This morning, we start our look this week at Luke 20 v 1 – 47. Much of the events that unfold in this chapter are about submitting to Jesus’ authority. To start our devotions let us look back at an event that happened earlier in Jesus’ ministry recorded in Luke 9 v 18 – 20. Just after Jesus had performed an amazing miracle and fed over five thousand people with five loaves and two fish he was praying with his disciples. He then turned and asked the disciples a question:
“Who do the crowds say I am?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life.”
“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
Peter answered, “God’s Messiah.”
This is the question that was on every one’s lips – who was Jesus? Peter’s answer was a revelation from God and became the rock on which his life and ministry was built but not everyone was so willing to acknowledge Him as “God’s Messiah”. The religious leaders and Chief Priests questioned his authority and challenged that authority.
Luke 20 v 1 – 8
One day as Jesus was teaching the people in the temple courts and proclaiming the good news, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, together with the elders, came up to him. “Tell us by what authority you are doing these things,” they said. “Who gave you this authority?”
He replied, “I will also ask you a question. Tell me: John’s baptism —was it from heaven, or of human origin?”
They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Why didn’t you believe him?’ But if we say, ‘Of human origin,’ all the people will stone us, because they are persuaded that John was a prophet.”
So they answered, “We don’t know where it was from.”
Jesus said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”
The fact is, if you begin to take actions that challenge already established routines, orders, or bastions of authority, the first question that will be asked in nearly every situation is – “who do you think you are?”
In other words, by what authority are you taking these actions? In general, this question signals two things. The first is that the action you have taken is an indicator that you think you have some sort of authority to act in the manner that you have. The second thing is that, by asking that question, someone is generally indicating that they are not convinced that you have the authority that you are taking.
This is what the Chief Priest, Teachers and the Law and Elders were asking Jesus – who do you think you are?
It’s easy to look at Jesus’ actions, especially those he took in the Temple in the previous passage and pass over the importance of them. From our vantage point, complete with a lack of appreciation for the deep cultural, social, and spiritual aspects of the Temple in Jewish life, we can reduce Jesus’ actions in the Temple to a mere angry protest over a little crass commercialisation.
The Jewish religious leaders understood Jesus’ actions, however, to be far more significant and worrisome than that. This was a man who had Messianic claims and fervour swirling all around him and now he was taking action that screamed loud and clear that he believed himself to have the authority to step in and act out a parable of judgment and authority over the Temple. This popularity combined with this perceived assault on their power was rightly discerned by the religious leaders as a dangerous threat to their position and authority. So the obvious question is exactly, in essence, the one that they demand Jesus answer. Who did he think he was?
Interesting that the main reason for their question was, how does this affect us? When we come into contact with authority that is the question we ask, what does this mean to us?
Jesus wants us to surrender all of our lives to Him – he has a claim on our lives. Will we be willing to step off of the throne of our own hearts and allow Him to sit on the throne in our lives.
“Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it”. (Matthew 10 v 39)