Who Gave You the Right? (Mark 11:27-33)
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Who Gave You the Right?
The unquestioned, unchallenged, ultimate authority of Jesus Christ,
from Mark 11:27 to 33
I love the true story about the battleship on night maneuvers. Shortly after dark, the lookout on the wing reported, “Light, bearing on the starboard bow.” The captain called out, “Is it steady or moving astern?” The lookout replied, “Steady, Captain,” which meant they were on a dangerous collision course with that ship.
The captain then called to the signalman, “Signal that ship: ‘We’re on a collision course, advise you change course 20 degrees.’“ Back came the signal, “Advisable for you to change course 20 degrees.” The captain said, “Send: “I’m a captain, change course 20 degrees.’“ The reply, “I’m a seaman second-class, you’d better change course 20 degrees.”
By that time the captain was furious. He spat out, “Send: ‘I’m a battleship. Change course 20 degrees.’” Back came the flashing light, “I’m a lighthouse.” The battleship changed course.
Maybe you’re a battleship in this life–a big deal, in charge, commanding others, responsible for a huge undertaking. But friends, Jesus Christ is the lighthouse–unmovable, in total control, and the ultimate authority over every one and every thing. Read these verses with me, and affirm Christ’s authority.
Philippians 2:10 and 11, “At the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Every knee will bow.
Daniel 4:34 and 35, “I, Nebuchadnezzar, …blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever; … 35 All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, but He does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth; and no one can ward off His hand or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’”
Psalm 115:3, “But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases.”
Matthew 28:18b, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.”
Jesus Christ is in charge! Jesus Christ is the authority. Authority means He has the power and right to give commands, enforce obedience, take action, or make final decisions. He is the Person, in the place and position of all power.
Today as we conclude Mark 11, Mark, the gospel writer, describes the confrontation between the religious leaders and our Lord. They must have met the night of the temple cleansing, so now these religious hypocrites are trying to trick Jesus into saying anything that will allow the leaders to kill Him. Plus this confrontation sets the stage for the final individual attacks of Mark 12.
So open your Bibles to the end of Mark 11, grab your outline, and stand with me in honor of the Word of God as we read together this powerful passage on authority. Notice the word “authority” here, and read aloud starting in verse 27.
“They came again to Jerusalem. And as He was walking in the temple, the chief priests and the scribes and the elders came to Him, 28 and began saying to Him, ‘By what authority are You doing these things, or who gave You this authority to do these things?’ 29 And Jesus said to them, ‘I will ask you one question, and you answer Me, and then I will tell you by what authority I do these things. 30 Was the baptism of John from heaven, or from men? Answer Me.’ 31 They began reasoning among themselves, saying, ‘If we say, “From heaven,” He will say, “Then why did you not believe him?” 32 But shall we say, “From men”?’—they were afraid of the people, for everyone considered John to have been a real prophet. 33 Answering Jesus, they said, ‘We do not know.’ And Jesus said to them, ‘Nor will I tell you by what authority I do these things.’” Remain standing for a moment, then we’ll pray.
There is no question, this passage is about authority. The actual Greek word exousia (x-oo-see-ya) is used four times in these verses, and it means the rightful, unimpeded power to act–the right to control. Mark has already shown us Christ’s authority over nature, over sin, over sickness, over evil–even over death. People have marveled over His authority when teaching—“I say to you”, not Rabbi Yakavev says.
So let’s go to silent prayer, and ask the Lord what area of your life you are not submitting to His authority? Where are you still fighting Him for control? You can’t win that fight! And what issue are you seeking to control? What worry is not surrendered? What action is not submitted? What attitude is not spirit-filled? What talk is not sanctified under His authority? Take a minute of silent prayer, then let me conclude. Be seated.
You all remember what is happening in Mark 11? On Monday Jesus entered Jerusalem, and was hailed as the Messiah. But Christ did not overthrow the Romans, so everyone just went home and the empty entry fizzled.
