They arrived again in Jerusalem, and while Jesus was walking in the temple courts, the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders came to him. “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you authority to do this?”
Jesus replied, “I will ask you one question. Answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. John’s baptism—was it from heaven, or of human origin? Tell me!”
They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ But if we say, ‘Of human origin’ . . . ” (They feared the people, for everyone held that John really was a prophet.) So they answered Jesus, “We don’t know.”
Jesus said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.” Mark 11:27-33
From the beginning, Jesus was different than the other teachers.
The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law. Mark 1:22
A teachers of the law would usually be a follower of a school of thought from a respected teacher of old, like Hillel. So part of what was unusual about Jesus was that he taught as if he were from God, instead of following a tradition of teaching. Consider how Jesus conducted the Sermon on the Mount —
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Matt 5:27
Jesus was directly giving the people new teachings. He completely acted like he had the AUTHORITY to give them new commands. No wonder the teachers of the law were freaking out. No one did that.
Of course, it was much more than teachings. Jesus had just created havoc in the temple, overturning tables and driving out the merchants. The leaders were frothing at the mouth, “The nerve of this guy! Who does he think he is?”
Jesus didn’t just speak as if he had authority. He ACTED as if he had authority. He was bold. He did miracles and signs.
But the main thing I want to focus on isn’t the miracles. It’s his life. Jesus lived a life of IMPACT, perhaps more than anyone before him, or since.
Do not believe me unless I do the works of my Father. But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.” John 10:37-38
The conduct of Jesus was a testimony to his authority. And the people who followed him EXPERIENCED this. They were around him all the time, and they could tell he was from God.
HOW CAN WE APPLY THESE THINGS? It is interesting to note that people today are the same as the teachers of the law were in the days of Jesus. They ask, “What tradition do you follow?” The only difference is that they are asking, “Are you Baptist? Methodist? Evangelical? Reformed? Catholic?”
1: We need to make sure that our authority comes from God, not from our school of religious thought. And that means our authority comes from God’s Word. Yes, we can consider what everyone has to say, the talks, the blogs, the videos, the books, the articles, and so on. But in the end, we need to study the Bible for ourselves and build our convictions from it.
And when we do so, it will be harder, but we’ll be stronger.
It will be harder because some of the stuff in the Bible seems so radical. Gouge out our eye? Turn the other cheek? Tell us we don’t have to do that! We’re like the expert in the law in Luke 10 who says, “I know one of the most important commandments is to love your neighbor as yourself, but who is my neighbor?”
But if we put it into action, we’ll be stronger because we’re not waffling and riding the fence. We’re developing a backbone, becoming men and women of conviction who live by their beliefs.
2: As we build conviction, we need to speak with confidence. We have authority from Christ in this world. Consider these passages —
- We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. II Cor 5:20
- He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant . . . II Cor 3:6
- I myself am convinced, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with knowledge and competent to instruct one another. Romans 15:14
- Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations” . . . Matt. 28:19
(I want to clarify that I’m not saying here that we should come up with new teachings through the Spirit. It is our job to search out and communicate the authentic purposes of the scripture.)
3: Our conduct needs to be a testimony to our authority. We back up our teachings with our lives. Look at how the apostles appeared to people —
When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. Acts 4:13
It’s being with Jesus that makes the difference. When we walk with Jesus through our days, when we meditate on his word, we become different. We develop an inner strength.
I was thinking about this passage when I went to a church conference this past weekend. I started feeling insecure. “I’m aging,” I thought. “Those women still look good, but what will they think of me?” It was so tempting to put my confidence in wearing a sharp outfit or being well groomed.
I had to decide that my confidence would wholly come from Christ in me. He is a real, solid presence to me. He is my motivating force. I could act from a core of strength instead of insecurity because HE IS MY AUTHORITY. My inner joy would be my outfit. My love would be my cosmetics.
Here are some awesome verses that describe this inner power —
- My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power. I Cor 2:4-5
- But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; . . . We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. . . . Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. II Cor 4
CONCLUSION: I want to point out that Jesus never answered the teachers of the law when they asked him about his authority. Maybe he knew it wouldn’t be productive.
In the end, it wasn’t what Jesus said about authority that mattered. It was how he lived. His authority was God, and the proof of this for those who had eyes to see was the way he spoke, and loved, and served, and acted in righteousness.
In the same way, our most productive answer for people may not be a religious discussion. Our testimony is our lives.
The only way people can tell where our authority comes from is by experiencing our lives.
So let us live with strength and power! We have a SOURCE, we draw directly from the source, and that is what makes us who we are. We can have IMPACT.