By Whose Authority, Mark 11:27-33

When you don’t serve God you’ll start serving man

Today’s sermon centers on the authority of Jesus.  Jesus has all authority in heaven and earth.  The Father has entrusted all authority into His hands.  Angels serve Him.  Creation obeys Him.  Demons submit to Him.  Disease listens to Him.  He delegates His authority to His Apostles.  By His authority He is the Judge of heaven and earth – all will give an account to Jesus.

Jesus is in the last week of His life.  He is in Jerusalem for the Passover Festival.  The day before He went into the Temple and made a big scene – flipping money tables over and driving out all the animals being sold.  The next day the Jewish leaders approach Him in the temple and want to know just who does He think He is?  What authority does He have to do what He’s doing and say what He’s saying?  Jesus knows they’re trying to trap Him – again.  So, He turns it around and traps them – again.  We are going to see several important points in this passage.  

A Trap For Jesus  (27-28)

The question seems natural.  Jesus had acted the day before as though He had more authority over the Temple than any of them.  They approved the money tables and the sale of animals.  He didn’t.  It was a direct challenge to their authority, and, they wanted to know, therefore, what this authority was that Jesus thought He had.  “Who gives you the right to do what you did?”

The irony is that Jesus could have responded to them with the exact same question:  By whose authority are you operating?  Because it sure isn’t God’s!  He told them in John 8, “You always do what your father wants you to do.  Your father is the devil.”  Bodyslam.

The question was a bit of a trap for Jesus too.  They certainly were not going to believe that Jesus acted with divine authority.  As a matter of fact they already determined in chapter 3 that He was acting by the power and authority of Satan.  So far He has been accused of demon-possession, insanity, and all sorts of other things.  But they certainly hadn’t accused Him of being the Son of God.  And they weren’t about to either.  So in asking the question let’s not think they were sincere seekers of truth.  More likely they were trying to get an answer out of Him that they could use against Him.

They’ve been on the hunt for Him from the beginning and trying to catch Him in His words.  

  • They tried to trap Him on the issue of taxes:  “Should we pay taxes to Caesar or not?”  If He said yes then they would accuse Him of betraying Israel.  If He said no they could accuse Him of defying Caesar.  
  • Then they tried to trap Him on the issue of adultery:  “Should we stone this woman caught in adultery?”  If He said “Yes”, then He wasn’t acting with mercy like He had a reputation for.  If He said “No”, they could accuse Him of not following the Law.
  • Then they tried to trap Him on the issue of the resurrection:  “If a woman marries a man, he dies, and she remarries his brother, and he dies, then which brother will she be married to at the resurrection?”  Trying to make Jesus look foolish Jesus turns it around again and makes them look foolish.

Again and again they set a trap for Him but again and again He makes them fall into the trap!  The hunters become the hunted!  You can’t outwit God!  Sooner or later the wisdom, the power, and the impeccability of Jesus should convince a person just exactly Whose Authority is behind Jesus.  And that’s just it, God made it plain as Day to them.  It was not for lack of evidence and proof that they rejected Him – it was for lack of humility.  God gave plenty of evidence.  Peter declared, “God testified….” Acts 2:21-22.  

Application:  Be a true seeker of truth.  “Those on the side of truth listen to me” Jesus told Pontius Pilate.  “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life” Jesus said in the Upper Room.  People ask questions for different reasons.  They are trying to understand and get at the truth.  Be that person.  But people ask questions for other reasons too:  to trick people, like the Jewish leaders were attempting with Jesus.  Questions can also be asked merely as a weapon to judge and bludgeon someone, this is especially true with “Why” questions, “Why would you do that?”  Often times 

Application:  Often, its from the religious that opposition comes.  Those most opposed to God can often times be those most devoted to the religion of God.  

A Trap From Jesus (29-32)

Jesus has never felt panic.  He’s never frazzled by these guys.  He’s always in complete control.  They try to trap Him, but, with one question they find themselves in a trap:  “Where did John the Baptist get his authority from?  Was it from God or from man?”  Before explaining how He trapped them, keep in mind that that question was a validation of John the Baptist’s ministry.  Jesus knew John came from God, “There was a man who was sent from God,” John 1:6 says, “his name was John the Baptist.”

How is Jesus setting a trap with that question?  Now there were only two answers to His question:  either John’s ministry came from God or it came from man.  There were no other answers.  (By the way, those were the only possible answers to their question too:  either Jesus was acting on God’s authority, or, He was acting on man’s authority.)

ONE answer they could have given was that John the Baptist got his authority from heaven – that is God.  They could not give that answer though.  For two reasons.  

First, If they answered that John the Baptist got his authority from heaven, then they would have had to explain why they ignored him.  Jesus would have said, “Well, why didn’t you listen to him?  You ignored a prophet from God!”  They certainly didn’t want to admit they were opposing God.  

Notice that they understood something:  if a man isn’t acting with God’s authority you don’t have to listen to him.  Blow him off.  

The second reason they refused to say that John the Baptist got his authority from heaven was because they would then have to admit that Jesus was also acting on heavenly authority.  Why?  Because John the Baptist said Jesus was.  “Look!  Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” John exclaimed when Jesus showed up.  John and Jesus were a package deal, and they knew it.  To approve one was to approve the other, to reject one was to reject the other.  As we’ve seen, they were not about to begin considering that as potentially true.  

When you reject the truth by clinging to a lie, you will become irrational in other ways just to cling to your beloved lie.  Professing themselves to be wise they became fools and their minds became darkened. Romans 1 says.  

