The battle for authority

The battle for authority

Luke 20: 1-8 “One day as Jesus was teaching the people in the temple courts and proclaiming the good news, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, together with the elders, came up to him. “Tell us by what authority you are doing these things,” they said. “Who gave you this authority?” He replied, “I will also ask you a question. Tell me: John’s baptism—was it from heaven, or of human origin?” They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Why didn’t you believe him?’ But if we say, ‘Of human origin,’ all the people will stone us, because they are persuaded that John was a prophet.” So they answered, “We don’t know where it was from.” Jesus said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”

 

3:21-22 “When all the people were being baptised, Jesus was baptised too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

That seems a long time ago. However, not only did Jesus live in the light of what happened, Luke was writing his gospel with this very much in mind. The scene in the Jordan River propelled Jesus forward in the authority that was his. Luke has the cross and the resurrection very much in mind throughout his gospel. This was the ultimate battle in answering the question, “…by what authority are you doing these things?” (v2) Luke is not so much seeing the fiercest battle with the High Priest and his entourage but with Caesar.

Luke 2:1 “In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world.”

We will read soon these verses, 20: 22-25 “Is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not? …”Show me a denarius. Whose image and inscription are on it?” “Caesar’s,” they replied … He said to them, “Then give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

The religious leaders incredulously are seen to support the authority of Caesar (who they hate and oppose) in order to seek the downfall of Jesus in Luke 23: 2 “And they began to accuse him, saying, “We have found this man subverting our nation. He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar and claims to be Messiah, a king.”

At the crucifixion around the cross stood the authority of the world, the power of religion and the power of the world system. The religious leaders representing the High Priest and the Roman soldiers, the representatives of Caesar. When Jesus rose from the grave, the declaration was that of Jesus having the highest authority!

So back to the Temple. “What gives you the right to come into this Temple of great authoritative structures with the High Priest being the final authority and do what you have just done? Who gave you this authority?”

Jesus takes them right back to the Jordan River, to John the Baptist, who they hated for declaring the Messiah title on Jesus. He doesn’t ask “Was John the Baptist sent from heaven?” But they are asked about the baptism. That’s where it really happened. That is the moment of the Messiah authority. It was ingenious. He had trapped them and they knew it, for John the Baptist was a hero amongst the people. I can imagine Luke writing with a smile.

Now here is the challenge. How do we see the authority of Jesus displayed in our churches and in our lives as we live in this power-hungry world? What kind of Jesus do we portray? How do we reveal Him as Master, Owner, Keeper, Lord of all, Sovereign and Final Authority on all things?

That has to mean at least over-turned tables in the Temple.

This kind of authority will offend someone.

The outworking of the battle for authority has been displayed in every generation. Sadly, history reveals the Church doesn’t cover itself in glory with this. Either it rises beyond its status with a man-made authority or it buckles and gives way to the pressure of the authority of the world. The Church that goes to the cross, surrenders and lays its life down for others, is the body of Christ that displays true authority.

May we walk in that authority today.

 

 

 

 

How to be a Christian every day!

How to be a Christian every day!

Luke 19: 47-48 “Every day he was teaching at the temple. But the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the leaders among the people were trying to kill him. Yet they could not find any way to do it, because all the people hung on his words.”

Every day Jesus was consistently doing the same thing.

Every day the enemy of his life was trying to find a way but couldn’t.

Every day Jesus was influencing, winning over, gaining favour and leaving people fascinated with what he was saying.

This Christian life is pretty much the same every day. Yes, there are a variety of things we do in work, rest and play. We meet lots of different people and go to different places. But when we break it down the same 3 things happen:

  1. We live our life for Jesus revealing his teaching and values and we do this daily.
  2. We face the enemy of our soul who through disappointment and discouragement is trying to bring us down and that happens every day.
  3. We live our life trying to influence and impact the lives of people we meet and we do that daily.

That’s it. It is that simple. And so here goes another day.

 

Don’t miss Him

Don’t miss Him

Luke 19:46 “It is written,” he said to them, ” ‘My house will be a house of prayer’; but you have made it ‘a den of robbers’.”

The priests and people “did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.” (v44) and maybe this was the reason. The heartbeat of their faith and community, the Temple, was the place where they met with God. It was the place where communication happened between them and God. However, Jesus reveals that this had stopped. It had become anything but that place. It was a trading place. Many would say it was still a place of sacrifice and worship. In fact, the trading was for the sacrifices. But the house had become something it was never meant to be.

 

How does Jesus think when this happens?

We know what he thought!

He had already done this once before (John 2) and here again he drives the traders out.

