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Who Do You Think You Are?

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Introduction

I want you to imagine the scene with me. On Sunday, Jesus came into town with a bang. He’s from Galilee, and so He joined all of the other pilgrims from Galilee as they made their journey to Jerusalem for the Passover. Riding in on a donkey, it was impossible to miss the fulfillment of Zechariah’s Messianic prophecy as the crowd of Galileans all shouted, “Hosanna! Hosanna! Glory to God in the highest!” Jesus’ entrance came with such pomp and circumstance that it shook the entire city to its very core. Who was this man that they called the Prophet from Galilee? There’s a nervous energy about the city as everyone goes to bed that Sunday night.
Monday morning won’t do much to calm the nerves. Weary and hungry from the travels, Jesus approaches a fig tree already covered in leaves only to find it without fruit. Jesus curses the tree, foreshadowing the hard day ahead at the Temple. When He arrives at the Temple, Jesus is filled with righteous indignation as He sees what a ‘Den of Robbers’ it has become. Everywhere he looks, he sees money-changers and merchants, selling goods in the temple at exaggerated prices. They were using his Father’s house to extort God’s people and to prevent worship, and so, Jesus flips tables and opens cages and scatters coins. Jesus begins healing people, and children again begin shouting, “Hosanna! Hosanna!” And, hearing this, the leaders of the temple are filled with a murderous anger. So, there’s been a confrontation brewing. There’s been a conflict coming. “Who in the world does this out-of-towner think He is?” Turn with me to .

God’s Word

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Jesus Doesn’t Lay Low

“as he was teaching” Now, you might think after causing such an uproar on Sunday and Monday that by Tuesday Jesus would be ready to lay low for a little while. But, nothing could be further from the truth. Because where do we find Jesus on Tuesday? Not taking a personal day. Not on a prayer retreat. Not sleeping in at the Holiday Inn Express. Jesus is right back at the scene, where He’d just flipped the tables, where He’d just opened all the cages, where He’d just cursed the hypocrites, and He’s there, not wearing a fake nose and glasses, but teaching publicly. Jesus isn’t laying low; He’s pressing on. It’s clear once again that the time of provocation has come. Jesus knows of the murderous anger in the hearts of the Temple’s leaders, and yet He will press on nonetheless. He knows they desire nothing more than to conspire against him; yet, He will not back down. Jesus already knows that He will not survive the week.

Jesus is Courageous

Brothers and sisters, do you see that Jesus is courageous? He doesn’t eek his way to the cross. It doesn’t sneak up on him. He provokes it by his own valor and courage. As a man, can you imagine how it must’ve felt to go to a place where you know they want to murder you to teach publicly the very message for which they want to kill you. Can you imagine being a Christian and going to Kim Il-Sung Square in North Korea and preaching publicly the Gospel of Jesus Christ knowing that they will be sentenced to a work camp where they will lose their limbs to frostbite and their minds to insanity while lift rocks 15 hours a day until ultimately they die? Brothers and sisters, that’s the picture of our Savior here!
APPLICATION: Jesus’ disciples are called to live by this same courage! How you might say? Through the Spirit of Christ that’s in you! The very same Spirit that took him to the Temple that fateful Tuesday resides in you this very Sunday. Do you really believe that? “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirt of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption by whom you cry, “Abba! Father!” So, brothers and sisters, be courageous! Start a Bible study at work. Stand up for Christ at school when everyone else backs down. Start a new ministry that you don’t understand. Sign up for a mission trip that you can’t afford. Share the gospel with a friend that you know you can’t answer all the questions to. Be courageous as Christ was courageous!

‘Who Do You Think You Are?’

