Summary: Discussion of Jesus’ challenging of the religious leaders who challenge His authority at the temple.

“Hey Jesus – Who Do You Think You Are, Anyway?”

Matthew 21:23-27

July 20, 2008


We: How many times have you been caught by surprise by someone asking you why you believe what you do, or who challenges you with a question you can’t answer.

It’s not a fun thing if you’re unprepared, that’s for sure.

Not only can it make you look foolish, but in some instances, it can make you wonder if maybe your faith is well-placed.

I’ve been there, and it’s a tough deal.

So what do we do when we’re challenged? Do we just slink away, do we get up in their faces and yell, do we argue with them, what do we do?

Jesus gives us some clues in an interaction He had with some of the religious leaders at the temple.

And I hope that our time here today will give you some encouragement, and even more importantly, goad you to become a person who is prepared to adequately handle the challenges to our faith that come our way more and more all the time.

God: We continue our walk through the gospel of Matthew, and we’re now in the last week of Jesus’ life – what the church calls Holy Week.

Jesus is spending a lot of time among the people in the temple areas, teaching and preparing people to understand that He is the promised Messiah.

In this episode, the religious leaders are freaking out about Jesus, as usual, and so they come to Jesus and that’s where we pick it up today:

Matthew 21:23-27 (p. 698) –

23 Jesus entered the temple courts, and, while he was teaching, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him. "By what authority are you doing these things?" they asked. "And who gave you this authority?"

24 Jesus replied, "I will also ask you one question. If you answer me, I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. 25 John’s baptism--where did it come from? Was it from heaven, or from men?"

They discussed it among themselves and said, "If we say, ’From heaven,’ he will ask, ’Then why didn’t you believe him?’ 26 But if we say, ’From men’--we are afraid of the people, for they all hold that John was a prophet."

27 So they answered Jesus, "We don’t know."

Then he said, "Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”

Let’s talk a bit about what’s happening here.

Remember, Jesus was driving out the rip-off artists in the temple court, healing and teaching people in temple. And not just in the past day or two, but He’d been doing that off and on for the whole three years He’d been in public ministry.

And it’s these things that are driving the chief priests and elders to question Jesus.

Jesus has been exercising an authority that they don’t think He really has. Jesus hadn’t been to their training, and He wasn’t an official priest or scribe or Pharisee or anything like that.

So these guys are asking, “Who do you think you are, anyway?”

Anybody here ever been in middle management? You’re not the owner or big cheese, but you have people working under you, and you have some decision-making power?

To me, that can be one of the most awkward positions to have. I’ve had positions like that and it can be hard.

You get to “make decisions” but you have to clear everything with someone else. And if something goes wrong, who gets the blame? You.

You get to wear the clothes, but you don’t really have any authority.

Authority was a big deal to the religious leaders in Jesus’ day, just like it is today, and these guys were in a panic about this upstart carpenter from Nazareth who had the gall to heal people and teach people in a way that the regular person could understand and that had an authority that was lacking in the Pharisees and such, even though they had the clothes.

They were threatened by Jesus, and they were trying to discredit Him.

And how does Jesus respond? He turns the tables on them and asks them a question that goes to the heart of what they believe about the Messiah.

We’re going to discuss the substance of what Jesus says, but here’s what I really want to drive home today:

It’s okay to challenge the challengers.

Look at how Jesus challenges the challengers:

1. Jesus sets the terms of the conversation.

Jesus says, in verse 24 –

"I will also ask you one question. If you answer me, I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”

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