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By What Authority?

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This past week, one of this generation’s greatest apologist and defenders of the faith, went home to be with the Lord. On Tuesday, May 19, 2020, Ravi Zacharias died of cancer at age 74 in his home.
The man was a great thinker and held over 10 honorary doctorates. He would travel across the globe, and hold events answering tough questions about the Christian faith.
He would often spend time doing Q & A after his events. And Ravi had a way of responding to objections, whether sincere or insincere, with grace and humility. He had away of disarming objections and objectors while at the same time presenting the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In one event, one university student asked,
“How can there be a God when there is so much evil in the world?”
He responded this way,
“When you say there “There is too much evil in the world”, you assume there is a good. When you assume there is a good, you assume there is such thing as a moral law on the basis of which you differentiate between good and evil. But if you assume a moral law, you must posit a moral law giver, but that’s who you are trying to disprove and not prove. Because if there is no a Moral Law Giver, there is no moral law. If there’s no moral law, there’s no good. If there’s no good, there’s no evil. What is your question?”
The student responded,
“What then am I asking you?”
And everyone is the audience burst into laughter.
He disarmed the objection and the objector with a simple question. And Ravi was a great apologist and evangelist because he followed after the example of our Lord in our passage today.
In our passage today, Jesus is confronted on the question of his authority by the religious leaders. They ask Jesus some questions about his authority, Jesus responds with a question about John’s authority, and they both reply.
In this dialogue, we see a refusal to submit to Jesus’ authority. Because of our sin, we are born naturally hostile towards God. As sinners, we don’t like be told what to do.
Especially in our Post-Christian and Post-Modern and Anti-Authority Culture, the final authority often stops with us doesn’t it.
And what was true back then, is true today. People often refuse to submit to Jesus’ authority not because there is not enough evidence to back his authority, but they refuse to submit to him because they refuse to acknowledge authority because of an inward prejudice.
The passage we find ourselves in this morning is Jesus being confronted by the religious leaders, we will look at three reasons why people often refuse to submit to Jesus’ authority.
Why do people refuse to submit to his authority?
Scripture Reading:
Mark 11:27–33 ESV
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.”

I. People refuse to submit Jesus’ authority because of pride (vv. 27-28).

What is authority?
Most of us understand authority in these times. We look to Health Authorities for health guidelines. We look to Local Authorities for reopening guidelines. We look to Federal Authorities for stimulating the economy. We look to Parental authority to discipline and teach children.
Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels
“Authority is the right to effect control over objects, individuals, or events. While human authority may be delegated, God’s authority arises from himself alone....... Power, meanwhile, is the ability to bring about what one desires.”
Authority exousia is used 10x in Mark’s Gospel. God has absolute authority, yet h delegates his authority to his people, those in power.
Mark’s Gospel on Authority in Jesus life in the first 10 chapters don’t we.
Authority to heal.
Authority to forgive.
Authority to control nature (Mk. 4:41).
Authority to raise the dead.
Authority to cast out demons.
Authority to teach (Mk. 1:22)
All throughout Mark’s Gospel, Jesus has demonstrated that his authority came from God through the miracles and his teaching. He was more than just a man, but the Son of God. That is the whole theme of Mark’s Gospel.
Mark 11:27 ESV
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,
That is, Jesus was in the Temple again with his disciples.
It was his third and last public entrance into Jerusalem during Passion week. Hiebert
The NIV Application Commentary: Mark Bridging Contexts

The temple was the central institution of Israel’s religious, political, and economic life. Economically, it dominated more than just the skyline of Jerusalem. It also served as the central bank, the capital building, and Wall Street. For most people living in the city, the temple was their means of employment. Politically, the temple was the power base and source of wealth for the priestly hierarchy, who ruled Judea under the Roman governor. Religiously, the temple marked the separation between the holy and secular, and it became the symbol of God’s abiding favor and presence among the people. The Holy of Holies was regarded as a radioactive core of holiness that could fend off and purify the evil that surrounded Israel

He just overthrew the tables of the money changers and those selling animals in last week’s passage. And in the final week of Jesus’ life, he is in the temple teaching the people.
And notice who comes to him.
The chief priests and the scribes and the elders came to him.
These three groups would comprise the Sanhedrin. This was the religious supreme court. Although the Romans still retained political and legal power, the Romans allowed the Jews to maintain their power on matters pertaining to their own religion.
The Pillar New Testament Commentary: The Gospel according to Mark The Authority of the Son (11:27–33)

The “chief priests, scribes, and elders” were the three groups that comprised the Sanhedrin, although in this instance they represent a delegation from the Sanhedrin rather than the entire council. The Sanhedrin, a buffer organization between Rome and the Jewish nation, was composed of seventy-one members who held near complete freedom in religious matters and restricted power in political matters.

