God also created human beings with the same pattern in mind. Human beings were established to rule over physical creation on earth. And so it says in Genesis 1, “God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, and over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move over the ground.’” And so we were established physically over the earth, to rule over it. And in the pattern of things, and more explained, I think, by the Apostle Paul in 1 Timothy 2, by creating Adam alone for a time, and then Eve later to be a helper suitable for him, he created an order within the family. And so, the husband's the head of the wife because the wife was created next. And so there is an order within, let's say, families.
So that Joshua can say in Joshua 24:15, “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” He has the right to say that. He is the father, he's the head of the house. He has the right to say, “We are not going to be Buddhists here.” And so I’ve said before, to my children and to others, we do not practice religious freedom at the Davis home, okay, we're going to be Christians here. We're gonna pray in the name of Jesus, we're gonna go to church and not temple or shrine, etcetera. We're going to be Christians. And I have the right to say that, it's an authority given me by God. And so on down. There are governmental leaders and all that, and all of them have their spheres and it is godly and right for us to submit to that established structure. Now in this matter, authority over spiritual issues, the chief priests, the elders, the scribes and the Pharisees, were in fact the spiritual leaders of the nation. And ordinarily in every other sense, they would have the right to rule. And interestingly, in Matthew 23, Jesus upholds it. In Matthew 23:2-3 Jesus says, “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do for they don't practice what they preach.”
The issue there is they have the right to speak truth from the law of Moses and tell you what to do. But don't follow their example, because they're not obeying under authority themselves. But he established his authority. He upholds the authority of his enemies, not their personal practice, but their authority. He upholds all authorities, all genuine authorities, because he created them. And he proved this by being submissive to his own parents. When he was growing up in their household, it says in Luke chapter 2 that Jesus was submissive to his parents' authority. Even though he was their Creator. And he proved this throughout his entire life, by his submission to the law of Moses. And right to the end of his life by not resisting those who were seeking to kill him, and who, in fact, in the end did kill him. He went like a sheep to the slaughter. He went meekly and submissively. But Jesus especially submitted to the authority of God the Father at every moment of his life, by never sinning. And so I say, no one has ever shown as much submission to authority as Jesus had. More on that in a moment.
What is the Authority of Jesus?
But at the same time Jesus wielded authority more than anyone that has ever lived. What is the authority of Jesus? Well, we see throughout his ministry remarkable displays of authority. Let's start with His teaching. Jesus was there in the temple area teaching. But whenever Jesus taught, the initial reaction of people who heard him said, “No one ever taught like this man.” It's funny because these same enemies, finally they had decided the time had come to arrest Jesus. And so they sent the temple police to go arrest him. You remember this story. And the temple police go and they don't see a good moment, and so they just stand and listen to Jesus teaching for a moment. Bad mistake, at least in terms of their mission. Because they're listening and they're just overwhelmed by his teaching. They're in awe. I think they were gonna become Christians, I think it's what's gonna happen. And so, they go back to the ones who sent them and they say, “Where is Jesus”" And they said with, it seems, stars in their eyes, “No man ever taught like this man.” And so Jesus, in his teaching, it was always authority, a sense of the authority of God, in his words.
Now the Jewish leaders did not value creativity and innovation in teaching. That's not what they loved, they didn't embrace it. “Teach us something new.” No, not at all. When you were a young man being trained by the rabbis, you were taught to learn what the other fathers and forefathers said, and said, “Rabbi so-and-so, in commenting on this passage and quoting Rabbi such-and-such, said this and that.” And the more you could do that, the more trained you were. But along comes Jesus, never having studied in their schools, and he says things like this: “You have heard that it was said ‘you shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment,’ but I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.” “You have heard that it was said ‘you shall not commit adultery,’ but I say to you anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery in his heart.” You have heard that it was said, but I say to you. Doesn't it beg the question, “Who are you? Who are you to say these things?”
And so at the end of the Sermon on the Mount, the crowd's reaction in Matthew captures it. In Matthew 7:28-29, “When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at His teaching, because he taught them as one who authority and not as their teachers of the law.” But He did many other things to display his authority in his actions, his miracles. He had authority over demons; he would give a command and the demon would obey. He had authority over sickness; he would rebuke a fever and the fever would leave. He had authority over fish. Though I never heard him give a command to a fish, it's kind of implied when they all swim into Peter's net. And so Jesus could just command fish without a word and they would obey him. He had authority over the winds and the waves, he did command them verbally, “Peace, be still,” and immediately they obeyed him. “What kind of man is this?” they asked, “Even the winds and the waves obey him.”
