Preaching through Luke has been a journey which began almost two years ago, and many of you have made that journey with me. I hope that for those of you who have been able to attend regularly, that this study has provided you with insights into the gospel that you had never realized before. Perhaps some of you may have really come to understand for the first time the truth of the gospel, the specificity of the way of salvation, and the necessity of sanctification. My hope is that you have not just added some historical knowledge concerning the life of Christ on merely an intellectual level, but that the applications learned through studying Jesus’ teachings have radically changed your life – changing the way you actually live life. Changing the way you see the world. I hope it’s changed the purpose of your life from being self centered to being God centered.
And it is also my hope that through this study of Luke it has helped to flesh out the full personality of Christ for you. I’m afraid that so many people have a one dimensional perspective of Jesus Christ that isn’t really true to the Bible. But it’s important to know and worship Christ for who He is, not who we want Him to be.
Some of you know that I recently purchased an old Kawasaki motorcycle that I have been trying to restore. For some reason, there is a connection between surfing and motorcycles. They would seem to not really all that compatible, but they both appeal to the same kind of personality I guess. So anyhow, I ran across this company that started in Bali but now has stores around the world that restores café racer type motorcycles and sells surfboards and surf related stuff. For me it’s like the best of both worlds. But they had this weird name which is Deus Ex Machina. And so I wanted to know what that meant. Turns out it is an old Latin expression which means god in the machine. It was used to describe a device in Greek poetry by which the author of the poem or play brought about a successful ending to his plot by the introduction of a god let down by a machine, or something like a crane, which solved a problem of a plot that didn’t seem to have a logical ending. The god of the machine then is a contrivance of the author by which he is able to insert a god and artificially provide a solution to a dilemma.
Now I was reminded of that phrase as I was considering how we look at the nature of God. Is God merely a contrivance, a device of our own engineering, that we somehow manipulate in order to extract us from a difficult situation? Is the God of Christendom really that small as to be manipulated by the machinations of man? Can we just create God to be whatever we want Him to be, to solve our particular dilemma in just the way we want? Can God be defined by mere mortals? Is God really just the god of the machine, something manipulated for our benefit? How can we know the God of the Bible?
To answer those questions, to truly understand God, we must understand first of all that Jesus was fully man and fully God. Jesus said to Philip in John 14:9, that “if you have seen Me, you have seen the Father.” That is an incredible statement. And that statement means that it is essential that we fully understand the true nature of Jesus Christ, His complete personality, because He reflects the nature and character of God exactly. Hebrews 1:3 says that “[Jesus] is the radiance of [God’s] glory and the exact representation of [God’s] nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power.” So it’s important that we see Jesus for who He really is, and that we worship God for who He really is. Because Jesus said in John 4:24 that “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” It does us no good whatsoever to worship a God of our own design. We must worship God in truth. As He really is, all that He is, even if He does not conform to our expectations, even when He doesn’t solve our personal dilemma.
So as we enter chapter 20, I would just remind you of the different characteristics or attitudes or personality attributes of Jesus that we have seen presented here in just the last couple of chapters of Luke, because it has direct correlation to the passage we are looking at today. At the end of chapter 18 we saw the compassion of Jesus at the healing of a desperate blind beggar. We saw the joy of Jesus in the opening story of chapter 19 about Zaccheus. Joy at a lost sheep of Israel that was found, that was saved. We saw the judgment of Jesus in the parable about the evaluation of the 10 slaves and the ten minas. Uncompromising judgment that took away the mina from the worthless slave and gave it to another. We saw the justice and wrath of Jesus when He called for His enemies to be slain before Him in His presence.
Then we saw humbleness of Jesus in the story of Christ entering Jerusalem on a donkey. Then we saw the sorrow of Jesus as He saw the city laid out beneath Him and He wept over the city because He foresaw the terrible consequences of their rejection of Him as the Messiah. Then we saw the righteous anger of Jesus as He entered the temple and chased out the merchandisers who had made the temple into a den of thieves.
