2014 6-22 ‘All Authority Is Given to Me’ Luke 20 1-8

LUKE 20:1-8

I. Introduction
“Who’s in charge around here?” Isn’t that what you want to know when you need a prob-lem solved or an answer to a question? Sure it is. You want to know who it is that has the authority to fix whatever it is that needs fixing, don’t you?

What about when someone says something that dismantles or contradicts what you believe to be right or true? They do so with conviction and make it clear that they won’t change their mind or rescind what they’ve said. Don’t you say, or at least think, something like, “Who do you think you are?” or “What gives you the right to say that?” or – as my brother used to say whenever I tried to boss him around – “Oh yeah, who died and made you king?”

But while it’s one thing to challenge fallible men or women when they speak with authority about something, it’s entirely another thing to question our infallible God when He speaks. It’s one thing to challenge the world’s experts and expect them to validate and stand behind their claims, but it’s entirely another thing to challenge God and say, “Oh yeah, who are You? What right do You have to challenge me? Where did you get Your authority?”

Can you imagine sticking out your chin and saying such things to the sovereign and holy God of all creation? Those of us who know, love, and fear Him would never consciously and deliberately do such a thing. However, the lost people of this world do it all the time. And many of this world’s most religious and outwardly pious people do it as a matter of course. When they do so they’re really saying to God, “What right, what authority do You have to challenge – or even to question – us or our religion?”

On the Tuesday morning before Jesus went to the cross, He faced that very question from the religious leaders of Israel. This morning we’ll see how He answered them.

II. Review
What were the most recent events that led up to this particular Tuesday morning? Two days earlier, on that first “Palm Sunday,” Jesus entered Jerusalem to the cheers and accolades of the people. The “Hosannas” (“Save us now!”) rang out and there was great excitement because the multitudes who believed Jesus was their Messiah thought He had come to lead a revolt against Rome and restore Israel to the glory she once knew under David and Solomon.

Jesus accepted the people’s praise. Why wouldn’t He? He was their Messiah! But the peo-ple did not understand why He had come. He wasn’t there to destroy God’s enemies, judge sin, and take His rightful place on David’s throne. Those things are for the Second Coming, for His glorious appearing. And for that, we the church, eagerly wait. But this time, Jesus had come, not to judge, but “…to seek and to save that which was lost (Luke 19:10).”
And although Jesus accepted the people’s praise, He was deeply saddened that their desire to be at peace with men was greater than their desire to be at peace with God. They didn’t want what Jesus offered them – the salvation of their souls – and in refusing that, they rejected Him. So on that Sunday morning, as Jesus gazed upon the city from the Mount of Olives, He wept over it because He knew of the inevitable death and destruction that awaited them when God would use Roman legions to destroy Jerusalem in 70 A.D. Why would God do that? Because, as Jesus said to them, “…you did not recognize the time of your visitation (Luke 19:44b).”

At this point I need to take a moment to repeat something I said at the end of last week’s sermon. The death and destruction that came upon Jerusalem and its inhabitants is a matter of historical record. It isn’t just a “Bible story.” God did it to His own cho-sen nation because most of the people in it refused to recognize the Son of Man, Jesus Christ for who and what He was. They rejected His offer of salvation by grace through faith. And so they faced a horrible end.

That’s historical fact. But it’s also prophecy. Look, our nation, is refusing to recognize the Lord Jesus Christ as well. Nationally, we’re refusing His offer of salvation by grace through faith. Only a blind man could fail to see what’s happening to America on a daily basis. If this country does not turn around, repent, seek God’s forgiveness, and receive Christ, we are as doomed as was Jerusalem two thousand years ago. God is not mocked. If He, in His sovereign holiness, would destroy Jerusalem, you can be sure He would destroy America too.

We need to understand that when the gospel is preached, we, whether nationally or individually, are being visited by God in the Person of His Son, the Lord Jesus. When He and His message are rejected, whether nationally or individually, that rejection will inevitably end with the death and destruction of any and all who reject it.

Listen, the Lord is visiting you today with His gospel. Neither you nor I know when we will take our last breath. This may be the last time He calls you to come to Him. When you hear Jesus’ words spoken, when you hear the gospel, He is visiting you. Please never let it be said of you that “…you did not recognize the time of your visitation.”

Well, back to our review. On Monday Jesus entered the temple and was infuriated by what He saw there. Since it was the season of Passover, the moneychangers and those selling ani-mals to be sacrificed were doing a booming business. The fact that the people were being cheated didn’t bother the religious leaders because they were getting a cut of the profits. So those men whom God had called to care for and protect the people were instead cheating them and getting rich in the process. Just as He did three years earlier at the beginning of His ministry, Jesus cleansed the temple again and said that God’s ministers had turned it into a “robbers’s den” or “a den of thieves.”

