Text: Luke 19:45-20:7 | Listen to Message
Jesus’ Ultimate Authority
Jesus approaches Jerusalem and makes his way directly toward the Temple. The Temple was the center of Jewish worship at the time. It was where the presence of God dwelt, where they had access to God, it was where they made sacrifices to God, and it was where a high priest mediated between God and the people.
Instead of finding the Temple a place for reflection, prayer, teaching, and worship, Jesus found the outer courts filled with merchants selling animals for sacrifices and exchanging foreign money for the temple tax. The outer court was originally called the Court of the Gentiles: this is where those non-believing Gentiles could go to learn more about God, pray, reflect, and inquire about who God is. Instead of creating this sort of space, the merchants and moneychangers pushed out any chance for the non-believing Gentiles to learn more about God.
Jesus, in his righteous anger, drove out the merchants and moneychangers. As he was doing so, he quoted two passages from the Hebrew Scriptures: “My house shall be a house of prayer [for all nations],” but you have made it a “den of robbers.” Quoting from Isaiah 56:7 and Jeremiah 7:11 respectively, Jesus is rebuking the Jews for their improper worship, and reminding them of the original intent of the temple. The original purpose of the Jewish temple was for Jewish worship and Gentile evangelism.
In speaking of this account in Luke, commentator Philip Graham Ryken said “It was not simply what the people were doing–all the buying and selling [that made Jesus angry]; it was also what they are not doing: praying or reaching the lost.”
The Jewish leaders at the time were picking and choosing what commands to obey from God’s law. They solely focused on having the perfect religious system of animal sacrifices, rather than allowing for space for the Gentile to come and inquire about God. They chose religious piety over being a light to the world.
Too often, we do the same thing. We pick and choose which commands of Jesus we follow. Instead of obeying all of Jesus’ commandments, we have turned him into Chipotle, picking and choosing which ingredients we want to make up our false Christianity. Are we willing to create space in our life and church for those commandments that we often ignore?
We, like the Jewish leaders at the time of Jesus, often neglect evangelism (reaching those that don’t know Jesus). Are we willing to reorganize our lives in order to make evangelism as much of a priority as attending church? Are we willing to make space for those who are inquiring about Jesus in our church and Gospel Communities? Or are we content either actively or passively ignoring those who don’t follow Jesus?
Jesus then patiently teaches the Gospel to all those that can hear it. As he is teaching, Jesus is challenged by the religious leaders. They asked him, by what authority does he do these things? The things they are referring to were both the cleansing of the Temple that Jesus just did and also all of his previous acts: the healing, teaching, and evangelizing.
Rather than giving a direct answer, Jesus uses this opportunity to make the religious leaders think, and he draws out their own self-centered worldview. Jesus forces the religious leaders to ponder the origin of John the Baptist’s baptism. By doing so, Jesus answers their question; Jesus received public authority when John baptized him. Jesus already had complete authority because he was God’s Son and one with God the Father. This was revealed at his baptism when God audibly spoke from Heaven and said “You are my beloved son, with you I am well pleased” (Luke 3:22).
This is not the first time Jesus was challenged on his theology. In John 2, Jesus was questioned by the same religious leaders, and they demanded a sign of his authority. Jesus responded, destroy this Temple and I will rebuild it in three days. But the Temple he was referring to was his body — foreshadowing Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. This would be the ultimate sign of Jesus’ authority.
Jesus, like in John 2, was telling the religious leaders to look at his death, burial, and resurrection as the ultimate sign of his authority. Jesus was declaring that he was the greater Temple. We do not have a holy Temple where we worship. We have a Holy Jesus that we worship. He is the presence of God. By him, we have access to God. He is the perfect sacrifice. He is our high priest that mediates to God. Jesus is the center of our worship! Jesus is the center!
Upon Jesus’ resurrection, he calls his disciples and tells them to “All authority has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:16-20a)
Jesus is calling us to do the same. To go and make disciples, to tell other people about him. And then to mature those disciples. This is the mission of our church. Will you join us?