Authority as a Blessing, Obedience as a Joy

Series: Psalms

Mark 10:35-45 - This story tells us something important, it’s not unusual for disciples to have misunderstandings about authority. In the context we live in, authority is often very negative and self driven. But notice, that’s not how Jesus viewed his authority, or how he viewed the authority of the Father. Obedience was not a burden in Jesus’ life. We see a pleasure in doing the Father’s will - his prayer was “not my will, but your will.” He did nothing of his own authority (John 8:28) and never spoke on his own authority (John 12:49, 14:10). He viewed God’s authority as a good thing and obedience was full of joy. This is how the Father-Son relationship should work and it is a relationship that God wants to have with all of us.

Psalm 2 addresses those two ideas. Obedience is a joy for the people of God (Psalm 2:11) and authority is a blessing for those who take refuge in Him (Psalm 2:12). So how do we do that?

Why do the nations rage? (Psalm 2:1-6)

This text opens with a question. Why do people have such a problem with God? Why do the kings of earth plot together against Yahweh and his anointed? Why do they want to burst the bonds apart and cast away their cords? That’s a question that deserves our attention.

This is the truth about the world that we live in. It’s not just the kings of the world that resist God, the Bible teaches that this is what all of us struggle with. Remember, (Ecclesiastes 7:29) says that “God made man upright, but they have sought out many schemes.” That’s an important concept, it means that if we are left to our devices, if we follow our hearts, if we do what we want to do, we will naturally turn against God (Jeremiah 17:9, Romans 3:11). Why?

This text gives us the answer: All of us have an authority problem and it is as old as the garden - we want to be on the throne. They wanted to be like God. They wanted to know good and evil on their own terms. They seized autonomy for themselves. They were rebellious sons. That’s what is behind the nations that rage against Yahweh and His anointed. God has anointed someone else. God has set his king in Zion. God has the authority and not man.

We all struggle with this at a fundamental level. We want to call the shots. We want to make our own decisions. We want autonomy from God. We want to have it our way. And, because we want to be on the throne instead of God, we find all kinds of different sources of authority that we appeal to and some enable us to be on the throne.

There are lots of different sources people appeal to instead of God, we appeal to their parents or family, we appeal to the majority, we appeal to the wisdom or intellect of human beings, we appeal to traditions handed down to us, or we even appeal to our own conscience. But realize, at the very core of all those different appeals is a desire to sit on the throne and to have it our way. But God won’t allow that to happen. Why?

Here’s why, when we do this we are pushing against and rebelling against the goodness and love of God. The authority we have is to be a blessing for us. Obedience is not a means of slavery, but a means of freedom. Let me illustrate, imagine that you have a fish and you want to help that fish escape the oppressive limitations of the bowl. You want to set him free. You want to burst the bonds and cast away his cords. So you take the fish and throw him onto the floor - how does that work out for him? Is he really free? No. He is free of the bowl and the water, but that “freedom” is actually slavery and death. The reason we struggle with this is because we lack the perspective, we are shortsighted, proud, and do not trust God. We want our own way, but our own way leads to self destruction. The issue is in our spirit, our attitude.

And what is the inevitable response from God? He simply laughs and derides them, he will speak to them in wrath, terrify them with his fury, and accomplish his will. God will accomplish his will regardless of how we react, and that actually is a very good thing. Since God is the source of goodness, love, and authority, it is a blessing that he does not leave us to our own devices live however we want to live.

How then can we learn to trust God? How can we change our attitude toward authority and obedience? Because notice, the charge at the end of the text is for a change in attitude toward the very same kings and rulers. It is through the sending of His beloved Son.

You are my Son; today I have begotten you. (Psalm 2:7-9)

The decree from the Father to the Son is here in (2:7-9). This is a critical concept and text that goes all the way through the gospels and shows how God is set on resisting the proud, establishing His king, and ultimately changing our hearts to view his authority and our obedience differently.

