By What Authority - 09/26/99
92699 “By What Authority”
Unison Reading: Matt 21:23 - 32
Sermon Text: Matt 28:18 – 20
In our first reading the religious leaders come to Jesus and ask him by what authority he has driven out the money lenders, and is now teaching in the Temple. He answers the question with a question. This was not an uncommon feature of debate. A rabbi was once asked why he always answered a question with a question. He replied, “Why shouldn’t I?” The question of authority is still one which we ask today. What right does anyone have to tell us what to do or believe. Before we are willing to believe or obey someone we recognize their authority.
In asking his question, Jesus is implying that his authority is the same as John’s, he comes from God and is acting on behalf of God. The rulers are unwilling to admit this for either John or Jesus, but they dare not say so. To do so would undermine their own authority, which rested primarily on tradition although they would say it was the Law. Jesus tells the parable of the two sons as a way of saying that although the leaders gave assent to the Scripture they did not follow it. It was the prostitutes and tax collectors who heard and obeyed because they recognized John’s and Jesus’ authority. “With what authority he teaches…”
Jesus was not yet ready at this point to openly declare himself – his works should have been enough to answer the question. But after the resurrection he states quite clearly, that all authority, not only on earth but also in heaven, is his. As the one sent by God to teach and demonstrate God’s will, to reveal the very essence of God, Jesus is the final authority for all who seek to know God.
Each day we are challenged to ask what the authority is in our lives – is it our own experience, reasoning, or tradition? Ultimately these are inadequate because they are incomplete and subjective.
Prov 3:5 (NIV) Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
Prov 16:25 (NIV) There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.
1Cor 3:19 (NIV) For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God's sight.
In many cases, knowing God’s will is not difficult, it has been revealed in Scripture. The hard part is following. In some situations God’s will is only revealed when we are ready to obey.