The money-changers had to be there, the traders had to be there for people to get the animals for sacrifice, but the priests and the traders were abusing the people by deceitfully making money from them. Others were taking short-cuts through the Temple courts to go about their business.

 

There were people in the Temple. The crowds were there. If numbers were everything then they had it all.

But they were missing it. The House was meant to be a place of communion with God. A place to speak and hear from Him. Without that they would surely miss every visitation from God.

 

Is your house a house of prayer?

I mean is your life a house of prayer?

Is your Church?

What has it become?

If what it has become has replaced what it was meant to be then you will miss what God is going to do and what He is saying.

A few months ago having served in leadership teams all my working life I walked into the most poisonous one that I have ever attended. It was terrible. I had to sadly dissolve that team because it was making a mockery of the house of God. How can we hear Him if the polluted noise is raging?

The Church in the UK needs to hear from God more than at any time before.

What is God saying?

When the preacher gets up to preach, ‘what is God saying?’

When leadership teams meet to discuss the ‘what next’, ‘what is God saying?’

When the Church looks out the window at a fallen world, ‘what is God saying?’

When it all goes wrong and you are on bended knee asking for His help, ‘what is God saying?’

Don’t miss what God is doing and will do simply because the house is too busy, or too toxic or too distracted.

The house, His house, your life, is created to speak and hear from God. Don’t miss Him.

What needs to go?

What needs to go?

Luke 19: 45 “Then he entered the temple area and began driving out those who were selling.”

The first place Jesus enters is the Temple area.

From the tears to the Temple.

Luke is briefer than the others in the description of what takes place.

‘He drives out’ are the same words used for when Jesus cast our evil spirits.

On those occasions he didn’t ask them nicely nor for a voluntary act of departure. No, he just forced them to leave. He became angry and his anger became forceful.

What makes you angry?

If you could drive out anything in the Church what would it be?

Jesus saw the selling as an anathema. It had to go.

What needs to go?

Here comes the problem and what the Church still tries to deal with.

The Church cannot self-clean.

It will come up with lists to do with appearances, authority and accuracy. The lists will come from its leaders.

The reason why the Priests hated Jesus for what he did with the traders was because they were receiving a cut from the trading. They were benefiting.

If we are going to do what Jesus did maybe we should start there, in the pulpit, with the leadership.

With the high office of responsibility and privilege there should be high accountability also.

Everyone knows the Church in the UK has been struggling for some time now.

May the Spirit of God shine a torch and sweep the Church from things that should never be in there. If that seriously affects its leadership so be it. If leaders become angry so be it.

As a leader my role is to lay my life down for the sheep. Nothing else. Let everything go so that this is what is left.

Real Tears

Real Tears

Luke 19: 41-44 “As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it 42 and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace-but now it is hidden from your eyes. 43 The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. 44 They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognise the time of God’s coming to you.”

The journey into Jerusalem has been made up of false honour, imperfect praise, fearful offence and now real tears.

Jesus bursts into tears. He prophetically sees what happened in AD70 when the siege and fall of Jerusalem took place. The Romans’ killed a million Jews who took refuge in the city. They then burnt it to the ground. Why did God permit this? Jesus tells us it was because they did not recognise the visitation of God, namely, Jesus.

There will be tears today at the cenotaphs. There will be weeping as many remember loved ones.

But Jesus is weeping for what is to come.

His tears are at the centre of Christianity.

This is not weakness.

This is a pronouncement of judgment but through tears.

Tears for others.

Acts 20:19 “I served the Lord with great humility and with tears, although I was severely tested by the plots of the Jews.”

I remember sitting with a leader on a journey who was passing on his leadership ability to me.  

He told me of his many fights with people and how he had won the arguments. I could see how people wanted to be like him for his rhetorical skills, his dogged determination to deal with any slight confrontation and his strength of character for any situation.

But I wondered if he ever wept.

What broke his heart?

I need to learn to ask that question of leaders that inspire me: “What makes you cry?”

I believe good leaders weep.

The Apostle Paul wept night and day for people.

In doing his Father’s will Jesus offered up loud cries and tears (Heb 5)

So how do we learn tears?

By serving with great humility:-

A gentleness towards others.

A desire for the best in others.

A willingness to wash the feet of others.

A higher perspective and a sobering reality of what lays ahead for others.

A commitment to carry the cross for others.

A satisfaction to lose the fight in order to win the war.

There is no true leadership without tears.

Fearful offence

Fearful offence

Luke 19 v 39 “Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”

There was false honour, imperfect praise and fearful offence.

Right now, someone, somewhere is getting offended!

The crowd are surrounding Jesus, the sound is increasing, the energy levels are rising, singing, cheering, whistling, shouting, jumping around. Sound like church?

