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The Scriptorium

What Authority?

Jesus is His own authority. Luke 20.1-8

Luke 20 (1)

Pray Psalm 119.41, 42.
Let Your mercies come also to me, O LORD—
Your salvation according to Your word.
So shall I have an answer for him who reproaches me,
For I trust in Your word.

Sing Psalm 119.41, 42.
(Dix: For the Beauty of the Earth)
Let Your mercies come to me, Your salvation by Your Word.
From reproaches set me free, for I trust in You, O Lord.
Let my life an answer be for those who may question me.

Read and meditate on Luke 20.1-8.

1. What did the priests, scribes, and elders demand of Jesus?

2. How did He answer their demand?

Jesus, in the eyes of the religious leaders, committed a second offense against the temple. He had already driven out the money-changers and now, here He was, teaching—teaching!—on their turf! It was too much, so they sought to embarrass Him and shut Him up by challenging His authority (vv. 1, 2): “Tell us, by what authority are You doing these things?”

Fair enough, Jesus reckoned, and He would happily answer their challenge, but only after they answered one of His own: “I also will ask you one thing, and answer Me: The baptism of John—was it from heaven or from men?” (vv. 3, 4)

The religious leaders realized at once that Jesus had put them between a rock and a hard place. If they answered one way, saying that John’s ministry was from heaven, they knew Jesus would press them further as to why they did not accept John’s message and believe in Him. If they answered another way—that John was merely acting on the authority of men—the people would be outraged, because they all considered John a prophet. They might even stone them.

So they answered “that they did not know where it was from” (v. 7).

Well, if they couldn’t determine the authority by which John had pursued his ministry, how could they possibly pass judgment on Jesus? Or how could they determine whether His authority was sufficient to allow Him to teach in the temple? They wouldn’t accept Jesus’ answer even if He gave it. So He decided not to answer them.

On His own authority.

Treasures Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162.
If we listen carefully enough, we can hear the music playing for the final Jeopardy question.

And if we look, we can see the chief priests, scribes, and elders all huddled together discussing their options.

When they just can’t for the life of them figure what to write on their answer sheet, we see a white flag of surrender go up. “Ummm. We don’t know.”

They made one giant blunder. They thought they could beat Wisdom Personified. Surely, they should have known by now not to try this. Their wily attempts failed every time.

Because Jesus knew, “Do not answer a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him.
Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes” (Prov. 26.4, 5).

Nobody ever did it better—then or now. “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” (Lk. 2.52). Indeed, He did.

All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Jesus Christ, our Savior (Col. 2.3). 

He is the power of God and the wisdom of God (1 Cor. 1.24).

And in His Wisdom He sends us out with the possibility of having His wisdom. “But we have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2.16).

Wisdom is promised to those who seek it through His Spirit.
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (Jms. 1.5).

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you. Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (Jn. 14.26, 27).

“When He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth…” (Jn. 16.13).

“But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you” (Matt. 10.19, 20).

So, when we are questioned about our faith, questioned about our beliefs, and questioned about our hope (1 Pet. 3.15, 16), we trust that wisdom will prevail as we either do not answer, or we do answer, depending upon the need of the moment, and the power and leading of the Spirit. For “the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy” (Jms. 3.17).

Just like Jesus.

For reflection
1. Why do you think Jesus refused to answer the question about His authority?

2. Jesus has “all authority” in heaven and on earth (Matt. 28.18). How should that encourage you as one of His disciples?

3. The Holy Spirit dwells in every believer with power (Acts 1.8). How do you expect to exercise that power today?

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…
Matthew Henry (1662-1714), Commentary on Luke 20.1-8

Pray Psalm 119.43-48.

Ask the Lord so to keep His Word in your heart and mind that you may walk faithfully in it throughout this day, and that, as He gives opportunity, you may speak it clearly and joyfully to others.

Sing Psalm 119.43-48.
(Dix: For the Beauty of the Earth)
Let my words be Your words, Lord; strengthen me to keep Your Law.
All my hope is in Your Word, and I seek Your precepts all.
I will ever keep Your Word, for I trust in You, O Lord!

Lord, take not Your Word from me, for I trust it day by day.
I will walk in liberty as Your precepts I obey.
I shall keep Your truth, O Lord, for I hope in all Your Word.

I will speak Your Word to kings, and I will not be ashamed.
In Your Word my glad heart sings, as Your truth I have proclaimed.
In Your Law will I delight, which I love with all my might.

To Your Law I lift my hands to embrace and hold it dear.
In Your truth my glad heart stands, knowing You are ever near.
I will meditate, O Lord, on Your statutes and Your Word.

T. M. and Susie Moore

You can download all the previous studies in our Luke series by clicking here.

The Christian’s authority to live in righteousness and to proclaim the Good News of Jesus comes from God through His Word. But we must know how to handle the Word, and we must actively pursue reading and studying it. Our book, The Joy and Rejoicing of My Heart, can help improve your approach to understanding and growing from Scripture. Order your free copy by clicking here.

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Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. For sources of all quotations, see the weekly PDF of this study. All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (Williston: Waxed Tablet Publications, 2006), available free by clicking here.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

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