Sunday, October 1, 2017

"By Whose Authority" - Sermon for SUNDAY, October 1, 2017 - 17 Sunday after Pentecost

When he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him as he was teaching, and said, "By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?" Jesus said to them, "I will also ask you one question; if you tell me the answer, then I will also tell you by what authority I do these things. Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?" And they argued with one another, "If we say, 'From heaven,' he will say to us, 'Why then did you not believe him?' But if we say, 'Of human origin,' we are afraid of the crowd; for all regard John as a prophet." So they answered Jesus, "We do not know." And he said to them, "Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things. "What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, 'Son, go and work in the vineyard today.' He answered, 'I will not' but later he changed his mind and went. The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, 'I go, sir' but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?" They said, "The first." Jesus said to them, "Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.
~ Matthew 21:23-32

"By Whose Authority"
by Howard Gunter
Community Family Fellowship
Jacksonville, FL

Grace and Peace to you from our Lord and Saviour, Jesus who is the Christ. Amen

This reading mirrors the attitude of many church leaders, from the pastor on down. We all want to stand on our own authority - be it traditional, denominational or delineated by church by-laws. As we read and study what’s going on here, we may just see some reflections.

In the reading the priests, scribes and elders of the temple – (ahem! – pastor and church board) are uncomfortable with Jesus exercising authority that directs the people to change their religious practice in the temple. The big issue is that Jesus has just cleansed the temple of money changers and practices that serve man and not God.

If changes are to be made, let the authority of the church make the changes - again the Sanhedrin, priests and elders. That would be their attitude. Besides who has the audacity to question their authority.

So, they have some committee meetings and discussions as to how they should address this issue. I would love to have been a fly on that wall, if for no other reason to see a bunch of self-centered men with all kinds of personal agenda coming to a unanimous agreement. Imagine that, they all appear to be on the same page. Let’s back this Jesus into a corner and when He cannot explain Himself and His authority, that will be His doom. It appears that they were all in agreement.

So, they gathered around Jesus and asked Him, “By what authority are You doing these things? And who gave You this authority?” (v 23)

Jesus immediately answered them and said that He would answer their question if they would answer His question, “The baptism of John, where was it from? From heaven or from men?” (v 24)

Well that just threw them into a frenzy. If they agreed it was from heaven, He will ask why they didn’t believe him. If the said from men, they were afraid the multitudes would turn on them because they all saw John as a prophet.

That left them no choice but to say that they did not know. To which Jesus responded, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.” (V 27)

Jesus knew exactly what He was doing in bringing the matter to a stalemate. Certainly, the Sanhedrin could drive Jesus out and destroy His ministry but there would be this lingering issue: Jesus offered redemption if they would but believe. Until they had a better handle on this salvation and eternal life, they weren’t ready to be hasty.

And so, Jesus continues on in His ministry, for now.

Next, our reading presents us with another parable as presented to the priests, scribes and elders. A father of two sons approaches the first son and tells him to go out and work in the vineyard. But the son refuses, Later, he regrets his disobedient attitude and goes on out in the vineyard and puts in a day’s work.

In the meantime, the father goes to his second son and tells him also to go work in the vineyard. This son immediately agrees to go work. However, he did not go.

Jesus asks, “Which of the two does the will of his father?”

They said, “The first.”

Now just why is Jesus sharing this parable with these church leaders now?

When John the Baptist preached repentance and baptism, the great church leaders and devoutly religious followed him and listened intently to what he taught. But they refused to humble themselves, they refused to repent of their sins and they refused to be baptized. They wanted to know who this John was and what he was all about but that’s as faras it went. In chapter 3 of Matthew, John calls them a “Brood of Vipers.”

Which son do you see in this description?

But John continued preaching as one crying in the wilderness to the lost, encouraging them to repent of their sins and be baptized with water. Multitudes did exactly that!

Which son do you see in this scenario?

This is a great lesson to us. Titles, degrees, positions of leadership don’t always mean that we are right. They certainly don’t mean that we ever get beyond the need to humble ourselves before the Lord and repent of our sins, daily!

Starting the day with prayers, worship and confession can be somewhat compared to starting our day, brushing our teeth, taking a quick shower, combing our hair etc. It does indeed help us Face the day with a refreshing attitude and appearance.


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New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The New Revised Standard Version Bible may be quoted and/or reprinted up to and inclusive of five hundred (500) verses without express written permission of the publisher, provided the verses quoted do not amount to a complete book of the Bible or account for fifty percent (50%) of the total work in which they are quoted. Sermon shared by Howard Gunter on Sep 24, 2017.

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