The Authority of the King
Have you ever watched a young child try to touch something he knows that he should not touch. He goes up to it, looks back at his mother, reaches out his hand, pulls it back, reaches it out again, looks back and if he notices that mother is not looking, grabs it and runs. We laugh at such antics, but it is not really a laughing matter. It is the beginning of a struggle with authority that stays with us throughout life. When we are teenagers, it is a powerful struggle with the authority of our parents and teachers. When we are adults, it may be a struggle with the authority of our boss or that of the government. We are never far away from having to decide whether or not we will obey some authority.
We may see the struggle with authority as only having to do with relationships in this life, but each of these struggles also relates to the more significant battle with our relationship to the authority of God in our lives.
Whether it is as a two year old learning the word no, a teenager seeking freedom, an adult asserting autonomy or any one of us bowing our knee to God, all of these things have to do with the very difficult matter of submission. We do not want to submit to anyone. Since we all struggle with this issue, it is good for us on this day when we celebrate the fact that Jesus is King to once again reflect on and reaffirm our willingness to submit to His authority in our lives. We will look at Mark 11 and 12 and other verses as we examine this issue and our hearts today.
I. Jesus Authority Demonstrated
In Mark 11:28, the elders and teachers of the law came to Jesus and asked him, "By what authority are you doing these things?" .... "And who gave you authority to do this?" It was obvious to them that Jesus had authority. What had occurred to give them this impression?
A. Over the blind man
In the story which precedes the triumphal entry, Jesus meets Bartimaeus who was blind. He was begging and when he found out that Jesus was walking by he asked him to heal him. Jesus did, in fact it says,"Immediately he received his sight." In healing this man, Jesus had demonstrated his authority over the human body.
B. In the Triumphal Entry
The triumphal entry is also an event which shows us the authority of Jesus.
The first indication of that authority is seen when Jesus tells the disciples to go and get the colt and bring it. The story then records events exactly as Jesus had told them they would happen. Although Jesus may have made arrangements earlier for the colt, I think we are given the impression that his command to go and the success of the mission had something to do with his authority over people and events.
The second indication of his authority is found in the fact that he chose to ride a colt that had never been ridden. I once spoke to Peter Dyck about riding unbroken animals. He told me that mules and horses would normally be scared when you tried to mount them and would try to throw you off. Add to that the fact that there was no saddle and therefore nothing to hold on to and it is interesting that Jesus was able to ride the animal. It seems to me that it says something about the authority of Jesus that he was able to ride an unbroken animal.
In the statements of the people regarding who it was that was entering the city we also have indications of the authority of Jesus.
Mark 11:9-10, "Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted, "Hosanna!" "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" "Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!" "Hosanna in the highest!" These statements which are all quotes from the Old Testament declare Jesus authority as the one who fulfills prophecy and is sent by God. He is identified s the one "coming in the name of the Lord." This is an indication of his authority as Messiah. The reference to "David's kingdom" identifies Jesus as the one who has authority as God's special sent to establish His kingdom. Hosanna means save now and this statement refers to Jesus authority to save.
It seems to me intentional on the part of the gospel writer in all these stories to tell us something about who Jesus is. In the triumphal entry, Jesus is declared king of Israel and God's special agent of salvation. All of the incidents that surround the entry into Jerusalem indicate something about the authority of Israel's king.
C. Power Over the Fig Tree
After the triumphal entry, as Jesus was going back to Bethany for the night, He saw a fig tree which was not bearing fruit(Mark 11:12-14). This is a rather curious incident and we wonder what the intent of it was. Some have suggested that this was a condemnation of unfruitful Israel. In the followup passage in 20ff., it seems to be a lesson for the disciples on faith and power. This morning our purpose is not to debate these questions, rather to notice that Jesus had authority over the fig tree.
This story illustrates the authority of Jesus over created things. Jesus had this authority because he was the creator. "For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him." Colossians 1:16
D. Power in God's house Mark 11:15-25
In Mark's record of the triumphal entry, Jesus came into the temple to look around after he had entered Jesusalem, but he did not do anything there. The point of the temple visit was so that Jesus, the Lord of the temple, could come to inspect its premises to determine whether the purpose intended of God was being fulfilled in it. Malachi 3:1 says, "See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come," says the LORD Almighty."
