Summary: It is not that the religious leaders did not know who Jesus was, but that they would not accept his authority. We are in the sinful state that we are in today, not because we do not know that God exists, but because we have refused to acknowledge h
A Study of the Book of Luke
Sermon # 55
By Who’s Authority?
Luke 19:45-48, 20:1-18
Over the last week or so we have seen pictures of thousands of Shiite Moslems as pilgrims in Iraq as demonstration of their religious devotion. A picture very much like what Jesus saw as he entered Jerusalem just before Passover. But as Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem, no matter which way he looked he saw cause for weeping concerning the city. I think that he was particularly distressed that as he looked over the city, he saw that it was literally filled to overflowing with multiplied thousands of pilgrims gathered for the Passover. Jesus saw lots of religious activity, but activity that accomplished very little, for the temple was filled with pilgrims celebrating a festival, but the hearts of the people were heavy with sin and the burdens of this life. With His heart still raw with grief, over the Jerusalem he enters the city and heads for the temple.
The issue that underlies this entire section of Scripture is that of authority. Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem demonstrated two landmark displays of His authority. First, Jesus clearly declared Himself to be Israel’s Messiah by His triumphant entry into Jerusalem recorded in Luke 19. The entrance of the Lord into Jerusalem (vv.28-36), his acceptance of the people praise (vv. 37-38), and His refusal to silence the multitudes (v. 39), all pointed to His right as the Son of God to accept men’s praise.
A second demonstration of Jesus’ authority, is given in Luke 19:45. Here we are told, “Then He went into the temple and began to drive out those who bought and sold in it, (46) saying to them, "It is written, "My house is a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a "den of thieves." These verses record Jesus’ entrance into the temple, and His cleansing of it.
When Jesus entered the temple area reserved for the Gentile worshippers, instead of a place of worship he saw something between a Circus and a K-mart during a blue light special. Here animals were being bought and sold for temple sacrifice and money was being exchanged so that the temple tax could be paid. Underlying all of this activity was a corrupt system designed by the high priest and his cronies of ripping off the common people and pilgrims. Because only “approved” animals (i.e. those they had for sale) could be offered and the temple tax could only be paid in temple shekels which had to be exchanged for a fee.
The temple which was to be “a house of prayer,” in the words of Jesus had become a “den of thieves.” According to G. Campbell Morgan, a den of thieves is a place where thieves run to hide after they have committed their wicked deeds. The only place given to Gentile to worship the one true God was a animal market. The one place that God has specifically assigned to Gentile evangelism was rendered ineffective.
The cleansing of the temple was a dramatic event that both captured the attention of the people and aroused the anger of the religious establishment.
Jesus virtually took possession of the temple for verse forty-seven says, “… He was teaching daily in the temple...” Jesus virtually took over the temple, going there daily to teach and then returning each night to the Mount of Olives to spend the night. It was bad enough that Jesus had entered Jerusalem as he had. It was a tremendous blow to the owners of the concession stands when Jewish drove the merchants for the temple. But when he set up shop in the temple, teaching there on a daily basis, it was just too much! Luke tells us the response of the Jerusalem Jewish leaders to his possession of the temple and his teaching there in the remainder of verse forty-seven,
“… But the chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people sought to destroy Him, (48) and were unable to do anything; for all the people were very attentive to hear Him.” The religious leaders were incensed and wanted to kill him, only their fear of the reaction of the people kept them from carrying out their plans.
Note with me three things about their rejection of Jesus.
First, their rejection of Jesus was not because of a lack of knowledge but because of unwillingness to accept the truth. (vv. 1-8)
So not too surprisingly the incidents concerning the temple brought some questions on Monday. Chapter twenty opens with; “Now it happened on one of those days, as He taught the people in the temple and preached the gospel, that the chief priests and the scribes, together with the elders, confronted Him (2) and spoke to Him, saying, "Tell us, by what authority are You doing these things? Or who is he who gave You this authority?"