It’s Wise to Change Your Mind
I remember being in church once when the preacher was interrupted halfway through his sermon by someone in the congregation who didn’t agree with something he said. She literally stood up and pronounced in a raised voice, “No, that’s wrong!”
The preacher handled it quite well, and she was quite wrong, but it was really quite awkward.
Something like that has happened to Jesus, but times 100. It’s not just someone from the pews who has interrupted, the bishops have come in and interrupted.
Here is Jesus, he’s engaged with teaching the people who are in the temple, and halfway through, he’s confronted by the religious authorities of the time – the ones, don’t forget, chiefly responsible, humanly speaking, for the rejection and execution of Jesus.
They come to him with this question, v23: “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?”
It was only a couple of days early, at most, that they had seen him in the temple, in the outer courtyard, tipping over the tables of the money-changers and expelling those who were trafficking and exploiting the poor in the sale of the birds for sacrifice.
They knew who he was. It turned their stomachs that here he was, back in the temple. Who knows what he was going to do this time? Who knows whether he would erupt once more, and turn his anger against the practices of the temple?
So now they confront him. “Who do you think you are? By what authority do you do the things you do, and who gave you this authority?”
Authority is a strange thing. All authority in this world, the authority that parents have over their children, that employers have over their employees, that the government has over its citizens, that police have over the people, that the dog catcher has over your stray dog, whatever authority exists in this world is delegated.
No one has authority just because they do, inherently, or intrinsically. It must be given from someone else.
The pharisees knew that, so they said to Jesus, “By what authority do you do these things, and who gave it to you?”
It’s the grown-up version of what happens in the playground when one kid tries to take over the game and the other kids say: “Who made you the boss?”
Or when I say something to you that you don’t agree with, you’ll say to me, “Says who?”
Or another one, “Who died and made you king?”
The pharisees however, were trained in theology, and they knew that the only one in all of reality who possesses authority in and of himself is God.
Whatever other authority there is in this world, one way or another, has been delegated.
The Father to the Son. The Son to the apostles. God to government. Prime minister to ministers and so on all the way down the line. Whatever authority we have comes from some line of authority that ultimately goes back to God.
Here is Jesus teaching in the temple. By what authority do you do this? Who gave it to you?
Now, I’m a little bit surprised by Jesus’ answer. If I were Jesus (which, you’ll be glad to know I’m not), I might have said something like:
“Some of you are old enough to remember that I was here when I was 12 years old confounding all of you, and turning your teaching upside-down. I was at that time about my father’s business.
The other day when I cleaned this place up I told you, ‘This is my father’s house!’ and so the authority by which I do these things is the authority that comes from the fountain and source of all authority there is in the universe. The authority of God himself. That’s who gave me the authority.”
This would have been a perfect opportunity for Jesus to give that sort of speech, but he doesn’t.
Instead, in a very clever way, he turns the table on these men who believed that they had all the authority, and answers a question with a question.
He says, “I tell you what, I’ll answer your question if you first answer a simple question from me.”
“Alright,” they say looking at Jesus. “This ought to be good,” they say looking at themselves, nudging and smirking.
“John the Baptist, remember him?” Everybody in Jerusalem knew who John the Baptist was.
“Here’s my question. Did John do what he did under the authority of heaven, or under the authority of men?”
What’s behind that question?
If they say, and Jesus knew they wouldn’t, “Well John’s baptism and his ministry came from God. Obviously he was a prophet and you can’t be a true prophet unless you’re anointed by the Holy Spirit, unless you’re called and set apart by the authority of God. So of course, it was heaven that was behind John the Baptist’s ministry.”
If they say that then the discussion is over, because Jesus reminds them that it was John who pointed to Jesus, and said, “He’s the reason why I’m here. He’s the one who’s been promised, he’s the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He who comes after me is before me, and I am not worthy even to untie his shoelaces.”
So the pharisees, if they say John is from heaven, they’re toast (expression meaning: certain to be defeated), as far as challenging the authority of Jesus.
Well suppose they say, “No, John came on his own authority. He wasn’t really ordained by God. Some were sent and some just went, and he was one who went. He didn’t really have any authority to call anybody to repentance.”
There’s a strange fact from history: we know that at this time John the Baptist was more famous than Jesus, because John the Baptist was recognised by the whole country as a prophet. Remember that the voice of prophecy had been silent for 400 years, and when John the Baptist came on the scene it was the most exciting moment people had enjoyed for 4 centuries.