On two successsive days after this, Jesus went to the temple again. On the next day, having found out the day previous that the temple was not being used according to God's plan, he cleared the temple of all those who were not using the temple in a holy way. In doing so, he made a statement about his supremacy over this place.
All of these stories communicated the fact that Jesus has authority.
II. The Extent Of Jesus' Authority
The kindergarten kids were let out for recess and the biggest boy in kindergarten got on top of the hill in the school ground and declared, "I'm the king of the castle!" No one challenged him...until the grade 1-3 children came out for recess. The largest boy in grade three ran up the hill, chasing the kindergarten boy off the hill and declared, "I'm the king of the castle!" No one challenged him until the grade 4-6 classes came out for recess.
In the triumphal entry and the stories that surround it, Jesus demonstrated his authority in a number of ways. But is there someone who has a greater authority? What is the extent of His authority?
The stories of the healing of the blind man and the cursing of the fig tree indicate that His authority was over nature, but was it an authority that extended over the nation of God's people?
By driving out the money changers, Jesus indicated that His authority extended over the temple and over the temple rulers. His authority was over the religious leaders who represented God, but did it extend over the enemies of God?
When Jesus was confronted by Satan's temptation in the garden He had to decide whether or not he would go through with the plan. Jesus gained victory over Satan's temptations and paved the way for the final victory over Satan. Jesus expresses his authority today in the fact that as a result of His obedience Satan is bound. Colossians 2:15, "And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross." Joseph Parker has written, "The devil has limited chains; he counts the links, he would like to make seven, eight; he strives to strain the links into greater length. He cannot do it. He was chained at the first, he has been chained ever since, he will be chained forever. Hallelujah! The Lord reigneth! There is but one throne and all hell is subject to the governance and authority of that throne." But did he also have authority over the final enemy, death?
By His death and resurrection, Jesus demonstrated His power over life and death and sin. When Jesus hung on the cross and cried out, "It is finished!" He was not expressing a cry of giving up, but one of completion. He had gained the victory over sin and death. Jesus also expresses his authority today in the victory over sin that is possible to those who come to him. Having gained that victory through his death, he now displays it in freeing people from sin.
Hebrews 2:14,15, "Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death--that is, the devil--and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.
Colossians 1:13, "For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves,"
Revelation 19 depicts that final victory when Jesus comes to display his authority and take the throne in a decisive and final way. "I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. "He will rule them with an iron scepter." He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS."Revelation 19:11,15,16.
When Jesus left the earth, He said to His disciples in Matthew 28:18, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me." Jesus has authority over nations, nature, Satan and over all men, life and death.
III. The Nature of his Authority
This week we were saddened to see another conflict in the former Yugoslavia. Albanians in Kosovo are trying to gain autonomy and the Serb government forces are trying to quell the rebellion. The rest of the world is trying to force the Serb governement to make peace by bombing them. These are displays of authority wielded by might and power and violence. What a contrast with the way in which Jesus, who has all authority and power, wields His authority!
Although He has all authority, he does not force it on us, but in humility, waits for us to recognize it and submit to it.
The triumphal entry declares the authority of Jesus, but it also tells us something of the nature of that authority.
The incident is predicted in Zechariah 9:9 which says, "Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey."
Someone has said,"His action was a veiled assertion of both the fact and the character of his messiahship; it affirmed that the royal way involved humility and suffering."
Mark 10:33,34 indicates a significant turning point in the record of that gospel. "We are going up to Jerusalem," he said, "and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise."
In Mark 11:1 this theme is taken up again as the gospel writer says,"As they approached Jerusalem." Although at this point, Jesus came in triumphal procession, the previous and susequent passages indicate that Jesus would take his authority through suffering and death and not as the conquering hero.
Some have authority because they have power or wield power. Jesus authority was gained through the powerlessness of the cross. By dying, Jesus gained victory over Satan, death and sin and so reigns as king over all.
Jesus continues to exercise His authority by gentleness and humility. He does not force it upon us, but invites us to yield to His authority. Of Jesus it was said in Matthew 12:20, "A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, till he leads justice to victory." Jesus does not say, as we so often want to say, "submit!" Rather, with compassion and gentleness, He tells us He loves us, He shows us He loves us and invites us to bow before His awesome and complete authority.