SECONDLY, if they said John the Baptist wasn’t from heaven but was merely acting on his own authority, they would have had a riot on their hands.  The crowds believed he was a prophet, and, they didn’t want to go against popular opinion.  Some things are the same no matter when you live, where you live, or the culture you live in:  pleasing the crowd is always such a temptation.  This chapter has told us two things that the leaders are afraid of:  Jesus (18) and the crowds (32).  They were afraid of losing their power because of Jesus, and, they were afraid the crowds would give their allegiance to Jesus and not them.  

Application:  When you don’t serve God you’ll start serving man.  That was the downfall of Saul, the first king of Israel.  He started to try and please the people he led rather than God.  When convicted by the prophet Samuel he said tearfully, “I have sinned.  I violated the LORD’s command.  I was afraid of the people and so I gave in to them.”  (1 Sam. 15:24).  

When you don’t live to please God you’ll live to please man.  “Am I now trying to win the approval of men or of God?” Paul asked in Galatians 1, “Or am I trying to please man?  If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (Gal. 1:10).  Or again, “In Christ we speak before God with sincerity, like men sent from God.” (2 Cor. 2:17).  The key to living for God is not living for man.  The key to stop living for man is to start living for God.

Application:  When leaders abandon God, then their followers end up knowing God better than they do.  The crowds had it right – John was from God!  The leaders had it wrong.  Remember how arrogant they were in John 7 towards the crowds?  “This mob knows nothing, there is a curse on them.”  I find it interesting when those in positions of teaching accuse their followers of ignorance.  Perhaps its due to your poor teaching!  

The Silence of Jesus (33)

Three things I want you to note.  

First, They don’t answer Jesus so He doesn’t answer them.  He doesn’t owe them any answers if they don’t owe Him one.  I do point out the cowardice of the leaders. They were not “unsure” of John the Baptist.  They were just as sure about him as they were about Jesus:  neither of them came from God.  But they were too chicken to say it.  John Adams said, “Men ought to avow their opinions and defend them with boldness.”  If they didn’t believe John was a prophet they should have stood up with guts and told the crowds.

Application:  Do not be led by someone who will be led by you.  Spiritual leadership is not done by polling the group.  Righteousness and truth are not determined by consensus.  Be led by a man who will preach in season as well as out of season:  meaning when the culture welcomes the word of God and when it doesn’t.  Be led by a man who isn’t led by the spirit of the age, or by the moral trends of the day.  Too many pansy pastors want to be liked and want to avoid any disapproval from the people they lead and won’t teach what needs to be taught.  They’re wolves in sheep’s clothing.  Their ambassadors of Satan masquerading as ambassadors of righteousness.  They’re those who’ve secretly slipped in and are turning the grace of God into a license for unrighteousness.  They distort the truth to lead you away from the purity of Christ.  They want to tickle your ears, listening to what you say you want to hear, and telling it to you.  They no longer listen to God’s word and tell it to you.  Do not be led by someone who won’t lead you.  

Second, His silence on some level foreshadows His trial.  In chapter 14:61 while standing in court where He would be condemned, Mark tells us, “But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer.”  When being examined by Herod Luke 23:9 tells us, “but Jesus gave him no answer.” Isaiah 53:7 says,  “Like a sheep before her shearers is silent so He did not open His mouth.” 

Lastly, the Silence of Jesus is terrifying.  The terror of God’s silence.  This is a foreshadow of Hell.  The population of hell will far exceed that of heaven, and the combined voices of those who are suffering torment and agony, gnashing of teeth and weeping, in the darkness, in the fires, where their worm is not dying out – their voices will call out to God.  But He will not answer them.  If prayer is calling on God then Hell will be one uninterrupted prayer to God that goes unanswered.  The time for mercy has passed.  They refused it the whole time they were alive.  They mocked the idea they needed God’s mercy.  They lived as though Hell was not real.  They thought they would slip from this life into a summery, Eden-like paradise where everyone but Hitler goes.

Do not be afraid of those who can kill the body, but after that can do no more.  But I will tell you who to fear:  fear Him who after killing your body has power to throw your soul into hell.  Yes, I tell you, fear Him.  He’s talking about God.  But here is what you ought to know:  God has handed all authority for judgment over to Jesus.  That means you need to fear Jesus.  That means you need to change course


In U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, the magazine of the Naval Institute, Frank Koch illustrates the importance of obeying the Laws of the Lighthouse.
“Two battleships were assigned to the training squadron.  They had been at sea practicing maneuvers in heavy weather for several days. I was serving on the lead battleship and was on watch on the bridge as night fell. The visibility was poor with patchy fog, so the captain remained on the bridge keeping an eye on all activities.

Shortly after dark, the lookout on the wing reported, “Light, bearing on the starboard bow.”

“Is it steady or moving astern?” the captain called out.

The lookout replied, “Steady, Captain,” which meant we were on a dangerous collision course with that ship.

The captain then called to the signalman, “Signal that ship: ‘We are on a collision course, advise you change course twenty degrees.'”

Back came the signal, “Advisable for you to change course twenty degrees.”

The captain said, “Send: “I’m a captain, change course twenty degrees.'”

“I’m a seaman second-class,” came the reply. “You had better change course twenty degrees.”

By that time the captain was furious. He spat out, “Send: ‘I’m a battleship. Change course twenty degrees.'”

Back came the flashing light, “I’m a lighthouse.”

We changed course.”

Have you changed course?  When you realize you’re up against someone bigger than you then you yield.  Have you yielded to Jesus?  Otherwise you are on a collision course with Judgment Day and you are going to be ruined.  The Gospel is this:  that right now Jesus is your Savior.  But if someone refuses His salvation Jesus then becomes their Judge.  He can either be your Savior, or He will be your Judge.  What do you want Him to be?  

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