The Sanhedrin composed of 71 elders of Israel’s leading religious officials. These were the PhDs in Scriptures. These were the ones revered by the people.
And here, a 33 year old Rabbi, comes in the Temple, with uneducated disciples, creating a scene by disrupting temple commerce and activities with the days leading up with his confrontation.
William Barclay titled his commentary A Cunning Question and A Piercing Answer.
The Two Questions:
Mark 11:28 ESV
and they said to him, “By what authority are you doing these things, or who gave you this authority to do them?”
By What Authority Do You Do These Things?
In other words, who do you think you are Jesus? Who gave you the right to do these things? What are the things they are referring to?
Well, Jesus coming into Jersualem riding on a donkey fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah.
Jesus causing a scene by overthrowing the money changers and those who sold animals.
They are saying to Jesus, what credentials do you have?
Just imagined if someone from the street had the opportunity to attend the White House Briefing on the CoronaVirus. And they got up on the podium. And I said that I believe its time to reopen the country.
I’m sure I would be people would laugh at the person because they didn’t have credentials like Dr. Fauci or the Vice President. And I would be escorted out by security and taken to a mental institution.
And keep in mind, when Jesus cursed the fig tree, it was representative of what was going to take place to the Temple. Earlier in his ministry, Jesus said that he would destroy the Temple, referring to his own body, yet they religious leaders did not understand him.
2. Who Gave You This Authority?
We do not know what school you belong? We have studied our whole lives and went to the top rabbinic schools and studied with the top rabbis our whole lives.
Who does this guy think He is? Who do you think you are Jesus? You think you are sent by God or something?
The reality of what Jesus is doing is attacking their position and authority. If Jesus was the one who had true authority, then their authority would have been false and they would have been wrong on what they were supposed to know their whole lives.
Religion and Cultural Values are embedded in us. And when someone tells us our upbringing and our religion is false and fruitless, this will arouse some anger. The Pharisees and religious leaders did not want to acknowledge the fact that they were wrong about Jesus.
It is not a lack of evidence that keeps people from Jesus, but often a prejudice that comes against Jesus.
You don’t have to be a god-hating atheist to ignore Jesus. You can also be a religious and devoted person who has never really examined the claims and person of Jesus.
Jesus’ authority came from God, and he validated his authority through his miracles, and the greatest validation of his authority was his sacrifice, resurrection and ascension.
Have you ever considered Jesus sincerely? He will not reveal himself to those who are hardened against him. God whispers in our consciences, but shouts to us in our pain? Have you been listening?
The first and greatest sin is pride. And these people refuse to acknowledge Jesus. Because if they were to acknowledge Jesus, they would have lost respect from the people, they may have lost position from the people, and they may have lost their authority.
They did not want to give up their authority of self-rule.
And that’s true of every unbeliever. When Jesus confronts us, we do not want to be told what to do or give up our right to rule our lives.
This was Satan’s problem. This was Adam’s problem. This was Israel’s problem. And sadly, this is often our problem because we want to continue to live autonomous lives.
“You will not truly confess Jesus as the Christ until you are willing to bow to his authority as your Savior, Lord and teacher.” Ferguson.
Christian—All authority belongs to Jesus. He exercises his authority through His Word. And he delegates his authority to the Church. If you want to submit to His authority, submit to His Word. And your life will show whether you acknowledge authority.
Church-The Church has authority to bind and loose. To affirm true gospel citizens and to exclude false gospel confessors. Let us make sure we are using Jesus’ delegated authority rightly by practicing church membership and church discipline according to the rule of God’s Word.
Parental and Governmental Authority—Our authority is delegated by God. And we loss our authority when we don’t act in line with God’s revealed word.
Christians we should be submissive to authority in light of being submissive to Jesus’ authority.
Transition: There is a second reason why people refuse Jesus’ authority. The first is pride, but the second is a fear of man....

