September 25, 2011
TEXT: Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32/Philippians 2:1-18/Matthew 21:23-32
BY WHAT AUTHORITY DO YOU DO THESE THINGS?
Vicar Alex Post

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” The chief priests and the elders of the people came to Jesus and asked this trick question while Jesus was teaching in the temple. The answer was a matter of life and death, both for Jesus and for the chief priests and the elders. It is also a matter of life and death for you and for me.

“By what authority are you doing these things?” “These things” referred to Jesus driving out the money-changers and the pigeon sellers in the temple. Jesus taught as one who had authority (Mt. 7:29), and now He was teaching in the temple, on the turf of the Jewish religious leaders. The earth-shattering teaching of Jesus, the supernatural healing miracles, and Jesus’ claim to be the Messiah, the Anointed One of God – for all of these things, the Jewish leaders demanded an explanation.

September 25, 2011
TEXT: Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32/Philippians 2:1-18/Matthew 21:23-32
BY WHAT AUTHORITY DO YOU DO THESE THINGS?
Vicar Alex Post 
 
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” The chief priests and the elders of the people came to Jesus and asked this trick question while Jesus was teaching in the temple. The answer was a matter of life and death, both for Jesus and for the chief priests and the elders. It is also a matter of life and death for you and for me.

“By what authority are you doing these things?” “These things” referred to Jesus driving out the money-changers and the pigeon sellers in the temple. Jesus taught as one who had authority (Mt. 7:29), and now He was teaching in the temple, on the turf of the Jewish religious leaders. The earth-shattering teaching of Jesus, the supernatural healing miracles, and Jesus’ claim to be the Messiah, the Anointed One of God – for all of these things, the Jewish leaders demanded an explanation.

“By what authority are you doing these things?” Jesus redirected the trick question of the chief priests and the elders by asking them if they believed that the baptism of John the Baptist was from heaven or from men. If they answered truthfully, and expressed their rejection of John and their unrepentant unbelief in Jesus, the crowds could have attacked them for blasphemy, for “all” in the crowd held that John was a prophet from heaven (Mt. 21:26)! John was a prophet from heaven because he testified concerning Jesus, the Messiah (Jn. 1:6-8). John came in the path of righteousness (Mt. 21:32), crying out, “Prepare the way of the Lord; make His paths straight.” (3:3)

However, if the chief priests and elders answered Jesus’ question by lying and pretending to believe that John’s baptism was from heaven, Jesus would have called them out for rejecting John’s inspired message of repentance and the coming Messiah. So instead, the chief priests and the elders chose a third option, which was the worst of all: out of fear of the crowds, and to mask their hypocrisy, the chief priests and elders of the people told this lie: “We don’t know.” You see, hypocrisy is not just failing to practice what you preach. Hypocrisy is pretending to believe in something that you actually do not.

Jesus’ parable of the two sons exposes the hypocrisy of the chief priests and the elders of the people. The man in the parable said to the first son, “Son, go and work in the vineyard today.” And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go.” It is easy to see that it is better to turn away from your initial rejection of God than to pretend that you believe when you really don’t!

This is what you and I once were. In the sinful hypocrisy of our human hearts, we say to God, ‘Sure, I’ll work in your Kingdom.’ And then we go and do the opposite. We disrespect our bosses and our parents and our government leaders. We speak poorly of them behind their backs. We abuse our God-given authority and position of leadership by cursing, threatening, and gossiping. We pretend to believe in forgiveness, but then when someone apologizes to us we seize them and begin to choke them, saying, ‘Pay what you owe me.’ (Mt. 18:28)  Jesus did not condemn the chief priests and the elders because they were the only ones who had rejected Him. Jesus condemns all who pretend they are without sin.

And yet, even more than this, Jesus condemns those who do recognize their sins and then persist in them. John came in the way of righteousness and preached to the tax collectors and prostitutes, who turned from their awful lives of open sin and believed. But even when the chief priests and elders of the Jews saw their sins, which had been laid bare by John’s fiery preaching, they still refused to repent. They rejected their Messiah. They not only pretended to believe when they didn’t; they didn’t simply lie about their beliefs; they openly charged the Son of God with blasphemy, and they put to death the Savior of the world.

