By What Authority?
By Rev. Dr. Sergio Arevalo, Jr.
September 28, 2014 (16th Sunday after Pentecost)
When Christian Herter was governor of Massachusetts, he was running hard for a second term in office. One day, after a busy morning chasing votes (and no lunch) he arrived at a church barbecue or food fellowship. It was late afternoon and Mr. Herter was famished. As he moved down the serving line, he held out his plate to the woman serving chicken. She put a piece on his plate and turned to the next person in line.
“Excuse me,” Governor Herter said, “do you mind if I have another piece of chicken?”
“Sorry,” the woman told him. “I’m supposed to give one piece of chicken to each person.”
“But I’m starved,” the governor said.
“Sorry,” the woman said again. “Only one to a customer.”
Governor Herter was a modest and unassuming man, but he decided that this time he would throw a little weight around.
“Do you know who I am?” he said. “I am the governor.”
“Do you know who I am?” the woman said. “I’m the lady in charge of the chicken. Move along, mister” (sermonillustrations.com).
That story is about authority. Our passage today talks about authority. It seems people want to exert their own authority in every situation. Sometimes it is good, but sometimes it is bad especially if they just want to satisfy their own interests.
I. The Religious Leaders Ask Jesus on Authority
Matthew 21:23 says, “And when he was come into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came unto him as he was teaching, and said, By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority?”
In human society, authority is very important. Some people do not work or could not work if they have no authority. If you are a medical doctor or nurse, after your studies where did you get your authority? Of course, you need to pass the board, and the government will give you certification and authority to practice your professions. The US president gets his authority from the people after his election, and it is sealed with the prayer and covenant with God. That’s why he pledges with one hand on the Bible.
The religious leaders—the chief priests and the elders of the people (council leaders) asked Jesus who gave him authority to do miracles and preach the gospel!
They asked that simply because their authorities were threaten with Jesus’ authority. Perhaps the elders and priests were arguing, “Who is this man exercising some kind of authority? We are the authorities! We are elected by the people, our tribe had been the priests since the time of our religion.” The authority and interests of the religious leaders were threaten with the coming of Jesus. So they were looking for reasons to pin down Jesus.
Jesus knew that so he answered them with series of questions.
II. The Religious Leaders Get Questions on Authority
Matthew 21:24-26 says, “And Jesus answered and said unto them, I also will ask you one question, which if ye tell me, I likewise will tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John, whence was it? from heaven or from men? And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say unto us, Why then did ye not believe him? But if we shall say, From men; we fear the multitude; for all hold John as a prophet.”
Jesus knew his apologetics. He knew to reason out his faith and authority. He answered them with questions. If they would answered them, either or, they would be in trouble.
The questions on authority of the religious leaders were not to know the truth or to strengthen their faith, but to find fault against Jesus, since they wanted to destroy him.
Matthew 21:27 says, “And they answered Jesus, and said, We know not. He also said unto them, Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things.”
The priests and the council leaders did not get any answer from Jesus since they did not also answer Jesus’ questions.
However, we as Christians now, we know that Jesus’ authority came from God. He was sent by His Father with power (Matthew 28:18).
The good thing here is that Jesus shared his authority to his apostles. Jesus said, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you!” (John 20:21) in other words, “as the Father has sent me with authority, so I send you with authority, too.”
Yes, every spirit-filled Christians must know that they have power and authority coming from the Lord since he send us like the sending of His Father.
In a seminary mission class, Herbert Jackson told how, as a new missionary, he was assigned a car that would not start without a push.
After pondering his problem, he devised a plan. He went to the school near his home, got permission to take some children out of class, and had them push his car off.
As he made his rounds, he would either park on a hill or leave the engine running. He used this ingenious procedure for two years.
Ill health forced the Jackson family to leave, and a new missionary came to that station. When Jackson proudly began to explain his arrangement for getting the car started, the new man began looking under the hood.
Before the explanation was complete, the new missionary interrupted, “Why, Dr. Jackson, I believe the only trouble is this loose cable.” He gave the cable a twist, stepped into the car, pushed the switch, and to Jackson’s astonishment, the engine roared to life.
For two years needless trouble had become routine. The power was there all the time. Only a loose connection kept Jackson from putting that power to work.
J.B. Phillips paraphrases Ephesians l:19-20, “How tremendous is the power available to us who believe in God.” When we make firm our connection with God, his life and power flow through us (sermonillustrations.com).
Indeed, if we are connected with God, the power and authority flow through us, and we become victorious in our life, ministry and service to humanity.