The Lord came back Tuesday, cursed a tree symbolizing Israel, then cleansed the Temple demonstrating the corruption of their faith and proving the emptiness of their religion. The Lord was angry, He overturned tables, stopped merchants from making the Temple a shortcut to the marketplace, and Jesus verbally condemned them for turning this place of prayer, where broken hearts could seek the Lord, into a swap meet circus.
Well it’s now Wednesday, and after the popular turnout and shouting of praise to Jesus at His entry on Monday, combined with the massive attack against the Temple on Tuesday, the religious leaders are mad. They want to kill! Add to that, Jesus taught without the leaders’ approval, and acted without their permission–and they hated Him for it. They’re going to try to entrap Christ into saying something that will cause the crowd to turn against Him, so they can kill Him. They start with . . .
#1 The Capturing CONFRONTATION Verses 27 to 28
“They came again to Jerusalem. And as He was walking in the temple, the chief priests and the scribes and the elders came to Him, 28 and began saying to Him, ‘By what authority are You doing these things, or who gave You this authority to do these things?’” On mission headed to the cross, now on Wednesday, after cleaning out the Temple the day before, do you see the courage of Christ as He now returns to Jerusalem and walks into the Temple? Wow!
And do you see the three groups coming to attack Christ? Those are the three groups that make up the Sanhedrin–that’s the highest religious authority, the ruling party, their supreme court, 71 members, and a delegation comes. Those are the same three groups who will break up into individual teams to attack Christ in three separate ways in chapter 12.
Luke’s parallel account says, “They came,” but Luke uses a different word–he uses a Greek term which can mean to attack. These leaders came to attack Him–they came after Christ. Again, may I give you a hint? That is not a good idea. When you come after Christ, you’re going to lost–no contest. It’s like a little June bug versus a giant boot–no challenge. There is going to be a judgment, and Christ is the judge.
Speaking of Christ, Acts 10:42 says, “This is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead.” There’ll be no legal tricks, nor a manipulative lawyer to save you. If you’re not a part of His true loyal family, then you’ll lose forever. Use His name as a swear word now, ignore your parents’ faith, disobey the Word, even justify it by going to a church which doesn’t teach nor follow God’s Word, you will still have to answer to Christ.
The religious leaders are going to try to attack Christ. They couldn’t help themselves. So verse 28, “and began saying to Him, ‘By what authority are You doing these things, or who gave You this authority to do these things?’” You can’t just do what you want! You don’t have the right! Who do You think You are? What are Your credentials? Show me Your passport, hand me Your papers, what seminary did You attend? Where did You get the authority to do this? You can’t just walk into the temple and tear it up.
But they ask these questions with evil motives. They know what Jesus is going to say. When they ask, “Where is Your authority?” they know how He’d answer. “My authority comes from God.” They know that. They know He’s claimed His authority is from God. They even know Jesus has claimed to be God in their presence. He made Himself equal with God, and they knew that.
What they want is for Jesus to say it again publicly. They want the Lord to say, “My authority comes from God,” so that the leaders can publicly condemn Him as a blasphemer. They don’t want the true Gospel of divine accomplishment to be preached in the temple–only their heresy of human achievement. They don’t want God’s Word taught in the temple. They don’t want their religious system dismantled by Christ. He is too popular and too influential now, so it’s crucial to get Jesus condemned, then dead.
The truth is, Jesus isn’t the blasphemer–they are the blasphemers. In Luke 22:65, the ones holding Jesus prisoner were mocking Him, blindfolding Him, hitting Him, beating Him, and verse 65 says, “And they were saying many other things against Him, blaspheming.” The blasphemers were the people against Jesus, not Jesus.
They ask, where does Your approval for Your actions come from? Your teaching against this Temple and Your actions against this Temple? They didn’t expect Him to give them His rabbinical credentials–they knew He didn’t have those. They knew He hadn’t gone to any school, or gone through any ordination process. They want Him to say, “My authority comes directly from God,” so that they could then spin that comment as the final straw in His blasphemy. But our Lord is too wise for that. So Jesus deals with the confrontation with a counter comeback.
