Jesus authority was questioned by those who opposed him, which reminds us to think about how we know Jesus speaks with the authority of God.
Luke 20:1 – 2
The authority of Jesus questioned
20One day as Jesus was teaching the people in the temple courts and proclaiming the good news, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, together with the elders, came up to him. 2 ‘Tell us by what authority you are doing these things,’ they said. ‘Who gave you this authority?’
Jesus was teaching and presenting the gospel. It was his usual activity which inevitably brought reaction, both positive and negative. Here we read that the high priests, scribes and elders reacted negatively. They demanded to know the foundation of Jesus authority.
To understand why they would be making this demand we need to consider what Jesus had been saying. There is no specific context because the chapter begins with, “and he was on one of the days teaching etc.” However, we do have enough of Jesus teaching elsewhere to have a very good idea of what he taught, and with some precision we know what he was saying as he presented the gospel. In simplest terms he taught that God is holy and good, and we are great sinners against him. He continually demonstrated that sin and its consequences are not overcome by some superficial changes in our life, but we require the drastic action of God’s chosen one, the Son of Man. He also repeatedly showed that none could consider themselves morally superior to others. In fact, the attitude for all is to be childlike humility. There is much more Jesus taught but that is at the heart of it.
The negative reaction was inevitable because the ones questioning him had the opposite approach to life. They considered they had the sin problem under control through their morally superior lives. Jesus therefore posed a profound threat. If he was right, they were dangerously wrong. Their intent was to undermine him at the foundation of his source of authority. That probably seemed reasonably safe to them because they were confident that they spoke from the authority of the Old Testament and the traditions they had built up around it. They also imagined that if Jesus said he was sent from God they could kill him as a false prophet; after all he must be because he disagreed with them! If he didn’t say his authority was God, they could dismiss him as a dreamer.
It is like the questioning often posed against Christianity in any era. What is the source of authority? This is often proposed by those who have confidence in the foundation of their scepticism. How can it be answered? Jesus’ response to them simply exposes their hypocrisy but we need to ask, for ourselves, what is the authority behind Jesus, and for that matter the Bible?
Two thoughts are important. Romans 1 tells us that all know “God Is There”, but most seek to supress that knowledge. The conviction of the Christian is that when the Bible is read, it is the One Who Is There who speaks. From that foundation we can then have all confidence in Jesus because he was fully vindicated when raised from the dead.
Head: We should seek to understand how we know that Jesus has the authority of God.
Heart: We should expect that the authority of Jesus will be questioned by many in our world.
Hands: While we may not be able to answer all questions about Jesus’ authority, we can simply live in that confidence
Prayer: Father, please give us confidence in Jesus and his absolute authority to save us from sin and death. He is your beloved son, help us to listen to him. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
A song to listen to: See the Man
Living Church – Creek Road