“who gave you this authority?” As Jesus is teaching in the Temple, the confrontation that’s been brewing for some time finally happens. The chief priests and the elders approach Jesus as he’s teaching, which is disrespectful to say the least, and they ask him, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” In other words, they’re asking Jesus, “Who do you think you are?” Just to ask this question is a rejection of Jesus’ authority. They are not asking this question because they are seeking to know whether or not Jesus has authority; they are asking this question in such a way that they believe that Jesus is acting with an authority that He does not have. This is like when a parent shouts to their back-talking child, “Who do you think that you are?” Or, when a supervisor tells his subordinate to ‘Stay in his lane.’ Matthew is drawing this out on purpose because throughout Matthew the authority of Jesus has been a significant theme. In , Jesus teaches with an ‘authority’ that the crowd recognizes is different from the scribes. In , Jesus demonstrates his ‘authority’ to forgive sins by healing a paralyzed man. In , Jesus gives his disciples ‘authority’ over unclean spirits and sends them out. The demons even plead with Jesus not to torment them. So, in Matthew, Jesus’ authority has been made clear and apparent to the reader. And now, just as clear and apparent is how hardened the hearts of the leaders of Jerusalem have gotten as they reject Jesus’ authority as He is teaching and having witnessed him healing the sick.
Just to ask this question is a rejection of Jesus’ authority. They are not asking this question because they are seeking to know whether or not Jesus has authority; they are asking this question in such a way that they believe that Jesus acting with an authority that He does not have.
What’s interesting is that they can only question the Source of Jesus’ authority because they could find nothing morally, biblically wrong with his actual actions. They knew that it was wrong for the Temple complex to be filled with extortionists and money-changers. They knew that it wasn't wrong that He had healed the lame and blind. So, they wanted to pin him for witchcraft!
APPLICATION: What’s interesting is that this is still the same question that the world asks Jesus, isn’t it?Who do you think that you are? Who do you think that you are to say that you are the only way to heaven? Who do you think that you are to say that you are the only way to happiness? Who do you think that you are to demand that someone should live as you demand and for your Name and not their own? Who do you think you are to say what someone should do with their money or their time or their career? You see, the thing about sinners is that sinners rebel against all authority and all rule other than self-rule. We’ve got the sweetest five year old in the world living in our house, and yet she’s constantly rebelling against our authority. We didn’t have to teach her that! At work, you find yourself resenting those that tell you what you must do and holding you accountable to it, don’t you? Would you believe that even in the church people have trouble with those to whom the Lord has delegated authority? One of the most consistent questions that you’ll find on the lips of sinners is: Who do you think you are? Sinners want to be in authority over themselves. So, listen, if you want any hope for yourself, any lasting joy for yourself, any grace for yourself then you’re going to have to get over yourself. You’re going to have surrender your authority to the authority of Christ.

Jesus Returns Serve

“I will ask you one question” Jesus’ response to the lynch mob is brilliant. History tells us that this question was one in which they had put a great deal of thought. They would convene together to try to pin Jesus just right. But, Jesus returns serve, and they are unable to pickup the racket. He answers in a way that was actually common for rabbis to respond by asking another question. Now, it’s important to note that in answering the question with a question, Jesus is not being evasive, and Jesus is not being shady. In fact, Jesus' question is so brilliant that he will with a single question reveal both his authority and their hypocrisy.
“The baptism of John, from where did come?” So, Jesus asks them about John the Baptist. R.C. Sproul points out something that was actually surprising to me. At this time, it’s actually quite likely that, especially in Jerusalem, John the Baptist was still more popular and more widely known than Jesus was. He was widely accepted as a prophet of God, and God’s people had waited more than 400 years to hear from one of his Prophets. But, with this question, Jesus has them pinned. This is checkmate. First of all, as we can see clearly from their response, though the crowd affirmed John, they did not. But, secondly, if they do affirm John’s authority as being from God, which is what practically everyone else believes, then they will have to affirm Jesus’ authority as being from God. Why? Because that’s what John believed! When seeing Jesus, John the Baptist proclaimed: “Behold the Lamb of God!” So, if John is speaking as the Prophet of God with the word of God, and He says that Jesus is the Son of God who will baptize with the Spirit and fire and who is far greater than he is, you’ve got to affirm him. You’ve got to take that Jesus has the authority of heaven as the true Messiah.

Pretending to Want God

“he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him’” So, they convene a meeting to answer what is really a straightforward question. And, they know that they’ve been pinned because they cannot answer the question honestly. But, you see, John served not only to answer the question about Jesus’ authority but to also further point out the hypocrisy of the men from the Temple. These men painted themselves as men of God, as men who wanted to please God and honor God and glorify God. But, God sent them John the Baptist to them just as He had promised, and even though they had his word and even though they had his promises, they rejected God’s prophet. Then, God sent to them his Son, just as He had promised. And, even though they had thousands of years of promises and prophecies, and even though they were to be anticipating his arrival, there He was teaching in the Temple, his Father’s house, the very place where the presence of God was to be, and Immanuel, God with us, is rejected!
You see, these men were hypocrites! They said that they wanted God and wanted to please God and wanted to worship God, but they rejected God’s prophet and God’s Son. Their religion didn't bring them closer, but further. Their Bible study didn't bring them closer, but further. Their church attendance didn't bring them closer, but further. The very Son of God was right in their midst and they did not become aware of their hypocrisy only more convinced of their own self-righteousness!

