AGCC Sun. a.m. 2/10/2002
#2 (The "Countdown To Calvary" Series)
"DAY OF AUTHORITY"
(Sun. A.M. to Mon. A.M.)
TEXT: Mark 11:12-26
INTRO: On this day Jesus demonstrated His authority. This will stand in direct contrast to the failure of the religious leaders of Jesus day who only "appear" to have authority. It also sets the stage for us to understand true spiritual authority in our lives.
There is much misunderstanding about spiritual authority today, we have some who "name it and claim it" … or exercise authority by the use of the phrase "In the name of Jesus" as though the use of it as a formula somehow conveys authority or power. Others think spiritual authority comes from titles like "reverend," "deacon," or "pastor" … or some other title of religious orientation.
Yet, real authority is not found in formulas, or positions, or in knowing or quoting scripture, it comes from a faithful life that is consistent with Jesus' teachings. This is where the religious leaders of Jesus' day had missed the mark, they often failed to see the REAL issue, how truly blind they were!
ILLUS:Mother used to make pies in the afternoon and set them in the garage to cool. It was my job to bring the pie in when it was time for dessert. One evening, however, instead of finding a warm apple pie, I saw the neighbor's dog running out the back door of the garage, juice from the pie still dripping from his face and whiskers. He had eaten the whole pie and licked the plate clean. When I complained to our neighbor about her dog's misdeed and how he had eaten all of the pie, she replied, "Oh, dear, I hope he doesn't get sick." -- Dan Jerome, Livonia, MI, Christian Reader, "Lite Fare."
If we are not careful it is easy to miss what is really important!
PROP. SENT: For a Christian to have true spiritual authority we must demonstrate a life of faithfulness, a life that evidences the fruit of the Spirit or we are devoid of real authority or power.
I. CHRIST'S AUTHORITY 11:12-19
A. Expectations 11:12-17
1. To avoid the religious leaders who were now seeking Jesus' death they spend the night in Bethany. The next morning as they are walking along the Bible says that "Jesus was hungry."
a. This would set the stage for an important lesson on authority.
b. This also shows the humanity of Christ, He did hunger.
2. Seeing a fig tree in the distance and noticing that it had leaves on it Jesus approaches it expecting SOME fruit.
a. While the text does state that "it was not the season for figs" the very presence of the leaves said that there would be a few ripe figs on it.
b. Fig trees even out of season produce a small harvest of ripe figs at the same time the leaves first show up, so while it was not the normal season for figs the presence of the leaves on the trees led Jesus to expect to find a few ripe figs.
c. Jesus expected SOME FRUIT, the leaves gave evidence of this.
3. The tree was barren of anything, it only looked like it was fruitful.
a. This was an illustration about Israel, there were those like Jesus who came hungry and expected fruit, but found Israel in a fruitless condition, although there appeared to be life.
b. What was advertised as existing was nothing but a fraud, it was not real!
4. Appearances can be deceiving!
ILLUS:A rather well-built man saw an advertisement for a job at the zoo. When he went there, he was horrified to find that the only job they had open was for somebody to play the part of a monkey. A lot of children were coming in the next few days, and the zoo, having no monkeys, needed someone to impersonate one. Since money was tight, the man decided he would take the job.
He arrived before sunrise, got into the monkey outfit, and slipped into his cage. Finally, day dawned, and the children came. All he had to do was pensively pace the floor, look rather adept at swinging between trees, eat the peanuts and bananas whenever they were fed to him.
After eight or ten hours, he became thoroughly exhausted. The bananas were getting the better of him. As he swung from one tree to another, rather nauseated, he slipped and fell into the lion's den next door. He shouted, "Help! Help!"
The lion leaned over and said, "If you don't shut up, we'll both lose our jobs." -- Ravi Zacharias, "The Lostness of Humankind," Preaching Today, Tape No. 118.
