Matthew 21:23-28, NLT
23 When Jesus returned to the Temple and began teaching, the leading priests and elders came up to him. They demanded, “By what authority are you doing all these things? Who gave you the right?”
24 “I’ll tell you by what authority I do these things if you answer one question,” Jesus replied. 25 “Did John’s authority to baptize come from heaven, or was it merely human?”
They talked it over among themselves. “If we say it was from heaven, he will ask us why we didn’t believe John. 26 But if we say it was merely human, we’ll be mobbed because the people believe John was a prophet.” 27 So they finally replied, “We don’t know.”
And Jesus responded, “Then I won’t tell you by what authority I do these things.”
Jesus entered Jerusalem on Sunday as a king, He entered the temple, the court of the Gentiles and drove out the livestock, merchants and money changers. All this was very upsetting to the Jewish religious leaders. Jesus literally transformed the Temple: where it had been a place of business and profit to the Jewish religious leaders, he converted it into a teaching and healing center; a place where He could teach the word of God and show mercy on those who were hurting. After sleeping on it one night, the religious leaders confront Jesus… “By what authority are you doing all these things? Who gave you the right?” There is a huge difference between a purely inquisitive “Who are you?” Than the arrogant, “Who do you think You are?”
The Jewish religious leaders were power brokers and stock holders and Jesus was a threat to their base. Long story short, He was bad for business. There was no profit in His teaching and healing. He had cleaned out the Court of the Gentiles which was technically the only area of the Temple that they could convert to a market place. So we have a turf war here and the Jews are trying very hard to discredit Jesus.
The thought occurred to me as I prepared the sermon: the Jewish religious leaders have serious problems even if you take Jesus out of the picture. They pretend that the basic issue is the true identity of Jesus. Is He the Messiah? Of course, they do not believe that He is and they use this unbelief to justify their actions.
They made the question about Jesus and His authority…Who does He think He is?…But the real question is… who do they think they are? I believe that Jesus is the Messiah and I believe that you believe that He is the Messiah. So rather than talking about who He is directly, I want to talk about “Who we are” and what we must do to be saved, forgiven and stamped for shipment to heaven.
I. First: You must see your sins and your sinful condition.
You and I are sinners and we deserve death and hell. We are good at seeing sins of others but the question is: do we see our own sin? Look at these Jewish religious leaders. You can see their arrogance, their jealously and their contempt for Jesus. One of the motivating factors that brings them to Jesus is their lust for power and their love of money. How could these people, so well versed in the Hebrew scripture fail to see their own sin and transgression?
In Luke 5 after Peter makes the big catch by being obedient to Christ the bible says…
When Simon Peter realized what had happened, he fell to his knees before Jesus and said, “Oh, Lord, please leave me—I’m too much of a sinner to be around you.”
The Message quotes Peter as saying, “Master, leave, I cannot handle this holiness.” The scripture makes it clear that James, John and Andrew experienced this same awe. Jesus response was, “Do not be afraid, from now on you will be fishing for men.” So all four men saw God in Jesus; they saw the holiness in Jesus and when they saw His holiness, they saw their depravity and sin. The first step in SALVATION is repentance and this begins with seeing your sin and sinfulness.
We are sinners by nature and choice. We have no ability to produce any righteous that God will accept. When we do good things, we have bad motives. Our very nature is corrupted with self-love and everything we do is for our own glory. Even Solomon who yielded to temptation in his later year confessed in Eccl. 7:20…
“Not a single person on earth is always good and never sins.”
Paul said in Romans 3…
“None are righteous…all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”
The glory of God is the perfection we see in Jesus. Can you come close to His perfection? Can you come close to jumping the Tennessee River? Remember, it does not matter how far you jump, if you come short of the bank, you are going to get as wet as the guy who fell in the water when he tried to jump. It does not matter who can get closer, what matters is that all come short. Peter saw the righteousness of Christ and in the light of that radiant holiness, he saw his own sin and he felt ashamed. People who don’t see their sin, do not see a need for a Savior. You must see your sin and your sinful condition or you will not be saved.