Being exposed for what they were the religious leaders redoubled their efforts to kill Jesus.
Mark 11:18a
18a And the chief priests and the scribes heard this, and began seeking how to destroy Him; for they were afraid of Him… (afraid of Him? more on that later)

All of that took place on Monday. By the next day it was becoming clear that driving the Romans out of Israel was not Jesus’ intention at all. He wasn’t interested in the people’s politics and the temporary rule of men. He was interested in the people’s hearts and the eternal rule of God. The religious leaders were already against Jesus. Soon enough the mul-titudes who cheered Him on Sunday would prove to be fickle and turn against Him.

III. Text
That brings us to Tuesday morning in Jerusalem and today’s text in Luke’s gospel. The issue of authority is before us today. Who is in charge? Who has the last say? Who is the ultimate and final authority over everyone and everything in all creation and for all time? If you’re a Christian, you know the truth; the answer is easy. God is the ultimate and final authority! But what if you’re not a Christian? What might your answer be then? In 1888 the English poet William Henley wrote “Invictus.” Who was his final authority? Listen…
“Out of the night that covers me, Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate, How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.”

Henley died in 1903. I wonder if he still thinks that he is “the captain of his soul.” Clearly, William Henley disparaged God’s Word. Why wouldn’t He? He wasn’t a Christian; he was an unbeliever. So Christians believe God’s Word and know that He is the final authority. Non-Christians do not believe God’s Word and think they are the final authority. That covers everyone, doesn’t it? Well, not exactly. What about those who do believe God exists, do know God’s Word is true, do understand that God is the final authority, and yet persist in trying to defeat God and His eternal plan anyway?

Who could ever be so egotistical, so prideful, and so arrogant as to think like that? How about God’s most beautiful angel? How about Lucifer?
Isaiah 14:13-14
13 “But you said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, and I will sit on the mount of assembly in the recesses of the north.
14 ‘I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High (God).’”

William Henley was an unbeliever. He didn’t know God and so he rejected Him and His Word. That’s no surprise; that’s what unbelievers do. Lucifer is also an unbeliever, but there’s a vast difference between him and the William Henleys of the world. Lucifer knows who God is. He knows God’s Word is true. He knows God is the final authority. But with all that, Lucifer still defies God and tries to wrest God’s absolute authority away from Him.

Given the fact that God holds us responsible for what we know, I’m pointing these things out in order to ask you a question. Are the men who are questioning Jesus’ authority in this morning’s text in Luke 20 more like William Henley or are they more like Lucifer? The priests, the scribes, the Pharisees, and the Sadducees were all “God’s men” on earth. They, like Lucifer, knew who God was. They, like Lucifer, knew God’s Word was true. They, like Lucifer, knew God was the final authority. And yet they, like Lucifer, while standing in the very presence of God’s own Son, denied Him, rejected Him, and plotted against Him.

Their egos, their pride, and their arrogance knew no bounds. They were more willing to kill God’s Son than they were willing to recognize His authority, to humble themselves, and to worship Him. So they challenged Him, and in the end, they destroyed themselves. In the short term they retained their authority and won this battle with Jesus. But in the long term they succumbed to Jesus’ authority and lost their war with God.
*Luke 20:1-8 (Please stand with me in honor of reading God’s Word.)
1 And it came about on one of the days while He was teaching the people in the temple and preaching the gospel, that the chief priests and the scribes with the elders confronted Him,
2 and they spoke, saying to Him, “Tell us by what authority You are doing these things, or who is the one who gave you this authority?”
3 And He answered and said to them, “I shall also ask you a question, and you tell Me;
4 “Was the baptism of John from heaven or from men?”
5 And they reasoned among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say, ‘Why did you not believe Him?’
6 “But if we say, ‘From men,’ all the people will stone us to death, for they are convinced that John was a prophet.”
7 And they answered that they did know where it came from.
8 And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”

It’s Tuesday morning. Jesus’ is teaching in the temple on the Stoa Basilica, more commonly known as Solomon’s Porch. The crowds have gathered and as is usually the case when He teaches, most of the people are enthralled by His words.
*Luke 20:1
1 And it came about on one of the days while He was teaching the people in the temple and preaching the gospel, that the chief priests and the scribes with the elders confronted Him,

Has anyone ever asked you, “So what do you do at your church?” If you answer, “Well, we teach the Bible and preach the gospel,” they often say, “All right, but what about the music? Do you have a ‘worship team’ and sing ‘contemporary music?’ Do you have coffee and doughnuts?” I’ve been asked those questions and others like them. What the people really want to know is, “If I come to your church will I have a good time?”

