Were You There When They Questioned His Authority?
Sermon by Pastor Josh Van Leeuwen
Introduction by Phyllis Yearick
Wherever Jesus went, teaching and preaching, people were astonished at the authority with which he spoke. After all, he had no formal education and had not sat at the feet of any rabbi, so where did his intimate knowledge and understanding of scripture come from? We can hardly blame the religious leaders and teachers of the law for questioning him. Their suspicion and envy were only human nature.
But numerous attempts to trap Jesus into saying something heretical or blasphemous always fell flat. In this instance, the priests, legal experts, and elders thought they were asking a question that Jesus couldn’t dodge with one of his parable-answers. “Tell us by what authority you are doing these things. Who gave you this authority?” Simple question. Just give us the name of your teacher, and we’ll be satisfied.
Instead, naturally, Jesus asked them a question in reply. “Tell me, John’s baptism—was it from heaven, or from men?”
They huddled up to discuss their response. “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Why didn’t you believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From men,’ all the people will stone us, because they are persuaded that John was a prophet.” There was no answer they could give that wouldn’t make them look foolish. So they offered what they thought was a safe response: “We don’t know where it was from.” And Jesus said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”
Jesus really did answer their question, and they knew it, but they could never admit it.
John’s message, his entire life’s purpose, was to point people to the Messiah. If John was really a prophet, as the people believed he was, his identification of Jesus as the Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world was trustworthy because his knowledge came directly from God. So to refute John was to oppose God himself. Now, there had been other men who claimed to have prophetic knowledge but were proven to be fakes, and if the religious leaders, elders, and teachers of the law had wanted to discredit John as a charlatan, they could have taken that route. But they were cowards. They could not risk stirring up the people or ruining their own reputations. So they backed down.
What Jesus said infuriated them, though, and they were collecting these verbal exchanges as ammunition to use against him when the time was right. That time was quickly approaching, and Jesus knew it. But it wasn’t here just yet. Jesus had more work to do before his primary mission was upon him.
What about us? Do we accept the authority of Jesus? Do we believe he was and is who he claimed to be? Our answer to that question is important. In fact, it’s the most important answer to the most important question that can ever be asked. What do you say? Do you believe?
You are welcome at Westview Church! Join us this Sunday morning at 9:30 for worship.