By God’s Authority
Chan Gin Kai
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?” (Luke 20:1-2)
Jesus had just cleaned out the temple in the previous chapter, and preached every day in the temple courts. That really irked the chief priests, teachers of the laws and elders.
These religious leaders were an established system and obeyed by the people. The Romans had physical authority over the Jews, but the religious leaders had spiritual authority. Their power shouldn’t be trifled with, but that’s exactly what Jesus did. He taught without their permission.
The religious leaders had a system, a protocol to follow. A rabbi had to be ordained in the presence of at least three other ordained persons from the Sanhedrin. Without proper Rabbinic authorisation, Jesus was not supposed to teach. But he transformed people where they failed to, and exposed their hypocrisy through his teachings.
Their question to Jesus, “Who gave you this authority?”, was designed to be a trap. Of course they knew that none of them had conferred Jesus that authority. If Jesus had replied that he didn’t receive authority from the Sanhedrin, the listening crowd would conclude that Jesus was not a rabbi, but a poser.
But Jesus cleverly sidestepped their trap by replying with a question they could not answer.
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.”
Jesus didn’t really need to answer them. He was commissioned by God, he was inspired by the Holy Spirit, and he spoke from his convictions. That’s more than enough authority.
God has called us to serve Him, His church, and the people around us. What other authority do we require to do so?
But we often wait for our church leaders to tell us what to do. We see needs around us, and the Spirit moves us, but we ignore these calls and wait to be assigned. We lack a sense of ownership and do not take initiative. Is it selfishness disguised as obedience to leadership? Is it fear disguised as humility? Or have well-designed programs and systems in church lulled us into a sense of complacency?
Even the best leaders, with excellent programs and syllabi, can never sufficiently meet the needs of the church and the lost. God never designed the church to be served by the few. The church has been compared to a body with many parts (1 Corinthians 12:12-27), and each part needs to play its part (pardon the pun) for the body to function. God intends for all of us to serve.
It is OUR church and OUR relationship with God. It concerns our salvation and that of our loved ones. Do we delegate these to responsibilities to others? Or do we take the ownership and initiative to help our church grow even if no one has tasked us to?
On the other hand, there are times when we are called by our leaders to serve. Do we resist that? Do we give the excuse that “it is God that commissions us” to avoid assignments that man gives us? Just as the Spirit moves us to serve, could the Spirit have moved the leaders to assign us the roles? Samuel was tasked to anoint David, and Elijah was tasked to appoint Elisha. We need to compare our leaders' instructions with the Bible, and where they agree (which should be more often than not), we need to serve wholeheartedly.
Jesus taught fervently, with authority from God, despite opposition from the leaders of the religious establishment of his time. We have the same God given authority, and the support and exhortations from our leaders to serve like Jesus did. What excuses do we give?
Chan Gin Kai
Gin Kai is a film producer who believes in the power of media to inspire positive changes. He has spearheaded disaster relief and capacity building projects in impoverished communities across Asia. He serves actively in the Central Christian Church and describes himself as “just a sinner who wants to get right with God”.