Sermon for Pentecost 18 – 10.1.23

+ 18th Sunday after Pentecost – October 1st, 2023 +

Series A: Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32; Philippians 2:1-18; Matthew 21:23-32

Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church

Milton, WA

“By What Authority?”

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Today’s Gospel brings us right into the action, like an old western movie. The religious leaders – chief priests and elders – come up to Jesus in Jerusalem like outlaws facing the marshal. “This temple ain’t big enough for the two of us.”

“By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” 

Conflict between Jesus’ divine authority and the supposed authority of the Jewish religious leaders has been building and stewing over the three years of his public ministry. In Matthew 7 Jesus taught as one who had authority, unlike the scribes. In Matthew 8, the centurion recognizes that Jesus is under authority like he is, only greater. In Matthew 9, Jesus heals the paralytic man and says, that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins, ‘Rise, pick up your bed and go home.” Jesus commands demons to depart, disease to be healed, waves to be calmed. His word and work reveal the answer to the chief priests question that we all know. 

By whose authority? By divine authority. God’s authority. Jesus is the authorized representative of the Father, His Apostle, the One uniquely sent to be the world’s Savior. The Father has permitted it; He approves of it; He delights in it. “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased,” the Father said at Jesus’ baptism.

It’s no wonder there’s conflict. If Jesus is the authority of God in human flesh, that means the chief priests and elders (who have rejected him) are not the authority. They were not acting and speaking with God’s authority, because if they had been, they would have believed in Jesus; they would have repented and lived in forgiveness. 

The chief priests asked Jesus this question in Holy Week. Who did He think He was? Riding into Jerusalem like some kind of Messiah? Turning over the tables of the money changers and calling the temple “His house.” “Who did this Jesus think He was, walking around the temple and teaching the people as though He owned the place? 

Jesus answers their question with a question of his own. “I also will ask you one question, and if you tell me the answer, then I also will tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John, from where did it come? From heaven or from man?” 

It’s almost comical if it wasn’t so tragic. You can hear the chief priests waffling this over. “Well…um..hmm. If we say John’s baptism from heaven, he’ll ask us why we didn’t believe him. And if we say it was from man all the John the Baptist fans are going to stone us.” “We don’t know.”

Ironic isn’t it. The so-called religious authorities didn’t know. Many of them rejected John and now Jesus. Remember, this is Holy Week. Their plot to kill Jesus was just a few days away from unfolding. Yet even as tension grew, Jesus wasn’t confronting the religious authorities to show off his wit and wisdom; he wasn’t there to embarrass them. Jesus desired for them, as he desires for all, to bring them to repentance and forgiveness. To give them life and salvation under the authority of God the Father through his dying and rising.  

To illustrate all this, Jesus tells them a short parable about two sons, one who says he will work in the Father’s vineyard but doesn’t, and another who says he won’t work in the vineyard but does. Jesus quickly interprets the parable for them too. 

“Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you.  For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward repent and believe him.

The parable is a dagger to their pride, a reminder that they do not have authority. It’s also a call to repentance, for them to see Jesus as the authority of God, as the one who saves sinners – the tax collectors and prostitutes saw it. Why didn’t they? 

The parable is missing something though. There’s more to the story. There is a third son. The Son of God who was sent by God the Father. And this Son not only said he would do the Father’s will, but did it perfectly. And he did this for you.

Texts like this are hard for us to see how they apply to us. We’re not the chief priests and elders Jesus aimed this teaching at. And yet, it does reveal several things. That apart from Christ, we lived under the authority of sin, death, and the devil. We lived in the foolish thoughts of our sinful flesh thinking we are our own authority. This is why our Lord gives us repentance and forgiveness of sins. This is why we come here to our Lord’s house, because we know that he has the authority to forgive, and he does it freely and graciously for you. 

It’s also a reminder of why Jesus was sent under the Father’s authority to live perfectly for you. Suffer and die for you. Rise again for you. To save us from ourselves. To bring us under the saving authority of Jesus’ death and resurrection. This is good news; just as God the Father sent God the Son to save tax collectors and sinners; to call chief priests and pharisees to repentance and forgiveness in his name, Jesus still comes to rescue and forgive and save you. By the authority of his word, your sins are forgiven. By his authority your sins are washed away. By his authority bread and wine give you the righteousness that comes in Jesus’ body and blood. 

It’s no accident that this question of authority came in holy week, at the temple, the place of sacrifice. In a few short days, Jesus would answer the authority question once and for all by His death and resurrection. That’s the sign He offers to the world – His death and resurrection. And by this unique event in our history, He shows that all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Him. The authority to save the world from death and decay. The authority to forgive the sins of humanity. The authority to bestow life. The authority to be your Savior. 

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. 

Beautiful Savior

is a traditional Lutheran Church, faithful to God's Word and His Sacraments. We equip God's people to serve, love, and encourage one another as we grow in our personal relationship with Christ. We reach out to the community as beacons of light, sharing the love of God in Christ Jesus, our Savior.

Church Office Hours

Monday - Thursday 8:30am-3:30pm

Friday 8:30am-11:30am

The office is closed on Fridays during the summer months of June, July, and August.

Preschool Office Hours

August - May
Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday

By appointment only June and July


2306 Milton Way
Milton, WA 98354
(253) 922-6977
(253) 922-6977