II. People refuse Jesus’ authority because of a fear of man (vv. 29-30)

As a master teacher, Jesus does not want to enter the trap of the pharisees. Instead, he poses a question to show them their own folly.
There is a time and place for evangelism and sharing the gospel. But if people are hardened and don’t want to hear it, then there is a time to walk away. We are not to force the gospel against people’s will. The gospel is for those who will humble themselves to receive it.
Proverbs 14:7–8 ESV
Leave the presence of a fool, for there you do not meet words of knowledge. The wisdom of the prudent is to discern his way, but the folly of fools is deceiving.
Proverbs 18:2 ESV
A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.
Proverbs 23:9 ESV
Do not speak in the hearing of a fool, for he will despise the good sense of your words.
Jesus does not want to play the mind games of the religious leaders, so what does he do? He answers their question with a question. It is really an effective technique. We can often disarm skeptics by simply putting the burden proof back on them as great apologists like Ravi would often do in his university evangelism.
Mark 11:29–30 ESV
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.”
Baptism of John was shorthand to refer to the ministry of John the Baptist. You remember, the whole ministry of John was to baptized people and prepare the way of the Lord. It was a baptism of repentance. It was a baptism that prepared people for the coming kingdom of God and His Messiah.
John 1:29 ESV
The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!
John 3:28–30 ESV
You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease.”
Was John’s ministry from heaven or from man? Answer me! Two times.
From Heaven
John was a popular preacher. All the people knew John.
Mark 1:5 ESV
And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.
The people revered John and believed he was sent from God.
2. From Man
In other words, was John the baptist a fake? If they were going to discredit Jesus, then they would have to discredit John because the whole ministry of John was to point to Jesus. Even John acknowledged that Jesus was the Messiah and the One whom the scriptures predicted.
The Calculated Response
Mark 11:32 ESV
But shall we say, ‘From man’?”—they were afraid of the people, for they all held that John really was a prophet.
They were afraid of the people. They had a fear of man. The other gospels say that they would probably be stoned by the people.
It is like someone trying to say Billy Graham was a fake and conman. Or calling the late Ravi Zacharias a fake. Even secular authorities acknowledge the godliness and integrity of these two men. Did they really want to do that with John?
Pride not only keeps people from Christ, but fear of Man....
Are you afraid to live for Jesus because of what others will think of you? What your family will think of you? What your friends will think of you? Are you afraid to confess Christ?
Proverbs 29:25 ESV
The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.
What are signs you fear man?
You are afraid of what people will think of you.
You change your perspectives or values to fit in with the people you admire.
You cannot take criticism. It devastates you because of what people say.
You are self-defensive.
Ask yourself do you fear man when it comes to following and obeying Jesus?
Christian-don’t respond to fools. Like I said, if people are not willing to be open and they are already prejudiced against Christianity and try to set us up to discredit us, we don’t have to play into their prejudices. “I do acknowledge that, if wicked men lay snares for us, we ought not always to reply in the same way, but ought to be prudently on our guard against their malice, yet in such a manner that truth may not be left without a proper defense.” Calvin
The reason why people don’t come to Jesus because they loved darkness rather than light.
John 3:19–20 ESV
And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.
Transition: People refuse Jesus’ authority because of pride, fear of man, but finally, they refuse Jesus’ authority because they don’t want to be told what to do. In other words, they refuse Jesus’ authority because they do not want to be held accountable for their actions...

III. People refuse Jesus’ authority because they don’t want to be held accountable for their actions (v. 33)

Mark 11:33 ESV
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.”
Notice this calculated response to Jesus. We do not know. It is the same response Pilate as Jesus Christ stood before him before his crucifixion, “What is truth?”
These religious leaders were claiming agnosticism. They really did know the answers. They were refusing accountability with God.
It is like when children or siblings have done something wrong like color on the wall or broke a window, and the parents call them to account to find out whose responsible, and they say “We don’t know.”
In our day, tolerance and an open mind and because of the influence of postmodernism, the humble position is to admit to know nothing.
The claim to know nothing is a contradiction in terms if you think more deeply about it.
Because to claim to know nothing, is to claim to know something that you know nothing.
It is a logical fallacy.
And scores of people buy into these contradictions because the reality is that if there is a God, and He is authoritative, that means I have to give up my self-rule.
That means I have to give up my partner or relationship that is outside of the bounds of Scripture. That mean I have to give up a sinful attitude or action that does not line up with God. That means I have to say I’m wrong.
And because our sin goes so deep, we hate it to admit we are wrong. We hate it when someone intrudes in our lives. And we hate it when we can’t be in control.
This is what the Pharisees were doing. This is what religious people do. They refuse to acknowledge the truth, so they come up with arguments and heresies to defend their own sinful attitudes and outlooks.
Jude 4 ESV
For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.
False teaching often results not because something is difficult in the Bible to understand, but because it protect their sinful lifestyle.
Christian—How is your life? Examine yourself? What prejudices or hostilities that you may have against the Bible? It is said that people don’t believe in the Bible not because of its apparent contradicts them, but because it contradicts their way of living.
Jesus was revealing the hypocrisy, self-righteousness, and these religious leaders empty way of worship. He exposed them. And they hated it because it revealed their pride, their fear of man, and their refusal to submit to God’s Messiah.
The Bible Exposition Commentary Chapter Nine: The Servant in Jerusalem (Mark 11:1–12:44)

