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The Authority of Jesus - Luke 20:1-8



Jesus Christ – Our Ultimate Authority

Preached at Swan Creek Baptist Church on 11/20/16     Pastor Chris Gowen


Luke 20:1-8                                         click here for audio

One day, as Jesus was teaching the people in the temple and preaching the gospel, the chief priests and the scribes with the elders came up and said to him, “Tell us by what authority you do these things, or who it is that gave you this authority.” He answered them, “I also will ask you a question. Now tell me, was the baptism of John from heaven or from man?” And they discussed it with one another, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From man,’ all the people will stone us to death, for they are convinced that John was a prophet.” So they answered that they did not know where it came from. And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”

This month our nation has witnessed the election of new leaders, senators, representatives,  and most particularly a new president.  Our new president will soon take the oath of office and begin to exercise the power and the authority of that office. His authority is, however, limited to certain laws, and the United States Constitution.    There is a greater power;   a greater authority that even presidents and the kings of the earth must answer to.     According to God’s Word -  the powers of government are ordained of God.

Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.    (Romans 13:1)

He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings………….  Daniel 2:21

No leader should take lightly the awesome responsibility of the authority that has been granted to them.  If a leader fails to take serious his charge to serve, he will soon lose the authority to lead. 

In our text today, we read of certain leaders who let the issue of authority go to their heads.  Look at who they are in v.1   “the chief priests,  scribes,   elders…”

The chief priest is over a group of priest;  the scribes are the guardians of the law,  the theologians;  the elders would be made up of Pharisees and some Sadducees.  They would be the Sanhedrin which was a 70 member body that served much like the supreme court.   These religious leaders were into “authority” in a big way.   They loved to sit in the chief seats in the synagogues;  loved to be greeted in the market place;    They were special because they were in that group that had  “authority”.   Jesus paid no attention to them;   he gave no recognition to the religious authorities.  He  acted as if they did not exist.  He did not seek them out;  He did not seek their counsel;  He did not quote them, or affirm them in his teaching and preaching.   Jesus never asked permission to teach in the temple. Jesus never questioned the religious leaders if it would bother them for Him to preach a few days in the temple.

Jesus acted as if their title meant nothing;  and their religious authority meant nothing.

These different religious groups had their own differences.  The Pharisees and Sadducees had their differences in beliefs,  especially about the existence of angels and about the resurrection.  There’s one thing they had in common--- they hated Jesus and wanted him dead.

They could not accept Jesus as the Christ Who is Supreme Lord who has ALL AUTHORITY.  The Religious leaders  could not explain away the miracles of Jesus.   There was overwhelming evidence of the power of God upon Jesus.  He delivered those possessed of demons;  He healed the leper;  the blind, the lame, the deaf;  He turned water into wine;  He made fish and bread appear out of thin air feeding over 5000 people.  He walked on the water; and He raised the dead to life.

They could not deny His wonderful works;   and they could not withstand His marvelous words,  for  “no man ever spoke like this man”  (John 7:46).

They attacked His credentials.  They attacked His right to do what he did.    (Look at v.2)  “Tell us by what authority…..”   

I.           The Authority of Jesus Challenged

A.    A Question to Entrap -     the purpose is to trap Jesus into saying “His Authority Came from God”

In other words -   who do you think you are?      Tell us…by what authority you do these things?        WHAT THINGS?

Refer back to v.45     “and he entered the temple…”      It was on Tuesday that he drove out those who sold animals for sacrifices.      Now …it’s the next day…  Wednesday…Jesus is preaching the gospel…..

·         Jesus entered the temple…..  the chief priest, scribes, elders---   this  is our world,  our place of responsibility……we have authority to oversee the temple….    JESUS TAKES OVER…

·         WHO GAVE YOU THE AUTHORITY TO DRIVE OUT THOSE WHO SOLD?   What right do you have to do what you’re doing?       Show me your credentials !  


This was not an innocent question;  a question to honestly gain information;  or to satisfy their curiosity;   the motive behind the question was to trap Jesus….catch him in His words …..if he said  “my authority comes from God”,  they would accuse him of being a blasphemer and have him stoned to death.


a.   Questioned at the beginning of His ministry -  John 2:13-18  what sign do you show us for doing these things?

b.  Question was Not from ignorance, but from opposition   (see 19:47)   (see 20:19-20)


B.    A Question to Expose  -The Lord Jesus -  An Answer with a Question -  the purpose was to expose,  unmasked their hypocrisy.


a.    Jesus asked a question.

