Summary: If we recognise Jesus's authority as divine, then we are forced to listen to Him and allow him to impact our lives. If Jesus is the Word of God and the Scriptures are also the Word of God, then we need allow Scripture to impact our lives too.
Our passage this morning is all about authority.
We live in a society in which authority is very important
The police need authority to enter your house – and any evidence found without the due authority of a warrant signed by a Judge, even if it proves a criminal’s crime is ignored if it was obtained without proper authority.
And in Jesus day, religious authority was important.
The Pharisees asked Jesus what his authority was for the things he was saying.
Michael Green summed the Pharisees’ attitude up like this in his Commentary:
“He had been to no scribal school and had no formal authorisation to give spiritual leadership in Israel. What right did an unordained carpenter have to make a nuisance of himself. (Message of Matthew p.224)
In Jesus day it was one of those Catch 22 questions:
If Jesus had said God has sent me – then they could justify a blasphemy charge against Him – and this would as Michael Green so aptly puts it, Jesus
“…senses that a straight answer would precipitate the final crisis before He had finished his work” (Message of Matthew p 224)
If he claimed human authority just from himself, he would lose popular support from the people.
In this way, the religious authorities could negate his message and ultimately much more easily have him executed without the fear of an uprising from the people.
So Jesus follows a great Rabbinic tradition of answering the question by asking a question in return.
And as St Matthew tells us that question caused the Pharisees a great problem
If they answered that John’s authority came from God Jesus would follow that up by saying: Then why didn’t you listen to him.
If they said his authority was simply human they feared a backlash from the people and loss in popular support from the people who recognised John as having divine authority to be a prophet.
But the question Jesus asked the Pharisees was no only a Catch 22 question for them
But Jesus reply went further.
Only once the Pharisees recognised where the authority that John had come from- can they hope to understand who Jesus is.
Michael Green put it like this:
“Jesus question is highly apt. Jesus is emphasising the eschatological dimension of his cleansing of the Temple.
As Malachi 3:verses 1 and 2 say:
He is “the Lord who will suddenly come to His Temple and John was the messenger sent to prepare the way (Message of Matthew p.225)
What you might ask does eschatological mean:
You might wonder what Eschatological means
The simplest answer is to quote the definition from “The Oxford English Dictionary” which defines eschatology as "the part of theology concerned with death, judgment, and the final destiny of the soul and of humankind."
So Jesus is saying in short: “Once you realise where John’s authority comes from, you will realise from where mine comes too”.
In other words John was the Elijah figure predicted by Malachi about 400 years earlier who was to precede the coming of the Messiah sent from God.
In other words to precede Jesus, the Messiah.
And that aspect would not have been lost on the Pharisees and rulers of the people.