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The Wounds of Dishonored Authority

By His Wounds We Are Healed  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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As the events of passion week unfold, we look back at the events leading to Jesus arrest. This week we look at how they questioned Jesus authority.

Notes
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Psalm 8 NIV
For the director of music. According to gittith. A psalm of David. Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory in the heavens. Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger. When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor. You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet: all flocks and herds, and the animals of the wild, the birds in the sky, and the fish in the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas. Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
Exodus 20:12; Ephesians 6:1-4
Exodus 20:12 NIV
“Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.
Ephesians 6:1–4 NIV
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
Mark 11:27–33 NIV
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. “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you authority to do this?” Jesus replied, “I will ask you one question. Answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. John’s baptism—was it from heaven, or of human origin? Tell me!” They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ But if we say, ‘Of human origin’ …” (They feared the people, for everyone held that John really was a prophet.) So they answered Jesus, “We don’t know.” Jesus said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”
Introduction:
When Christian Herter was governor of Massachusetts, he was running hard for a second term in office. One day, after a busy morning chasing votes (and no lunch) he arrived at a church barbecue. It was late afternoon and Herter was famished. As Herter moved down the serving line, he held out his plate to the woman serving chicken. She put a piece on his plate and turned to the next person in line. “Excuse me,” Governor Herter said, “do you mind if I have another piece of chicken?” “Sorry,” the woman told him. “I’m supposed to give one piece of chicken to each person.” “But I’m starved,” the governor said. “Sorry,” the woman said again. “Only one to a customer.” Governor Herter was a modest and unassuming man, but he decided that this time he would throw a little weight around. “Do you know who I am?” he said. “I am the governor of this state.” “Do you know who I am?” the woman said. “I’m the lady in charge of the chicken. Move along, mister.” (Chicken Lady, 10,000 Sermon Illustrations, Bits & Pieces, May 28, 1992, Page 5–6 )
The question of authority is a big battle these days. So much so, that people have literally suggested de-funding the police. However, when authority is wielded the way God intended, and it is responded to as God intended, it helps life to be lived in an organized and orderly fashion that brings health and peace to all. Today, we will be looking at the authority structures God set up, as well as some of His guidelines for that authority and the way humans have perverted it.
Before we begin, let us look at the next event from Passion week.
Last week, Jesus was arrested and escorted to Annas, the father-in-law of Caiaphas the high priest. Today’s text takes up where we left off last week.
John 18:15–18 NIV
Simon Peter and another disciple were following Jesus. Because this disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the high priest’s courtyard, but Peter had to wait outside at the door. The other disciple, who was known to the high priest, came back, spoke to the servant girl on duty there and brought Peter in. “You aren’t one of this man’s disciples too, are you?” she asked Peter. He replied, “I am not.” It was cold, and the servants and officials stood around a fire they had made to keep warm. Peter also was standing with them, warming himself.
The Word of God for the people of God. Thanks be to God.
Pray
Sermon Intro:
Last week, we saw Jesus arrested. When He inquired who they were seeking, they responded, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus then responded, “I am he,” they are so afraid of Him they fall back in hesitation, yet Jesus offers no resistances. He even rebukes Peter when Peter bravely draws his sword and lashes out.
Peter’s action demonstrates for us just how hard this must have been for Jesus. Truth be told, it takes a lot more courage to willingly surrender when you are innocent of wrongdoing than it takes to stand and fight. Especially when you know that the outcome is death on a cross.
Peter was willing to fight to the death but was afraid to just willingly surrender as Jesus had done. Yet, Peter was obedient to Jesus request to lay aside his sword.
So, what lead to Jesus crucifixion? As we have seen and will see, there had been an ongoing battle between Jesus and the Pharisees for months. The Pharisees were not against doing away with Jesus, but for two things. 1) They did not have the authority all on their own. 2) Unlike the Sadducees, they believed in resurrection to an afterlife that was filled with either punishment or reward. They were not above manipulating events to incite the masses to stone Jesus to death. But they were hesitant to commit murder with their own hands. Here we see how they split hairs when it comes to the law. They did not see how their manipulation made them just as guilty as if they had done the deed themselves. Jesus tried to open their eyes to this flaw in their thinking earlier, when He took the law further to not only include murder, but anger that leads to murder. But then, that is a subject for another week coming up.
