DUNCAN/By what authority?
If you have your Bibles, I’d invite you to turn with me to Matthew chapter 21:23-27. The Lord Jesus has been in conflict with His enemies. They have continued to bring direct charges against His teaching and His actions. None of that has worked so far, and so in this passage they try a different tactic. Since they have been unable to confront him successfully in rebuking His teaching and His deeds, now they take an indirect approach. They question His authority to be teaching in the first place. The question “Who is Jesus, what is the source of His authority?” is a question of utmost importance to believers and unbelievers alike. I’d like you to see three things in this passage before us. First, that our response to Jesus’ authority is a spiritual diagnostic. Second, that Jesus does respond. Third, I want you to see the leader’s response to Jesus.
I. Our Response to Jesus’ Authority is a Spiritual Diagnostic
First, beginning in verse 23, you will see an exchange between Christ and His accusers, and we see them challenge Christ’s credentials. Let’s look at this passage together for a moment. A question is put to Jesus by the chief priests and by the elders of the people. They want to thwart His ministry and shame Him by questioning His authority. They are after what He was teaching, but since they had been ineffective in confronting him about the subject matter of His teaching, they questioned His credentials to teach in the first place. Yes, we have expected them to confront Him ever since He cleansed the temple. Ever since He rode into Jerusalem on the foal of the donkey, we have been waiting for the leaders of Israel to come and rebuke Him for not rebuking the children when they cried out to Him and pronounced Him to be the son of David, the Messiah, coming to His people.
But I want you to see, friends, that the question that they are asking Him has already been plainly answered. It is vital for you to understand that. There is absolutely no question about the answer to this question. Jesus by His own words, His own teaching, by His claims, by His miracles, and by His life had made it abundantly clear where the source of His authority came from. Furthermore, God had witnessed to Jesus Himself. You remember, the Father spoke from heaven to accredit His ministry at the baptism of John. The Father spoke from heaven at His transfiguration. The Son was witnessed to by men, beginning with John the Baptist who said of Him, “Behold the Lamb of God who comes to take away the sin of the world.” And even His enemies, and even demons would confess that He was the Messiah, the Son of God. And furthermore, Scripture corroborated the claims that He was making. And so, God and man and Scripture coalesced to testify to the authority of Jesus Christ. So, the reason they are asking this question is not because Jesus has not made a clear testimony to who He is. It is because their hearts are hard. It is vital for us to understand this point. Because one’s rejection of the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ is not a sign that you just haven’t been given enough information. It’s a sign of a heart that’s in rebellion against God. Because the evidence is absolutely clear as the nose on your face. Our response to Jesus, is a spiritual diagnostic of our own hearts.
II. Jesus Responds
Now there’s a second thing I’d like you to see in verse 24-25. Here we see Jesus’ response to His accusers. I want you to understand that Jesus is not simply using a brilliant rhetorical device in debate, although, we must admit, this is a brilliant rhetorical device in response. Jesus is not simply sidestepping their question. He is not being tricky. When Jesus says, “You answer Me this, ‘was John’s baptism from God or from man? Did John make that thing up himself? Or was John commissioned and called by God Almighty?'” That’s the question Jesus turns. And you understand that if you answer that question right, you’ve got the answer to the question that they asked Him. He’s saying, that if you answer this question, then you’ve got the answer to the question you just asked Me. If you answer rightly that John’s ministry was from God, and John said of Me, behold the Lamb of God who comes to be slain for the sins of the world. If John acknowledges Him to be the Son of God, then you’ve got your answer. Jesus’ answer points unambiguously to the authority of His person and His work.
I want you to understand that Jesus’ authority is not arbitrary. The call of the gospel, is not a call to examine details, but to believe because God has attested it. See, there are so many people in the world who think that the reason that people don’t embrace the gospel is there’s somehow not enough evidence for it out there. That’s wrong. The truth of the gospel is attested by God in so many ways with such great weight that it’s beyond dispute. But men in their hearts don’t want to bow the knee. And so, Jesus in responding to His accusers shows that the claims that He has made about Himself are corroborated by God, by faithful men like John, and by the Scriptures.
III. The response of the leaders to Jesus.
Then we see in the second half of verses 25-27, the response of the leaders of Israel to Jesus’ answer. They plot together to respond to Jesus’ claims. But their reasoning was not careful reflection on what Jesus had said. Their reason was not careful consideration of the claims of the Lord Jesus Christ. Their reasoning was rather scheming to figure out how to avoid answering the question. Jesus had put a question to them that they did not want to answer. And they considered amongst themselves how they could go about lying in response to that question. Instead of saying to Jesus, “Really I don’t want to answer that question,” or “We don’t want to answer that question,” they said, “We don’t know.” We see here that the main issue for these leaders of Israel was their heart condition. It is much the same for us as well. You see, the problem is not the evidence, rather our hearts are hardened to the truth. When we come to Christ, we don’t negotiate terms. It’s unconditional surrender. Come to the foot of that cross and He accepts only those who bow the knee and embrace him as Savior and Lord. He’s given all the testimony in the world in the glory of His gospel, and our only proper response is to bow the knee and embrace Him. May God enable us today to practically manifest that He is our Lord.