IV. Responding to Jesus' Authority
Jesus has legitimate authority. He has complete authority and He does not force His authority on us. It may seem that submission to this authority would be easy and natural, but there are different responses to His authority. These responses are seen in the stories surrounding the triumphal entry and reflect our responses.
After the entry into Jerusalem, Jesus went to the temple. It is surprising that after the jubilant procession there is no mention made of the crowd. Where were they? They had dispersed. Apparently, they had not grasped the messianic significance of the event. There was enthusiasm and declaration and possibility, but his authority was not really recognized-even in the triumphal entry. It was a response of misunderstanding.
People today continue to respond to Jesus in the same way. They do not accept his authority because they do not understand who he is. Jesus has not taken up advertising space on Fox to demonstrate His authority. He has demonstrated it with one act of love which has been told from one person to another since it happened.
Since Jesus has all authority, it is the responsiblity of those who know who Jesus is to make Him known so that people will understand both His authority and His gentle invitation. Let us take every opportunity to let people know about Jesus.
The same was not the case with the elders and the chief priests of the people.
In Mark 11:27ff, we read that they questioned his authority and as Jesus spoke, I believe they had a pretty good idea of what Jesus was saying. Nevertheless, they continued to challenge Jesus' authority. In a number of sections in Mark 12, Jesus is challenged by them regarding how His authority related to that of the government, 12:13-17; His authority to give eternal life 12:18-27; and His authority to demand exclusive allegiance (12:28-34). By challenging him, they showed their unwillingness to accept his authority.
It is interesting that the blind man saw who Jesus was (Mark 10:46-52), while the religious leaders did not. Jesus identified the problem of the Pharisees and the elders as rejection in the parable in Mark 12:1-12. They had an authority all their own and recognized that Jesus' authority meant that they would have to get off the hill and let Him stand on top. They rejected His authority because they were not willing to do that.
The same happens today, some will recognize and sad as it may seem, will reject the authority of Jesus anyway. They do not want to get off the top of the hill. In the parable in chapter 12, Jesus warns of the consequences of such a rejection.
If you know who Jesus is, but do not want him to be Lord of your life, I invite you to reconsider. Earlier we read in Philippians 2 that every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. You can do it now and then rejoice when he comes again, or you can refuse to do it now and in the end submit in fear and eternal lostness. I invite you to submit now.
Since Jesus has the authority of king, we are invited to respond to Jesus in submission.
What will it mean to submit to the authority of Jesus? We might well ask ourselves, "To what extent am I reordering my life around kingdom priorities. "Am I being used as an instrument of kingdom advance?" Do I follow His instruction in Matthew 6:33 to "...seek first his kingdom and his righteousness...?"
In an African country that was being run by Marxists, a group of church leaders was arrested. After a while they were all released except the evangelist in the group.
Later, he also was released, but his release was on condition that he would not preach again. They asked him to sign a paper that said that he would not preach again and if he did he would be put to death.
When the people asked him under what conditions he was released, he answered, "I have agreed to die."
Jesus has the authority over our lives. Are we willing to follow him anywhere?
We all have areas in our life that we have trouble giving over to Jesus. We just don't want to submit. Recognizing His complete and ultimate authority, we know that we must submit, but will we?
When I was younger, there was a ritual called running the gauntlet. If you wanted to to belong to the group, all the boys would line up in two rows and you had to run through and while you were running through, they could hit you, trip you push you or do anything they wanted to. It was an act of submission, but not a very pleasant one. If you have in your mind that submitting to Jesus will be like running the gauntlet, you may not be willing to do it. Let me assure you that it is not like that.
It is much more like something that happened to me when I was at camp the first time when I was 8 years old. We were playing a game which involved running and since I was one of the younger campers, I was having trouble playing well. Then the camp director came along and picked my up and ran with me and then I won that round. That too was an act of submission, but it was an act that accepted the help of one who cared. Jesus has authority over all the world, but His authority is one that comes with gentleness, compassion and caring. Will you submit to His compassionate authority?
"May he whose right it is to reign wield the scepter in our hearts and lives."