Not only were the Pharisees hesitant to take full responsibility for Jesus death, they did not have the power to have Jesus killed, but the Sadducees were another story. In our text today, we find the Sadducees questioning Jesus authority. By this time, they have already made the decision that Jesus must die. We will look at that next week. However, the events that take place in today’s scripture reading just makes them more determined.
Just prior to the day we are looking at, Jesus had entered Jerusalem on a donkey and the people celebrated Him as their king. This would feel like a definite threat to the Sadducees in their political positions. If that were not bad enough, Jesus got off his donkey at the Temple and when He saw the money changers, He became angry and turned over their tables and scattered their wares. We have spoken of this before. Jesus’ anger was a righteous anger. These men were using the Temple as a place of business taking advantage of the poor and using up the space that was intended for the Gentiles to worship. Ever tried to worship amid a flea market? It does not happen. So, these vendors are preventing worship from happening.
Now, it is the next day and Jesus has returned to the Temple. He is preaching and teaching any that are seeking to understand.
Hearing that Jesus has returned, the chief priests, teachers of the law (Pharisees) and elders (other Jewish leaders) approach Jesus and ask Him.
Mark 11:28 NIV
“By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you authority to do this?”
In other words, what position do you hold that gives you the right to clear the vendors out of OUR Temple? Who gave you such authority because it certainly was not us!
Jesus responds with another question.
Mark 11:29–30 NIV
“I will ask you one question. Answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. John’s baptism—was it from heaven, or of human origin? Tell me!”
Now remember, they are amid a Temple courtyard. There is a crowd of people that are around Jesus listening to Him. There are also others in the courtyard and by now they have all turned to hear this confrontation. They have probably all heard what took place the day before. In fact, as the chief priests and their group approached Jesus, I suspect the place became quiet and people either turned to listen or perhaps drifted over to watch what would happen.
When there is an apparent altercation beginning, it catches your attention. Now keep in mind, these Sadducees will be aware of the people around watching. They probably did not yell at Jesus, but the tension would still be evident. These priests are hoping to assert their authority and they hope the people will back them up. However, they were unprepared for Jesus question.
The scene feels like a game show as the group steps back to confer with each other before answering. (Actually, I think they lost the argument right there. The hesitation to answer shows they are afraid to answer).
By John’s baptism, Jesus is referring to all of John’s ministry which was most evident through his actions of baptizing. The Sadducees had not particularly considered John a threat. It was Herod and the Herodians that did not like him for calling attention to Herod’s marital status (He married his brother’s wife).
Even though John was not a threat to the Sadducees, neither did they adhere to his ministry. They did not repent. They did not get baptized. Even more, they never responded to John’s testimony that Jesus was the Messiah. However, the people did. The people believed John was a prophet. After years of no prophets like the prophets of old, John had brought hope of a new day of God dwelling among His people. The Sadducees had been silent believing it did not bring any harm, but now, if they publicly claim that John was a fraud, they will lose their credibility with the people. Rome has placed them to lead the people and if they lose the ability to do so, Rome will remove them.
This is not the old days where God set up the priests through the line of Aaron and they held their position for life. This is a new priesthood set up by Rome. These chief priests are not accountable to God but to Rome.
Jesus question is really damaging to them and their position among the people and therefore before Rome. So, the last thing they want to do is deny John’s ministry and lose their authority over the people.
On the other hand, if they claim that John’s ministry was valid, they are still accountable. That would mean they would have to account for why they have not acted on it. They would have to admit that Jesus is who John said He was.
So, they refused to answer by saying, “They did not know,” which really is an answer. You either believe it or you do not believe it. Refusal to answer is the same as not believing it.
Jesus response?
Mark 11:33 NIV
… “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”
Jesus has just effectively shut them down. Even if Jesus had given them an answer, they were already denying His answer.
Jesus authority came from His Father. God the Father.
Exodus 20:12 NIV
“Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.
Today, we look at the 5th Commandment. It is the command to honor the authority of our parents. In all things, there must be an authority structure. When there is no authority structure, you have chaos.
I have to say that every week as I have been studying, I cannot help but equate much of what we are talking about to our own political systems these days. Last week, in the shortcomings of the oral traditions we saw many that apply to so much of our law making these days. Some would have us make laws regarding every aspect of our lives, even the food we feed our children. As we look at the Sadducees in their political positions, I see so many of our politicians today. They are far more focused on their own wellbeing than the wellbeing of those they are supposed to be serving. Just as we get frustrated with them, I am sure Jesus felt the same frustrations with these Sadducees.
There are two things I want us to look at today. First, what are the authority structures that God has given us in scripture? Second, how do we respond when the authority is not working in our best interest?

