FEBRUARY 14, 2016
MAIN TEXT: MARK 11: 27-33
And 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, and they said to him, “By what authority are you doing these things, or who gave you this authority to do them?” Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one question; answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. Was the baptism of John from heaven or from man? Answer me.” And they discussed it with one another, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But shall we say, ‘From man’?”—they were afraid of the people, for they all held that John really was a prophet. So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”
Jesus has just cleansed and cursed the temple for its corruptions and abuse (Mark 11:12-25). The religious leaders responded by “seeking a way to destroy him” (verse 18). Jesus does not back down from this spiritual confrontation. Instead ,He will place His claims and identity front and center. This is the first of five controversies in the temple. There is an intensity building and the stakes are high. Things are moving to an inevitable climax: the cross.
Today’s text shows the religious leader's problems with Jesus. Of all of the people that should have been open to Jesus, His message, and His claims it should have been them. Their unwillingness to see Him for who He was tripped them up. Their obstacles can be our obstacles – whether we consider ourselves religious leaders or we know that we are far from God. These obstacles must be crossed in order to follow Christ.
Submit to His authority
The confrontation is with the religious leaders that made up the Sanhedrin – the Jewish high court (verse 27). Their power was enormous and they exercised both political and religious authority in Israel. They were super sensitive to anything that could threaten their authority, and Jesus was clearly a threat.
The religious leaders question Jesus regarding His authority, which they clearly reject (verse 28). They are interrogating Him because of His actions in the temple the previous day. They were asking, “Who gave you authority to wreak havoc in our temple?” This was not the first time that Jesus and His authority had come up: His teaching, casting out of demons, and healing were all done with great authority (Mark 1:22; Mark 1:27; Mark 2:10-11).
He does only what God can do – and yet they request proof of His authority. They do not want to know who He is and they have no interest in bringing their lives under His authority. Their goal is to ensnare Him, embarrass Him, and discredit Him. If He claims no authority, perhaps the people will be finished with Him. If He claims divine authority they can charge Him with blasphemy, arrest Him, and start the process for His destruction.
The question of authority is important. We all have a source of authority in our lives- someone or something that guides us and drives us – something that rules. For most of us – like the Sanhedrin – it is ourselves. Often, we are not really interested in surrendering our rule to anyone else.
Jesus is an authority worth submitting to.
Examine the evidence honestly
Jesus gave a counter-question that exposed their hearts and motives (verses 29-30). Jesus is basically saying, “Let’s look at the evidence of the one who paved the way for My coming and with whom I closely aligned Myself; the ministry of John the Baptist.
Like Jesus, John came preaching a message of repentance. And, like Jesus, he bypassed the temple and the official religious authorities. The temple mafia saw Jesus as a hick from the sticks and John a sort of wilderness wacko. The common people however did not see John and Jesus this way. This is what caused the dilemma for the religious leaders (verses 31-32).
They knew that John lacked human credentials but the people saw God’s credentials. Yet in spite of the evidence, the religious leaders rejected him and did nothing when Herod unjustly murdered John (Mark 6:14-29).
Jesus’ question was genius. He is not being evasive.
Mark began this gospel account by citing Malachi 3:1 and Isaiah 40:3 linking the ministries of John and Jesus to prophetic promise. The evidence is there, but the hearts of these men will not embrace it. They try to put out a rational argument against Jesus but it is an emotional reaction rooted in a fear of losing their control, position, and their way of life.
For most people the real problem isn’t evidence. Instead it is our in. It is the idols of our heart that are the issue. If I accept that Jesus is the Son of God and died for my sins and was raised from the dead, then my life will never be the same – and I like my life. This thought causes us to shut our eyes and plug our ears.
Fear God more than fearing men
Our text addresses a huge fear that is common to all people: the fear of man. Proverbs 29:25 says,
“The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.”
Mark lays bare what was at the core of the religious authorities being, “they were afraid of the people” (verse 32). So they cop out, “We do not know” (verse 33). Jesus shuts them down, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.” Although the parable that Jesus will tell next will give them a big hint (Mark 12:1-12).
What was safe for them was more important than what was true and right. “We don’t know” was a lie motivated by fear. They would rather keep their position and live a lie than submit to Christ and walk in the truth.
What is holding you back from submitting your life to Jesus’ authority? Wanting to be the lord of your own life? Is it a refusal to honestly consider His claims? Are you paralyzed by fear of what others will think? How much of these hesitations are just masks to hide your fear of what faith might cost you socially, culturally, relationally, and financially?
Look once more into the face of Jesus. Listen once more to the words He speaks. Watch once again how He loves the unlovely. Ponder once more His claim to be God. Be willing to come to Jesus. The end result will not disappoint you.
Look into the face of Jesus!
APPLY TO LIFE
This week, as you reflect on the message, utilize this section to help you apply what has been taught to your life. Think of friends, co-workers, neighbors, family etc., that you could meet with to have a time of mutual sharing as you open God’s Word together.
This simple acronym (BLESS, B - Bless, L - Listen, E - Eat, S - Speak, S - Sabbath) should help you to frame your life according to the great commandment “love God” (Matthew 22:37) and the expression of that commandment in loving your neighbor (John 13:34). Each time you meet, start by discussing the rhythms of your life according to B.L.E.S.S.
Intentionally bless: Christ-followers, non-believers and those different than you.
Listen to what God is saying to you, through His Word and others.
Share a meal with a Christ-follower and also a non-believer.
Talk to God through prayer and to others about Jesus through witness.
Be intentional about taking time to both rest and recreate.
DISCUSS THE MESSAGE
Why do people naturally question and resist authority? What is the connection to the fall in Genesis 3?
What is the challenge in submitting to Christ’s authority? What are the rewards?
How does the fear of man affect someone who is considering repenting and following Christ? What can cruel people do
How does the fear of man affect a Christian layperson? Christian leaders? What can cruel people do to a leader?