But unfortunately within the crowd are some grumblers. The most committed followers can be the ones who whinge the most! You seem to not be able to shake them off!

Why were they offended? Why did they tell Jesus to end the show?

1. They were afraid excuse of the use of the Old Testament Messianic scriptures towards Jesus. They were God-agents. They believed that they had to stand up against all kinds of injustice and wrong-doing for God’s sake.

2. They were afraid of what the authorities would do if there was yet another messianic proclamation. The Romans were stamping down on such groups. But the crowd was big and the effect would be immense.

3. They were afraid because their own following was diminishing as people ran after Jesus. They were fearfully jealous. In Johns gospel they defeatedly said, “Look the whole world has gone after Him.” (12:9)

Fearful offence is still here. You can find it in most Churches. I see it a lot.

> Haranguing people. Hurting, wounding, making people feel bad, pulpit to the pew and vice versa. All in the name of God, afraid for the holiness of God and the Church. We try and rebuke like Jesus rebuked his disciples on occasions, but we fail because we are at the centre of every rebuke and we are not good enough.

> Decorum reigns. Decency, orderly, don’t ruffle the suits. Emotionless worship. Keep it quiet, don’t disturb the neighbours, be careful what we say. Some become offended for those who just may be offended.

> Jealous motives. If this was truly God he wouldn’t be blessing the Church up the road with the crowds. He would be blessing us right? Those crowds well, it’s mere entertainment, not true, not real. No it is here, with us, we have it right. We might not be attractive but we are right.

The response of Jesus to fearful offence?

Nah!

Imperfect praise

Imperfect praise

Luke 19: 37-38, 40.

“When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!…“I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”

They praised God for the miracles they had seen. The greatest of these miracles was the recent raising of Lazarus from the dead, but they had seen much more.

Using Psalm 118 initially in their praises according to the other gospel writers, Luke then writes of them using Messianic phrases in praise of Jesus. These 2 phrases are so interesting!

The first one, “Blessed is the king …” is taken from Psalm 118 v 26. But the people in Jerusalem change the words from ‘Blessed is him …’ Jesus is indeed king!

The second one, “Peace in heaven …” is significant in that when Jesus was born the angels declared ‘peace on earth’ (Luke 2:14). Here coming into Jerusalem the sound rising to heaven is that of the peace of heaven because by the end of the week, Jesus will have paid the price to end the separation between God and man.

Did the people know the significance of these phrases and their praises? NO. Did that matter to Jesus? NO “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”

Imperfect praise.

The next time someone has a go at the musicians and singers in the worship team. They are not good enough. They are too loud. They are not singing the right songs. They are singing too long! Remind them that Jesus accepts imperfect praise. He will take it even from stones!

There’s one more thing about the imperfect praise of these people.

They were praising Jesus for his miracles.

However, the gospel writers all make it clear that there seems to be a heavenly agenda throughout. That was to hide the understanding of those miracles from those who saw them. In the sovereignty of God most of the teaching, parables and miracles were hidden from even his own disciples. In Luke 8:10 quoting from Isaiah 6, Luke writes, “though seeing, they may not see; though hearing, they may not understand.’

They see the miracle of the bleeding woman but they miss the point that Jesus was overturning the cultural stigma attached to woman and their ‘uncleanliness’.

They see the provision miracles of water into wine and the feeding of the crowds but they miss the significance of them pointing to the great heavenly banquet that awaits us.

They see the blind man seeing, the deaf man hearing, the mute man speaking but miss the fact that Jesus has come to open our self-centred eyes to others, our stubborn ears to obedience and our intimidated silence to speaking words of truth and love.

Imperfect praise.

That God would temporarily harden the hearts of His people to who He really is in Jesus for the sake of the expansion of the gospel to the Gentiles (which the apostle Paul understands fully) is amazingly gracious!

There was false honour in laying down the clothes on the road and imperfect praise of shouts of Messianic declarations but Jesus received it all.

The new convert with all their brokenness still to be healed may look like the last person to be singing praises to God in Church.

The gender confused person with their hands in the air in worship of God may be a hard picture to take for some in the Church.

You, today, with a mind confused, fearful of the future, a complex past and a present that is not what it seems at all. You, a sinner, directionless, rocking in a storm of life, wondering if it is worth it. You can raise a joyful song of praise to God in a loud voice. It may not sound good and it may be so very imperfect. But you can praise Him. He is waiting.

False honour

False honour

Luke 19: 35-36 “They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road.”

So Jesus is riding the donkey on a pathway of garments and clothing. Mark and John say in their gospels that the people also used palm branches and laid them before the donkey trod over them.