Vaccinated, but Not Infected

Cultural Christianity has had this effect on many jovial, likable, hospitable southerners. We live in a place in which you can be so close to God and yet so far away from him at the very same time. We are so much like the men of the Temple. We paint ourselves as people who want God and love God and seek God, but our hearts are often far from him. We lament that prayers isn’t in school and the debauchery of our government and share Bible verses on our social media pages, but I don’t find that we actually want very much of God. We pretend to want him. As much as we lament the condition of our government and our schools, our churches are still half empty. As much as we share Bible verses, we still read them hardly at all. We say that we want prayer in schools, but we don’t have prayer in our homes. Oh the hypocrisy!
Last year, I had the opportunity to preach at a conference with Scott Dawson. I heard say this about cultural Christianity in the south. You know, when you go to get a flu shot, what do they give you? They actually give you the flu, don’t they? They give you just enough so that you’re body can develop an immunity to it and so that you can fight it off if a stronger case comes. And, here’s what he said about cultural Christianity: We've got just enough of the gospel to be vaccinated but not infected. We’ve got enough to answer a few questions. We’ve got enough to get people to leave us alone, but not enough so that our hearts and our lives and our wants and our desires any different.
APPLICATION: Do you want God, or are you just pretending? Have you been vaccinated or infected?

Relative Treason

“We do not know” So, they have this great meeting of the minds. They play out all of the possible scenarios. You can imagine this as all of the PR spin doctors are trying to work their magic until finally they have crafted the perfect Pharisee corporate statement: "We don't know."
Contrast how cowardly this is with Jesus. Jesus flips tables and curses the Temple. Jesus knows that the chief priests are filled with murderous anger toward him. Jesus goes back to the Temple and teaches anyway. The chief priests and elders confront Jesus with murderous anger and intentions. Ask Jesus a question intended to entrap him. Jesus responds to a question, which causes them to fear for their lives. They cower down, and shout "We don't know!" In fact, they will arrest Jesus under the cover of darkness, and Jesus will point out their cowardice by referring to this very incident, saying, "You come now? Wasn't I teaching in the Temple every day?" Jesus stands, and will die, courageously for the truth. The Temple leaders find the best solution that is relative to their circumstance.
Contrast how cowardly this is with Jesus. Jesus flips tables and curses the Temple. Jesus knows that the chief priests are filled with murderous anger toward him. Jesus goes back to the Temple and teaches anyway. The chief priests and elders confront Jesus with murderous anger and intentions. Ask Jesus a question intended to entrap him. Jesus responds to a question, which causes them to fear for their lives. They cower down, and shout "We don't know!" In fact, they will arrest Jesus under the cover of darkness, and Jesus will point out their cowardice by referring to this very incident, saying, "You come now? Wasn't I teaching in the Temple every day?" Jesus stands, and will die, courageously for the truth. The Temple leaders find the best solution that is relative to their circumstance.
Contrast how cowardly this is with how courageous Jesus is. Jesus flips tables and curses the Temple. Jesus knows that the chief priests are filled with murderous anger toward him. Jesus goes back to the Temple and teaches anyway. The chief priests and elders confront Jesus with murderous anger and intentions. Ask Jesus a question intended to entrap him. Jesus responds to a question, which causes them to fear for their lives. They cower down, and shout "We don't know!" In fact, they will arrest Jesus under the cover of darkness, and Jesus will point out their cowardice by referring to this very incident, saying, "You come now? Wasn't I teaching in the Temple every day?" Jesus stands, and will die, courageously for the truth.
For the Temple leaders, truth is relative. The Temple leaders find the best solution that is relative to their circumstance. Their truth can change as their circumstances do. Their truth can change as their world does. Their truth can change as their world does. they can answer, “We do not know” today and “from earth” tomorrow”, whichever is most advantageous to them. Doesn’t that sound familiar? We live in an age of relative truth. Where your truth and my truth may be different, and even opposing, and still both be considered truth. What’s truth to you is good for you, and what’s truth for me is good for me; so, don’t try tell me what truth is. I’ll decide for myself. But, as D.A. Carson says, “Relative truth is treason against God.” For it supposes that there is no absolute truth and no absolute Source of truth.

A Courageous Church in a Relative World

APPLICATION: And, what you’ll find is that wherever there is relative truth there is both cowardice and hopelessness. Cowardice because I can’t stand firmly, and hopelessness because I can’t know for sure. I’m just blown to and fro. But, brothers and sisters, wherever there is absolute truth, wherever there is authoritative truth there is courage and joy. There is truth worth dying for, and truth that is secure. This relative world is desperate for a courageous Church. In in the unwavering truth of Jesus Christ, we find the authority to be that Church. Stand up, Church. Stand up in courage. Stand up in joy. Stand up in power. Stand up in Christ’s heavenly authority.
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