All of those attributes collectively should help us to recognize a more complete picture of who Jesus really is; and ultimately, what God is really like. And folks, that is so very important today in light of the common misconceptions about God and the gospel that is prevalent in the teaching of TV evangelists and many liberal churches. Jesus said God must be worshipped in Spirit and in truth. And so we must recognize God for who He is, who He says He is in His word, and then bow our knee to Him as Lord. Any effort on our part to limit God, to redefine God, or to characterize God as anything less than who He really is, is simply idolatry. You can say you are worshipping God and yet be worshipping an idol, a god devised by your contrivance, after your preferences, and after your prejudices. We must worship God in truth.
Let me be absolutely clear. God can not be defined only as love. That word has become the catchall of the modern church. The Bible does say that God is love. But the Bible also says God is a God of wrath, God is Holy, God is Righteous. God is the ultimate Judge of the Earth. But many modern church leaders want to say that God is only a God of love, and therefore love cancels out all the other characteristics of God’s nature. That is a dangerous thing. That false doctrine causes someone like Rob Bell, former pastor of Mars Hill Church and creator of the Nooma films, to write a book called “Love Wins”, which denies the doctrine of hell and consequently a host of other essential doctrines. According to his and many other modern theologian’s warped view of God, God cannot be a God of love and send anyone to hell. And so His view of God conveniently overrides the scriptures, and wipes out the Bibical doctrine of hell, because in His mind they are incompatible.
Such a contemporary lopsided view of God causes someone like Joel Olsteen to stammer and stutter and sidestep the question of whether or not Jesus is the only way to get to heaven. Because his distorted view of God as love does not allow for a God who would not accept someone who was sincerely seeking God through Buddha, or in Islam or through any other false religion out there. As long as you’re sincere, he believes there is a good chance that the God of love will not be able to say no and will accept you into heaven irregardless of one’s faith .
The whole question then comes down to who or what is your authority? Is our eternal destiny determined by our individual preferences or beliefs, or is there a God in heaven who has the right, the absolute authority, to establish the parameters of His kingdom, and to govern the affairs of His kingdom and His citizens?
The root of the problem is that man by his nature hates authority. Man by his nature is rebellious. It started with Adam and Eve in the Garden. Their sin was not that they ate a piece of fruit that was off limits. Their sin was a sin of rebellion. They believed that they were a better judge of what was right and wrong, of what was good or bad for them than God was. And so they acted in rebellion against God and did what they thought was good, when in fact it was evil. Consequently rebellion is the source of all evil. 1Samuel 15:23 says, “For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry.”
The problem with the world today is that it is rebellious, it hates authority. The world hates any authority that tells them that what they want to do is sin. And unfortunately, it is not limited just to the world. The modern church as well hates authority. That is why there is an all out attack on the authority of God’s word from within the church. The modern church as an institution hates absolute authority. It rejects the authority of God’s word, and exchanges it for a doctrine of relativity.
The modern church today says that we have to accommodate the mores of the world. And so today society says that women should be able to be in a place of leadership in the church. Only a chauvinist would deny a woman the position of a minister of the church. Yet the Bible clearly says in 1Tim. 2:12 in regards to the church, “But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet.” It says the same thing in 1 Cor. 14. Yet the modern church doesn’t want to be told that, so they exchange the truth of God for a lie.
The church today says that sin in no longer sin. It doesn’t matter if the Bible says that homosexuality is an abomination before God. Society says that it is acceptable. And so liberal church leaders say that God is love and therefore God accepts all forms of love. They reject the authority of God’s word and instead say that they are capable of deciding what is right and what is wrong. The church today winks at divorce. But the Bible says that the person that divorces and marries another is guilty of adultery. The Bible says that God hates divorce. But the church says it’s not a big deal if you don’t love them anymore. The Bible says that all fornication is sin. But the modern church says it’s ok if you love the person. They reject the authority of God’s word.
But Paul warns in Romans 1:18 that there is a greater dimension to God than simply that of love. It says, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.”
So at the heart of the gospel is the authority of the word of God. If you take that out, if you start to tamper with it, question it, subjugate it to man’s ideas of relevance and importance, then you take the heart right out of the gospel. You take the power to save out of the gospel. The truth can only set you free when it is actually the truth.
Now this problem with authority started with Adam and Eve like I said, and it has reached epidemic proportions today in the modern church, but it also was around in Jesus day. In fact, you could say that it was even worse in Jesus’ day, because that rebellion culminated in the crucifixion of God Himself in the person of Jesus Christ.