A. AUTHORITY STRUCTURES

I am going to just touch on these briefly with backup scriptures. These are each intensive subjects that are better taught or studied separately to allow in depth understanding.

1. God/God’s Word

The highest authority is God and His Word.
We are told that we are to obey God’s authority over people’s authority. In other words, if someone tells us to do something contrary to God’s Word we have the authorization to refuse.
Acts 5:29 NIV
Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings!
God is also the one who gives authority. Now, that does not mean those with authority always do the right thing, but it does mean that God has allowed them to come to that place of authority for one reason or others. We do not always understand why, but we need to remember that God works with purpose whether we understand that purpose or not.
Romans 13:1 NIV
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.
This can be a hard pill to swallow. How could God allow someone like Hitler to have authority? We need to remember that this world is full of sin. It often takes horrific things to happen to reveal to us our need for God. We see glimpses of what life would be like without God.
The Word of God has authority in all aspects of our life. It is from God.
Deuteronomy 4:2 NIV
Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the Lord your God that I give you.
Joshua 1:8 NIV
Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.
Psalm 119:89 NIV
Your word, Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens.
2 Timothy 3:16–17 NIV
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
God is the first authority, but the next authority is established in the home.

2. Husband/Father & Mother

Our world has created a lot of controversy over this, but the truth is that there must be a structure. There is no family success if husband and wife each do their own thing. Someone must be the final say. However, God also sets up guidelines for the one with the authority. The final authority is the one who stands before God and must justify the choices they make. Under God, the authority set up is to act in the best interest of the family over personal preference. The conflict comes in when the authority acts in their own personal interest or the spouse does not trust the judgment of the authority. Whichever is out of sync with God’s law will one day need to make an account before God.
Father and Mother have authority over the children.
We have already spoken of Exodus 20:12, but Ephesians 5:22-6:4 talks more on this subject. Many get frustrated and even angry over this passage, but it is because of lack of understanding and wrong teaching that causes the problems. When this is practiced as God set it up, it brings a peaceful and pleasant household. It is when the father or mother abuses the authority that it becomes a monster. But we will talk about that later.
Here again, God gives a guideline. While exercising their authority, fathers are not to exasperate their children. Authority delivered with tact and understanding is received better than abrasive demands. Authority is meant to be acted out of love, not dictatorially.
One final comment on the family authority, is that the 5th commandment of obeying your father and mother is the only commandment that comes with a promise.
Ephesians 6:3 NIV
“so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”
Next, there is earthly authority or government.

3. Government

We are to submit to the authorities of the land unless they call for us to do something contrary to God’s Word.
I read Romans 13:1 earlier stating that all authority is established by God. Let us look at a couple others.
1 Peter 2:13–14 NIV
Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.
Titus 3:1 NIV
Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good…
When Jesus was asked if they should pay taxes to Caesar, Jesus responded with a question. Who’s picture is on the coin? They replied, “Caesar’s.” Jesus response?
Matthew 22:21 NIV
“So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

4. Employment

Ephesians 6:5-9; Col 3:22-25
1 Timothy 6:1–2 NIV
All who are under the yoke of slavery should consider their masters worthy of full respect, so that God’s name and our teaching may not be slandered…
(There are many more, but you get the gist with this one.)
These are addressing slaves, but it is the same. It is addressing those you work for. Here again, this stops short of requests to disobey government. To do so would violate God’s law.
Even the church has an authority structure.

5. Church

Hebrews 13:7, 17
Hebrews 13:7 NIV
Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.
Hebrews 13:17 NIV
Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.
1 Thessalonians 5:12 NIV
Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you.
Finally, to address today’s subject. Jesus was unwilling to speak to the Sadducees of his authorization, but He does share it with His disciples.
Matthew 28:18 NIV
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
In context, we know that this authority has been given by Father God.
I have attempted to demonstrate the scriptural authority structures. The scriptures given are not exhaustive but are good examples. It is important to note that God promises many good things for those who abide by these structures. That includes the ones who appropriately use the authority God has given to them and those who appropriately submit to the authority over them. But what about...