Another time he asked a question-  (see Luke 5:20-26)  “authority to forgive sins”

b.    What about “the baptism of John?”   Of men or of God?    Baptism of John – means His ministry….. explain John’s ministry….. calling people to repent  …baptized..

c.    Pharisees and scribes rejected John’s preaching  (see Luke 7:29-30)

d.    Their dilemma -   caught between a rock and a hard place

(1)  V.5    If we say -  from heaven – why did you not believe him?     He baptized me…heaven opened up…Spirit of God descend ..dove…. voice “this is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased”          John 1:29  “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”      so why don’t you believe in me…He testified of Me???

(2)  V.6   If we say – ‘From man’---   speaking our death sentence--   all people will stone us…..

Stoning -  a common occurrence

Exodus 17:4      children of Israel – angry with Moses ---  threatened to stone him..

John 8:59 ---  Jesus told the Jews --   Before Abraham was, I am….   They picked up stones

Luke 13:34

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those sent to her! How often I have longed to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were unwilling.

The chief priest, scribes, elders --  they wanted to set Jesus up to say something---TO GET HIM STONED….

JESUS exposed their hypocrisy – and asked them a question---- What they said—COULD GET THEM STONED….

e.    Jesus exposed their hypocrisy --  their lie --   v.7  they answered   they did not know where it came from

It’s NOT that they DID NOT  KNOW…..    they  JUST WOULDN’T  SAY….


These religious leaders  ---  did not want to know the truth----NO Interest in the truth…they were looking at  THE TRUTH IN THE EYES….  And they were lying….

Their only interest……seeing Jesus  DEAD !


II.        The Authority of Jesus REVEALED


v.8   “neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things”      Jesus did not tell them because they did NOT want to know the truth;    They rejected Jesus.   They rejected His preaching.   They rejected His gospel  “good news”  of God’s saving grace.

Wouldn’t it been great……  if this conversation turned out to be positive?

Let’s say the religious leaders…..were convicted of their lostness…..and they were HUMBLE  in their approach to Jesus and  HONEST in their questions….  It would have been a different ENDING…..


Instead OF Jesus saying --    “Neither will I tell you….”       it would be

Let me tell you about my authority and where it came from…..


Instead of  His authority  “concealed”;    it would be   His authority  “revealed”


His authority is clearly seen  by those  who receive Him….


A.    Consider His Authority in Preaching -   v.1

Chapter 20,21   packed full of authoritative teaching….He taught about the things pertaining to the kingdom of God;   he taught about what’s involved in redemption because he preached the gospel;   he taught of forgiveness;  the coming judgment; the grace of God;  His purpose in coming;   

SEE  21:37-38      Wed/ Thur    teaching…and preaching…


Matthew 7:28-29

28 And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, 29 for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.



B.   Consider His Authority in Salvation

Matthew 11:27-30

27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

(no one knows the Father except the Son…..        Son chooses to reveal him….He is sovereign in salvation…..

YET if someone thinks….I’m left out….because Jesus has already decided who He will save….then consider the next verse…)

28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”


Matthew 9:6-8   But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic—“Rise, pick up your bed and go home.” And he rose and went home. When the crowds saw it, they were afraid, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to men.

John 17:2    since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him.

c.   Consider His authority in Judgment

John 5:26-27

26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. 27 And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man.

Acts 17:30-31

30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”


d.  Consider His authority in death and resurrection

John 10:18

18 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.”

e.   Consider His authority over His Creation

Matthew 8:27   The men were amazed, and said, "What kind of a man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?"


f.    Consider His authority to His Church

Matthew 28:18-20

18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[b] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”


Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you………….

One thing we observe………His table……   we remember in the Lord’s Supper   His purpose for coming….to save us….giving His life….His precious blood…. To redeem us from sin,  from the penalty of our sins,…

Jesus – said  “Do this in remembrance of Me”    

1Cor. 11:26   For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

Are you submissive to the Authority of Jesus?     Is it reflected in your daily life?    Are we submissive to those who have been placed by God over us?    To everyone who has been given some measure of authority---Are we exercising His authority in a Christ-like manner?   

It’s to Christ we must answer ---  HE IS our  ULTIMATE  AUTHORITY….

His commands must be our delight,  our greatest privilege and joy!


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