And as we look at our text today we see this question of authority being enunciated by the religious leaders of that day. In fact, it is a pretty serious delegation of religious leaders. No less than the high priests were part of the delegation as well as the elders of the Sanhedrin, which was the religious ruling class of Judaism. This was the highest levels of the Jewish religious orders coming to accost Jesus.
And what they ask Him is found in vs. 2, ““Tell us by what authority You are doing these things, or who is the one who gave You this authority?” Now the question that raises is what are “these things” that Christ was doing? And the answer is found in the end of the last chapter. Jesus had come into the temple and started cleaning house. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves and He drove out those who were buying and selling. It says in Mark that He wouldn’t allow them to carry their merchandise through the temple either.
I hope you get the full picture here. Jesus grabs up a bullwhip, and He goes into the temple courtyard and starts driving these vendors out of the temple. This is not a lovey dovey Jesus pictured here. He is exercising the divine wrath of God. These merchants had set up in the temple grounds with all kinds of animals for sale. And so you’ve got this effect of something like cattle pens in the temple where people could purchase an animal for sacrifice. And they operated in conjunction with the priests who were making outrageous profits from selling these “approved” animals.
Then on top of that are the money changers. The priests had the racket set up so that in order to pay your temple tax or even to buy a sacrificial animal, you had to pay in the currency of the temple. They wouldn’t accept Roman money. So they of course would charge you a hefty commission to change your currency into temple currency. It was yet another form of extortion.
So Jesus sees all this going on. In John’s gospel, there is a record of Him cleansing the temple in just this same way at an earlier time in His ministry. So after all that time, Jesus has come back and the temple vendors and priests are right back at it again, and so He does the same thing that He did before, He grabs a whip and weighs into the middle of the whole mess, cracking the bullwhip and kicking over tables and chairs and driving the men out of the temple. And He doesn’t even let them carry out their merchandise. He drives them out and leaves their stuff scattered all over the grounds.
And as He is doing all of that, He says, “It is written, ‘AND MY HOUSE SHALL BE A HOUSE OF PRAYER,’ but you have made it a ROBBERS’ DEN.” He is quoting scripture to them. I love that. All these crooked priests and the vendors running for the exits and Jesus is chasing behind them cracking a bullwhip and quoting scripture. Furthermore, He is saying it is His house. It’s not their house, it’s His house.
Now the next morning, the temple is cleaned out, the money changers are gone, the animals are gone, and Jesus comes back in there and sits down in the middle of the temple and begins to preach. And people are hanging on to His every word. Why? Because He spoke with authority. The people said about Him that never a man spoke as He spoke.
But the religious leaders don’t recognize that authority. And so they come to Him in force and ask Him by what authority is He doing these things, who gave Him this authority? Basically they are saying, “Hey Jesus, who do you think you are? What right have you to come into the temple, our territory, and drive out the vendors? What authority do you have to make a claim on the temple that it is your house?
Here is the thing. As far as they were concerned, Jesus had no credentials. He wasn’t a priest. He wasn’t a graduate from some established rabbinical school. He wasn’t of the tribe of Levi. He wasn’t part of the Sanhedrin. He had none of the credentials that they thought that He should have.
You know, I experience a similar kind of problem sometimes. I don’t have a degree from some big established seminary. I don’t have the backing of some denomination. I don’t wear the prescribed uniform of the typical religious leader. I don’t even have a church building. And so I sometimes get a little bit of that same criticism. What authority do you have? Who gave you the authority to preach about sin and hell and the judgment to come? Who do you think you are?
And my response is the same as John the Baptist when he was asked a similar question. I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, “repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” My answer is to quote the apostle Paul who said in 1Cor. 9:16 that I am constrained to preach the gospel out of compulsion. Woe is me if I do not preach the gospel. My authority is only that God has called me to preach the word of God without apology, to preach the word in season and out of season, to reprove, rebuke and exhort with all longsuffering and patience. I can say “Thus says the Lord” without hesitation because I speak from the word of God. I don’t add the machinations and scheming of man’s wisdom. I preach the word of God chapter by chapter, verse by verse. And I believe that the word of God is the absolute truth. The word of God is the breath of God that gives life. It is the absolute rule of life and practice and everyman will be judged by it according to how they responded to it. My job is not to build a church building, or draw a crowd, or entertain people, my job is to preach the full counsel of God’s word without compromise.