And he had authority over life and death. He had the authority to stand in front of Lazarus' tomb after four days, and command him to come out, and life came into him and he came out. And so in his actions, we see that. The way that he dispensed with the traditions of the elders that weren't biblical. The hand washings and all of that, just didn't worry about it, wasn't concerned with what they thought. The way that he would heal consistently on the Sabbath. His actions were actions of authority, but how much more, then, his words. He claimed authority. Not just that he taught with authority, he claimed authority. For example, you remember the story when they brought the man who was paralyzed and they couldn't get to him so they dug a hole in the roof and lowered it down in front of Jesus. And Jesus, seeing their faith, says in front of them all, says to this man, “Your sins are forgiven.” And they say in their hearts, “This man is blaspheming. Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
And Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said to them, “Which is easier: To say, ‘Your sins are forgiven' or say, ‘Rise and walk’?” No problem to say them, the question is, is there any power behind it, any authority? “But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,” he said to the man, “‘Rise and walk.’” Just pause for a moment there. Sinner, any sinners here today? I claim to be a sinner. That is your great hope: That Jesus, the Son of God, has the authority to tell you that your sins are forgiven you. And they are. Oh, how sweet is that? It's the center of the gospel promise: Jesus' authority to forgive sins. But he claims other authority as well. He says, “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath. I get to interpret Sabbath laws and you're wrong and I'm right, and I can heal people on the Sabbath.” He has the authority, he says, to judge the world. In John chapter 5, it says, “The Father judges no one, but He's entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son even as they honor the Father who sent Him.”
He has the authority to raise the dead. Again, John chapter 5, “Just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son of Man has authority to give life to the dead.” And he has the authority over his own life and death. He said, “No one takes my life from me, but I lay it down freely of my own accord. I have the authority to lay it down and I have the authority to take it back up again. This command I received from My Father,” He said. So he has the authority to resurrect himself. He has the authority to give eternal life to whoever he chooses to give it to. And to reveal the Father to whomever he chooses to reveal the Father to. He has this kind of authority, John 17:2, “You granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him.” This is the kind of authority that Jesus has.
And so Jesus makes this incredible statement to Pontius Pilate. You remember how at one point He gets silent before Pilate? Doesn't say anything. Pilate is getting very frustrated. He's afraid, he's frustrated and finally he lashes out at Jesus verbally. He says, “Do you refuse to speak to me? Don't you realize I have the authority to crucify you and I have the authority to set you free?” Remember what Jesus said, “You would have no authority over me if it were not given you from above.” What kind of statement is that? It's astonishing, Jesus' claims to authority. And so what is the authority of Jesus? Well, at the end of this gospel he tells us, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me," Jesus says. Ephesians 1 puts it this way, “God raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the Church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.” Jesus is infinitely above every other name, that can be named and every other authority there is, that is the authority of Jesus.
So, let me ask you a question. Did Jesus have the authority to cleanse the temple? Oh my friends, yes, he did, He had every right and privilege to cleanse that temple.
What is the Authority of Jesus?
Well, what's the second question they asked? Who gave you this authority? Now, that's a fascinating question. You already have enough. And with the scriptures I quoted to answer. God the Father gave that authority to Jesus. And Jesus did nothing apart from that. Everything Jesus did, all the wielding of his own authority, he did in submission to the authority of God the Father. Again, the great commission, “then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me.’” I have infinite authority and it's been given to me. So therefore, the one who gives it is above the one who receives it.
Over and over Jesus links his authority to God the Father. Matthew 11:27, “All things have been committed to me by My Father.” John 5:26-27, “As the Father has life in Himself even so he has granted to the Son to have life in himself," stop there. In other words, I wouldn't be alive in a body, if the Father hadn't given me authority to do it, I wouldn't have been incarnated, I wouldn't have come to the earth if God the Father hadn't commanded it. And as we mentioned about the resurrection, I have the authority to lay down my life and I have the authority to take it back up again. This command I received from My Father.