Notice how Mark begins his gospel. Mark’s gospel begins with good news about Jesus - the Son of God. The good news is that God reigns and the nations do not. This gospel is about how Jesus became king. Now, he is not the king they wanted, but he is the king they needed.

Three times in the gospel he will use this phrase “beloved Son of God”.

Jesus’ Anointing - Mark 1:9-11

Mark’s gospel moves quickly to introduce Jesus. The first appearance of Jesus is at his baptism. This is where the heavens are torn open and the Spirit descends like a dove. But notice what God says “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” This is a deliberate reference to Psalm 2. What is the significance of this event? Peter tells us in Acts 10:34-38. This is where Jesus was anointed. And what did it look like for him to operate as the anointed king? He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed. Jesus calls his disciples and immediately begins teaching and heals a man with an unclean spirit. What’s their reaction? They are astonished at his teaching because he has authority. Further, that authority is so great that it means he commands the demons and they obey him Mark 1:22, 27. Obedience to Jesus is connected with his teaching and it means the liberation of people from slavery.

What else does the authority of Jesus mean? In (Mark 2:1-12), Jesus heals the paralytic. Why did he do this? It is so that they may know that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins Mark 2:10. That authority, absolute authority, is being used to heal people, to cast out demons, and forgive sins. But notice, there are evil spirits, and evil men (Pharisees, Scribes, the crowds) that are resisting his power, but God is determined to set his king in Zion.

This gives us a different perspective on Jesus’ authority. Jesus is doing for us what we cannot do for ourselves. He may not be the king that we expect or want, but he is the king that we need. He is giving us the true, deep, desires of our hearts.

Jesus’ Transfiguration - Mark 9:7

Now we move forward in Mark’s gospel to his transfiguration. This is where Jesus becomes radiant and is revealing his true identity to his disciples. But, they do not fully understand his significance, they think Jesus is like Moses or Elijah. They don’t realize that he is the unique Son of God. But now, God speaks again and look at what he says, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.” Again, invoking Psalm 2, but the clear message here is that we need to listen to Jesus.

Now, what specifically did he have in mind? I believe it goes back to (Mark 8:31-9:1). This is where Jesus began to tell them about the fact that he must be rejected, killed, and rise again and that to be a disciple of Jesus you have to deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow him. If we give up everything for him and the gospel we will secure it forever, but if we hold on to ourselves we will lose it and be rejected when Jesus’ returns. Who could believe such a message? It came with confirmation from the voice of heaven.

Here is the voice of Jesus, the authority of God speaking again, and Jesus is saying that he has to go forward with this plan. This is what it means to be a disciple. There will be an ultimate judgment and whatever you give up for the gospel and Jesus will be worth it. That’s a transforming vision of authority and obedience as well. Jesus is using that power for our good, he is setting our sights and perspectives on the eternal instead the temporary.

Jesus’ authority is not about him holding position over us and us being his petty slaves forever. No, Jesus has a different view of authority. Remember the story in (Mark 10:35-45), James and John want to sit at his right hand and they want the glory and Jesus asks if they will endure the cup of suffering. But Jesus tells them they have the wrong idea about authority. Authority in Jesus’ kingdom is not about lording over. Authority is about serving others, building others up, giving our lives in sacrificial love for others. That’s what Jesus was about to do, and it was to be a model for how they viewed authority and how they obeyed the Lord.

Jesus’ Rejection - Mark 11:27-12:12

This interaction is after two key events in Mark’s gospel, the triumphal entry and the cleansing of the temple. Jesus has been teaching in the temple and the leaders come and ask him “by what authority are you doing these things, or who gave you this authority to do them?

Now, he calls them back to the very beginning of his ministry and the baptism of John. But it’s clear, they’re wanting his authority, they want to know who gave him the right to act like this. But what becomes clear is that these people are not interested in pleasing God, they are interested in keeping their position and they are afraid of the multitudes.