God does not teach us new truth if we have rejected the truth He has already revealed. This basic principle is expressed in John 7:17: “If any man is willing to do His will, he shall know of the teaching, whether it is of God, or whether I speak from Myself” (NASB). “Obedience is the organ of spiritual knowledge,” said the British preacher F.W. Robertson. The Jewish religious leaders had not accepted what John had taught, so why should God say anything more to them? Had they obeyed John’s message, they would have gladly submitted to Christ’s authority, for John came to present the Messiah to the nation.

Church—We must preach the whole Bible.
Warning—Jesus will have nothing more to say to us if we continue to refuse the truth.
You may had examples of authority. Maybe you are disillusioned with authority whether in the home, or in the church, or in public. You have saw people use their authority to serve themselves. You have seen people use their authority to abuse others.
But I want you to consider Jesus with me.
Jesus showed his his authority in his teaching, his life, and his miracles.
John 5:25–27 ESV
“Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man.
Jesus also said
John 10:17–18 ESV
For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”
Jesus did not abuse his power or authority. Jesus has all authority over all creation because He is God. Yet he used authority to serve and give his life as a ransom for the many.
The Bible tells us that Jesus
Philippians 2:5–11 ESV
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Matthew 28:18 ESV
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
It has been given to Christ because He obeyed the Father to be a sacrifice for your sins. There is no other authority who deserves it, and yet who uses it so perfectly to serve us.
He calls all men to repent and believe. Because when we submit to His authority, we find our lives. When we submit to His authority, we are under his loving care and protection.
Will you submit to Jesus authority? Will you submit to One who uses his authority for your good and God’s glory?
“The whole story is a vivid example of what happens to men who will not face the truth.” Barclay
Because if you refuse to submit to Jesus authority, he has nothing more to say to you, just like these religious leaders.
“Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”
The Pillar New Testament Commentary: The Gospel according to Mark The Authority of the Son (11:27–33)

To those unwilling to commit themselves, Jesus refuses to commit himself. “ ‘Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.’ ” Those who cannot be honest with themselves cannot be honest about Jesus.

Mark: An Introduction and Commentary ii. By What Authority? (11:27–33)

The root of the trouble lay not in their intellect, but in their stubborn wills: they stood self-condemned

“All wicked men, though they pretend to be desirous of learning, ,shut the gate of truth, if they feel it to be opposed to their wicked desires.” Calvin
Don’t shut Jesus out of your life. Let him come into your life and see his good authority over your life for your good.
Commit to a Local Church
Commit to a local church where he has given authority to the church to baptize and oversee your souls through loving shepherds and a loving congregation.
A mark of a Christian is a submissive attitude.
Why do people refuse Jesus authority? It is not often because of ignorance or lack of information or knowledge, but it is because of unbelief and prejudice of a sinful heart that loves darkness rather than light.
People refuse Jesus back then and today because they will not let go of their pride, they will not let go of their fear of man for their fear of God, and they refuse to be held accountable for their actions.
But when you humble yourself, fear God, and take accountability for your actions knowing that Jesus suffered for you, you will acknowledge that Jesus deserves all authority because He gave his life to serve.
May we humble ourselves and submit to his loving rule by fearing God more than man, and taking responsibility for actions by going to the Lord in prayer and petition.
May his Holy Spirit soften our hearts that we may be humble, we may fear God, and we may take responsibility for our actions rather than minimizing or blaming others.
Let’s pray.
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