Summary: How do we answer hostile questions about our faith? How do we know where the authority of God resides? Is the authority of God in our lives? Let’s explore Jesus’ confrontation with religious leaders over His authority and the parable of the two sons in Matthew 21:23-32.
How do we answer hostile questions about our faith? How do we know where the authority of God resides? Is the authority of God in our lives? Let’s explore Jesus’ confrontation with religious leaders over His authority and the parable of the two sons in Matthew 21:23-32.
Matthew 21:23 Now when He came into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people confronted Him as He was teaching, and said, “By what authority are You doing these things? And who gave You this authority?”
What education or formal recognition did Jesus have? As God with us, is Jesus handcuffed by human authority or traditions? Of course He had the highest authority possible, direct from God the Father. Can we discern between heavenly and human authority? Jesus’ answer was a question and a parable.
Matthew 21:24-25 But Jesus answered and said to them, “I also will ask you one thing, which if you tell Me, I likewise will tell you by what authority I do these things: The baptism of John—where was it from? From heaven or from men?” And they reasoned among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’”
The church is a mixture of human and divine authority. Human authority in the church is always faulty. Jesus did not receive authority from men, but from our Father in heaven. We cooperate with faulty human church authorities, but if they should permit or encourage sin, we submit to heaven.
Matthew 21:26-27 “But if we say, ‘From men,’ we fear the multitude, for all count John as a prophet.” So they answered Jesus and said, “We do not know.” And He said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”
Jesus answered a deceitful question with a skillful question. When they could not answer, Jesus also refused to give an answer. We don’t always have to answer a hostile question. Sometimes a non-answer is the best answer.
Nah-Yeah or Yeah-Nah
Matthew 21:28-29 “But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go, work today in my vineyard.’ He answered and said, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he regretted it and went.”
The prophet Jonah also said no at first, but prophesied to an ancient nation that shockingly repented. God blessed that nation spiritually in later history for this. Their descendants became Christians, most notably the Assyrian Church of the East, an independent church founded by the Apostles Thomas, Bartholomew and Thaddeus.
Christian living proves a change of heart. Faith without works is dead (James 2:14-26). As the son who said yeah-nah, some say yes to the Word of God, but no to living as Christ. Others say nah-yeah, initially saying no to God’s Word, then yes as their faith grows.
Matthew 21:30-31 “Then he came to the second and said likewise. And he answered and said, ‘I go, sir,’ but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said to Him, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you.”
Jesus told religious leaders, sinners would enter the kingdom before them. The yeah-nah son represents people who say yes to God then disobey. If even church bishops disobey God, their authority is void. What would Jesus say to us? Have we initially said yes but ignored the way of righteousness?
Relent and Believe
Matthew 21:32 “For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him; but tax collectors and harlots believed him; and when you saw it, you did not afterward relent and believe him.”
The way of righteousness is through faith in the authority of Jesus. Jesus was speaking of the nay-saying of the religious leaders of that time. They refused their Messiah. Do we doubt kingdom authority when confronted with it? Do we prefer following the ideas of the world instead of Jesus?
Sometimes the best answer is no answer or a warning. The kingdom of heaven is where heaven rules. Have we said yeah-nah, saying yes, but then no to believing God’s Word? Or, have we said nah-yeah, initially saying no, but then coming to obedient faith in God and His Word?
Exodus 17:1-7 Do we tempt the Lord, saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”
Revelation 2:1-7 Can a church that has lost its first love repent?
Psalm 78:1-4, 12-16 Do we incline our ears to the words of God’s mouth?
Matthew 21:23-32 in Rhyme
Certain Jews with seniority
Asked about Christ’s authority
He said, I have a question then
Was John sent by heaven or men?