Christ's Authority and Teaching Challenged
1After this the Lord appointed seventy-two[a] others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. 2He told them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. 3Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. 4Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.
5"When you enter a house, first say, 'Peace to this house.' 6If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you. 7Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house. 8"When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is set before you.
Everywhere Jesus went during His ministry He taught; in meadows and on the mountainsides of Judea; in private homes and the public synagogues. Crowds came from miles around to hear Him, and once he even used Peter's boat to teach a large crowd on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.
In His teaching Jesus often used comparisons: "The Kingdom of Heaven is like a grain of mustard-seed," He would say, or, "...like leaven." Fulfilling ancient prophecy, He taught many things through parables as we know, using earthly examples to convey spiritual truths to His hearers. Jesus did teach in other ways too, however. Sometimes He presented Himself as unique: "I am the Good Shepherd," He told a group of Pharisees; "I am the Door of the sheep." On occasion He gave long discourses such as the Sermon on the Mount, while at other times He voiced just short, direct statements such as about prayer. He plainly taught His followers that He would have to suffer, be killed and rise again after 3 days. Known widely as a Teacher, even acknowledged as "Rabbi" by the religious elite, many people brought questions to Jesus. He answered them and would sometimes guide their heart and thinking by posing questions of His own.
Several times during the years of His ministry Jesus repeated the phrase: "My hour has not yet come." The days did come, though, that He finally appeared bent Himself on hastening that "hour". He deliberately directed His path to Jerusalem, went straight to the Temple to the very stronghold of His enemies, caused a scene by throwing out the money changers, and yet stayed on to teach the crowds very openly and publicly. Three things we want to note today about Christ's Teaching are: His Manner, His Message, and His Heart.
Jesus was a Teacher to the very end! It came to be Tuesday of the week He died. His arrest, trial and crucifixion would be history by the end of that week and Jesus knew it, yet we find Him at the Temple still teaching as ever. He clearly invited a confrontation with His adversaries, yet in love it was still His purpose to teach anyone and everyone the lesson all sinners need to learn: He is the Savior who came to lay-down His life to remove sin and open the gate to eternal life! Jesus kept that focus as the priests and elders approached to begin a kind of "cat and mouse game" with deadly intent, baiting Jesus and trying to entrap Him in His words.
Those leaders of the people should have been the best students of the Lord's masterful teaching, and able to discern the very truth of God in His words because of their knowledge of the Scriptures. Unbelief blocked their learning, though. Listen now to the words from the Text: "…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.'"
Perhaps some came because they honestly wanted to know about the credentials or authority Jesus had, but He was not really an utter stranger to them. They knew of His miracles, for example. The region buzzed with the news of each one. Just weeks before that time Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead. That had not convinced them. Instead it drove them to plot His death, and everything else they heard (such as His palm-parade into the City) served only to fuel their jealousy.
When these Jewish leaders challenged Him concerning His authority, Jesus challenged them to think carefully about everything they had been seeing and hearing, beginning with the ministry of John the Baptist. The Text says: "He answered them, 'I also will ask you a question; now tell Me, Was the baptism of John from Heaven or from men?'"
What an opportunity for them to turn from their unbelief and embrace God's work through John, and Jesus as well, identified as the "Lamb of God" by John, but they remained in their unbelief. The Text continues: "They discussed it with one another, saying 'If we say (John's baptism came) from Heaven, (Jesus) will say 'Why did you not believe him?' But if we say from men, all the people will stone us; for they are convinced that John was a Prophet.' So they answered that they did not know whence it was." Their answer condemned them. They didn't know about John because they were afraid to admit that he came from God. They didn't know about Jesus either, because they couldn't admit that the One they wanted dead was from God. They didn't know and remained in their unbelief! Jesus said to them: "Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things."
At first their question had seemed logical and innocent enough, perhaps, but it wasn't really just a simple request for information. It was only the beginning of a whole series of questions intentionally designed to discredit Jesus in front of the crowds gathered at the Temple. The Jewish leaders followed with questions about paying taxes to Caesar, about the resurrection and about which is the greatest Commandment. In each case Jesus understood their intent and tried to lead them to see their own folly. (Along with His response to their questions, Jesus countered with some parable to the effect that tax-collectors, harlots and other nations would be receiving God's Kingdom before they would be.)
His adversaries refused to allow the lesson Jesus wanted to penetrate and sink into their hearts and souls. He then confounded them with one more question of His own about how Christ could be both David's Son and his Lord. They dared not ask Him any more questions after that time.
The message Jesus wanted to give them, though, and still wants all people to learn, is that He did come from God and taught the Truth of God. His first and foremost lesson for us all is that He came to die for us so that He might give us life through faith in Him. We can't earn forgiveness or eternal life by a lifetime of good deeds. That would never be enough! He had to cleanse us from sin by His own Blood, finish our redemption on the Cross, and overcome death by His Resurrection.
God can use the worst situations to work His might! Through their unbelief Christ's enemies became the unwitting fulfillers of centuries' old prophecies of the Christ, fulfillers of the exact Truth Jesus wanted to teach them about Himself, and fulfillers of the very eternal plan of God. Jesus knew they would demand His crucifixion, and so it happened that same week. They conspired with Judas for His betrayal and persuaded Pontius Pilate to pass down the death sentence concerning Jesus, though He had done nothing to deserve death or any kind of punishment.
The lifeblood of God the Son spattered the Cross and ground. He did die. He died for those hateful enemies. He died for you and me! He then rose from death on the third day after as a glorious proclamation that He truly did conquer sin, death and the devil besides all the other assurances Christ's Resurrection means for us: like our certain forgiveness, eternal life for our souls and the raising of our own bodies one day to glory. His Resurrection unquestionably proclaims that His teaching IS true!!! He did speak with the very authority and Truth of God!
Now we would do well to note the example Jesus set in the urgency with which He taught. It was important to Him to share the Truth with those who didn't know it. It was important to Him to share the Truth even with those who rejected it. He was most persistent in His teaching the Truth, whoever the audience.
That gives us a good look into the depths of our Lord's Heart! Up to the very end He boldly taught the Truth about salvation. He loved those sinful enemies of His and wanted them to turn away from sin and death to enjoy forgiveness and life! In spite of their cold, stony hearts and deaf ears, Jesus was compelled to teach them out of His own heart of LOVE.
After He patiently confronted their hypocrisy and challenged them to turn from their unbelief, however, there was nothing left to do but announce judgment. Matthew's Gospel records a long list of "woes" Jesus spoke: "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You shut the Kingdom of Heaven against men; for you neither enter yourselves, nor allow those who would enter to go in." Yet, among the last words of Jesus in the Temple so long ago are these: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the Prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!"
THERE is pictured the one all-consuming and driving desire of Christ's heart. He's more interested in turning people away from sin and unbelief than He is in bringing judgment! Surely judgment that He spoke did come to those who rejected Him, and further judgment yet awaits them at the Last Day, but even in His words of condemnation Jesus warned them in order to correct and teach. His entire effort in the Temple Courts was devoted to seeking the lost. This is how Jesus feels for you and those whose lives cross ours as well!
Jesus didn't transform the lives of the Jewish leaders by His power. He no doubt could have, but did not. He simply spoke the Word. That's the way He worked and the way we are to work, too. Joseph of Arimathea and presumably Nicodemus, two men on the Jewish Council, did believe. The thief on the next cross believed. Christ's teaching did not change everyone, but some did come to faith.
I pray that God's Holy Spirit empower each of us to simply do as Jesus Himself did; Speak the Word! Through that, He will bring some home to Heaven.