Round One Too

      The text we read this morning is the beginning of the confrontation between Jesus and the priests and elders just after he triumphantly entered Jerusalem and finished with round 1 of three where Jesus spars in the form of parables.

You could say it is the first of the five controversy stories that Jesus pronounces with the conclusion being the statement of woes against the scribes. It is his last time in the temple

Jesus is not lecturing or even teaching at this moment…he actually finished for the day and he is now in the confrontation mode as the bantering back and forth begins and the authorities try to trap him and trip him up.  They essentially are questioning his authority here on earth and in heaven and who he is.


23 When he entered 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?” 24 Jesus said to them, “I will also ask you one question; if you tell me the answer, then I will also tell you by what authority I do these things. 25 Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?” And they argued with one another, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ 26 But if we say, ‘Of human origin,’ we are afraid of the crowd; for all regard John as a prophet.” 27 So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And he said to them,  “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”


28“What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ 29 He answered, ‘I will not’; but later he changed his mind and went. 30 The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, ‘I go, sir’; but he did not go. 31 Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. 32 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 after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.


Friends the reading this morning highlights the concern of who has the authority to teach and preach to God’s people in order to bring them back into a right relationship with God. It is a fight of who can change the people’s hearts!

When Jesus mentioned John the Baptist he invoked the picture of the Prophets of Israel and by which authority God’s word was accepted or rejected.

John baptized and the people thought of him as a prophet and some even the messiah. But we are asked to remember John’s call to ministry and the purpose of it.


To me I travel back to the late 1950’s sitting in my Grandparents living room with my Grandpa, Dad and Uncles….It’s Friday night and the Cavalcade of Sports song comes on…you might remember it…The Gillette Friday Night Boxing Fights. The announcers on the side talking about the card that night…then a person walking around the ring just before the bell rings…..with a round 1 on a plaqueard …. And the fight begins!  RING THE BELL!

And oh what a fight we just heard. It was a verbal war that was now being fought and the war of words would end later in the week with a man being arrested for heresy and crucified! This man was God, our savior, the Messiah.

However you see picture painted, the events of the text go back to the Isaiah texts lifted up in Mark and then the John texts of who both John the Baptist and Jesus were. The good news is we know!  We sit in the audience and we know. We sit in worship today and we know! We can be the crowd putting our two cents worth in.

  • Can’t you just hear it?

  • Jesus enters the temple …..we cheer him on!

  • Then the religious leadership shows up….We boo loudly!

  • Perhaps we sit and shout Jesus, Jesus , Jesus!

  • Then Jesus holds up has hands and there is quiet…..

  • He nods to the leadership and they begin…

  • “By who’s authority do you do these things?”

  • We know …. We shout GOD did GOD did!

  • Perhaps we chant Authority?

  • He healed with authority

  • He fed with authority

  • He taught with authority,

  • He forgave sins with authority,

  • He gave his authority to his disciples.

  • We have the inside scoop

  • WE KNOW how the story goes and how it ends!


    • BECAUSE HE IS GOD!!!!!!!!

Jesus holds up his hands for quiet again….

If you answer this question I will answer your question.

John’s baptism…Where did it come from? Was it from heaven of from men?

OOOOOOO we all join in as we sound off!

There is silence….silence….a kind of stale mate. They won’t answer so Jesus won’t answer…..

But we know the scene…there he is Caiaphas, and Nicodemus, oh and there are the three scribes and the richest man in the city who stood by when we heard the widow drop in her mite.

Then Jesus begins to tell the story…. There was a man that had two children….we assume sons because they were the only ones the could work in the field at that time.  We know that he was a rich man as well because of the Greek that is used TEKNON as they are identified because the dad owns a vineyard. The first child rebels and says no to Dad’s request but repents … me-tan-oy-thious in the Greek it translates to more than just changing his mind, the word actually is repents with a changed heart! His heart transforms and changes….The other son gives lip service and says essentially your wish is my command! But skips out of the work.

Jesus then gets the leadership to answer the question posed, Who did the father’s will?  The one who repented!

Yup, you answered correctly…. And truly the Tax collectors and prostitutes who changed their hearts and repented after they were baptized and they will get to heaven first because of your hard hearts. They chose to believe….you did not…even though you saw! Even though you are supposed to be the ones people listen to.

You and I all read the stories, we all hear the words, we all experience the wonders of God’s love with a renewed relationship in God. All we have to do is believe it to be true…All we need is faith.

Round 1 goes to Jesus because those that would judge Jesus a few days later actually pronounce self-judgment on themselves because of their hardened hearts, deaf ears and blinded eyes to who Jesus is and was.

By who’s authority …. Really…. GOD’s!

We know because Jesus was the one who fought the battle against sin so all of ours might be forgiven. He is the one that speaks the words of truth for us to hear. He is the one that shows us the way and he is the one that lights that way so we don’t get lost and we can find our way home. He is always beside us and carries us on his shoulders when the time gets rough. He never leaves us alone. By what authority?  We know the answer …. GOD’S!!!!! Can’t you see it? Why don’t they know it? Why were they condemning him, judging him, convicting him?

RING THE BELL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The voice of Christ rang out like a great bell, It was a prize fight. A fight for life, for life eternal. The bell rang with such clarity. It rang out through the air, down the bones of Jerusalem out over the waiting fields, over the roads through Rome's armies stationed in the city, down into the yearning ears of the crowd. Into yours and mine ears. Into our very being…our very souls.

It was the sound of a fight and ringing of things to come. Then the sound would fade only to grow again just a few days later. This time there would be jeers instead of cheers.

Some thought that the fight was over that Jesus had lost the rounds when Jesus died later in the week. But we know better. The good news is that Jesus was fighting but he was fighting for us!   And he died for us but rose for us so we might live in eternity with him.

All his words His fighting were exercised so we might live and worship in the same sandbox and come to a diverse yet common table, his table. So we might believe in one common Lord, one loving God joined together by the Holy Spirit.

Friends, God gave the only Son and all you need to do is believe in him and you receive the gift of eternal life. He fought the fight, he fought the battle and won.

God always wants to be in a right relationship with you and God set the parameters that we believe and forgive others as you would like to be forgiven and God assures us that our sins are forgiven because of what happened on the cross and rising again from that death.

Always keep your eye on the prize, for the light shines from Jesus to that path to that prize. He also rings the bell. Don’t let evil distract you in any way. Always preach the GOOD news of the Gospel. Never condemning always caring and loving.


I say again, and again. I will say everyday, adapting and paraphrasing  the Rev. Billy Graham,

(“Does the Holy Spirit Live in You?, Rev. Billy Graham, 4/30/2009. Billy Graham Evangelistic Association)

It is God’s job to judge,

the Holy Spirit’s to Convict, and I add

IT IS Jesus Christ’s to save, and

our call, our mission, our passion to Love God and

neighbor fully and forgive completely.


God sent the son to die so that by faith we might live and take up our cross, not his but ours, and follow him. God’s grace was not cheap and his words not empty. For his... is a promise of eternal life and because of our faith he will lead to that way.







  • New Interpreters Bible, Abington Press

  • NRSV Bible, Abington Press

  • Ancient Christian Commentaries, Inter Varsity

  • Book of Confessions, WJK

  • Feasting on the Word, WJK

  • “Does the Holy Spirit Live in You?” Rev. Billy Graham, 4/30/2009. Billy Graham Evangelistic Association

  • Bibleworks for Windows,The New Testament in the Original Greek Byzantine Text Form, 2005,Compiled and arranged by Maurice A. Robinson and William G. Pierpont.


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