#2 The Cunning COMEBACK Verse 29 to 30
“And Jesus said to them, ‘I will ask you one question, and you answer Me, and then I will tell you by what authority I do these things. 30 Was the baptism of John from heaven, or from men? Answer Me.’” What is going on here? Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one question”–that was a typical rabbinical way to teach, to answer your question with a question. I will ask you one question and you answer Me, and then I will tell you by what authority I do these things.
That’s an honest response, not a contrived one. Jesus gives them a sincere offer—“I will ask you one question. If you answer this one question I ask you, I’ll answer the one question you’ve asked Me. Here’s My question”, verse 30, “Was the baptism of John from heaven, or from men? Answer Me.” You’ve all been there before–and Jesus now puts them there.
“Chris, where has Christ placed these religious leaders?” Simply, between a rock and a hard place. He didn’t resent their question. He knew their phony intentions. And His double command to answer Me is a firm challenge. Sadly, these men didn’t want the truth or reality. They don’t see their sin or their desperate need to repent, or their crucial need to depend on Christ and ask Him for mercy. They just want to kill Christ. They want to stop Him from messing up their moneymaking, humanly-designed, external, control the populous religious system.
But why is Jesus bringing up the baptism of John–John who? John the Baptist. Mr. the Baptist was a great man. John the Baptist was the forerunner of the Messiah, the greatest prophet who ever lived up until his time. He was chosen by God, filled with the Holy Spirit from the womb, the one who was conceived miraculously by Elizabeth and Zacharias because of the miraculous plan of God.
It was John the Baptist who was in the wilderness preaching repentance, and preparing the Jewish people for the coming of Messiah. And then one day, the Messiah showed up in the wilderness and John said of Jesus, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” By asking a question about the baptism of John, Jesus is encompassing John’s entire ministry. He was preaching repentance, preaching preparation for the Messiah, preaching Christ as the Messiah, and he was baptizing with a baptism of repentance.
So all the people who desired to be prepared for the coming of the Messiah in their hearts would participate in that outward symbol of inward heart preparation, by letting John baptize them in the Jordan River. His ministry was to prepare people for the arrival of the Messiah. So what Jesus is talking about here is all of John’s ministry–his preaching, his teaching, his calling of the people to preparedness, repentance, and most importantly his declaration of Jesus as the Messiah. Just like John said in John 3:30, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” Jesus must increase and I, John, must decrease–I must fade away.
So our Lord is pointedly asking the religious leader guys this–was that prophetic ministry of John the Baptist, was it from Heaven or from men? There are only two choices–it was either from men or from God, from earth or from Heaven. “Answer Me.” (That’s a command–answer me.) Now that’s an in your face challenge. Our Lord is stunningly brilliant.
They’re really on the hot seat. If they say the ministry of John is from God, then they have to admit Jesus is the Messiah, because that’s what John said. If they say the ministry of John is not from God it’s from men, then they’ve got a problem–because all the people embraced John as a real prophet from God. You see it’s a package deal–you can’t take John without Jesus. And you can’t throw away Jesus without throwing away John.
In Luke 7:28 to 30 Jesus says, “I say to you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John; …29 When all the people and the tax collectors heard this, they acknowledged God’s justice [God’s righteousness], having been baptized with the baptism of John. 30 But the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected God’s purpose for themselves, not having been baptized by John.”
These hypocritical leaders didn’t want anything to do with John, and they didn’t want anything to do with Jesus. The people embraced John as a true prophet, and they were willing to embrace Jesus as the Messiah, at least on Tuesday. The leaders wanted nothing to do with Jesus, and they certainly wanted nothing to do with John, who said Jesus is the Messiah. They have a big problem. And Jesus nails them when He commands them, “Answer Me.” They had to have a meeting, resulting in . . .
#3 The corrupt COMPROMISE Verses 31 to 33a
“They began reasoning among themselves, saying, ‘If we say, “From heaven,” He will say, “Then why did you not believe him?” 32 But shall we say, “From men”?’—they were afraid of the people, for everyone considered John to have been a real prophet. 33 Answering Jesus, they said, ‘We do not know.’”