And so Jesus as a matter of fact, does nothing apart from submission to the authority of God, the Father. John 5:19, “Jesus gave them this answer, ‘I tell you the truth, the Son could do nothing by himself; he can only do what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does, the Son also does.’” And then, in John 14:31, “The world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what the Father has commanded me.” John 14:31. The world must learn that because we are rebels, dear friends. We do very little with a conscious awareness of submission to authority, and we ought to do everything with a conscious awareness of submission to authority, we ought to do everything that way. You wanna know what my application is, it is to do everything you do with a sense of submission to God's authority through Jesus Christ. That's the application. I'm gonna unfold it a little bit, but that's it. Jesus did nothing apart from that.
So as he entered Jerusalem on a donkey, He had the authority from God to do it. And as he cleansed the temple, he had the authority from God to do it, and as he stood up to teach the way of God, he had the authority from God to do it, he had the authority to do all of the things he was doing. This is the answer to their question. So by what authority do you do all these things? By my own authority. And who gave you that authority? God the Father did. So that's their question. Do they get a simple answer from Jesus? No they do not. Jesus was infinitely tricky for them.
Now, for us, I think the more you go on, he becomes simpler and simpler. Pure God. I'm not saying that that's simple. And I'm just saying he is who he claims to be, but for them, they're never sure what they're gonna get from Jesus. They thought they had him. You never have Jesus. Not in that sense. You can't pin him in a corner, and now he's frantic, wondering what to do. You can't debate with Jesus and win the debate. You can't play chess with God and win. And so they're coming in intellectually and they've got it all figured out, they're gonna pin him just like they're gonna do later with taxation, they're gonna try to pin Jesus, you don't pin him. He is the greatest intellect that ever lived.
Jesus’ Brilliant Conditional Question
And so he brilliantly asks them a conditional question. He said, “I also have a question to ask you. And if you answer me,” interesting statement there. “If you answer Me, then I will tell you by what authority I'm doing these things.” Notice how he already anticipates that they're not even gonna answer him. You can't get ahead of Jesus, he knows exactly what's going to happen.
The Origin of John the Baptist’s Authority
So He sets this condition. And the question is, the origin of John the Baptist's authority. Look at verse 25, John's baptism. Where did it come from? Was it from heaven or from men? Now, in a debate there's something called the red herring. Alright, you throw it in as a distraction. Alright, you don't know what to do, so you do something over here and they're like, “What do we ask? I don't know, it's over, he's gone.” This is no red herring friends. This is right to the kernel of the nut. He goes right to the core of the matter here to ask this question, he's just doing it in a different way than they expected.
This question about John's authority really comes down to this: Does God have the right to raise up a spokesman, apart from the existing human structures that have become corrupt, and prophetically speak to those corrupt structures? Did he have the right to do that? The answer is, yes he does, He has the right to do that. So who is John the Baptist? Well, he is an enigmatic, shocking, divisive prophetic figure. He appears in the foreboding spirit of Elijah, dwelling in the desert wearing camel's hair and a leather belt around his waist, and eating locusts and wild honey. And like Elijah, he is therefore utterly devoid of love for earthly pleasures. It's not why he's alive. And like Elijah, he is utterly fearless. A preacher of truth, no matter what. He's not afraid of kings, he's not afraid of Pharisees and Sadducees, he will say the truth, no matter what, to anyone. Even if it costs him his life, which it did. And like Elijah, his words are fiery and strong and true filled and prophetic.
What of the baptism of John? Well, it's a specific aspect of his ministry, but it really kind of summarized his whole approach. It was new. It was something they'd never seen before. Baptism isn't commanded or even exemplified in the Old Testament. Scholars tell us it arose somewhat in the inter-testamental period, between Old Testament and New Testament, as a way to get Gentile converts that are starting to come in through the diaspora. The Jews are scattered all around and some people start to wanna become Jewish. And so they washed them in water, in addition to circumcising the men. A sense of saying, “Put off the old filth of your Gentile way of life and come into Judaism.” But now here's John and what's he doing? He's baptizing Jews. Shocking, and in fact saying, “You're all Gentiles to God. God can raise up out of these stones, children for Abraham. Don't boast about that.” It's unheard of. And so immediately, these same elders and rulers of the people, are thinking the same question about John that they would later about Jesus. “Who gave you this authority to do this?”
