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All Authority in Heaven and on Earth (Mark 11:27-12:17)

Chatswood Baptist Church https://www.chatswoodbaptist.com.au

As a Pastor in this Church my authority to perform this role comes firstly from God and His calling me. God also has given me gifting that is suited to this role, including helping me through six years of Study at Morling College. Then as part of that call, Pastor Philip and Pastor Matt as well as the members of Chatswood Baptist Church voted in favour of having me installed as a Pastor here. This Authority was not created by me, it was given to me. Generally speaking most of us will have authority over someone else at some stage in our lives. That may be as a parent, in a work situation, or a teacher, doctor or in government service. But we are all also under authority. So under whose authority do we live?

Well in today’s passage we see that the question of Jesus’ authority is front and centre.

The People Recognised the True Authority of Jesus

Last week we saw that Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey fulfilling scripture and the people gave him a royal welcome. They spread their cloaks and palm branches and shouted


“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”[b]

10 “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!”

“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

Now the people were pretty clear on who Jesus was and where his authority came from. For they shouted that he came from God and they had Jesus as the Messiah in view.

Then we saw that Jesus not only cursed a fig tree. But that he had the authority to do so. Look at what Peter says the following day in Mark 11:21 “Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.”

Then Jesus cleansed the temple. He turned over the tables of the money changers and “as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’[c]? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’”

Jesus spoke and acted as one with authority and the people were amazed. There were though a group of people who because of his power wanted to kill him. Unlike the people who had welcomed Jesus as the one sent by God, the religious leaders didn’t bow down and worship Jesus. No they began looking for a way to kill him.

We now see this authority questioned. The passage for today breaks quite neatly into three episodes or events which are:

  1. Denying the Authority of Jesus
  2. Consequences for Denying the Authority of Jesus
  3. All True Authority is Gods
Episode 1 – Denying the Authority of Jesus (Mark 11:27-33)

27 “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.”

 Straight away the Sanhedrin, that is the ruling religious leadership of Israel marched up to Jesus in the Temple. Now let’s be clear this wasn’t the usual way that things worked. If it had been your average Israelite coming to temple to pray or sacrifice they wouldn’t have been greeted by the leaders. No there were waiting for Jesus.

28 “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you authority to do this?”

These are really good questions. These are indeed questions that we need to ask of Jesus as well. In fact the Gospel wouldn’t make sense without us understanding the Authority of Jesus. Yet let’s be clear, these religious leaders aren’t interested in knowing the truth. They are only interested in trapping Jesus in his answer. ‘These things’ that the religious leaders ask about are best explained by what had transpired in the temple courts by Jesus cleansing the temple and by his royal arrival in Jerusalem.

Two things about this section. Firstly, they were trying to trap Jesus. They knew that if he would just claim divinity then they can charge him with blasphemy and arrest him.

Secondly, their question showed that they didn’t believe he was God’s son. They denied his authority.

Jesus then poses a question of his own regarding authority.

29 Jesus replied, “I will ask you one question. Answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. 30 John’s baptism—was it from heaven, or of human origin? Tell me!”

31 They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ 32 But if we say, ‘Of human origin’ …” (They feared the people, for everyone held that John really was a prophet.)

33 So they answered Jesus, “We don’t know.”

Jesus said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”

Jesus turns their initial question back on them. For where they tried to trap Jesus, he now out manoeuvres them. Their words show their unbelief. They didn’t believe that John the Baptist was from God (v31). So they therefore don’t believe that Jesus was from God. However, they couldn’t confirm their unbelief as they feared the people.

Notice that in the question Jesus asks, he only gives two possible answers. From heaven or of human origin (v30). Jesus’s words cut to the heart of authority in this question. For there are indeed two types of authority. There is authority that comes from Heaven. That means it is God’s authority. Or there is authority that comes from humans. So the origin of the authority is either from God or it is from not from God.

The fact that neither party has actually answered a question at this stage doesn’t mean that there isn’t much that has been said. It is clear that the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders deny the authority of Jesus. And in so doing deny God’s authority. Jesus now tells a parable that not only sets out his authority, but also the judgement that will be measured out on those that deny the authority of Jesus.

Episode 2 – Consequences for Denying the Authority of Jesus (Mark 12:1-12)

“Jesus then began to speak to them in parables: “A man planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a pit for the winepress and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and moved to another place. At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants to collect from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. But they seized him, beat him and sent him away empty-handed. Then he sent another servant to them; they struck this man on the head and treated him shamefully. He sent still another, and that one they killed. He sent many others; some of them they beat, others they killed.”

“He had one left to send, a son, whom he loved. He sent him last of all, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’

“But the tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ So they took him and killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard.

Now what is on view in this first part of the parable is God and Israel. God is the planter and Israel is the Vineyard as was the case in Isaiah 5:1-7 where it would seem Jesus was alluding to. A key difference though is that where Isaiah 5 was talking about the unfaithfulness of Israel as a nation, Jesus now hones in on the unfaithfulness of the tenants or religious leaders of Israel.

This parable is the story of Israel’s leaders and how throughout Israel’s history they took their authority from themselves and not from God. God is the planter. The Vineyard is Israel. The farmers are the Jewish religious leaders. The servants are God’s prophets that he sent to call the leaders and the people back to him. Culminating with John the Baptist. And finally they kill Jesus also, God’s only begotten Son. So this parable speaks of what has happened, what is about to happen, as well as what will ultimately happen.