5. Jesus had found the fig tree with outward signs of life but barren of any fruit, he had found the religious leaders and the Temple this way also!
a. Yes there was a lot of activity in the Temple area.
b. Yes there were sacrifices.
c. Yes there were prayers.
d. And yes, there was corruption, selling sacrifices at inflated costs, ministers and priests who owned the shops that sold the animals at inflated rates, and the court of the Gentiles where all this was going on had become nothing but a corrupt area of shady business practices!
e. In fact, the Court of the Gentiles was being used as a short cut for business people going from the city area to the Mount of Olives … thus this court that was meant for Gentiles to come and worship God was not available to the Gentile believers, and perhaps these Jewish leaders liked this since they didn't care about Gentiles that much anyway!
f. Jesus in anger said to these money changers, "Is it not written: "My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations' ? But you have made it 'a den of robbers." The underlined area in this verse clearly defining God's intention that the temple was for ALL, not just Jews.
6. We cannot afford to appear spiritual, we must show the fruit of spirituality!
B. Excuses 11:18-19
1. Jesus' actions destroyed the money making schemes of these religious leaders, but instead of realizing how corrupt they were and accepting blame they became angry with Jesus instead!
ILLUS:No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible. -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988), p. 441.
2. Yet, they were afraid also … because they recognized that the people responded to Jesus' authority, and they could not refute it!
a. How different things might have been if they had repented.
b. They condemned themselves!
c. They had turned the court of the Gentiles into a corrupt business area that made them rich, but allowed an appearance of spirituality.
3. No wonder Jesus cursed the unfruitful fig tree as prophetic of them … the appearance of life, the leaves, should have given evidence of SOME fruit, but being barren it was cursed and withered, and this would soon happen to the temple and these leaders!
4. There was no excuse for preventing and corrupting the way to God, for Jew or Gentile, but this is exactly what they had done, all in the name of God!
5. Jesus' harshest words were preserved for religious people whose life didn't match what they taught! With sinners Jesus was forgiving, kind, and compassionate; it was only the self righteous fruitless religious people that Jesus used His hardest responses against.
II. CHRISTIAN AUTHORITY 11:20-26
A. Expectations 11:20-22
1. The next morning as the disciples were traveling with Jesus they came by the cursed fig tree again, and to their surprise the tree was completely withered, right down to the roots!
a. This was astonishing, Jesus had only cursed it the day before!
b. Peter remembered Jesus' curse upon it the day before, and the suddenness and completeness of the destruction had amazed them all.
2. The point of this was simple, soon and suddenly the temple would be destroyed, and what appeared to be alive now but with without fruit will totally and completely wither to nothing, and in short order.
a. Indeed this did happen in 70 A.D. when Israel ceased to exist as a nation and the temple was completely destroyed.
b. God allowed an entire generation after the cross for some fruit to show, and it was barren, and withered.
3. It did not matter how much they heard the truth, they rejected it; they rejected the Messiah, they rejected the way back to God … and no warnings made any difference, they were already dead!
ILLUS:In 1992, a Los Angeles County parking control officer came upon a brown El Dorado Cadillac illegally parked next to the curb on street-sweeping day.
The officer dutifully wrote out a ticket. Ignoring the man seated at the driver's wheel, the officer reached inside the open car window and placed the $30 citation on the dashboard.
The driver of the car made no excuses. No argument ensued--and with good reason. The driver of the car had been shot in the head ten to twelve hours before but was sitting up, stiff as a board, slumped slightly forward, with blood on his face. He was dead.
The officer, preoccupied with ticket-writing, was unaware of anything out of the ordinary. He got back in his car and drove away. -- Greg Asimakoupoulos in Fresh Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching (Baker), from the editors of Leadership.
4. Jesus' response to His disciples was simply, "have faith in God"
a. Our authority comes from this, and nothing else!
b. Authority is not based on what we know as much as what we are and who God is!
ILLUS:A man is only as good as what he loves. -- Saul Bellow winner of the Nobel Prize for literature. Leadership, Vol. 16, no. 1.
