It was the central question: Who gave Jesus the authority to do the things He did and say the things He said?
There had never been anyone like Jesus. John the Baptist was a prophet; on this the people agreed. Jesus was more than a prophet—He was…Well who was He? Sickness ended with His touch. Deaf ears started hearing and blind eyes started seeing at His proclamation. Crippled legs and shrunken arms grew to normal strength when loved ones brought them close to Him. Demons fled at His command. He took the Word of God and made it live in ways that people who had read it all their lives and memorized sizable portions of it had never considered. He pronounced the judgment of God on wickedness wherever He found it. He feared no man or council or army. He even strode into the Temple courts and claimed it to be His Father’s house as He scattered the religious rats who built their nests there.

Finally, the leaders had seen enough; the question must be asked and answered:

“By what authority are You doing these things? And who gave You this authority?”

Without blinking an eye, Jesus answered their question with one of His own (He often did this.) He asked them about the baptism of John: was it from God? If they would declare themselves, so would He. They realized at once that He had bested them again.

  • If they said it was from God, they would have to explain their rejection of him.
  • If they said what they really believed, they would lose the confidence of the people for they held John to be a prophet.

The brightest among them answered the Lord: “We cannot say.” Laughing, Jesus told them in that case He would not reveal His source of authority either.

The Authority of Jesus
Jesus told two stories about owners of vineyards. One had two sons whom he instructed to work in his vineyard. One said he would and then he didn’t. The other said he wouldn’t and then he did. Which one did his father’s will? The Scribes and Pharisees had started this conversation so they had to answer: the first of course. Jesus agreed and declared that evil people who eventually did God’s will would enter heaven before leaders who claimed to follow God but didn’t.

Another vineyard owner constructed a first class vineyard, complete in every detail and then went on a long journey, leasing the vineyard to local workers. When the time for the harvest came, he sent representatives to collect the profits. Instead, his representatives were abused and even killed. He sent more and it happened again. Finally he sent his son and they did the same to him. Jesus asked,

“Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vinedressers?”

His opponents fell into the trap, predicting judgement on the thieving, murdering vinedressers. Jesus sprung the trap identifying them as the wicked men and Himself as the Cornerstone—the one who has the authority of Heaven at His back.

They knew these clever stories were aimed at them. There was nothing the leaders could do. They could not debate with Jesus. They could not explain away the miracles. They wanted to arrest Him but they feared the crowd.

The Cornerstone
A mighty structure rests upon a mighty stone. In the same way the Kingdom of God rests on the person of Jesus, the Cornerstone. His authority extends to the ends of the earth. If we cast our lives onto Him, He will gently break away the parts of us that offend the Father. For those who reject Him, the judgements of God will bring personal and permanent destruction. How much better to throw our souls upon His mercy!

Matthew 21:23-46
Now when He came into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people confronted Him as He was teaching, and said, “By what authority are You doing these things? And who gave You this authority?” But Jesus answered and said to them, “I also will ask you one thing, which if you tell Me, I likewise will tell you by what authority I do these things: The baptism of John — where was it from? From heaven or from men?” And they reasoned among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From men,’ we fear the multitude, for all count John as a prophet.” So they answered Jesus and said, “We do not know.” And He said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things. “But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go, work today in my vineyard.’ He answered and said, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he regretted it and went. Then he came to the second and said likewise. And he answered and said, ‘I go, sir,’ but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said to Him, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him; but tax collectors and harlots believed him; and when you saw it, you did not afterward relent and believe him. “Hear another parable: There was a certain landowner who planted a vineyard and set a hedge around it, dug a winepress in it and built a tower. And he leased it to vinedressers and went into a far country. Now when vintage-time drew near, he sent his servants to the vinedressers, that they might receive its fruit. And the vinedressers took his servants, beat one, killed one, and stoned another. Again he sent other servants, more than the first, and they did likewise to them. Then last of all he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the vinedressers saw the son, they said among themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance.’ So they took him and cast him out of the vineyard and killed him. “Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vinedressers?” They said to Him, “He will destroy those wicked men miserably, and lease his vineyard to other vinedressers who will render to him the fruits in their seasons.” Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: ‘The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone. This was the Lord’s doing, And it is marvelous in our eyes’? “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it. And whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder.” Now when the chief priests and Pharisees heard His parables, they perceived that He was speaking of them. But when they sought to lay hands on Him, they feared the multitudes, because they took Him for a prophet.

Lord Jesus You are the Cornerstone! All of my faith rests on You. You are more than a literary character or a figure from history. You are not billeted in the clouds amusing Yourself with celestial pursuits. You are here with me, involved in my life, leading me from earth to glory. You have the authority over heaven and earth. As the poet said, “thousands of angels at Your bidding speed and they also serve who only stand and wait.” Whether speeding at Your command or waiting for the next assignment, I rest in Your authority today. Amen.

Words and Music: Dottie Rambo

Jesus is the Cornerstone, came for sinners to atone.
Though rejected by His own He became the Cornerstone.
Jesus is the Cornerstone.

When I am by sin oppressed on this Stone I am at rest.
Where the seeds of truth are sown, He remains the Cornerstone.
Jesus is the Cornerstone.

Rock of Ages, cleft for me. Let me hide myself in Thee.
Rock of Ages so secure for all time He shall endure,
Till His children reach their home, He remains the Cornerstone.
Till the breaking of the dawn, Till all footsteps cease to roam,
Ever let this truth be known. Jesus is the Cornerstone.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

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