Verse 31, “They began reasoning,” the Greek word dialogizomai–they began dialoging among themselves, debating too. Can you hear them whispering in their deliberations? Can you see the furrowed brows of concern on their faces? Unlike us, they are not concerned about what is true or false–what they are most concerned about is what is safe or unsafe.
They want Christ to lose favor in the eyes of the people, but they themselves do not want to lose favor in people’s minds. It was well known that the Sanhedrin had sent a committee to check out John the Baptist. They didn’t support John’s witness, but the leaders’ indifference didn’t stop the population from believing the truth that John was sent from God.
So what are the leaders whispering in verse 31? “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say, ‘Then why did you not believe him?’” When John said that I, Jesus, am the Messiah, why didn’t we believe John’s claims about Christ? We can’t say that. We can’t say John is from Heaven or we’re dead, because John said Jesus is the Messiah. We can’t say that.
But verse 32, “But shall we say, ‘From men’?” Then Mark leaves the conversation off, but we can fill in the blank from the other gospels. They were afraid of the people, for everyone considered John to have been a real prophet. How afraid were the religious leaders? Very afraid! Luke 20:6, “But if we say, ‘From men, [get this] all the people will stone us to death, for they are convinced that John was a prophet.’”
If you say John the Baptist is not a prophet of God, you’re a blasphemer. You are blaspheming when you discredit a true prophet of God, and there will be a mob reaction. They will stone us to death, because everyone considered John to have been a true prophet. The Lord’s question is simple and stunning! If you can identify John’s source of authority, then you can identify My source of authority to do these things.
By implication, Jesus says My authority comes from the same source as John’s authority. If you acknowledge John is from Heaven, then you’ll know My teaching and My actions, like cleansing the Temple, is from Heaven–directed, endorsed and empowered by Heaven. It’s from God! But if you deny John was sent from God, then you will also deny that I, Christ, am from God. So is John’s baptism from God, or is John’s ministry of human origin?
In His gospel, from chapter 1 on, Mark powerfully declares John the Baptist as come from God alone. Now you understand the dilemma? What are they going to do? How will the religious leaders answer this one question? The praise of men was everything to them. They lived for the power, prestige, privilege, and all the honors. They wanted the chief seats in the synagogues, the high places in the banquets. They wanted the titles, the respect, and to be recognized in public. But just the opposite would happen to them if they answered.
They’re stuck–if they say John’s ministry is from God, then they have to embrace Jesus, and they cannot do that. If they say it’s from men, they’re liable to get stoned to death, and they can’t let that happen. So with one simple question, Jesus reduced them to the worst possible thing that can happen to anyone with intellectual pride. They were forced to say in verse 32, “We do not know.” That must have stung. That must have come out hard. How did they ever spit that out? “We do not know.”
So much for being the men with all the answers. It was their duty to know about prophets and God’s Word. It was their job to observe ministry, and compare it against God’s Word. It was their role to evaluate. It was their responsibility to research the evidence. With this answer, they are automatically disqualified as judges of spiritual matters about Christ and over Israel. This is a failure to fulfill their role as a part of the Sanhedrin.
They punt on second down–the worst thing a spiritual leader can do. They’ve disqualified themselves from authentic spiritual leadership. When a leader goes silent at a time when he should speak, he is usually covering a desire to be well-liked, desiring the praise of men over the praise of God. But these men had no interest in the truth in dealing with Jesus. They were about external rules–He was about the internal heart. They were about doing what they said–Jesus was about doing what God said. They were about earning salvation by works, and Jesus was about giving salvation by faith.
This is the way of false religion–not necessarily the victims of false religion, but the purveyors of it. Not those who buy in, but those who are selling it. They’re self-indicted. They showed their phony faith. Their hard hearts were put on display. Their hatred for truth and what is just, what is true, and what’s right is now exposed for all to see. They went from . . .