5. Christ expected more from His disciples than the religious leaders, He wasn't as concerned about the building as He was His body the Church!
a. Today the concept of authority is sometimes based on false assumptions, if someone can really pray just right and intone the correct formula "in Jesus name" we may think they have authority - but authority really comes from a fruitful life, not a famous line!
b. The Pharisees and religious leaders KNEW HOW to appear spiritual, they could do long prayers, sway and moan, quote long passages of Scripture, preach passionately about being Jewish, BUT their lives bore not observable fruit, only leaves!
c. Do not consider someone spiritual just because of what they know, or how well they can repeat spiritual doctrines … what does the fruit of their life show?
6. Knowing and even acting out the right appearances of spiritual things can be very different from having the real fruit and authority of God, consider this experience in Acts 19:13-16 "Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, "In the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out." Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. One day the evil spirit answered them, "Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?" Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding."
a. There is no substitute for the fruit when it comes to authority!
b. IT MATTERS how we live when it comes time for how we minister and the kind of authority we truly have!
B. Evaluation 11:23-26
1. Jesus now launches into a section about faith, and the power and authority of true faith!
a. It starts with God, not with how well we pray, Jesus begins this section with, "Have faith in God" 11:22
b. Authority is built on faith, and faith is sustained by not doubting!
2. He is not teaching that we can ask for anything WE WANT, but everything God wants.
3. In fact, the key in this section may be the phrase, "without doubting" - an important comment that is connected with being "double minded" or "unstable." (James 1:6-8 "But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.")
a. Notice the same connection of "faith without doubt" in both passages.
b. The concept of faith and authority are connected with being "stable" and stable is connected with "not doubting."
c. This brings us back to the idea of "FRUIT" … power, faith, authority, are not about "ask anything you feel like" … but ask with authority and don't be unstable or doubting.
4. As further evidence that Jesus is speaking about fruit connected with faith and authority He adds about forgiveness … forgiveness is real evidence of spiritual fruit in our lives.
a. The religious leaders didn't forgive, they condemned.
b. They had no authority, they cared nothing about the Gentile's salvation, hence why they allowed the court of the Gentiles to become a corrupt business area.
c. There is power and authority that comes in forgiveness because this fruit is born of the Spirit!
ILLUS:Many Americans were moved by the Vietnam-era Pulitzer Prize-winning photo of 9-year-old Phan Thi Kim Phuc (pronounced fuke), naked and horribly burned, running from a napalm attack. But for John Plummer, minister of Bethany United Methodist church in Purcellville, Virginia, that picture had special significance. In 1972 he was responsible for setting up the air strike on the village of Trang Bang--a strike approved after he was twice assured there were no civilians in the area.
In June of 1996 he saw a network news story about Kim Phuc and learned she was not only alive but living in Toronto. Plummer found out she was speaking at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. He invited members of a Vietnam helicopter flight crew to attend the speech with him.
As Kim Phuc addressed the crowd, she said that if she ever met the pilot of the plane she would tell him she forgives him and that they cannot change the past but she hoped they could work together in the future.
Plummer was able to get word to Kim Phuc that the man she wanted to meet was there. "She saw my grief, my pain, my sorrow," Plummer wrote in an article in the Virginia Advocate. "She held out her arms to me and embraced me. All I could say was, 'I'm sorry; I'm so sorry,' over and over again. At the same time she was saying, 'It's all right; it's all right; I forgive; I forgive.'"
Plummer learned that Kim Phuc became a Christian in 1982. -- Evangelical Press News cited in Beacon (4/97). Leadership, Vol. 17, no. 4.
5. So, what kind of real authority do you have?
a. Do we evaluate fruit in those who claim to have authority?
b. Jesus' authority was without question, for His life was fruitful!
c. A truly fruitful man or woman can pray with faith and without doubting, expecting to receive from God, for they won't ask for things they shouldn't, that is why they are fruitful believers already!
6. Spiritual authority is real … when expressed by fruitful believers!
CONCLUSION: When Jesus spoke it was often noted that He did so as "one having authority." After Pentecost the disciples spoke as "men who had authority." What created this authority? When what is taught is mirrored by how we live we have real authority, the word "authority" comes from the same root word as "authentic" meaning real or genuine! This is why Jesus had it and the religious leaders did not! Authority is not a position, it comes from performance. Spiritual authority doesn't come from just quoting Scripture, but from living it. Do you have real authority?