Well, Jesus uses a question to answer their question. Because He knows that they have framed their question in order to try to trap Him. To try to find a way to convict Him of blasphemy. They have been planning and plotting to kill Him for a while now and this last episode in the temple on their own turf has pushed them over the brink. They will in fact kill Him in just three days or so. But for now, Jesus turns the tables on them and asks them a question. Vs. 3 Jesus answered and said to them, “I will also ask you a question, and you tell Me: 4 “Was the baptism of John from heaven or from men?”
Now what is Jesus talking about when He says the baptism of John? Well, four times in scripture, Mark, Luke and twice in Acts, the baptism of John is called the baptism of repentance. That was the significance of John’s baptism. It wasn’t just a ritual. In fact, it had been a ritual conducted by the temple for non Jewish believers to go through so that they could worship the God of the Jews. It was a Gentile ritual. So when John preached a baptism of repentance, he was saying in essence that a Jew had to repent just like a Gentile in order to receive Christ. But the real significance of baptism was saying that you must confess and repent of your sins because the Messiah is coming. You must get ready for the coming of the Messiah. And the way to be accepted by Him into His kingdom is to repent of your sins. That is the message of the baptism. But the actual act of baptism is just a symbolic, outward sign that you are repenting of your sins. That you bury the old man, the old ways, the old flesh in the water of repentance. You die to that old man there in the water, and you rise up to a newness of life in Jesus Christ leaving behind the old man.
Now that baptism of repentance is the framework for the question Jesus asks of the priests. Was that message of John from God or of men? Well, the Bible very clearly teaches the doctrine of repentance. There are so many OT references to repentance that I cannot take the time to spell them all out here. But David the Psalmist speaks often of the need for repentance. It is a common theme in the OT. David repented of his sin with Bathsheba and God forgave him. He said in Ps. 51, “a broken and contrite heart O Lord you will not despise.” He said in Psalm 32:3, 5 “When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long. … I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I did not hide; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD”; And You forgave the guilt of my sin.”
So the priests should have understood the doctrine of repentance. But they did not want to accept it. They weren’t about to humble themselves in repentance. They weren’t about to acknowledge that they had any sin. They had explained away their sin by creative Biblical interpretation. They had redefined the law so that they could say that they had no sin. In fact, they thought they were righteous.
Listen, the most dangerous thing you can do, whether you are a Christian or a not, is to say that your sin is not sin. That is the most dangerous thing you can do. To redefine sin so that it is not sin. To say that you don’t sin, or that there is no need to confess sin anymore is a dangerous thing. I spoke a little last week about the false doctrine called antinomianism which is sweeping through the modern church. It is a basically the doctrine that says that as a Christian you no longer sin. There is no more need to confess your sins anymore. That grace has absolved you from all responsibility to live righteously and holy before God. That is a very dangerous doctrine, folks. If there is no sin, then there is no need for the discipline of the Lord upon His children. And so once again a false doctrine counters the authority of the word of God, because Heb. 12 tells us that we should strive against sin, but when we sin the Lord reproves us. Vs. 6 FOR THOSE WHOM THE LORD LOVES HE DISCIPLINES, AND HE SCOURGES EVERY SON WHOM HE RECEIVES.” … 8 But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.” If God doesn’t discipline you for your sin, then you are not a son of God, you are illegitimate.
So rather than acknowledge that the baptism of John was from God, the priests confer together to try to find a way out of the question. They are afraid of the people, because the people thought that John was a prophet. So they are not going to speak against John, even though they obviously did not believe John. Because John presented Jesus as the Messiah, didn’t he? If they believed John, then they would have to believe Jesus. Because John made it clear that he was the forerunner for the Messiah, and Jesus was the Messiah. That’s another clue to a false prophet, by the way. They don’t want to say anything that will offend people. A false prophet wants to please people, to appeal to people, to flatter people for the sake of taking advantage of them. And that is what these priests were doing.