My answer to that is usually something like this: “I hope so, but our goal at LBC is not to entertain people. Most churches seem to be striving to do that these days. But our goal at LBC is to teach the Bible to those who know Christ, and to introduce Him to those who do not. Come visit us on Sunday morning. We start at 9:00.” To which I’ve then been asked, “Why do you start so early? Don’t you have a Saturday night service?”

Just what is it you’re supposed to do in a church? In Luke 20:1 we see what Jesus did. He taught the people and preached the gospel. Today we surround that with Bible-reading, prayer, music, giving, and fellowship. We support one another; we encourage one another; sometimes we admonish one another; and we love one another. Do we do all of those things well, and do we do them all of the time? No, we don’t; sometimes we slip up. But we strive for those things, and in doing so, we grow in Christ as God expects every local assembly of believers to do.

In Luke 20:1 Jesus is teaching and preaching with authority. Of course, He is! He is God’s living Word speaking God’s living Word. Therefore, He has all the authority of the eternal God in everything He is saying. And the power of God amazed those who heard Him. Lis-ten to just a few examples of the peoples’ responses to Jesus’ teaching.
Matthew13:54b (teaching in the synagogue in Nazareth)
54b …they became astonished, and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom, and these miraculous powers?”

Mark 1:27 (after casting out a demon)
27 And they were all amazed, so that they debated among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him.”

Mark 11:18a (on “Palm Sunday”)
18a And the chief priests and the scribes heard this, and began seeking how to destroy Him; for they were afraid of Him…

In Luke 20:1 Jesus is teaching and preaching the gospel. Whenever Jesus did that, people were astonished, amazed, and afraid.
Do you suppose that some of those who heard Jesus were convicted of their sin and were afraid of going to hell? Yes! People should fear hell.

But in Mark 11:18 it says that the religious leaders were afraid of Him. Why? They were all convinced they had earned their place in heaven so they weren’t afraid of hell. No, they were afraid of Jesus personally. Why? They were afraid of Him because He exposed them for what they were. And in doing so He threatened their authority. Once their authority was in question, their power over the people would be in jeopardy. This they would not tolerate.

Think about this. Sin is to a large extent a matter of authority. When we disobey God and commit sin, it is because we want to do what we want to do. We refuse to submit ourselves to His authority, and instead operate on our own. In our pride and arrogance we choose to direct our own paths rather than letting God direct them. Remember Lucifer (Satan). What did he say? “I will raise my throne above the stars of God… I will sit in the mount of the assembly… I will ascend above the clouds… I will make myself like the Most High (God).”

Satan rejected God’s authority because he wanted his own. The religious leaders rejected God’s Son because they refused to relinquish their authority. And we get ourselves into end-less trouble because we try to replace God’s authority with our own. When we do that, we find that we sound just like William Henley. “I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.” No, we are not! But we still try to do it, and when we do, when we reject the authority of God, we find that we have placed ourselves under the authority of Satan.

It’s been said – and over the years I’ve come to believe it’s true – that the quest for power and authority is a greater temptation for Christians than having money and possessions. Didn’t Jesus’ disciples claim to have left everything (family, homes, jobs, money, etc.) to follow Him? But was their hunger for power and authority diminished when they followed Him?
*Mark 10:35-45
35 And James and John, the two sons of Zebedee, came up to (Jesus), saying to Him, “Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask of You.” (our “cvm”)
36 And He said to them, “What do you want Me to do for you?”
37 And they said to Him, “Grant that we may sit in Your glory, one on Your right, and one on Your left.” (“We want some of your power and authority.”)
38 But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking for. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”
39 And they said to Him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you shall drink; and you shall be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized.
40 “But to sit on My right or on My left, this is not Mine to give; but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”
Let me pause there for a moment. These two disciples wanted power and authority so much that they were willing to step on (and over) their brothers to get it. How did that work out?
41 And hearing this, the ten began to feel indignant with James and John.
42 And calling them to Himself, Jesus said to them, “You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great men exercise authority over them.
43 “But it is not so among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant;
44 and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all.
45 “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

Too many Christians today are like the Jewish religious leaders. They demand authority because they crave power. And the results can be devastating. A great deal of the trouble and strife in the church today can be traced directly to this desire for power, control, and authority. In the case of the religious leaders who are confronting Jesus in Luke 20:2, that desire is so strong, so ingrained in them, that they are eager not only to confront Jesus, but to destroy Him in order to maintain and grow their position and power.
*Luke 20:2
2 and they spoke, saying to Him, “Tell us by what authority You are doing these things, or who is the one who gave you this authority?”

