1st June 2023
Read (Matthew 21v23-27)
Message (Scott Woodburn)
Have you ever heard the phrase "new brush sweeps clean"? It is often used when someone new takes a position of authority in a company or organisation. The new boss does things in a new way, old routines are changed and new approaches are introduced. Some employees adapt to the new reality but others are left frustrated and ask "who does this new guy think he is?"
Jesus made His return to the temple and was challenged by the chief priests and elders who wanted to know “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” (v23) They had witnessed Jesus on two occasions cleansing the temple and they were well aware of His other dramatic activities...who did Jesus think He was?
The chief priests and elders had every right to ask such a question. Jesus had come preaching and teaching and performing mighty works in God's name. Israel's theological leaders were doing their job to ensure that Christ was not a false teacher. Nevertheless their question had received its answer one hundred times over. If the religious leaders had paid close attention then they would have known that Christ's authority was derived from God Himself.
Jesus answered their question with one of His own saying "The baptism of John, from where did it come? From heaven or from man?” (v25) At first glance it seems like a straight forward question but the religious leaders were unable to give a clear answer. They knew that if they declared John's baptism to be from heaven then Christ would want to know why they didn't believe the man called "the Baptist" (v25). If they believed John then they should have believed Christ. They also understood that if they denied John's ministry it would have angered the people who believed John to be a prophet (v26).
By demanding to know the source of Christ's authority they had allowed themselves to be put between a rock and a hard place - they could endorse John's ministry and therefore endorse Christ or they could deny John and perhaps cause a riot. So what did they do? They sat on the fence and answered Jesus by saying “We do not know.”(v27).
Their response was dreadful. They were Israel's religious leaders and they should have known all about John and therefore Jesus but to save face they refused the question. Therefore Christ responded by saying “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things." (v27). Jesus wasn't a slippery politician seeking to avoid a tricky question, instead He refused to answer a question from men who were playing games rather than standing for truth. Needless to say, Christ had no regard for the question placed before Him.
Should we listen to Jesus? Should we respect Him? Should we call upon His name? Yes, yes and yes. The authority of Christ came from God Himself who declared at the transfiguration “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.” (Mark 9v7). May the authoritative voice of Christ sound like a trumpet blast into every corner of our lives.
Q61 What is forbidden in the fourth commandment? The fourth commandment forbiddeth the omission, or careless performance, of the duties required, and the profaning the day by idleness, or doing that which is in itself sinful, or by unnecessary thoughts, words, or works, about our worldly employments or recreations.