John 1 gives the conversation on this very point. Verse 19 and following it says, “Now, this was John's testimony when the Jews of Jerusalem sent emissaries, priests and Levites to ask him who he was. He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely. ‘I am not the Christ.’ And they asked him, ‘Then who are you? Are you Elijah?’ He said, ‘I am not. ‘Are you the Prophet?’ He answered, ‘No.’ Finally they said, ‘Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?’ John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, ‘I am the voice of one calling in the desert, “Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.”’ Now, some of the Pharisees who have been sent questioned him, ‘Why then do you baptize if you're not the Christ nor Elijah nor the prophet?’ ‘I baptize with water,’ John replied. ‘But after me, comes one more powerful than I, who you do not know. The thongs of his sandals, I am not worthy to untie.’” And so that was the conversation that had happened years before, a handful of years before, as they confronted John concerning the authority of his baptism.
The Trap of Jesus’ Question
Now, look at the trap of Jesus' question. His enemies tell us very well what the trap was. They pull off into a little unholy huddle, they get off to the side. They say, “Boy, we're in trouble now. This is unexpected. God doing unexpected things in our lives. This is something different.” “If we say from heaven, then he will ask, ‘Then why didn't you believe him?’ And if we say ‘From men,’ now we're afraid of the crowd for they all hold that John was a prophet.” So that's the problem.
Jesus’ Enemies: Unbelieving, Dishonest, Cowards
So Jesus' enemies at this particular moment, in this exchange, are revealed as unbelieving, dishonest, cowards. First of all, they're unbelieving, they did not believe John the Baptist, they didn't. Believe what? Well, what he taught. Three things in particular, number one, that he was a prophet, sent from God. That he was as Isaiah said, “The voice of one calling in the desert.” Sent by God, that he was a prophet, sent by God. They didn't believe that. They didn't believe what one of their own, a priest named Zechariah, John's father, had said about him. “And you my son will go on in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” They didn't believe what that priest said about John, that he was sent from God, as a prophet.
Secondly, and perhaps most poignantly, they did not believe that they were a brood of vipers who needed to flee the wrath to come. They didn't believe that. When John saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not say to yourselves “We have Abraham as our father.” I tell you out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” They didn't believe that applied to them. It wasn't them and so they were brutally offended by that. They didn't think they needed to repent for the kingdom of heaven was at hand. They didn't think they needed repentance at all. I tell you, even John the Baptist knew he needed to repent, when he saw Jesus he said, “I need to be baptized by you, and you come to me?” Every sinner needs to repent. They didn't think they qualified as a sinner and so they were really offended by this.
And thirdly, they didn't believe that the one who came after was, in fact, the Lamb of God whose death would take away the sins of the world, or as John clearly testified in John 1, “The Son of God, on whom the Spirit descended and remained.” They didn't believe his testimony about Jesus. So they were unbelieving.
Secondly, they were cowardly, they were cowardly, as they pull off to the side and discuss it. Look, when you're asked a question, answer it. Where is the courage? These were not men of high principle, they were not men who said, “I'm gonna speak the truth and we'll let the chips fall where they may. I think that John was demon-possessed and I think that you're from Beelzebub.” If that's what you think, say it. But instead, they're having a little discussion, a little political conversation. “Well, if we do this and that'll happen and... “ Look, that's the trickiness of being a liar and a coward. And so, they're not willing to just say what they thought.
Now, they were afraid of the crowd. They held the mob, as they called them, in contempt. In John 7, they said, “Have any of the rulers believed in him? But this mob that knows nothing of the law, there's a curse on them,” that's their attitude toward the crowd, but yet they were afraid of them. They were afraid that they would riot and that they would lose their position. And so, in Matthew 26:4-5, “they plotted to arrest Jesus, in some sly way ... ‘But not during the feast, ... or there may be a riot among the people.” So they're afraid of the people, they're cowards.
And thirdly, they're dishonest. What was the answer they gave? “We don't know.” Okay, that's not what they thought, if you asked them what they thought, they'd say, “We think that John's baptism was from men, actually we think it was from the devil. And we think that you're from the devil,” they should have just been honest. But instead they were dishonest.
Jesus’ Authority: Silence
And so what did Jesus do? Well, he kept his promise. He said, “If you answer me, then I will tell you by what authority I'm doing this. If you don't, I'm not gonna say anything to you.” He gives them silence. He said, “Neither then will I tell you about what authority I am doing these things.” So, in the encounter between the two, who do you think has the real authority? Isn't it obvious? They come with a question, they're gonna orchestrate the whole thing. He takes control and it goes entirely his way. He's a King. he's a ruler, and he's not gonna be dominated.