Jesus then gives a parable. The parable is an explanation of what is happening. Notice that these leaders are the tenants - they don’t own the vineyard, they have been entrusted by the owner to care for the property. But, they want autonomy, they want what the owner had without having the owner. This is the fundamental attitude that we saw back in Psalm 2.

Now notice how Mark describes the arrival of Jesus - he is the beloved son, and the people reject him and kill him because they want the vineyard themselves. But why did he send his son? Was it carelessness or foolishness? God is showing these people the end of their actions - when the leaders get their own way and pursue their own means it leads to the death of the innocent and oppression of others. But more than that, it is through these evil actions that God is going to change their hearts. God is using this evil action to lead to the crucifixion of His Son. God will establish his cornerstone. God will bring forgiveness into the world through this. God will do what is marvelous in our eyes, and through that our hearts will be changed.

This is what we do when God comes into our lives and proclaims himself as king - he upsets our temples, he calls us out for our corruption and sin, he calls us to repentance and when we are more concerned about what people think, our own position and pride, we resist and we push back against Jesus. We question his word, we fight against his rule, and it leads to the point of violence against God. It’s all because we don’t trust him and we trust something more.

Let me give an example - today is the first Sunday of pride month. What happens when Jesus comes and deals with the controversial topic of sex, marriage, divorce, and remarriage? Jesus gives us information of how to understand God’s will. He gives us the example: “God made them male and female” - the idea is that it is only one man and one woman. He gives us the command: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” He gives the implication: “What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate”. Further, silence is not authoritative. People will say that Jesus never said anything about homosexuality, so it is okay. But that’s not the truth, by that reasoning, Jesus didn’t speak about beastiality, pedophilia, or polygamy. Jesus spoke about all of them because he specified marriage as a man and woman and that excludes all others.

How do we respond to Jesus’ teaching on that? We change it, we resist it, we reject it, we may even be violent to people who uphold it - like John the Baptist. And we can easily fall into the trap of doing this on any number of different topics. Why? It’s because we don’t trust God and we want to be on the throne. We want to be free of God’s oppressive authority.

Kiss the Son (Psalm 2:10-12)

However, the cross changes all those things. When we realize that God loved us so much, even when were enemies of his, and he gave his beloved Son to die for us, we begin to be changed. Our pride and selfishness hurts ourselves, others, and it led to the death of Jesus. We don’t have the knowledge to determine right and wrong for ourselves. We need God. We need God to establish his king in Zion. But it’s much more than that, God speaks to those who serve Yahweh with fear and rejoice with trembling, to those who kiss the Son in order to avoid His anger, and gives a blessing those who take refuge in him.

What is that blessing? It is to make us sons of God - like Jesus. First, it includes the blessing of forgiveness (Romans 4:7-8, Acts 3:25). Like we illustrated with the fish, we want our freedom but all it does is hurt ourselves and others. God is set on setting us free, not giving us freedom to sin, but giving us freedom from sin. To help us see his wisdom, love, goodness, and to offer forgiveness and grace for our failures. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice he can look at us and in essence say “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.

Second, it is the blessing of inheritance - Romans 8:12-17. If we follow the Spirit, we pass from death to life and we are adopted as sons of God. We are coheirs with Christ if we suffer with him (Romans 8:17). How can we know that God is not holding out on us? It is because if he gave us Jesus, he will give us all things (Romans 8:31-32).

What does that include? In Revelation 2:26-29 John wrote to the church that had been impacted by the improper sexual teaching of Jezebel and he encouraged them to resist that false teaching and endure. What would they receive if they overcame? What was true of Jesus would be true of them - they would share Jesus inheritance. In Revelation 21:1-8, look at what is given. It is the same promises that are given to Jesus. They rule over the nations, they inherit the New Heavens and New Earth. The ones who overcome will have this inheritance…

God was right, the Devil was lying. That’s the kind of message that transforms our hearts to be people that view his authority as a blessing and obedience as a joy. It gives us the power to overcome in our trials and failures. By having that message in our hearts we are transformed day by day into his image.