Saturday, November 7, 2009

11/8- Mark 11:27-33 Jesus' Authority

(Jesus and the Pharisees)

Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

MARK 11:27-33; (LUKE 20:1-8; MATTHEW 21:23-27)
27 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. 28 "By what authority are you doing these things?" they asked. "And who gave you authority to do this?"
29 Jesus replied, "I will ask you one question. Answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. 30 John's baptism—was it from heaven, or of human origin? Tell me!"
31 They discussed it among themselves and said, "If we say, 'From heaven,' he will ask, 'Then why didn't you believe him?' 32 But if we say, 'Of human origin' . . . ." (They feared the people, for everyone held that John really was a prophet.)
33 So they answered Jesus, "We don't know."
Jesus said, "Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things."

Calvin abridged: “By what authority”- As their other schemes to stop Jesus from teaching did not work, they tried an indirect method. They do not debate the substance of his teaching, but call his calling and commission into question. If course a person should not proclaim themselves a priest, a prophet, much less Messiah unless they had been chosen by God. He needed God’s voice and an oath (Ps. 110:4; Heb. 7:21). But they acted wickedly and faked ignorance of all he had done and his miracles that testified to God’s calling upon him. They were saying that God was not the author of the miracles because he had not been approved by their votes (as if the power solely resided in them). Christ did not answer them because they questioned him about a well known matter. 25- “John’s baptism”- Christ questions them about John because it shows they were unworthy of the authority they held. They despised a holy prophet, but also to show they pretended ignorance about a matter with which they were well acquainted. John was sent as Christ’s herald and claims nothing more for himself than to prepare the way for the Lord (Mal. 3:1; Lk. 7:27). John had pointed to Christ as the Son of God, proving Christ’s authority. It was impossible to acknowledge John as a servant of God without acknowledging that Jesus was the Lord. We should learn from this that when the wicked try to trap us we should be on guard against their malice and defend the truth properly. “Baptism” is not only talking of the sign of washing, but the whole ministry of John. Christ had already remarkably elevated John above all the prophets (Lk. 7:26,28). So Christ confounds and shames them with his answer by bringing forward the testimony of John proving that he has divine authority.
Thoughts: Mark begins with John’s testimony about Jesus. These words concerning John are toward the very end of the Gospel right before Christ’s death and resurrection. The questions about Jesus and his claims were coming to a head. In that day of religious ferment many had claimed to be messiah (Acts 5:36,37), so part of their job was to sort truth from fiction. If the authorities could not acknowledge John who was pointing to Jesus, they would not acknowledge Jesus’ claims. Everyone knew John was a prophet (even these priests, teachers, and elders). But to acknowledge John would mean they would acknowledge the One whom he acknowledged, for one of John’s key prophecies was that Jesus was the messiah- the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. In our day, many question the right of the Church to say what is right or wrong. There are more truth claims before us than at any other time. It is important, therefore, for the Church to not stray from its source of truth in Christ and scripture. If someone cannot acknowledge the authority of scripture, then they cannot acknowledge our right to speak the truth.

Prayer: Lord, we live in a day of many evil questions. Give us grace to answer those who would accuse us wisely and graciously.

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