Jesus knows that if they say, “John did this all on his own and he wasn’t really a prophet”, they’re going to have the whole population on their backs, because the popularity of John the Baptist was as strong among the people as Jesus’ unpopularity was among the pharisees.
So what a clever question, huh? “He impaled them on the horns of a dilemma.”
Notice that when they start discussing this question among themselves, they don’t ask themselves, “Well what do you think? Was he really from God? If we say that, he’s going to say, ‘Well why didn’t you believe him? Why didn’t you go running into the Jordan river, repenting of your sins?’”
There was no debate among them about the question itself, about which option was the truth.
The pharisees however, didn’t care much about the truth.
They were having the discussion about what do we do to cover our positions? What is the politically expedient answer to give?
If we say one thing, we’re in trouble. If we say the other thing, we’re in trouble.
They got out their copy of the government’s text book on how to wangle your way out of an inquiry, and they all said, “I don’t know, we can’t remember.”
Can you see how sinister this was? The hypocrisy of it all.
It sounds like this took place in Washington rather than Jerusalem.
So they answered Jesus and said, “We don’t know”, and he says, “Fine, then neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things, so if you’ll excuse me I’m going to go back to my teaching now. I’ll see you fellows later.”
Then they left to conjure up a new way to trap Jesus and kill him.
Two points of application:
Resist trying to take on Jesus in a debate. That’s a really bad idea. You won’t win.
Recognise (or perhaps just remember again) the authority of Jesus?
There a lots of ways Jesus could have answered these demanding pharisees.
What Jesus does here, very cleverly, is demonstrate the truth that he declares at other times when he says, “I speak nothing, I do nothing on my own authority, but only on the authority of the one who sent me and the one who commissioned me.”
H also says, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”
If Jesus has all authority in heaven and on earth then guess what? That means you don’t.
You might have a small sphere of authority if you’re a parent, or teacher, or boss, or police officer, or elder, or dog catcher, or whatever. Whatever authority you have, it’s only because it’s been delegated to you.
There’s only one who has ultimate authority in and of themselves, and that’s Jesus.
That’s why, among many other things, trying to take on Jesus is not going to end well.
What’s the right response then to this Jesus who has all authority?
Well, Jesus follows this with a parable, v28.
Jesus says, “What do you think? A man had two sons. He came to the first son and said, ‘Son, will you go and mow the lawn please?’ The son said, ‘No, I’m not doing that. It’s too hot. I did it last time. I’m not interested.’
Then afterward he regretted saying that and he decided to do it.
In the meantime, the father had gone to the second son, and the father said to him the same thing, ‘The grass is getting long, it needs to be mown.’
‘Sure thing dad, no worries, first thing in the morning.’
He didn’t go however.”
“Which of these two”, Jesus asks, “did the will of his father?”
There was no hesitation this time, this wasn’t a trick question. The people there answered right away, “Well the first one did the will of his father. He said he wasn’t going to do it. He was reluctant to do it. He hesitated to do it but somewhere along the line, and for what reason we’re not told, he changed his mind, and did it.
The second son was so accommodating and said of course father, whatever you want, I’ll go, but as soon as the father turned his back, he went the other way.
What Jesus is saying is that one of these sons did the will of his father and the other didn’t. The one who did it was the one who said he wasn’t going to do it, and the one who didn’t do it was the one who said he would do it.
Then Jesus said to them, v31, “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 change your minds and believe him.”
The pharisees were like those who said, “Certainly father. I’ll go and work in your vineyard, I’m a pharisee and you know what that means. I’ve been consecrated to do your will. I’m devout and my whole life is to be a manifestation of obedience to your law, and if your law requires now that I go out and do something in your vineyard, then of course that’s what I’ll do.”
When the father required the pharisees to come to the river Jordan and repent, they wouldn’t go. That was beneath their dignity.
Why should they have to repent?
They were not willing, publicly, to acknowledge themselves as sinners even though they were “ordained” to be the representatives of God, to be his sons working in his kingdom, they didn’t do it.
Every tax collector in Jerusalem, and every prostitute in Jerusalem went to the river to be baptised by John as a sign of their repentance.
They were the last persons anyone would think to do that, because when they first heard the story that there was this guy who looked and acted like a prophet out at the river, and he was saying, “I want all you sinners to come out here and get cleansed from your sins through repentance, because the kingdom of God’s coming, because the king is coming any minute.”
The tax collector said, “Sorry, I’m too busy, I’ve got money to make.