So they confer together and decide to say, “we don’t know.” That’s yet another clue to a false prophet. They refuse to be dogmatic. They consider the animosity of the culture, and the authority of God’s word that clearly states something as sin and consequently the need for repentance, and they say, “Well, we aren’t really sure that that is what the Bible is really saying. After all, in that culture things were different. But we live in a different culture and so we can’t say exactly what the truth is about certain things.” They undermine the authority of scripture by saying it can’t be known, or it can’t be trusted, or there are errors in the translations which leaves the door open to other possibilities. They don’t know the truth, or won’t say.
But here is the real dilemma of what these priests were facing. The real crux of the matter is that if they accepted the ministry of John as having the authority of God, then they would have to accept the ministry of Jesus as having the authority of God. They would have to accept that Jesus had every right to come into the temple because it was His house. Psalm 110 says that the Messiah was the great high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek . He surpassed all their authority. In fact, He was the one who gave them their authority. So He had every right to come into His house and clean out the robbers and cheats.
If they accepted the ministry of John, then they would have to accept that Jesus was the Messiah. They knew that Ps. 45 says the Messiah was to sit on the throne of David, the king who was to rule over the nations, whose kingdom would never end. And so they would have to bow before Jesus as their king and submit to His rule.
If they accepted the ministry of John, then they would have to accept that Jesus was that prophet like unto Moses, of whom Moses said in Duet. 18, “GOD WILL RAISE UP FOR YOU A PROPHET LIKE ME FROM YOUR BRETHREN.” They would have to accept that He not only spoke the word of God like Moses did, but He was the Word of God incarnate, the Word made flesh and dwelling among them. And yet they did not accept Him. They rejected Him.
So they would not say. They would not see the truth. They would not bow their knee. These were the ones of whom He said in chapter 19, “We do not want this man to reign over us.” They would not accept His authority. They would rebel and continue in their insubordination to the very God of the universe until one day God would destroy them in His presence along with all His enemies. So Jesus responded to them in vs.8 by saying, “Nor will I tell you by what authority I do these things.” Jesus would leave them to their rebellion. He would not answer them anymore. From this time on, they were hardened in their rebellion and He would not answer them a word. He had exhausted His patience with them. It was as Romans 1:28 says, “And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not proper.”
Listen, I don’t know where you are at today spiritually. Some of you may be really irritated right now because I had the gall to call your pet sin, sin. Some of you may have your feathers ruffled and find yourself thinking, “who does this man think that He is? What kind of authority does he have? How can he know anything?” My only answer is to say that the only authority I have is the word of God. If God said it in His word, then I believe it and I will preach it. John chapter one describes Jesus as the Word of God made flesh. The Word of God is true and authoritative. But you can choose to accept it or not. You can reject it and leave here today and continue in your rebellion and think that the god of your imagination is going to accept you just the way you are. You can continue to worship Deus Ex Machina, the god of your machinations. And if that is the case, then you will have to face the consequences one day for trampling underfoot the Spirit of grace and the precious blood of Jesus Christ which was shed on behalf of sinners. If you refuse to repent of your sins, then the blood of Christ avails nothing for you, and you will face the wrath and judgment of God, whether or not you choose to believe in it.
Some of you here today may be in the same situation as the priests and the elders were. This may be the last time that God speaks to you. The last opportunity for you to repent. The summer season is coming to a close. You may never come to this service again. God may have given you His last warning before giving you over to a reprobate mind to do those things that aren’t proper. I hope that is not the case for anyone here today. I pray that today is the day of your salvation. Today is the day of repentance. Don’t presume upon the grace of God.
Or some of you today can do like David did, and acknowledge and confess your sin to God and ask Him to renew a right spirit within you. Today you can be right with God. But please understand something. Jesus is not just your Savior. He is also your Lord and King. To come to Christ you must do what those priests and elders of Judaism could not do; that is bow your knee to the will of Christ. Allow Christ to sit on the throne of your heart, and live for Him. Live no longer for your glory, but for His. If Jesus is the Son of God, then He has every right to rule and reign over your life. And if you are not willing to let Him rule, then you cannot be a citizen of the Kingdom of God. You must submit to the authority of His word. For those that come to Him in repentance, God has promised to give us the Spirit of Christ as our Helper, to empower us to live according to His word. To help us to be obedient to His word from the heart.
Are you willing to let Christ take His seat on the throne of your heart today? Is your body the temple of the Holy Spirit? Is Christ reigning and ruling in His temple? He has every right to the throne of our heart and our obedience. Let’s pray.