#1 The Capturing CONFRONTATION Verses 27 to 28, to
#2 The Cunning COMEBACK Verses 29 to 30, to
#3 The Corrupt COMPROMISE Verses 31to 33a, leading us finally to
#4 The Correct CONDEMNATION Verse 33b
“And Jesus said to them, ‘Nor will I tell you by what authority I do these things.’” You don’t ever want to be in that position. You never want Jesus to say to you, “I’m through communicating with you.” That’s what this is–Jesus says, “I’m done with you. I’m done. I’ve said all I’m going to say. You’re not entitled to any further information.” He will not cast His pearls before swine. He will not have the truth of God’s Word trampled again.
Their blind dishonesty revealed their hearts. It’s over. The curtain has fallen on them–they’re forever damned. This is Christ’s final day in the Temple–He is done talking. He is done cleansing. He is done with them. Reject the light, and ultimately the light goes out. Scripture warns us about this again and again, doesn’t it? Today is the day. Believe while the light is here, for a time will come when the light is gone.
God said, “My Spirit will not always strive with man” (Genesis 6:3). Then in Luke 13:34 to 35, “’O Jerusalem, Jerusalem… How often I wanted to gather your children together, just as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not have it! 35 Behold, your house is left to you desolate; and I say to you, you will not see Me until the time comes when you say,”Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”’”
I’m done. Wow–you don’t want to hear that! God’s grace does have its limits. There are people who are given over to sin. There are people who’ve rejected the truth, so now, right now in this life they are judged by God and are permanently deceived. They will not respond to the Gospel. We don’t know who they are, but they do exist. Read your New Testament. This is the most tragic situation that could have ever happened, to them, and to you. So don’t presume on the grace of salvation.
“Chris, who is doing that here? Some children who have imperfect but born again parents. Some singles who grew up in the church, were protected by their folks, possibly a little too tightly. These children know the truth, but are walking as close to the world as possible, joining in with as much sin as their conscience allows, using the word “preference” as a license to do whatever they want, pursuing marginal boyfriends, and chasing after the pleasures of sin. Jesus speaks to you directly.
These religious leaders trailed Jesus for three years, for the purpose of killing Him. And in spite of that, the Lord was gracious to them–but grace has run out. It has limits. So now the gavel falls. “I have nothing more to say to you.”
My friends, you don’t want your life to get to that point. If you’ve become comfortable rejecting Jesus Christ—“later, manana”. You won’t ever know when the Lord will just say, “I’m through.” But for some it will happen, and it will be too late. Never forget, my friends . . .
ONE All AUTHENTIC Christians follow Christ as LORD
Christ’s authority surpasses all authorities. You don’t make Christ Lord, He is Lord. He is in charge. And all His children follow Him and seek to obey Him like a Master. If Christ is not Lord in your life, then you are not His. All genuine Christians submit to Christ and His Word. Don’t fall into living like an average believer. An average believer compares Himself to other Christians, other families, and dangerously becomes content with a marginal compromising faith.
Don’t be average–be normal. A normal believer compares his life against God’s Word and realizes there is always more sin to repent of, and more character to develop—always. If Christ is Lord, then you will follow Him as a normal believer. There will be no area in your life where you intentionally reject His Word.
If the Bible says attend church, you attend. If God’s Word says do not be angry, you deal with anger biblically. If the Bible says you serve in the church, you serve. If God says rejoice, give thanks, be filled with the Spirit, you want to obey even when you don’t, because Christ is your Lord. Turn to Christ today. Submit to the Lord of all!
TWO All genuine believers are to be ABSOLUTE with God’s Word
The unique authority to proclaim the truth Christ manifested has been passed down to all of us. Paul writes in Titus 2:15, “These things speak with all authority. And let no one disregard you.” Titus, you’re just an apostolic assistant, a missionary church planter, you’re not an apostle, but you are a believer and you need to speak sound doctrine and speak it with authority.
Christian, your place in the world is to speak authoritatively when you say, “Thus says the Lord.” You are to be dogmatic. You are to be absolute. You don’t have to be a jerk–you can speak truth with grace, but speak the truth with the authority of Christ—thus saith the Lord.
God’s Word is not a suggestion, idea, sharing, a thought for the day. It is God’s authoritative, never wrong, always right Word. And when people say to you, “How can you possibly be dogmatic? You think you’re right about everything. How can you say that?” Say, “God already said it, I’m just quoting God.”