In verse 9 Jesus shows that it is only God that has the authority. Israel’s religious leaders might think that they have authority. That they command the best seats in the temple. That people show them respect. But this is fleeting. The real and lasting authority is God’s and God’s alone.

What is the end result. Let’s read vs 9-11.

“What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others.10 Haven’t you read this passage of Scripture:

“‘The stone the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
11 the Lord has done this,
and it is marvellous in our eyes’[

The owner of the vineyard will come to judge. And the ones that have not followed God, those that have ignored or indeed rejected God’s authority will be killed. Another scripture that makes this clear is Matthew 10:33 where Jesus says, “But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.” That is exactly what the religious leaders have done.

Jesus then goes on to quote psalm 118 verses 22 & 23 that talk directly about him. He is actually explaining his authority to the religious leaders from this very scripture. Although they reject him, they crucify Jesus. Jesus is raised from the dead and is the foundation of God’s salvation of his chosen.

 This parable is slightly unusual in that as Walter W. Wessel and Mark Strauss state so well in their commentary. Jesus usually spoke in parables to hide the truth from his adversaries, however in this parable the truth is divulged and then actually adds fuel to their plot against Jesus. Once again though this shows that Jesus has the authority to ensure that God’s plan is enacted at every stage.

Episode 3 – All True Authority is God’s (Mark 12:13-17)

The third episode in this this morning’s reading sees some of the Pharisees and Herodians come and try their luck at getting Jesus to say something on which they can arrest him. Once again they are trying to test his authority. Now the ‘they’ who sent these pharisees and Herodians are no doubt the same chief priests, teachers of the law and elders that came to Jesus personally in the v27 of Chapter 11. Only this time we see two groups of people who would normally not associate together. The Pharisees rejected the roman rule of Jerusalem and in fact any ruler that wasn’t a Davidic ruler, whereas the Herodians as the name indicates were in favour of the Roman backed King Herod rule. It is fair to say that they only came together because both groups saw Jesus as a threat to their religious authority.

There is a slight change of tact in the way the question is asked. It starts with what I would call pumping up Jesus’s tyres. They start with a compliment. In fact some real flattery is on show. Read with me v14 “They came to him and said,

 “Teacher, we know that you are a man of integrity. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are; but you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth.”

Now ironically what the Pharisees and Herodians say is absolutely true. Yet, we know that they don’t believe it because we have those words from the previous verse “to catch him in his words.” Their flattery was purely part of their plan to try and catch Jesus out. For these words of flattery are followed immediately by their well devised question.

“Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not? Should we pay or shouldn’t we?”

Now the question was posed so that by answering, Jesus would have to be on one side of the debate or the other. For there were a group of religious leaders called the Zealots who wanted the people to rebel against the Roman Empire and have it thrown out of Jerusalem. On the other side of the political spectrum were the Herodians who supported Roman rule and taxation. If Jesus choose one of these two options he would either get the Romans offside or the people. So let’s read on.

But Jesus knew their hypocrisy. “Why are you trying to trap me?” he asked. “Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.” They brought the coin, and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?”

“Caesar’s, they replied. Then Jesus said to them, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” And they were amazed at him.

The question of Authority is answered, but needs a little unpacking. In fact we can see that Jesus is stating that both Caesar and God have authority. Yet that is where the similarity ends. For you see Caesar can only rule because God has given him that authority. Caesar is the ruler that God has appointed. Therefore, you give to Caesar what you should rightfully give to him. Pay your taxes. But remember that Caesar is no god. Give to God what is due to him, and to the one that God has appointed. What is due as the civil authority.

We have heard the words of the great commission in Matthew’s Gospel may times. But read with me just verse 18. 28:18 Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me.”

All authority. Not some, not part authority. All Authority. In heaven and earth, means everywhere. This also means that there is no authority without Jesus giving it.

We then read Romans 13:1 where the Apostle Paul says “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The Authorities that exist have been established by God.”

Rulers are only there because God put them there.

But remember Jesus has authority over everyone. Again in John 17 v1,2 we read

After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed:

“Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him.”

This Authority is not for just a time, it is eternal. Daniel 7:14

14 He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.

There are but two choices facing all of us. We either deny that all authority comes from God and the Bible makes clear that this will mean eternity without God. Or we live God’s way. We follow his authority which has been given to his Son, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

So what does accepting the authority of Jesus mean? Well it means accepting that Jesus is Lord over all. That we are by nature sinful and deserving of God’s wrath, but that through God’s grace. His unmerited favour. Jesus died to take away our sins and was raised again to new life so that all who believe in him will be raised on the day that he returns and go and live with Jesus forever. Eternally worshipping the one who has all power, authority and dominion.

Who do you live for. For God or for yourself?

God’s authority is

  1. Total
  2. Eternal
  3. Life Giving
Everything that Jesus had done pointed to his authority

Even the leaders agreed to that. Yet, they would not lay down their own authority and let Jesus be Lord.

So what about you here and at home. Is Jesus Lord of your life. Have you given him his rightful authority over your life. Or to put it another way, have you accepted Jesus as your Lord and let him have rightful authority over your life.

Ultimately there is only one ruler, creator and sustainer. God. Don’t put your trust in fleeting authority. But put your trust in Jesus who has total, eternal and life giving authority.