On the Tuesday of Holy Week, Jesus was at the temple in Jerusalem. He is now just just days before his crucifixion. He has already made quite an entrance and cause quite a stir. He entered Jerusalem to shouts of praise from a crowd of people who wanted to crown him king. He entered the temple and flipped the tables of the money changers and those selling animals for temple sacrifices. This has some Jewish leaders asking “who does this Jesus think he is?” Which leads us to the following exchange in Mark 11…
27 And they came again to Jerusalem. And as he was walking in the temple, the chief priests and the scribes and the elders came to him, 28 and they said to him, “By what authority are you doing these things, or who gave you this authority to do them?”
We are not always fond of having authority over us. But we expect there to be an authority over others, don’t we? Think about it, when something goes wrong with someone, we go to that persons authority. You might have said something like this before, “Could I talk to your manager??” or “could I please speak with your supervisor??”
Authority matters, a lot. So who is our ultimate authority? Who has the final say so in our life.
Before Jesus ever claimed to have any type of authority it was self evident:
Mark 1:22 And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes.
Mark 1:27 And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.”
Jesus had displayed his authority by his teaching (Mk 1:22) and then backed it up with miracles signs and wonders (Mk 1:27). It seems like his authority had been established! But not in Jerusalem. Not in the temple–the place where you come for the presence of God, for the wisdom of God. To the rulers of the temple in Jerusalem, what Jesus did out in rural communities and remote synagogues was of small potatoes compared to the Jerusalem temple. Plus these weren’t just common people that were questioning Jesus’ authority these were the cheif priests, scribes, and elders, people recognized power and influence with legitimate title and position. They were men of authority, and if Jesus wasn’t running things by them, who is he running things by??? So they’re asking,what gives you the right to do these things Jesus? By what AUTHORITY do you act?
Jesus is going to answer, but not directly.
29 Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one question; answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. 30 Was the baptism of John from heaven or from man? Answer me.”
So Jesus question is simple, Who gave John the Baptist authority (remember John was the fore-runner for Jesus, but he has been imprisoned and beheaded by now.) Jesus points to the fact that John baptized people and proclaimed the forgiveness of sins apart from the temple. He had a rural ministry, by what authority did he do that? Also notable, Jesus is connected to John the Baptist. Jesus is in effect saying, John the Baptist gave me his full endorsement! John the Baptist had said that his whole purpose, was to make the way for Jesus.
They knew that John the Baptist authority came from God, and so the natural conclusion is that Jesus authority was God as well. So what now??
Back to the text:
31 And they discussed it with one another, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ 32 But shall we say, ‘From man’?”-they were afraid of the people, for they all held that John really was a prophet. 33 So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”
The cheif priests, scribes, and elders knew the answer. But they were more interested in protecting themselves and their own rank and their own authority to answer honestly. They knew the truth, they just chose to suppress it.
I wonder if we are sometimes like these temple rulers who ask questions, not to get answers but to try and protect and maintain our own status???
Our current culture thinks it’s cool to be seeking, but not so cool to have found anything. We have developed a phobia of being called closed minded about anything. We are low commitment, low conformity, loose principals but not much absolute truth.
We wanted to be open minded, but to what end? The whole purpose of an open mind is to know when to close on something that is true and hold on to it!
One thing we can learn from this text is that Jesus is the Chuck Norris of debate!!! But there’s more to be learned. Jesus has ultimate authority. He has divine right to govern our lives. This means that we are to be people of God’s Word, seeking his will and way for our lives. How much time do we spend rationalizing what is clearly taught against in the Word of God? We go to great lengths dismiss things as cultural or use our personality, or circumstances to dismiss the voice of Jesus and listen to another.
We sometimes ask, “did Jesus really say we shouldn’t….????” Does that phraseology sound familiar???? That’s what the serpent said in the Garden of Eden to Eve!!! Gen 3:1 “Did God actually say ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?” Satan’s game is still the same, “Did God say that was a sin? How lame. That’s old school thinking.” He’ll do anything to get us to doubt God as our authority.
Another question, how much of our life is different because we are applying the wisdom of God to it? Why do our family do this or that? Why do we go where we go? Spend time with who we spend time with? Watch what we watch, read what we read? Has the authority of God reached our life and actions?
Who has authority in our life? Who’s wisdom are we taking instead of Jesus’? Can you trust that source?
Having Jesus as your ultimate authority will look foolish to many people.
Businessmen and women, your company may think some of your decisions are strange and don’t make sense because you have God in mind and not just the bottom line. Parents, if Jesus is the authority of your parenting, your approach is going to seem strange to people. To diligently teach your kids to love God and pursue Him is foreign to many. Young people who hold Jesus as their authority are setting themselves up for all kinds of criticism. It’s not easy to live set apart, but we can’t let people who don’t have your best interest at heart be our authority?
Having Jesus as our authority isn’t bad news for us. We are going to pick an authority, some voice in our life will rise to the top priority, and we will work diligently to obey that voice to fulfill what that voice is requiring of us. Who will it be? There’s no one more powerful, wiser, no one more forgiving, no one merciful, more gracious, more loving, no one who has proven their love for us by laying down their life for us…no one but Jesus, the ultimate authority.