Sermon at Mentmore - 28 September 2008
Authority of Jesus
Matthew 21: 23 – 32
The passage is about the authority of Jesus – and how it is questioned – mainly by religious leaders because of what he has done
Three symbolic acts happen prior to the reading:
Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem
This is in fulfillment of Isaiah and Zechariah:
The Coming of Zion's King
9 Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion!
Shout, Daughter Jerusalem!
See, your king comes to you,
righteous and having salvation,
lowly and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey. Zechariah 9:9
In this event, there are 2 firsts:
1. Jesus is making a public claim to messianic kingship
2. This is recognised by the crowds – they know the prophecy and see it being fulfilled
This means Jesus is claiming to be
Son of David
The coming one – Messiah – although meek and not military
The crowds respond by
Throwing down their cloaks
Shouting Hosanna to the Son of David and
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord
This poses huge challenge to religious and secular leaders – no longer just itinerant rabbi who teaches and heals
Jesus cleanses the Temple
Jesus immediately confronts religious leaders on home ground
Drove out money changers – producing wealth for officials – challenging corruption – challenging injustice to poor
My house will be a house of prayer for all nations Isaiah 56
Also says that prayer can be effective wherever prayers are said – not just in Jerusalem or the Temple or on a holy mountain
Jesus curses the fig tree
Not just a little interlude
Fig tree stands for the state of Israel – it withers when it does not produce fruit – judgement against those in charge of the Temple
AUTHORITY OF JESUS QUESTIONED
This explains why Jesus is questioned when he enters the Temple once again
By what authority are you doing these things?
Who gave you that authority?
Jesus poses threat to both secular and religious government – whole city is in turmoil – everyone wants to know Who is this?
Strange that Jesus relies on debating skills – Jesus asks chief priests about status of John the Baptist: was he prophet with authority from heaven as the people believed; or was he just another religious fanatic?
The question cannot be answered without grave risk from the people, so the elders duck it – which enables Jesus to do the same
Usually he is clear, regardless of the consequences – this time he does not seem ready to put himself in danger – lot of teaching to come, much of it against the Jewish leaders and failure of Israel – not until chapter 27 that we hear about the plot to kill Jesus and the Last Supper
Is this where it ends?
Was it just a reprieve?
Priests and leaders asked question about authority because it mattered to them.
Challenged their own position
Threatened stability of the state – Palestinian fragility – emergence of Messiah would lead to serious consequences with Roman governor
Perhaps genuinely wanted to know if this was Messiah?
We should ask ourselves the same question because it matters to us
What authority does Jesus have?
Where does his authority come from?
Might seem obvious, but let’s delve a bit further
Authority to set standards for the way we live our lives
Matthew 5 “You have heard it said... but I say...”
Whole series of absolute moral standards
Do not come to the altar – unless you are first reconciled to your brother and sister who has something against you
Do not be angry with another person or call them a fool
Settle quickly with your adversary, or someone to whom you owe money
Do not look upon something or someone else to desire it – for to do so is to have committed a sin already
Do not resist and evil person – give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you
Love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you
Highest moral standards – we would do well to remember how difficult they are to observe
Authority to forgive sins
Matthew 9 2 Some men brought to him a paralyzed man, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the man, "Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven."
Authority over nature and authority to confront evil
For example, stilling of the storm and casting out those possessed
But for us today, most important of all are Jesus’ post-resurrection claims to authority, and what actions they require of us:
16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in [a] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." Matthew 28
All authority has been given to me
So Jesus claims ‘all authority in heaven and earth has been given to me.’ There is no greater authority he could have claimed. And if we accept that as true, what we are to do about it follows on from his claim:
19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.
So this is what we are entrusted with – going out and telling the story – not keeping our faith to ourselves or confining it within these walls. Not necessarily proclaiming it on street corners, boring our fellow employees and friends rigid, or shouting from the housetops – but living the life as an example to others – the highest moral standards that are in Matthew 5.
Why? It tells us in Matthew 5 itself:
Salt and Light
13 "You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.
14 "You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.