Actually, the question they ask is a legitimate one. You should ask it of anyone who wishes to stand before you and preach or teach. The problem is not the question. The problem is the heart from which it comes. Listen, these men knew the truth, but they didn’t like it, so they refused to accept it. Again, think of Lucifer. He wasn’t ignorant of the truth. He knew it; he just didn’t like it. And so he rebelled against it and he told God, “I want the power and the authority that You have.” Pride! Think about how that plays out in the world. Can you imagine how many crimes have been committed, and how many wars have been waged for power and authority that was neither earned nor deserved?

In v. 2 these religious leaders confront Jesus publicly and demand that He show them His “credentials.” “Who are your references? Do you have any pulpit experience? What degrees do you have and when did you earn them?” Their purpose is obvious. They are trying to embarrass Jesus, to enhance their position by diminishing His. “Tell us by what authority You are doing these things, or who is the one who gave you this authority?”

The Lord will answer them, but they won’t like it because He will ask them a question.
*Luke 20:3-4
3 And He answered and said to them, “I shall also ask you a question, and you tell Me;
4 “Was the baptism of John from heaven or from men?”
It’s a simple question with a simple answer, but in order for them to answer it they will expose themselves for who they are to an even greater degree than they already have. And they know it. So they will try to weasel out of an answer by prevaricating. But it won’t work. They will only paint themselves further into a corner. Jesus asks this question because He knows their hearts. As I said earlier, the religious leaders question is legitimate but the hearts that ask it are illegitimate. They want to use Jesus’ answer to condemn Him.
But the Lord has turned the tables on them. Now they stand on the brink of condemnation.
*Luke 20:5-6
5 And they reasoned among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say, ‘Why did you not believe Him?’
6 “But if we say, ‘From men,’ all the people will stone us to death, for they are convinced that John was a prophet.”

They’re cornered. If they say what they know to be true – that John’s message came from God – they will be forced to admit that John the Baptist’s prophecy of the coming Messiah was all about Jesus of Nazareth, the One to whom they are talking and the One whom they so blatantly want to destroy. On the other hand, if they say John’s message came not from God, but from men – they will face the wrath of the crowds, most of whom believed John, and still think that Jesus is the Messiah. “What to do, oh, what to do?” These so-called godly men, these religious leaders decide to lie.
*Luke 20:7-8
7 And they answered that they did know where it came from.
8 And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”

They put their heads together and come up with a ridiculous answer. “We don’t know.” Are you surprised that these men would give a dishonest answer? You shouldn’t be surprised at all. They are godless, deceiving, and power hungry. And they aren’t anywhere near as intelligent as they seem to think they are.

Couldn’t they at least have pleaded “the fifth”? You know, like the people who run the IRS. “We decline to answer that question because the answer might tend to incriminate us.” At least that would have been truthful. But truth isn’t important to these religious leaders, these men who are bent on preserving their authority at the expense of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Isn’t that one of the marks of the unbelief that we see all around us today? “If we can just get rid of God we can do what we want.” This is why, for the last hundred and fifty years or so, Darwinian evolution has been such a boon for unbelief in general and those who hate God in particular. It eliminates the God of the Bible, His supremacy, and His authority, and replaces those things with the god of this world and the authority of man. But God has said, “The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand (John 3:35).”

IV. Conclusion
How are we to respond to the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ? Here are three ways…

1. We must recognize and acknowledge that all authority belongs to Him; and that any authority man possesses is delegated to him by God. When Pontius Pilate tried to impress Jesus with his authority, Jesus “set him straight.”
*John 19:10-11a
10 Pilate therefore said to (Jesus), “You do not speak to me? Do You not know that I have the authority to release You, and I have the authority to crucify You?”
11a Jesus answered, “You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above…”

2. We must recognize and acknowledge that whatever authority God may choose to give us is a stewardship. That is, we are responsible for its use and will be called to give an account for how we handled it.
*1 Corinthians 4:1-4
1 Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God.
2 In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy.
3 But to me it is a very small thing that I should be examined by you, or by any human court; in fact, I do not even examine myself.
4 I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted; but the One who examines me is the Lord.

3. We must recognize and acknowledge that whatever authority God may choose to give us is for the purpose of serving others. This is for all of us, but especially for the leadership of the church, the elders and the deacons.
*1 Peter 5:1-3, 6
1 Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker of the glory that is to be revealed,
2 shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compul-sion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness;
3 nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock.
6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time…

Let me close with this: Jesus gave us the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19-20, He made it crystal clear that He had the right to give it. He said, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth (v. 18b).” That settles it!
~ Pray ~