During my devotional time this morning, I was reading in the Gospel of Luke — in particular, chapter 20. The section heading in the ESV (English Standard Version) for Luke 20:1-8 reads: "The Authority of Jesus Challenged." The passage in question is during his confrontation with the Scribes and Pharisees during Passion Week. Jesus had just cleansed the temple by chasing out the money changers, and the chief priests came up to him and said, "Tell us by what authority you do these things, or who it is that gave you this authority."

As I was reading this, it really struck me how often we all (myself included) challenge Jesus' authority by essentially saying (in our hearts) the same thing — "Tell me, Jesus, by what authority do you command me to do such-and-such?" It is the rebel sinner in all of us that rails against the authority of Jesus Christ.

Before he ascended, Jesus told his disciples, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to him" (Matthew 28:18). This led Dutch Reformed theologian and statesman, Abraham Kuyper, to say, "There is not one square inch of the entire creation about which Jesus Christ does not cry out, 'This is mine! This belongs to me!'" Jesus has all authority, and this authority has been given to him by his Father in heaven. Yet, like the wicked rebels that we are, we cry out "We do not want this man to reign over us!" (Luke 19:14).

Our rebellious hearts cause us to question and challenge him to whom has been given all authority in heaven and on earth. We dare, in our audacity, to demand that Jesus 'present his credentials.' We want to stand in judgment over his authority and his command. We do this every time we question the truthfulness and authority of God's word to speak into our lives. What's even more alarming is that Christians, who purportedly acknowledge the absolute authority of Jesus, acquiesce to the demands of the rebellious sinner and apologetically (as in sheepishly and ashamedly) defend the claims of Christianity. We attempt to meet the demands of proof from the rebel sinner instead of demanding that the rebel sinner submit himself to the authority of the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords!

I love how Jesus responds the blatant rebellion in the question of the chief priests. He doesn't acquiesce to their demands for him to produce his credentials. Instead he turns the tables on them: "I will also ask you a question." He then proceeds to ask them about the baptism of John — was it from God or from man. When they calculatedly refuse to answer, Jesus refuses to answer their question.

Lest you think this is some petulant display of "Since you won't answer my question, I won't answer your question. Nyah, nyah!" Jesus was doing more than simply trying to avoid their question. I believe the reference to John is vitally important. Who was John the Baptist? John was the forerunner for Messiah. He was the royal herald announcing the coming of the king! The chief priests failure to acknowledge John as a divine herald and prophet from God, is also a failure to acknowledge the one to whom John pointed.

In other words, the chief priests didn't need to ask Jesus regarding the source of his authority. Like all rebel sinners, they knew the source of his authority before even asking the question. Their problem was that their sinning, rebel hearts refused to acknowledge what was plain to them. Recall what Jesus said to the disciples of John when they came asking if he was the Messiah? Jesus said, "Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have the good news preached to them" (Luke 7:22). In other words, his actions clearly proclaimed that he was the Messiah, the King. The Scribes and Chief Priests never refuted his signs, they simply attributed them to the power of Satan.

That's what the rebel, sinning, heart does! When presented with the truth of who God is and what God requires, the rebel sinner denies and rationalizes — in the words of Paul, he suppresses the truth in unrighteousness.

Jesus follows this encounter with the Parable of the Wicked Tenants (Luke 20:9-18), which depicts a man who lent out his vineyard to some wicked tenants. When it came time for the lord to collect the produce from the tenants, they refused. The landlord sent servant after servant to collect what was rightfully his, but the tenants continued beating the servants and sending them off empty handed. Finally, the lord sent his son, whom the tenants ended up killing.

The Gospel is a command to repent and believe the good news! God has done something amazing in the world — he sent his only Son into the world to take on the penalty of sin that we deserve. If we submit to God's command to repent and believe the gospel, we are promised the blessing of eternal life in Christ. However, the same gospel that promises eternal life to those who believe also promises judgment to those who remain in their rebelliousness.

The end of the parable has the lord sending his soldiers down to destroy the wicked tenants.The King demands we submit to his authority and he will not long be patient!

Soli Deo Gloria!

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