Humility to Submit

November 06, 2022 | Jess Rainer

Passage: Matthew 21:23-46

I tore movie ticket stubs to not wait in line.  No one questioned my authority.  We don’t question authority when it’s convenient for us. But what about authority when we perceive it to be inconvenient for us?  If I would have walked up to the ticket stand and told people that their tickets were invalid, what do you think would have happened?  I’m almost positive I would have gotten some kind of, “And who are you to tell me that?!”  Some of you may be accepting of the speed limit as long as you are not in rush, but when you are trying to shave 30 minutes off a drive to beach, that speed limit isn’t quite as convenient.  What causes us to reject authority?  And what does it take to submit to authority?  We reach a point in the life of Jesus where Jesus challenges the religious elite.  And they are forced to look at who has authority over their life.  As we walk through our passage today in Matthew 21, we are forced to answer those same questions about God’s authority over our lives.  Here’s the overarching principle we see in our passage today:  It takes humility to submit to God’s authority.   As you turn your Bibles to Matthew 21, we are getting close to the end of the book of Matthew.  And in turn, we are getting close to the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry.  Jesus has a lot to say in these final days.  As I read this passage, there were three questions that kept popping up in my mind in connection to God’s authority.  Here’s the first question: What causes a rejection of Jesus’ authority?

1) What causes a rejection of Jesus’ authority? (vs. 23-27)  Let me remind you what happened last week in our time in God’s Word.  Jesus arrived in Jerusalem with His triumphant entry.  He goes to clear the temple and then curses a fig tree.  Robbie talked about all those things last week.  It’s now Wednesday of Passion Week. In just a few days, Jesus will go to the cross.  So, on Wednesday morning, Jesus heads back to the temple He just cleared out.  The confrontation that begins in verse 23 will continue through the end of chapter 23.  Let’s pick up in verse 23.  23 When Jesus returned to the Temple and began teaching, the leading priests and elders came up to him. They demanded, “By what authority are you doing all these things? Who gave you the right?”  There’s the question! “Who gave you the right to do these things?!”  Let me answer that question for you:  First, look at what Jesus has authority over:  Matthew 7:28 – Authority over truth; Matthew 9:6-8 – Authority to forgive sins and authority over sickness; John 1:12 – Authority to make people children of God; John 5:27 – Authority to execute judgment; John 10:18 – Authority over His own resurrection; Matthew 28:18 – Jesus has authority over everything. 

So, where does Jesus get His authority?  We see in several places in the Bible, but look at John 17.  After saying all these things, Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son so he can give glory back to you. For you have given him authority over everyone. He gives eternal life to each one you have given him.  Jesus has been given all authority from God and Jesus has the power to exercise that authority.  Jesus could have sat down with the priests and elders and explained what I just explained, but He didn’t.  Look at how Jesus responds to them.  24 “I’ll tell you by what authority I do these things if you answer one question,” Jesus replied.   Why is Jesus doing this?  Have you ever been around the person that always just repeats your question back to you?  How are you doing? How are YOU doing?  Or when your wife asks you, “Where do you want to eat?”  The proper response is always, “Where do YOU want to eat?!”  Jesus has a purpose in His approach. He knows their heart and he wants to reveal their hearts.  Jesus asks a question that will reveal their heart (look at verse 25):  25 “Did John’s authority to baptize come from heaven, or was it merely human?” They talked it over among themselves. “If we say it was from heaven, he will ask us why we didn’t believe John.   26 But if we say it was merely human, we’ll be mobbed because the people believe John was a prophet.”   27 So they finally replied, “We don’t know.” And Jesus responded, “Then I won’t tell you by what authority I do these things.  In short, the elders and priests couldn’t answer Jesus’ question because the crowds will revolt, or they will be forced to believe what John the Baptist said about Jesus.  They did know how to answer the question. It was their job to know how to the answer question.  They refused to answer the question because they rejected Jesus for who He is.  They rejected the authority of Jesus.  So, there’s our first question: what causes a rejection of Jesus’ authority?  I think there are two main reasons:

1) Intentional unbelief  - That’s what we see with these priests and elders.  They had the evidence right in front of them. I think they knew the evidence was true. They chose to intentionally not believe.  They closed their hearts to the truth and rejected Jesus.  They didn’t want anything of Him because He was inconvenient to their life.  Aldous Huxley, the philosopher who coined the term “agnostic” and author of Brave New World, said, “I had motives for not wanting the world to have a meaning… For myself, as, no doubt, for most of my contemporaries, the philosophy of meaningless was essentially an instrument of liberation… from a certain system of morality. We objected to the morality of Christianity because it interfered with our sexual freedom. There was one admirably simple method of justifying ourselves: (agnosticism).”[1] – JD Greear

2) Fear - We want to believe we are in complete control of our lives.  Church family, if there is ever a lesson that Jesus has been teaching me as of late, it’s this one: I can’t control the world around me.  I’ve mentioned before that I have been walking in a journey with anxiety.  Through many months of counseling, I’ve gotten to some root issues in my heart (I’m still not there yet).  One of those issues is that I don’t have complete control.  And that has been a terrifying reality,  If that’s you, let me give just one bit of encouragement that has helped me greatly.  The God that holds your world is the same God that controls the world.  I don’t know why I keep trying to control my world when I live in the hands of the one who made the world.  Giving up, letting go, and letting Jesus become my complete authority is the most freeing act I can do.  Jesus could have walked away right then from these priests and elders.  But he doesn’t.  Which raises our second question: Why does God wait for us when we reject Him?