Surely this parable of the two sons is not a mere guide for daily wisdom. Jesus is not advising us on being adequate vineyard workers, nor is He only telling us to say what we mean to say and then do what we say we’ll do. The turning point of the parable is the turning point in each of our lives. The turning point is when the son disrespects his father by saying, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he regrets what he said – he changes his mind – he is sorry – and he repents. When you and I by faith start rejecting our sins, putting them to death by the power of the Holy Spirit, we stop rejecting our Savior and putting the Son of God to death. This message of humble contrition and repentance is not just for the crowds in the temple, or for the chief priests and elders of the Jewish people in the 1st century, but it is for you and for me.

By what authority are you doing these things?” What gave Jesus the authority to forgive sins (Mt. 9:6)? Who gave Jesus jurisdiction over the temple courts (21:12-13)? Where did Jesus receive the legitimate, legal right to teach concerning the Kingdom of the heavens, to heal the sick, raise the dead, and even to lay down His own life for the life of the world?
The answer is in the revealed Word of God, the Holy Scriptures, which God has given to us in order that “by believing you may have life in His name” (Jn. 20:31). There is one God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in whose name each Divine Service begins. The Father has authority over all creation, since all things exist from Him (1 Cor. 8:6). The Father sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, who speaks as His Father teaches Him (Jn. 8:23-30). God the Father dwells in His Son and does His work through the Messiah whom He has sent (14:10-11).

The Son of God, Jesus Christ, taught and preached with the authority of God to the glory of His Father (Jn. 7:16-18). Jesus has authority on earth to forgive sins (Mt. 9:6)! Jesus has the ultimate authority – the authority to lay down His life and to take it up again by rising from the dead (Jn. 10:18)! All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Jesus (Mt. 28:18); therefore, His disciples go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that He has commanded you.

God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ have also sent the Holy Spirit to us, in order that the Spirit of truth may lead us into all truth. Yet the Holy Spirit “does not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.” (Jn. 16:13) The Holy Spirit leads us into the knowledge of Jesus Christ that comes by faith. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are working together for our good!

Jesus’ authority does not come by flexing earthly muscles or by demonstrating supernatural power. Jesus’ authority is shown through His obedient suffering and death (Phil. 2:8). Jesus prayed to His Father “your will be done” in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mt. 26:42), even as He bids us pray to our Father “your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (6:10)

What a beautiful message of Good News: Jesus Christ uses all of His authority, on heaven and on earth, to humble Himself unto death to save us from our sins! “By what authority are you doing these things?” By His own authority, being God Himself, and by the authority of His Father, who sent Him, Jesus Christ seeks and saves those who are lost. Those who pretend that they aren’t lost are destroying the free gift of salvation that has already been purchased by Jesus’ sacrifice. However, those who regret their sins, repent, and change their minds in repentant faith, are born again by the water and the Word that connects us with Jesus’ death and resurrection (Rm. 6:3-4)!

The Holy Spirit has authority to regenerate us daily by repentance and renewal that God works through Baptism. Not by our own sincerity or efforts, but by repentant faith, we cry out: “Here I am! Send me!” (Is. 6:8) Send me into the vineyard of God’s Kingdom! Send me to school, where I will learn and study with diligence and be a faithful witness to my Savior, Jesus! Send me to work, where I do the things I am given to do and thereby glorify my Father who is in heaven (Mt. 5:16)! Send me home, where I am set free to obey my parents and to lovingly teach my children in the way they should go! Send me to the Divine Service, where God has given His pastors authority to forgive sins (Jn. 20:23), to preach the Word of salvation (2 Tim. 4:2), and to feed God’s people with the true Body and Blood of Jesus (1 Cor. 11:25)! And finally, when my last hour comes, send me to be with the one true God in His Kingdom, which has no end. Amen.  

Luther Memorial Chapel & University Student Center | 3833 N Maryland Ave | Shorewood, WI  53211
(414) 332-5732 |lmcusc@lmcusc.org

Divine Service: Sundays - 9:00a Mondays - 7:00p Bible Study & Sunday School: Sundays - 10:45a