The Prideful Logic of Unbelief
Before we get to application, I wanna lay out what I think is the pride for logic of unbelief. This is how it goes, the prideful logic of unbelief. These rulers and elders of the people started with this supposition, “I am righteous, and God is therefore pleased with my life. I have no need of repentance.” They start there. “Anyone then, who tells me I need to repent is from the devil, or wrong. John tells me I need to repent, he's of the devil, he's wrong, Jesus tells me I need to repent or I'm going to hell, he's of the devil, he's wrong.” I believe, in every unbeliever who hears the gospel they basically run through the same logic themselves, they don't need a savior, they don't need to repent. And so they don't come to Christ.
So what application can we take from this passage? Well, I think we need to know our culture. They accepted authority, they just didn't believe Jesus had any authority. We question authority itself. We question authority itself. We have been sold a lie that we can somehow live our lives free from any authority except our own. That we can live completely free from all authorities. So when Joshua says in Joshua 24, “Choose for yourself, whom you will serve.” He meant this deity or that deity. Alright? "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." He assumed we're gonna serve somebody. We are gonna serve some master, we're gonna submit to some authority, we're gonna, he assumed that. We have thrown off that concept and we are trying to live our lives free from any authority. And so we question authority. We have been told that we don't need to serve anyone. And you know what happens if you're given a choice between serving Jesus, and not serving anyone? Do not be deceived in thinking you will not serve anyone. You will be serving Satan, you'll be serving evil. There are no options, we were created to serve, and so therefore we must choose whom we will serve.
Can I commend Jesus to you, as a King then? Can I say serve him because his yoke is easy and His burden is light, and his laws are righteous, and everything he commands is good and upright and holy, no matter how difficult to obey. Can I commend to the authority of Jesus, the Son of God? The Bible says that someday he will obviously be sitting on a throne and reigning over all things. And he will judge, as I've already mentioned, over Judgment Day, and all nations will be gathered before him and he will separate the people one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And everyone who gladly by faith, submitted to his authority on Earth, he will say to them, “Come into the kingdom prepared for you. The one you've been getting ready for, you're excited about a kingdom, it's ready now, come in and submit to that kingly authority, for the rest of your happy existence for eternity.” But those that thought to throw off all authority, that thought that they would rule their own lives, their lot is eternal condemnation in hell.
So therefore, I just urge you, now, come under the authority of the King, come into the kingdom, enter that kingdom through the narrow gate. Submit humbly to his rule. Confess your sins, recognize that Jesus is in fact who John said He was, the Lamb of God, whose death atones for the sins of the world, that you give your life to him, and you will receive forgiveness of sins. If you've already done that, I praise God for you. I praise God that you've already come under the authority of the kingdom of Jesus Christ. But I still wanna challenge you on that very issue. I think we know enough in this church to not separate Jesus as Savior, and Jesus as Lord, that whole thing. “I accepted Jesus, my Savior. And then seven years later, I accepted him as my Lord.” Did you know that Jesus isn't schizophrenic or bipolar? Were you aware of that? That he actually is both Savior and Lord, all the time.
And as I was talking in the Bible study on Romans, I asked this simple question, “What is Jesus a savior you from? Is he not a savior from rebellion? Isn't he a savior from sin?” And so, if you've been saved from sin that means you're now humbly submissive to God the King. That's the salvation he offers. Alright, you accept that. Jesus is going to get more and more invasive as you grow in your Christian life, more and more to you initially intrusive. So that you're gonna kind of act like the same ruler saying, “by what authority are you asking me how I spend my money? By what authority are you asking how I spend my time or what I do with my recreation? By what authority are you getting involved in my thought life? By what authority are you telling me that my marriage needs to improve?”
Now, you would say now, “I would take it a lot better if it would come from Jesus coming down from heaven, shiny and glowing, and I would do it then, but if it's just a pastor or a Christian friend, it's harder to take.” Oh, friends, listen to what God is saying through the Word, let's challenge one another, grow in grace and godliness, let's realize there is an authority to the Word of God, and that God means to get in our business. And to command us to obey.
And I say something to high school graduates. Just be aware of the fact that God has the right to tell you what to do with your life. He has the right to command you in a vocation, that's what it is, a calling from God. Seek a vocation from Jesus Christ. Say, “Lord, You are not irrelevant. You are relevant to my choice of a major. You are relevant to what I do in college.” Submit your life fully to him.
All of us, we need to live every moment as bondslaves of Jesus Christ and recognize that his yoke is easy and his burden is light, and it leads to glory in the end. Close with me in prayer.