The prostitute said, “Are you kidding? You want me to do something religious? You think I’m going to go out there before the whole world and confess that I’m a sinner and have some guy baptise me? You must be out of your mind.”
Then that night, the tax collector put his head on his pillow, and he said, “I’ve got to do something about my sin, because me guilt is killing me.”
The prostitute also had no illusions about her integrity or purity. She said, “I’m drowning in my sin and in my guilt. Is it possible that someone could make me clean?”
By God’s grace, they changed their minds repented to God, and found full and complete forgiveness of sins, and a welcome into his kingdom.
It is often said that the church is full of hypocrites.
It’s not true. The church is full of sinners. It’s only the people who claim not to be sinners who are the hypocrites.
I don’t know of any other organisation (unless it’s Murderers Inc.) that in order to join and become a card-carrying member you have to publicly declare yourself to be a sinner. That’s exactly what you have to do to be in God’s family.
Jesus said to the pharisees, “Tax collectors and prostitutes did the right thing. They believed what God said, through John, and responded to it and they go into the kingdom before you’ll ever see it.”
Two points of application:
Don’t try and take on Jesus – you’ll just end up looking silly.
Do you really want to say to God, “Says who?”
Do you really want to say to Jesus, “Who died and made you king?” “I did!”
Do you need to change your mind?
There are some of us here who are better at changing our minds than others.
>> I’m not talking about the trivial things that some of us like to change our minds about; the colour of the curtains, what you’d like on your sandwich, what we’re doing on Saturday.
I’m talking about who do you say Jesus is. That he is the one who has authority to tell us how we should be living.
I’m talking about repentance. That what repentance means: changing your mind and affections and commitments away from yourself and toward Jesus.
>> I’m not talking about just saying the words.
It must be millions of people who have gone to evangelistic meetings, and when the altar all was issued, they got up out of their chairs and went forward to receive Christ or they raised a hand, signed a card, said the sinner’s prayer.
Like the second son they said, “Yes, I’ll do it.”
Then, like the second son, the next day, they went right back to living their lives exactly as they did before with themselves as the supreme authority.
No one was ever justified simply by saying, “I hereby make a decision to follow Jesus.”
Those who are saved are the ones who follow Jesus. They don’t just say they are going to do it – they don’t just profess faith – they actually do it because they actually have faith.
I hope you’re not just saying you do.
It’s really hard to change your mind.
It’s not actually that hard, it’s just that we really don’t want to.
What will cause you to change your mind is when someone you trust, who has authority on that particular topic says, “Not this, but this.”
Jesus is infinitely trustworthy, he has all authority, and he says, “Anyone who comes to me in repentance will find full and complete forgiveness of sins.” Why wouldn’t you?
Resist, recognise, respond.
To those of us who do follow Jesus: It’s not easy to tell people that they need to change their minds.
Today, to tell someone they need to change their mind is almost the supreme sin.
If being able to make up my own mind, be true to myself, not have anybody dictate to me how I should be thinking and behaving thank you very much, is the supreme virtue, then telling someone that’s wrong is the supreme sin.
John Piper recounts responding to a letter written in his local newspaper which read, “Christians must abandon the idea that the Jews must be converted. That idea . . . is one of the greatest scandals in history”.
Piper replied with a letter to the editor arguing that since only “he who has the Son has life” (quoting Scripture, 1 John 5:12), it is not a scandal but love that moves Christians to urge Jewish people to receive Jesus as their Messiah.
That brought a heated combined letter from the pastors of the four largest churches in the city which said, “Unfortunately ‘arrogant’ is the right word to describe any attempts at proselytizing—in this case the effort of Christians to ‘win over’ their Jewish brothers and sisters. Thoughtful Christians will disassociate themselves from any such effort.”
How will we have the resolve to keep going when that’s the society we’re in?
We will when we remember who has the authority.
It’s no coincidence that when Jesus says to the twelve (minus one), 28:18, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me”, he then says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
On our own we can’t change our minds. On our own we will simply never want to. You must do it, so we ask that you do. Change our minds and affections and commitments we pray, to be on Jesus. No preacher can do it, no friend or family member can do it, but you by your sovereign grace alone. Give us what we need to recognise and respond appropriately to the authority of Jesus, and to have the resolve to speak and show it, we ask in his name.
Cannot connect to Ginger Check your internet connection
or reload the browserDisable in this text fieldEditEdit in GingerEdit in Ginger
Enable GingerCannot connect to Ginger Check your internet connection
or reload the browserDisable in this text fieldEditEdit in GingerEdit in Ginger