A picture of both cultural and prophetic honour.

When the Israelites are aware that Jehu has been made king in 2 Kings 9: 13, this is what happened, “They quickly took their cloaks and spread them under him on the bare steps. Then they blew the trumpet and shouted, “Jehu is king!”

But of course this is false honour because it came from people who in not understanding his journey believed that the entrance into Jerusalem would be the commencement of a new season of victory for them all.

We can all honour someone if we think we are getting something from them.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves (Philippians 2:3)

You can be holy if you want something.

You can lay your life and garments down if you know you will be exalted.

Jesus was going to liberate them from the Romans.

The taxation system was going to end.

Their land would no longer be occupied.

So the crowd went wild in honour of Jesus.

However, they were honouring Jesus in line with their own preconceived ideas of who they thought he was and who they so desperately wanted him to be.

They got the right person. Jesus was indeed their Messiah. But they were wrong in what their Messiah was going to do.

So the question is this: Are you honouring someone because you want something from them? Is that someone your boss, leader, so called friend? Is it Jesus?

If so then is it false honour.

If he needed a donkey then he definitely needs you!

If he needed a donkey then he definitely needs you!

Luke 19: 29-34

“As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, 30 ‘Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31 If anyone asks you, “Why are you untying it?” say, “The Lord needs it.”’ 32 Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. 33 As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, ‘Why are you untying the colt?’ 34 They replied, ‘The Lord needs it.’

 

The Lord needs you. I know that sounds the wrong way round. But if Jesus needed a donkey then he does need you!

Why did Jesus need transport? Why a donkey? Well, of course we know that now. We know that culturally a high ranking official in the Jewish culture could demand any livestock for their own purposes. More importantly we know that

the Old Testament tells prophetic stories of the use of donkeys. For example, in 1 Kings 1 as King David is handing his throne to his son Solomon, he has him riding in the city on his own donkey. Zechariah prophesies in 9:9 “Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion!  Shout Daughter Jerusalem!  See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
He needed a donkey and he needs you. “Go into all the world and make disciples …” He is relying on us doing that. He needs us to do that. It won’t happen otherwise. He restricts His power because He wants to use us and even animals.

He needs Churches to demonstrate the unity of God.

He needs workers, evangelists, disciples and he is not afraid to send them out.

He has all power and He owns it all. However, the kingdom rules are that God needs you.

The question is whether we will say YES, HERE I AM!

You can only move on if you have learnt where the right spaces are.

You can only move on if you have learnt where the right spaces are.

Luke 19:29  “As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives …”

The reason why some never reach their potential is because they don’t build into their life the essential ‘spaces’ that enable them to continue the journey.

Here are the spaces that we need:

  1. The bigger perspective space.

From the Mount of Olives, Jesus would come down into Jerusalem. He could see everything from there, the temples and palaces, the places where he would be tried, the hustle and bustle of the crowds that were gathered as pilgrims in the city.

It was also the place he spoke of his Second Coming, Jewish tradition has it that the Messiah will return on this mountain and it was here that he ascended into heaven.

If you are going to accomplish the works of God then you will need to take steps back and steps up so that you can see the landscape in front of you. Sometimes you will need to respond by playing ‘a bigger game’ or to be ‘the bigger man/woman’ than those around you. Learn to get higher, to think higher, to see further than most.

 

  1. The switch off space.

How many people really know you? Who knows your favourite food or your favourite song or book? If you are struggling then you are not switching off enough. Bethany was the home of Jesus’ friends, Mary, Martha and Lazarus. Their homes were his rest and refuge space and he used it a lot for sleeping, eating and just enjoying the company of his friends.

Take a look at your diary. Make sure ahead of you there are switching off times and spaces. Places where you can be yourself, you won’t be judged and you can be free to be yourself.

Maybe the problems you are facing don’t need divine intervention as much as you not intervening at all. Switch off. Come away from it and enjoy life.

 

  1. The starting space.

Bethphage was the starting point of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. It was believed to be the furthest part of the city and at the limit of a permitted walk on a Sabbath which was a distance of 900 metres. That isn’t a long walk to our standards. But the point is this is where Jesus started the journey in. The name means ‘House of unripe figs’ and we remember it was the place where Jesus cursed the fig tree which had no fruit symbolically pointing towards God’s people who were not bearing the hallmarks of God in their life.

Your starting point may not be a great one. But you need to start somewhere and here now, today, well, there’s no time like the presence. So why not step out towards your life today? Maybe you need to make some hard decisions? Maybe you need to surrender your agenda? Moving a step towards God and putting your trust in Him. It’s a start.