I’m not the authority–I don’t have any authority. My education gives me no authority. My intellectual abilities give me no authority. My friends give me no authority and my position, job or history gives me no authority. The only reason I ever speak with authority is because I speak what has already been revealed from God.
I’m not able to say, “Truly I say unto you,” but I can say, “Truly God says unto you.” I can say that my whole life long, as long as what I say is correct and direct from God’s Word. And that’s true for you as well. Stop floating and start standing. Stop giving ideas and give the truth.
The most important action that can happen in the world is for people to hear the truth. The only place they’re going to hear it is through the instruments in which He has deposited His Spirit and His Word–that’s you and that’s me. Don’t let love or grace make truth bend or break. Lovingly and graciously speak the unbending, unbreakable Word.
THREE Christ’s authority should cause you to TRUST Him
If Christ is truly the authority, He is sovereign, that means whatever you are going through is His design. Psalm 135:6, “Whatever the Lord pleases, He does, in heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps.” What about those bad things that just happened to me?
Oh, you mean like when your brothers wanted to kill you, decided at the last minute to sell you into slavery, so you ended up as a house slave, then got thrown into jail for years because you were falsely accused. Then you were ignored when you had a way out. Only finally you were released. What would you say to your brothers who now come to you for help–to survive, after doing all those bad things to you?
Most of us would say, “I am going to make you pay”—but not Joseph. Genesis 50:20, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.”
What about all those circumstances I don’t understand? Romans 8:28, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” God’s in charge–He saved you, He is sanctifying you, trust Him. He loves you, He is all-wise, and all-powerful. Therefore nothing happens to you that is out of His control—He is the authority.
FOUR All your authority is DELEGATED
His authority surpasses all authorities. With kids, wife, work, school, team–you are not in charge, God is in charge. You are to represent Him and His authority. When you lead, it is to be the way He would lead. I don’t lead FBC, the elders don’t lead FBC, the ministry leaders don’t lead FBC–Christ does, and we are to follow Him. And as we follow Him, you follow us.
At home, men, you are the head, but it is a delegate headship that came from Christ as the true head of all. At work, you are not in charge–Christ is. Make certain you lead the way He’d lead. Make sure you know that your decisions are submissive to Christ. Like James said in 4:14 to 15, “Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. 15 Instead, you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.’”
Make sure your leadership reflects Hs authority, not yours–and you acknowledge that He is ultimately in charge, even as He gives some of you the responsibility to lead.
FIVE Christ’s authority is from God as GOD
The authority of Christ is in fact the authority of God. Celebrate who your Savior is. Worship the God who is in charge. Praise the one who is King of all kings and Lord of all lords. Bow your heads and close your eyes and remember Who Christ is.
He is Advocate, Amen, Atoning Sacrifice for our Sins, Author and Finisher of Our Faith, Author of Eternal Salvation, Author of Life, Beginning, Beloved Son, Blessed Hope, Bread of Life, Bridegroom, Bright and Morning Star, Chief Cornerstone, Chief Shepherd, Chosen of God, Door of the Sheep, Eternal Life, Faithful Witness, Firstborn of All Creation, Firstborn from the Dead, Fullness of the Godhead Bodily, Great Shepherd of the Sheep, Head of the Church, Head of all Principality and Power, Great High Priest, Holy and Righteous One, Holy One of God, Horn of Salvation, I AM, Image of The Invisible God, Immanuel, Judge of the Living and Dead, King of Kings, Lamb that was Slain, Lamb without Blemish, Light of the World, Lion of Judah, Living Bread, Living One, Living Stone, Logos, Lord God, Lord God Omnipotent, Lord of Glory, Lord of Lords, Mediator, Offspring of David, Only Begotten Son, Passover Lamb, Prince of Life, Propitiation for our Sins, Resurrection and Life, Righteous Judge, Ruler of the Kings of the Earth, Son of David, Son of God, Son of Man, Son of the Living God, Spiritual Rock, The First and the Last, The Life, The Truth, The Way, True Light, True Vine, Wisdom of God, and The Word of God.
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