By what authority? #LukeActs2014

“Tell us by what authority you are doing these things,” they said. “Who gave you this authority?” (Luke 20:2, NIV)

Elsewhere in the gospels, Jesus does not demure from talking about his authority and its source. I am thinking about the Gospel of John, in particular, or the final chapter of Matthew.

It did get me wondering, though, how Luke-Acts records Jesus’ testimony about his authority. Was his refusal to answer here in chapter 20 an aberration or something that marks Luke’s gospel as different from the others.

And then I read the parable of the tenants and the son of the master who the people murder to seize his inheritance (Luke 20:9-18). Or many other places within a few pages of this encounter with the elders and chief priests where Jesus is not at all shy about who he is. We may not get the “I am” sayings of John, but Luke does not hide the answer to the question of the source of Jesus’ authority from us.

I think to understand why he does not answer — or rather answers in riddles — the question put to him in the opening of Luke 20 we have to look at the end of Luke 19. After his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, he laments the way the city has killed the prophets and declares that the thing they long for will now be hidden from those who sought it.

If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace — but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you. (Luke 19:42-44, NIV)

Jesus’ refusal to answer the elders is the hiding of the truth that they would not receive when it was offered to them.

And so, I find myself reflecting on the church today. Perhaps the weeping of Jesus over Jerusalem, the refusal to answer those who do not recognize him as God, and the parable about the murdered son and the cornerstone that crushes all who rejected him are pieces of a story that is not repeated today. They are parts of an ancient story, not ours. Perhaps this is so.

Of course, it does not feel that way to me as I read this. It feels as if there are many times and ways that the world, and that I in my rebellion, refuse to receive Jesus as king. And the outcome of that refusal is that Jesus hides himself from our eyes. We find ourselves muttering about what rights and authority he has to tell us this or to command us to that. We ask to see his bona fides and he refuses. They have already been offered. If we do not believe Moses and the prophets, we will not believe a man who comes back from the dead.

The authority of Jesus is not something we confer on him. It is not an office he gets to assume because we all vote him into power. It is something we recognize as already present. If we do not accept it on this basis, the proof of it will remain hidden from us. All our asking after the source of his authority will never give us more than Jesus himself, Lord and king.



3 thoughts on “By what authority? #LukeActs2014

  1. Excellent post, John. Could this be analogous to what Paul is talking about in Romans 1 when he says that people “suppress the truth by their wickedness?” They (we) deny the Creator whose authorship of creation is visible to all. And so he surrenders us to the darkness of our own thinking.

  2. Great thoughts, John. I tend to lean towards Tom’s response. Men often pretend to examine the evidences of revelation, and the truth of the gospel, when only seeking excuses for their own unbelief and disobedience. Christ answered these priests and scribes with a plain question about the baptism of John, which the common people could answer. They all knew it was from heaven, nothing in it had an earthly tendency. Those that bury the knowledge they have, are justly denied further knowledge. It was just with Christ to refuse to give account of his authority, to those who knew the baptism of John to be from heaven, yet would not believe in him, and would not own their knowledge.

  3. How could Jesus answer the question directly as asked?
    “Who gave you this authority?”
    The Jewish leaders understood the authority of Moses and by whom the authority of Moses and the prophets was given but with this man they where not so sure.

    So what does Jesus do? Jesus recites Psalms 118:22
    22 The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner.

    The chief priests and the teachers of the law understood what Jesus was declaring.
    They would know the psalms.
    They knew psalms 118

    I think Spurgeon does a good job on this one.

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