The Son has the Ultimate Authority – Matthew 21

The Authority of Jesus Questioned

The fallout from the temple clearing incident perhaps did not sit well with the chief priests and the elders as surely that would have opened the eyes of the people to the corruption that had infiltrated the walls of the temple. Thereafter, the temple leaders were always on the lookout for any opportunity to chastise Jesus and when they saw Jesus teaching in the temple courts, they questioned His authority as He was not trained in any of the seminaries of those days.

“By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you this authority?”

Matthew 21:23

Jesus knew their hearts and did not want to play their game but rather posed a question before them to enlighten them of their hypocrisy. He knew that the temple leaders had no respect for John’s ministry and were only tolerating him because of the fear of his followers. So Jesus asked them about John’s baptism.

John’s baptism—where did it come from? Was it from heaven, or of human origin?

Matthew 21:25

The leaders were perplexed because they could not answer yes as that would imply that they went again the will of God and if they said no that would bring the wrath of John’s followers on them, many of whom were now following Jesus.

Jesus did not expect them to answer in either way but wanted them to realise the fault in their ways. Similarly God might not always answer our petitions and requests that we ask foolishly being totally unaware of the fault in our ways. His ways are greater than what we can fathom and we have no right to question His authority in our lives. But still He chooses to teach us new things and rectify our errors if we leave our pride and ego and humbly listen to Him. This was not what the pharisees and the chief priest did and so they were given into the hands of satan to plan the murder of Jesus. What they did not realise was that they were still under God’s authority even when they plotted to kill His Son.

To make the people understand the authority of the Son, Jesus laid forth before them two parables. One the Parable of the two sons and the other of the tenants who kill the son.

The Parable of the Two Sons

There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’
“‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.
“Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go.
“Which of the two did what his father wanted?”
“The first,” they answered.

Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.

Matthew 21:28-31

Everyone knew the answer to the Parable but were blind to the obvious when it came to applying the same in their own lives. Just like king David who was oblivious to the crime he had committed but could judge Nathan’s parable of the Sheep correctly. When we see our lives and the things God is trying to teach us through His word, are we like the chief priests and the elders failing to apply the scriptures in our lives. If we do not apply His living word in our own lives then reading the Bible is just a waste of time. Let us not continue to blindly read His word but ask Him to open our eyes and correct our ways.

The Parable of the Tenants

On the authority that the Son has, Jesus used a parable of an earthly father and son and applied to His relationship with His Father and the world (Tenants). A landowner (God) planted a vineyard with everything needed to run it. Walls to secure it, winepress to make wine and even a watchtower to guard the fruits of their labour. He rented the vineyard to some farmers and moved to another place. At the time of the harvest, he sent his servants (prophets) to collect the produce. But the tenants killed all the servants sent by the owner. (Jerusalem had killed many prophets that were sent to them). At last the owner sent his own son (Jesus), to gather the fruits thinking that they would respect his son just like they respected him. What the owner did not realise was how evil these tenants were and they never respected him much less his son. They killed his son, a desperate attempt to seize the vineyard from the heir-less landlord.

“Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?”
“He will bring those wretches to a wretched end,” they replied, “and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time.”

Matthew 21:40-41

The people who were questioning the authority of Jesus knew that the parable was aimed at them and rather than changing their ways or even consulting God, they looked even more desperately for a way to kill Jesus.

Discussion Questions

  • Why did Jesus not answer the temple leaders challenging His authority?
  • The temple leaders knew that the first son was correct in his ways but why could they not apply the same in their own lives?
  • Do we ever question God’s authority in our lives?
  • Why even after understanding these parables did the Jewish leaders go ahead with their plans?


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