Summary: This sermon is about claiming and living with the authority that God gives us in Jesus Christ!
By What Authority?
Serm0931 Rev. Scott A. Bradford
3-20-11 Uvalde 2nd Lent
Comedian George Carlin (of whom I am not a fan, and often think he is either vulgar or brash) once said “I have as much authority as the Pope, I just don’t have as many people who believe it”.(1)
Someone once said “Nothing intoxicates some people like a sip of authority”(1)
Robert Lindner said “Authority has every reason to fear the skeptic, for authority can rarely survive in the face of doubt”(1)
“Authority, from the Latin word auctoritas, means invention, advice, opinion, influence, or command.(2)
Interesting word “Authority”. When Jesus was teaching in the Temple, he quickly drew the attention of the Chief Priest and the Elders, and they came to Jesus and asked him “By what authority are you teaching these things?”
Here is what they may be really asking by our own standards?
• Do you have a proper seminary education?
• Of what school are you credentialed?
• Who asked you to raise your right hand, and gave you the authority?
• Who made you deputy sheriff? Who swore you in?
• Did someone say “By the authority vested in me” and pass on to you some right?
• Who made you deputy dawg?
• Who gave you permission to hold a Bible Study in our courts?
I think it is interesting that our first thought about this text is the very questioning of the authority by the Priest and Elders, in other words “who gave you permission to do this?” but what I think was happening that we sometimes fail to see is that “Jesus was speaking with authority”. And it was this authority that was lacking in the very teaching of the Priest and the Elders and so they questioned it!
Many of you have been in church, or churches for all your life. You have experianced many teachings and sermons from many different Pastor's but the one thing you would recognize is when the Pastor or Teacher is speaking with "Authority", especially when it is filled with the power of God!
They could have said “He speaks with authority!” And then asked “Where do I get some of that?” Instead they want to question the authority of Jesus. The question of where Jesus authority comes from does seem to get answered in the the Gospel of Matthew, but in other places and in other ways:
• Jesus “taught the crowds” with authority (Mat 7:29)(3)
• He had “authority to heal, even at a distance” (Mat 8:9)(3)
• Jesus had “authority to forgive sins” (Mat 9:8)(3)
• “At the climax of the Gospel he declares that God "has given him all authority under heaven and earth", including specifically to teach (Mat 28:18-20)(3)
Interesting enough he then challenges them with a question about where the authority for John’s baptism comes from? A question to which they didn’t want to answer, because if they answered incorrectly, then those listening in might question their authority. “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ 26 But if we say, ‘Of human origin’—we are afraid of the people, for they all hold that John was a prophet.” The people had accepted John the Baptist as a Prophet, and if a Prophet then of the same authority as Abraham, or Moses, or Elijah!
So unwilling to answer, Jesus turns to a story that is a parable. A parable of two sons. 28 “What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’ 29 “‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went. 30 “Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go. 31 “Which of the two did what his father wanted?” “The first,” they answered.
Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. 32 For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.”
If you will let me re-name this passage “The Parable of the Chief Priest and the Sinner”. Remember it is the Chief priest, the Pharisees and the Leader’s to whom Jesus is talking. They asked him “By What authority do you teach?” And he instead gives them this parable, that he says is about two sons: A Chief priest and a Sinner (or any other believer).
And what he is essentially saying to the Chief Priests is this: You say you are going to serve God, and yet you don’t! You don’t claim the very authority that God has given you. And then along comes a sinner who receives the righteousness of God, and though they once said “I’ won’t go serve” no go and serve and they are the ones who receive the authority.