2) Why does God wait for us when we reject Him? (vs. 28-41)  Now, Jesus gives two parables to these priests and elders.  Jesus knows their heart. He knows they have rejected Him.  But He still loves them and wants them to believe.  Let’s briefly look at the first story:  28 “But what do you think about this? A man with two sons told the older boy, ‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’ 29 The son answered, ‘No, I won’t go,’ but later he changed his mind and went anyway.  30 Then the father told the other son, ‘You go,’ and he said, ‘Yes, sir, I will.’ But he didn’t go.  31 “Which of the two obeyed his father?” They replied, “The first.” Then Jesus explained his meaning: “I tell you the truth, corrupt tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the Kingdom of God before you do.  32 For John the Baptist came and showed you the right way to live, but you didn’t believe him, while tax collectors and prostitutes did. And even when you saw this happening, you refused to believe him and repent of your sins.  A lot of times, Jesus doesn’t give the meanings of His parables.  With only 3 days left, Jesus isn’t wasting any time.  He looks at the religious elite and tells them they missed it – they’ve missed their salvation.  Their pride and piety have gotten in the way of receiving grace.  Their whole framework of life was built on appearing holier than others and Jesus just destroyed that framework.  The worst of sinners will be with God and they won’t, because they rejected Jesus. 

But Jesus isn’t done giving up hope. He tells them one more parable:  33 “Now listen to another story. A certain landowner planted a vineyard, built a wall around it, dug a pit for pressing out the grape juice, and built a lookout tower. Then he leased the vineyard to tenant farmers and moved to another country.  34 At the time of the grape harvest, he sent his servants to collect his share of the crop.  35 But the farmers grabbed his servants, beat one, killed one, and stoned another.  36 So the landowner sent a larger group of his servants to collect for him, but the results were the same. 37 “Finally, the owner sent his son, thinking, ‘Surely they will respect my son.’ 38 “But when the tenant farmers saw his son coming, they said to one another, ‘Here comes the heir to this estate. Come on, let’s kill him and get the estate for ourselves!’  39 So they grabbed him, dragged him out of the vineyard, and murdered him. 40 “When the owner of the vineyard returns,” Jesus asked, “what do you think he will do to those farmers?” 41 The religious leaders replied, “He will put the wicked men to a horrible death and lease the vineyard to others who will give him his share of the crop after each harvest.”  Now, when you first read this parable, the first reaction is usually, “Why did the landowner keep sending people when they kept killing them?  The second reaction is “And why would the landowner send his son?”  And then the light bulb goes off.  That’s exactly what God did for us.  God sent the prophets, the disciples, John the Baptist to declare God’s saving message of grace.  And then God sent Jesus knowing full well what would happen.  Why does God wait for us when we reject Him?  God has, and God will continue, to send His message of grace so that more people will take hold of His grace.  Now, there is an element that we read this parable and go, “If I was God, I wouldn’t have kept sending my people.” Or “If I was God, I would have walked right over to those tenants and taken care of them myself.”  When we see this kind of grace, it’s hard for it to compute in our brains.  And that’s how it should be.   The Ant, the Jelly, and the Big Wheels[2]  I heard another pastor tell a story that has stuck with me (maybe it will stick with you too).  “So, I would need to simultaneously be big and powerful enough to have the right perspective and see their future and yet small as an ant to be able to communicate with them—to grow up like an ant, speak ant language, and yet still have the right perspective.”  God’s mercy leads to God’s patience. But God’s patience doesn’t last forever.  There will be a day when God send His Son back.  And when that day comes, finality sets in.  There are no more chances, no more resets.  That’s what leads us to our final question: Does Jesus have authority now?

3) Does Jesus have authority now? (vs. 42-46)  Jesus gives the explanation to the second parable:  42 Then Jesus asked them, “Didn’t you ever read this in the Scriptures? ‘The stone that the builders rejected has now become the cornerstone. This is the Lord’s doing, and it is wonderful to see.’  43 I tell you, the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation that will produce the proper fruit.  44 Anyone who stumbles over that stone will be broken to pieces, and it will crush anyone it falls on.”  45 When the leading priests and Pharisees heard this parable, they realized he was telling the story against them—they were the wicked farmers.  Jesus is the cornerstone.  Jesus is quoting Psalm 118 and letting this group know that they rejected Him now.   But this stone they reject will be raised from the dead and become the cornerstone of all things as we know it.  Not only is Jesus interceding for us today, but Jesus will intercede for us when this world ends and the new world begins.  Does Jesus have authority now?  The answer to that question is a resounding yes!  The reason that Jesus has all authority is because, in spite of His rejection, He was victorious over sin and death.  Here’s what means for you today:  Where Jesus is now forces you to respond to where Jesus was.  Jesus was on the cross.  Jesus was in the tomb.  But Jesus isn’t in the tomb any longer, and that changes everything.  You must decide if you want to submit to Jesus’ authority.  What did this religious group do?  Look at verse 46:  46 They wanted to arrest him, but they were afraid of the crowds, who considered Jesus to be a prophet.  They let their pride, their fear, their unbelief get in the way.   

I’ll close with this…In fear of sounding cheesy, there is so much more going in your life than making sure you have the right ticket to the movie.  When it comes to Jesus, it’s our eternities at stake.  And the only admission into heaven with God forever is through Jesus.  Don’t be caught be looking at God and saying, “What right do you have to let me in?”  Because He has all the rights and all the authority.  Make today the day you surrender your life in humility to the One who has all authority.   



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Series Information

This sermon series will a year long journey through the book of Matthew in 2022.  These messages will examine the broader themes in Matthew like God’s character, Jesus as the fulfillment of the Old Testament’s promises for a Messiah,  and the importance of internal integrity over external behavior. It lays out practical application points like the need for salvation, baptism, and repentance.  It also provides answers to the question “Who is Jesus?”.  It invites you to recognize Jesus as God’s Son and to receive him as Lord of your lives.  This sermon series provides the groundwork for a clear explanation of the Gospel.  

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