Authority of the King: March 19

The Servant King
“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve,
and to give his life for a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45

The Authority of the King
Mark 11:27-33 | March 19, 2017

Introduction: This is week three in our seven-week sermon series, The Servant King. Jesus is perceived to be one who has authority. Mark tells us earlier that Jesus has authority in his teaching (1:22, 27), authority to forgive sins (2:10), and authority to cast out demons (3:15). The authority of Jesus
is such that it can even be delegated to his disciple. After calling the twelve, Jesus “gave them authority over unclean spirits” (6:7). In this week’s text the religious leaders come to Jesus with a question: from where does Jesus derive the authority to teach, to heal, and to deliver; and even to commission others
to do likewise?

In all cultures there are symbols of authority. We might think easily of the police officer’s badge, the senior partner’s corner office, the priest’s collar, or the physician’s white coat. There were symbols of authority in Jesus’ time too, while he had scarcely any at all. He wasn’t from wealth or the intelligentsia, nor from a priestly family. He wasn’t a Roman citizen, and likely didn’t speak Greek. He was from a tiny backwater village. And really, can anything good come from Nazareth? Jesus was an enigma to the powers of his day, just as he is an enigma to the powers in our own time.

When God came to rescue humanity, the great symbols of authority were set aside. Instead, God associated with the weak and lowly, washed feet, and ultimately died in humiliation and scorn, a willing and innocent victim. Instead of Moses and Torah, instead of the sword and shield, instead of gold and silk, the new symbols of authority in the Kingdom of God were towel and basin, an empty cross, and finally, an empty tomb.

Pray: Heavenly Father, all authority comes from you. You have made us in your image to carry authority. Yet we bear your image poorly, twisted in on ourselves by sin. We confess that we tend to seek ways to be served and avoid giving our lives for those outside our circle. Thank you for sending your Son, Jesus Christ, who by the power of the Holy Spirit lived a life of self-emptying love, becoming truly the servant of all. Anoint us afresh with your Holy Spirit through this season of Lent that we might grow in bearing both the authority and servanthood of Jesus, so that we might share in his eternal life. Amen.

Read: Mark 11:27-33
Again they came to Jerusalem. As he was walking in the temple, the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders came to him and said, “By what authority are you doing these things? Who gave you this authority to do them?” Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one question; answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin? Answer me.”

They argued with one another, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But shall we say, ‘Of human origin’?”—they were afraid of the crowd, for all regarded John as truly
a prophet.

So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”

Discussion:

1. Recall your day, looking for symbols of power. Who was telling you they have authority through symbols? What is the origin of that authority?
2. Abraham Lincoln famously encouraged people to ask not, “is God on my side,” but “am I on God’s side?” What is the difference between these two questions?
3. Sometimes the questions we ask Jesus seem to go unanswered. In this text Jesus refuses to answer a question because his questions go unanswered as well. Is there a difficult question that Jesus seems to be asking you?
4. Jesus does not disclose the source of his authority – never says that he is God in flesh. Why do you think Jesus refuses to answer this question about the source of his authority? What do you think this refusal says about his authority?

Application: Jesus, as the one with greatest authority, came to be the servant of all. Take out a pen and think through authority in your life. Over what and whom do you have authority? Who and what have authority over you? Make two brief lists.

In the authority that you have, what are the symbols that demonstrate or announce your authority? Make a brief list.

Recall that Jesus is the servant of all and that he did not come to be served, but to give his life away. Now imagine Jesus comes to see you in your place of authority, comes amidst the symbols of your authority. Jesus, who knows you best and love you most, sits with you amidst your authority and begins
to speak. What does he say?

Pray: Lord Jesus Christ, you have created us for greatness. You have created us in your image to bear and steward a kind of authority appropriate to yourself. We thought we understood authority, and then you came among us and showed us how deeply confused we are. Help us to believe in the authority that characterizes your kingdom of self-giving love; authority that blesses enemies and washes feet from the head of the table. As we heard in the sermon last week, you are intent to give your kingdom not the powerful of this age, but to fools and weaklings. Help us to become increasingly fools and weaklings such as you seek, that all who boast may boast in you alone. Amen.

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