Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan
is Hebrews 13; Song of Solomon 3; Lamentations 3-4
Today's scripture focus
is Luke 20:1-8
English Standard Version (ESV)
The Authority of Jesus Challenged
20 One day, as Jesus was teaching the people in the temple and preaching the gospel, the chief priests and the scribes with the elders came up 2 and said to him, “Tell us by what authority you do these things, or who it is that gave you this authority.” 3 He answered them, “I also will ask you a question. Now tell me, 4 was the baptism of John from heaven or from man?” 5 And they discussed it with one another, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why did you not believe him?’6 But if we say, ‘From man,’ all the people will stone us to death, for they are convinced that John was a prophet.” 7 So they answered that they did not know where it came from. 8 And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”
Accompanying John MacArthur sermon: Rejecting the King's Authority
Accompanying Mark Driscoll sermon: Angry Jesus Cleanses the Temple
I first heard a new twist on this passage from a Ray Vanderlaan teaching session. I can't remember which one it was, but I found an online sermon
that referenced the same things. I found this fascinating. I'm sorry it's a bit long, but it's extremely interesting. And there's more in the rest of the sermon that is fascinating as well, if you have time to read it.
In Jesus day there were two types of rabbis. The first were called Torah teachers. The word Torah is used to speak of the first five books of the Bible. Torah teachers were people who were considered to be masters of the Torah, which meant they knew the first five books of the Bible by memory. Secondly, they were master teachers, they could use parables and alliteration. They were recognized by the community as teachers of God's Word. A Torah teacher could only teach what the community believed was right. They could not come up with new teachings. A Torah teacher would teach in three parts like this:
1. It is written he would quote the text by memory.
2. And that means he would explain using parables or stories.
3. According to and then he would quote one of their Rabbis as authority to the meaning he had given for the text.
These men were brilliant teachers but were limited by the authority of others. In Jesus world there was also a small group of what are called Rabbis with semikhah. We know of about a dozen of them by name that lived from 30 B.C to A.D. 70. They were not common, and they didn't exist in Judea.
What is a Rabbi with semikhah? They were masters of the Torah and the Haftorah. Haftorah is a Hebrew word that simply means: "the rest." They were masters of the whole Old Testament. The Jews call it the Tanakh, which is an acronym that identifies the Hebrew Bible. The acronym is based on the initial Hebrew letters of each of the text's three parts: 1.Torah, meaning "Instruction" "The five books of Moses," also called the "Pentateuch". 2. Nevi'im, meaning "Prophets." 3. Ketuvim, meaning "Writings" or "Hagiographa".
These Rabbis knew the entire Tanakh by memory. How many verses could you recite right now by memory from the Old Testament? Think of the time commitment to memorize the entire Tanakh.
They were also master teachers who were recognized by the community, and many of them were healers. Most miracles that Jesus did except for raising the dead, these Rabbis with semikhah did. They cast out demons, healed the blind and lepers, fed people, caused storms. So most of the miracles Jesus did were done by the Rabbis of His day who had semikhah. The Mishnah records 150-180 miracles done by other Rabbis with semikhah.
Because of their unique ability to teach Torah and heal, they received what was know as semikhah. Semikhah means: "authority." They had the authority to teach new ideas. They were so close to God that He had given them new insight into His Word. Hillell, Shammai, Gamliel were all Rabbi's that had semikhah. This was their teaching method:
1. It was written
2. You have heard that that means this.
3. But I tell you it means this.
Do you recognize that form of teaching? This is how Jesus taught.
Matthew 5:27-28 (NASB) "You have heard that it was said, 'YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY'; 28 but I say to you, that everyone who looks on a woman to lust for her has committed adultery with her already in his heart.
Notice what the people said of Jesus' teaching:
Mark 1:22 (NASB) And they were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.
Jesus was one of this select group that were considered teachers with authority to make new teaching.
How do you get semikhah? You had to have the Tanakh memorized, as well as the Mishnah, and be a gifted teacher. You also had to have two other Rabbis with semikhah who publically put their hands on your head and declare from God that you had God's authority. When that happened, you were considered a Rabbi who could make new teachings. Over and over in the New Testament people come to Jesus and ask Him where did You get the authority to say that?
Matthew 21:23 (NASB) And when He had come into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to Him as He was teaching, and said, "By what authority are You doing these things, and who gave You this authority?"
What they are saying is: Who gave you semikhah? Who were your two Rabbis?
There is a Jewish Rabbinic technic, that is commonly used to this day, where they would begin a debate or dialogue with a question. And the response from the group comes in the form of a question. The question that comes is first of all an answer to the first question, and it also extends it to a deeper level.
Luke 2:46-47 (NASB) And it came about that after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them, and asking them questions. 47 And all who heard Him were amazed at His understanding and His answers.
Jesus was asking questions, and they were amazed at His questions. We see many times in Jesus' teaching ministry that He will respond to a question with a question. And in His question is the answer.
Luke 20:1-2 (NASB) And it came about on one of the days while He was teaching the people in the temple and preaching the gospel, that the chief priests and the scribes with the elders confronted Him, 2 and they spoke, saying to Him, "Tell us by what authority You are doing these things, or who is the one who gave You this authority?"
To this Jesus responds in the typical Rabbinic fashion with a question:
Luke 20:3-4 (NASB) And He answered and said to them, "I shall also ask you a question, and you tell Me: 4 "Was the baptism of John from heaven or from men?"
He is asking, Did John get his authority, his semikhah, from God or man? Now remember His question answers theirs. Their question was where did you get semikhah? And His question to them was, where did John get semikhah? What did He just tell them? I got semikhah from John. When did John declare God's authority being in Jesus?
John 1:29-30 (NASB) The next day he saw Jesus coming to him, and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30 "This is He on behalf of whom I said, 'After me comes a Man who has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.'
Who is the second one to declare God's authority on Jesus?
Mark 1:10-11 (NASB) And immediately coming up out of the water, He saw the heavens opening, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon Him; 11 and a voice came out of the heavens: "Thou art My beloved Son, in Thee I am well-pleased."
Jesus is the only Rabbi in history who got his semikhah directly from God Himself.
These Rabbis with semikhah had talmid or disciples. Torah teachers did not have disciples, only Rabbis with semikhah had talmidim. Jesus was not the only Rabbi who had talmidim. What made Jesus stand out was His age. He was only in His early thirties. Apart from Jesus, the youngest Rabbi that we know of with semikhah was Akiba and he was sixty. Hillell got his when he was 70, Shammai, when he was 85. How could Jesus have semikhah at 30? That is part of what blew them away. How could Jesus know the Tanakh so well in only 30 years?
MacArthur, on the other hand, says that Jesus didn't have any rabbinical schooling. I'm not sure that there is proof of that either way, but with or without training, Jesus knew the OT backwards and forwards. And, as God, obviously has absolute authority.
I liked Driscoll's point here - do you believe Jesus has absolute authority? Do you LIVE as though Jesus has absolute authority? You see, you may say you believe He has absolute authority, but if your life doesn't reflect it, than you really don't. Instead, you've placed someone else (your worldview, your political cause, your philosophical assumptions, your sexual desires, basically yourself) above that authority. If Jesus has absolute authority, and He does, then we better obey Him.
And if someone disagrees with Jesus (or the Word), well then, they're wrong. Not Jesus.
As Christians who acknowledge Jesus' supreme authority, we need to be passionate about determining what Jesus has commanded of us, and then, by the grace of God, seek to obey it.
Tomorrow's scripture focus
: Luke 20:9-18
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage
passage: James 1, Song of Solomon 4, Lamentations 5