By What Authority?

Matthew 21

January 21

This chapter begins with Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem and ends with two parables. Honestly, it seems like it is all over the place. But wait! God is going to reveal something amazing to us.

As Jesus enters the holy city, Matthew notes that prophecy has been fulfilled. God illuminated His plan of salvation through His many prophets over the years and it is all coming to pass (Isaiah 62:11, Zechariah 9:9). Even as the people are asking to be saved and shouting Jesus’ praise, they are reciting passages of the Old Testament (Psalm 118:25-26, Deuteronomy 18:15).

Then we get to the action sequence that we all know and love; Jesus flipping tables and kicking people out of the temple. Maybe it is because it seems so far out of his nature that we recall these verses so easily. Yet it is not outside of his nature. As a matter of fact, the anger he displayed in the temple was a reflection of his Father’s righteous anger. These people were defiling what was holy to God. Our Almighty God had, Himself, displayed such righteous anger in the past whenever man’s sins had gone too far. These men had certainly gone too far and Jesus was not going to stand for it.

Jesus was sure to reveal the motives behind his actions; he quoted from Isaiah and Jeremiah so that they would know their sins. In doing this they knew that, whoever this man might be, they were in the wrong. Additionally, Jesus welcomed the blind and lame in and healed them. Normally, they would not be allowed into the temple but Jesus invited them in. As children cried out, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” Jesus answered those who opposed him by quoting the Psalms. This seems to have quieted them for now.

Even in the midst of causing a fig tree to wither we find references to the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah. Jesus speaks about prayer and faith but there is another lesson here. Even though the tree was full of leaves it would not bear fruit. It was already dead; it just did not know it. This is the ungodly, those who curse and reject God.

Jesus returns to the temple where things start to come together. The chief priests and elders of the people demanded to know by what, or rather whose, authority he did these things. Finally, we are getting to the point! But Jesus does not tell them. Why? Why are you doing this to us? Why will you not answer the question? It is simple; because they already knew but refused to admit it.

Throughout these verses Jesus’ authority was questioned. Every time they questioned him; Jesus answered with God’s Word. All that was written concerning him was unfolding right in front of them. This made the two parables in this chapter sting even more. As dumb as the chief priests and elders of the people were, they were smart enough to recognize that the father and landowner both reference God.

They should have also recognized themselves in the second son and the portrayal of the tenants. They have been tasked with leading God’s people but instead they sacrificed His ways for what would benefit them most now. They asked by whose authority and received the one answer that they dreaded most: God!

So what is this amazing thing that God is revealing to us? That Jesus was given all authority by God Himself? Well, yes! If you are asking yourself why this matters or what it has to do with you I want you to think about this, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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, 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 28:18-20).

God, our Heavenly Father, the Creator of the heavens and earth gave all authority to Jesus who in turn commanded us to do these things! That means that we do not witness to others by our own power or authority. That is a relief because I struggle every time to even open my mouth let alone know what to say to people. First, I feel uncomfortably self-conscious. How will they react or respond? What if they get angry, ridicule me, or even turn violent? Then, and I think this is the worst, I tend to go blank. I have no idea what to say or what I am even thinking at that point.

It is going blank that I used to worry about. Looking at my recent conversations though I realize that going blank is exactly what He wanted. It is when I go blank that God’s Word, which I have studied and stored up in my heart and mind, comes to the forefront. His Word, even when I do not have it memorized for perfect recitation, is always on the tip of my tongue. Of course, that means I have to actually read my Bible for God to bring it out in my life. Be prepared and willing to be led. Then we will be better able to recognize the authority which guides and drives us.

-Jeff Ransom

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. Are you prepared to give an answer for your faith?  What is your story of redemption, how have you come to know God through His Son, Jesus? Is your faith tied to God’s Word?
  2. How is your temper? Do you ever find yourself getting mad, frustrated, or angry at others whether for “good” reason or not? Did you know that the biggest difference between our anger and God’s is that His anger is tempered with love, grace, and mercy?
  3. Have you submitted to the authority God gave Jesus? If you have not, why? What is keeping you from knowing the fullness of our heavenly Father’s love? If you have, what does actively submitting to His authority look like in your life?

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