B. ABUSED AUTHORITY

Dealing under an authority can be difficult. Our human nature wants total control. We do not like having someone make a choice for us that we disagree with. On the one hand, the authority over us is to be honored and respected, from the very basic and foundational form of authority in parents, to the authority of governments in nations. On the other hand, we probably have more than enough encounters with authority where those charged with our care seem to fail in that duty. Too often, that authority is abused and used for the best interest of the one in authority, rather than those they are serving with that authority. Here is what we fail to recognize when it comes to having authority. “Authority” is a service position. We serve others by taking in all the best options and help make the best choice for the best possible outcome for all. However, too many treat “authority” as a means to wield power over others serving only their own desires.
Authority is supposed to be for our good, as God’s gift for our lives and the lives of our neighbors. Husbands seek to care for their wife’s best interest. Mothers and fathers are meant to care for their children. Leaders are meant to care and provide for the well-being of their citizenry. Church leaders, or “shepherds,” are charged for the good care of their flocks. As such, authority serves a loving service to others. And it is something we need in our home, society, nation, and world.
But we are also aware that authority can be, and sometimes is, less than loving and caring in its role. That does not mean that it should be disregarded or thrown away. True, it can become authoritarian or tyrannical, where the rights of people are neglected for the sake of the authority’s own pursuit of power. It can be lax, and therefore not help even to safeguard the rights of any. It can demand obedience but not demonstrate the love of God that is at the core of its foundation.
Part of the role for those who are under authority is to exemplify the love that authority is supposed to provide. This may even be in calling the authority back to its role of service for the sake of others. In some extreme cases, this may also include disobedience to one authority for the sake of a higher authority. For example, Peter was once ordered by the civil authorities never to speak in the name of Jesus; but Peter responded, “We must obey God rather than any human authority” (Acts 5:29). There are also similar responses to this abuse of authority, and the call to higher authority, throughout the history of the Church as well as in civil society.
One finds this powerful contrast of authorities when Jesus is arraigned before Pilate. Pilate presumes that he has authority over Jesus and everyone else in the land of Judea to which he is assigned as governor. But Jesus’ authority is ever present even in his silence before Pilate. Jesus was sent by God to redeem all of humanity—including ourselves, and even his critics including Pilate before whom he stood. Even beaten and abused by this authority, Jesus demonstrates on public display that through his wounds and suffering, even unto death on the cross, the authority of God’s promising mission is greater than anything the world can offer.
Authority is truly right when it beats with the compassionate heart of service for those whom it is called to serve. We can see this when a parent shows loving care for his young child when her knee has been scraped. A government representative listens to the constituents in his charge and seeks to use power to ease the burdens of injustice, suffering and neglect that the citizenship is experiencing.
To be sure, authorities sometimes must make difficult decisions. Pilate sought to release Jesus, even as the critics of Jesus cried out for his crucifixion and death. His final concession to their wishes would seem to be what has happened time and again in history where the victim is rendered up to suffering for the sake of an angry mob.
We see a contrast between Pilate and Jesus which demonstrates the heart of man compared to the heart of God. Pilate, even though he has the authority to release Jesus, turns Jesus over for crucifixion to appease the crowd and preserve his personal political ambitions. Jesus on the other hand, had all authority of heaven to call down and stop His death on the cross, but He does not for the sake of all people. Pilate thinks of himself. Jesus thinks of others.
But by Jesus wounds we are healed. As Jesus makes his way to Golgotha, the place of death, we see the contrast between the authority of law and the authority of the gospel. Legal authority is trumped by the authority of the gospel, which is ultimate and final. When Jesus spoke from the cross, “It is finished!” he meant that all the judgments of this world, even the judgment of death itself, is now rendered mute. However much the authority of the law may hold us accountable to death, death itself is conquered by the One who bore it for our sake so that peace and life, restoration and hope are the final word of God for us. The authorities of this world cannot stop the beating heart of this promise.
To say that Jesus did not obey authority would be finally false. He did obey it. He accepted the path to crucifixion and death. But these would not defeat him—and more importantly to his mission, these would not defeat us. By his wounds we are healed. Love is put on display, even as Pilate himself has the plaque placed over Jesus’ head so that all the world may know the kingship authority that Jesus brings to bear.
Love is present in Jesus. And that love is given to us and to all authorities in this world as well so that the compassionate heart of service for others may find new roads into this world and the cry of anger and abuse and death may finally come to an end in the fullness of Jesus’ authority.
Nail new command to cross!
Pray
(Last couple pages include sermon notes from sermon series By His Wounds We Are Healed from CreativeCommunications.com 2020 Lent series.)
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