II. You Must Be Ready For Change.
The Jewish Religious leaders where entrenched in their ways and customs. They were pleased with their lives and saw nothing that needed to be changed. They were satisfied the way their were. I had a Seminary Professor tell about serving a church as interim and he decided that he would try to help them get going. The church was rather dead and so he planned a meeting of the church leaders and he made the mistake of beginning that meeting with this question: “How can we improve our Sunday School?” The immediate answer was, “What is wrong with the way it is now?” I decided to use that question in the first church I served after Seminary and low and behold, I got the same answer. That question set off a fire storm. I constantly work on improvement but some folks are satisfied with things as they are. The Jewish leaders were resistant to change: they feared change even when it was the Son of God doing the changing.
Jesus Transforms the Temple
Jesus rode into town like a king, came to the Temple and cleansed it. He drove out the livestock, overturned the tables were they were selling doves, drove out the merchants and money changers and then He transformed the court of the Gentiles into a hospital and Seminary. He used it for a teaching and healing ministry. This made the Jews furious. They had allowed the Court of the Gentile, that part of the Temple for all people, to become a Walmart or a trade day and they got a percentage of the profit. Jesus had a holy fit and cleaned the place up and then transformed it into what it was intended to be all along, “A house of prayer for all nations.” You need to note the sequence of event: Jesus entered the temple, cleansed it and then transformed it.
Jesus loves you the way you are but love you too much to leave you this way
I have to be honest, Jesus does love you the way you are but He loves you far too much to leave you that way. He has a plan for your life and it involves change, radical change. If you do not want change, you want no part of Jesus because He is the omnipotent transformer. He is going to change your life. He told His first disciples in Mark 1:17, “Follow Me and I will make you to become fishers of men.” Note what He said, “I will make you” and He is not talking about force, He is talking about grace. Understand that He has a plan to transform you and make you like Himself. He is going to make you holy. Better still, He will make you want to be holy. He will give you a desire to please the Father. You can not get forgiveness without getting transformation. To be saved, you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. Jesus wants to be your Savior and LORD.
There is a story in the O.T. about Joshua on the eve of the battle of Jericho, Joshua took a prayer walk and ran into the Angel of the LORD…When Joshua was near the town of Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with sword in hand. Joshua went up to him and demanded, “Are you friend or foe?”
“Neither one,” he replied. “I am the commander of the Lord’s army.” At this, Joshua fell with his face to the ground in reverence. “I am at your command,” Joshua said. “What do you want your servant to do?”
I like Jimmy Jackson paraphrase…[Joshua] Whose side are you on? [Angel] I didn’t come to take sides, I came to take over. [Joshua] I am at your command, tell me what to do. Jesus is not coming to be a part of your life, He will be your life. If you have the courage to trust HIM today, He will come in and take over. He will transform your life. He will change your “Want to’s. Your old life will fade away. He will make everything new.
III. You must put your faith and confidence in Jesus.
The Jewish big wigs wanted no changes. They were at home in their sin, perfectly content. They wanted no part of Jesus. Actually, they wanted Jesus dead because He threatened their way of life and they also feared being exposed. The Jewish Religious leaders as a whole rejected Jesus totally. Jesus began His Judean ministry by cleansing the Temple and three years later He returns and does it a second time but nothing has changed. Although Jesus has given them signs, wonders and infallible proofs, they do not believe He is the messiah. The heart of this exchange [todays text] is their unbelief: they did not believe John was a prophet, the forerunner, a type of Elijah and they did not believe Jesus was the Messiah and they did not believe the either John nor Jesus was sent by God. They were full of religion but sitting on dead empty when it came to faith. In a manner, unbelief is the unpardonable sin.
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.”
In conclusion, let me ask a few probing questions
- Do you have the courage to step into the light today?
- Will you confess that you are a sinner and that you cannot measure up to the perfection we see in Christ?
- Jesus stands ready to forgive but He will also Transform your life: Are you ready for a change or would you prefer to continue as you are?
- Only Jesus can forgive sin and transform lives: would you trust Jesus to change your life today?
The bible is filled with sinner’s prayer…
- “Have mercy on me and hear my prayer”…Psalm 4:1…David
- “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David!” …Matthew 15:22…The Canaanite Woman
- “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”…Mark 10:47…Bartimaeus
- “Oh God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.”…Luke 18:13…the Tax Collector
- “Heal me, O LORD, and I shall be healed; Save me, and I shall be saved”…Jeremiah 17:14
- “Lord, save me!”…Matthew 14:30…Peter
It is not the prayer that saves you, it is Jesus but in your own way, you need to call on HIM because He and only He can save you. The key is that you repent and put your faith in Jesus Christ. Paul told the Philippian jailor, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, along with everyone in your household.”