MESSAGE – Sunday 27th September 2020
17th Sunday after Pentecost
What are these things?
- He had just entered Jerusalem and ‘cleansed the Temple.’
- Turning over the tables of the money changers
- Healed the blind and the lame.
- Children shouting “Hosanna to the Son of David”
- Chief priests and legal experts were angered, “Do you hear what these children are saying?”
- Entire scope of teaching and ministry.
By whose authority?
- Question implies that they understand he has some authority
- “Jesus is exercising authority of some kind (this is implied by the second question, ‘Who gave you this authority?’). It asks, ‘What is the nature of the authority you exercise?’ The second question presupposes three possible sources: Jesus’ authority is derived from God, from Satan (see 4:9, 9:34, 12:24), or from himself.” (Douglas Hare, Interpretation: Matthew, p. 245)
- Question has been asked over and over in gospel – they don’t question what he is doing, they question how.
- “Their own authority, centered on the Temple, is clear. They are the social, economic, political, and religious elite allied with and legitimated by Rome. Their authority consists of social status and power over others and is based on birth (chief priests), training (scribes), wealth (elders), and political alliances. They want to know what Jesus’s legitimation is.” (Warren Carter, Matthew and the Margins, p. 324)
This is a trap question
- Asked by those who were in places of human authority: politically and religiously.
- The Pharisees demanded to know where Jesus got his authority. If Jesus said his authority came from God, they would accuse him of blasphemy. If he said that he was acting on his own authority, the crowds would be convinced that the Pharisees had the greater authority. But Jesus answered them with a seemingly unrelated question that exposed their real motives. They didn’t really want an answer to their question; they only wanted to trap him. Jesus showed that the Pharisees wanted the truth only if it supported their own views and causes.
- Jesus’ authority or God’s authority? Even Jesus points onward to God, not himself
John and Jesus
- “In this challenge of honor, Jesus does not respond directly but outwits them. The central issue is not of his identity but whether they will recognize it. The questioners become the questioned.” (Carter, p. 423)
- Similar messages – repentance, turn toward God, don’t be a hypocrite, your lineage or worldly power/ position doesn’t matter to God – who you are and what you do matters to God
- Different locations: John preached in the desert, Jesus is preaching in the temple and Jerusalem
- “Jesus answer appears to be a clever ruse to escape the trap… His question, however, is to be seen not so much as an evasion as an indirect response.” (Hare, p. 245)
- The priests and scribes cannot answer because they are afraid…afraid to answer and are afraid to arrest Jesus
- afraid to lose their authority? They don’t have it to begin with
- afraid to lose their power? wealth? self image? The radical love of Jesus should be both terrifying and liberating
- “They choose the path of non-commitment, which ironically, betrays their commitment. To not answer displays not genuine ignorance but deliberate resistance…. Jesus has now exposed and discredited the whole religious leadership. Judgment on them and their temple is inevitable.” (Carter, p. 424)
“The parables clarify the leaders’ failings and place in God’s purposes, and warn disciples not to repeat their mistakes… With the answers they condemn themselves for not doing God’s will.” (Carter, p. 424)
Repentance vs Hypocrisy – Jesus declares it is better to be a repentant sinner than a hypocritical “saint”
Deeds matter more than words
- BUT WORDS MATTER! This is not an either/or but a both/and – we must remember that Jesus is not talking to the prostitutes and tax collectors, but to the priests and scribes- these are words for them in response to their actions/questions.
- We know that words to matter to Jesus for those that cause someone to stumble from the righteous path should be thrown into the sea (Matt. 9:42)
- The tax collectors and prostitutes will enter the Kingdom of God ahead of you – note Jesus does not say that they will NOT enter the Kingdom, they will just enter behind the tax collectors and prostitutes
21:30 The son who said he would obey and then didn’t represented many of the people of Israel in Jesus’ day, particularly the religious leaders. They said they wanted to do God’s will, but they constantly disobeyed. They were phony, just going through the motions. It is dangerous to pretend to obey God when our hearts are far from him because God knows our true intentions. Our actions must match our words.
The chief priests’ and elders’ failure to believe and respond to John reveals the truth about where they stood, and thus which brother they actually represent.
Jesus’ authority, in contrast, is affirmed by the integrity of his words and actions, as well as by its outcomes:
gathering and restoration, healing and cleansing, release from demonic powers, restored sight, table fellowship with sinners, and preservation of the least ones—all examples of the “fruit” of repentance.
Apparently, “believing” entails making a decision about what kind of power is legitimate, Jesus’ power or that of the Judean leaders.
Only Jesus manifests a form of power that requires us to change our minds about the source, nature, and fruit of true power.
Can we discern the nature and source of the powers that hold us in bondage?
Can we distinguish the fruit of divine power in the midst of all that the powers of this world promise us?