The Authority of Jesus - Mark 11:27-33

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As we’ve worked through the Gospel of Mark there is a theme that has shown up over and over. From the very beginning of the ministry of Jesus there have been two groups of people: Those who recognize Jesus as One with authority and who submit to Him and those who reject His authority and seek to silence Him. Of course the question of the authority of Jesus is a question that each of us must consider. Is Jesus who He claimed to be and should we submit to Him?

In Mark 11:27-33 Jesus is confronted by a group of men who have rejected Him and His authority and who come in an attempt to discredit Him. While on the surface their questions may seem genuine, their motives aren’t pure. Of course Jesus knows their hearts and in the end He proves His own authority and exposes their inconsistencies and lack of sincerity.

As we consider this interaction between Jesus and the Jewish leaders we shouldn’t miss the opportunity to consider our own hearts toward the authority of Jesus. How willingly and how fully do we submit to Him? Are there ways in which we try and ignore His authority or attempt to rationalize why we shouldn’t have to submit to Him? If we truly believe that Jesus is who He says He is then there shouldn’t be any part of our lives that we withhold – we should be a people who love and gladly submit to His full authority.

The Setting – Back in the Temple

On the Monday before Jesus went to the cross He entered the Temple in Jerusalem and made an announcement. He flipped over tables, drove out merchants and made it known that the people of God were not living in the way God intended. It was a pronouncement of judgment and no doubt an event that would not soon be forgotten. And yet the very next day Jesus returns to the Temple. It’s on this day that a group of Jewish leaders approach Jesus with an important question: the question of authority.

A Question of Authority – An Attempt to Discredit (11:27-28)

  • A dishonest question – While the question the Jewish leaders raise is an important question – in this case it’s not an honest question. Their aim is not to learn or to understand the claims of Jesus – their aim is to trap Him. They are seeking the final evidence they need to discredit Him and to bring charges against Him.
  • A question that has already been answered – One reason we can be sure that this is not an honest question is because of many ways that Jesus has already claimed that He has authority as the Son of God. Perhaps the best example in the Gospel of Mark is in chapter 2 when He claims the authority to forgive sins, something only God can do (Mark 2:6-11) (See also, John 5:19, 5:30).
  • Application – Like the Jewish leaders we have heard the claims of Christ and seen the proofs of His authority, and yet we are still tempted to dismiss or reject it. We must work to acknowledge His authority in every area of our lives and guard ourselves from trying to subvert it. 

A Proof of Authority - The Appeal to John (11:29-32)

  • An answer by a question – The response of Jesus isn’t an attempt to evade or avoid the question of authority – in fact Jesus is saying: If you answer this question then you have the answer you’re seeking. 
  • Understanding the question – John the Baptist was widely accepted as a prophet of God who spoke for God. Since John announced Jesus as the Son of God, anyone who believed in John should also believe in Jesus.
  • The dilemma – With this one question Jesus puts the Jewish leaders on their heals. Either they had to confess the authority of John (and Jesus) or they risked losing all credibility with the crowds. 
  • Application– Like the Jewish leaders we can easily find ourselves caught in a dilemma. While we may confess Jesus as Lord, we still try and hold on to areas of our lives where we don’t want to submit to His Lordship. We must recognize our inconsistencies (our sin) and surrender fully to Him.

A Rejection of Authority – An Answer through Feigned Ignorance (11:33)

  • We don’t know – Recognizing the trap they were in the Jewish leaders pleaded ignorance. They knew that Jesus had revealed their inconsistencies and their insincerity.
  • The response of Jesus – What we see in the final part of the verse is that Jesus acknowledges their lack of submission to His authority. In the same way Jesus knows our hearts. He knows those who reject His authority and those who try to sidestep His Lordship (Matthew 10:32-33). But the good news is that He forgives and accepts all who come to Him in repentance and faith. Don’t let pride stand in your way. Don’t let the fear of what others may say or do stand in your way. Jesus is Lord and He is the One with all authority. Submit to Him and know that His ways are good.