In Matthew 21 Jesus makes His way back to the Temple during the Passover celebration. He begins to teach, and is interrupted by the Chief Priest and Elders who ask Him a “loaded question.”
Have you ever been asked a “loaded-question?” The person asking is not interested in your answer. In fact, they have a good idea what your answer is and are ready to attack your response. They ask Him one question in two parts, “by what authority are you doing these things and who gave you that authority.”
If Jesus answers my authority is divine, they will charge Him with blasphemy and turn the crowds against Him. If Jesus answers His authority is from man, they would unequivocally dismiss Him since they did not grant Him authority.
Either way, they win… So they think.
Jesus responds with a question of His own. This is not an attempt to evade their question, this was a common form of communicating in Jesus’ day, and still to this day in Israel among Rabbi’s.
There is a saying in Israel today that goes, “there is no learning without arguing.”
Authority is an issue Jesus understood. Let’s unpack five key principals from Jesus’ life regarding authority.
#1 Before you can have authority, you must be under authority.
In Matthew 8 Jesus encounters a Centurion who asks Jesus to heal his servant. This man says to Jesus, “I am a man under authority with soldiers under me if I say go, they go or come, and they come. Just give the word, and my servant will be healed.”
The art of managing well comes from first being managed. If you are not willing to serve, you are not qualified to lead.
A leader who is not under authority places himself above accountability.
#2 Those in authority must surrender their will.
In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus wrestles with God in prayer. He is feeling the weight of His responsibility. He asks if this outcome can be avoided, but quickly surrenders His will/desire to fulfill the will of God.
If we are going to live successfully, we must live under authority.
#3 You possess only the authority God makes available to you.
“So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.” John 5:19
The scope of God’s authority comes from what we see Jesus saying or doing. This is one reason why we spend time praying and reading God’s word. As a Christian, we don’t have the authority to do whatever we want but what God wants.
#4 God’s authority is for building God’s kingdom not yours.
18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” Matthew 28:18-19
There is nothing in Matthew 28 where Jesus transfers His authority to the disciples. Jesus has all authority and commissions us to make disciples. We have His backing, His support, and His authorization to make disciples.
When Nehemiah returns to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, the king gives him a letter sealed with his signature, granting him protection and every resource He needs to complete the mission. Likewise, we have God’s authority to fulfill the mission.
#5 There is no authority that supersedes His.
As Pilate contemplates what to do with Jesus, he tells Jesus that it’s in his power to spare His life or to sentence Him to death. Jesus replies,
“You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above.” John 19:11
All authority does not eliminate free-will and it does not nullify God’s sovereignty. God can redeem every God opposing-decision towards His will.
Knowing God has all-authority, in Heaven and on Earth, gives us hope and confidence to live by faith. We have hope and confidence in sharing our faith and making disciples.