Lesson 45 of the Discipleship Making process.
I left you last time with these two questions, “Who is in authority over you at your church?” and “Who do you have authority over at your church?”
Jesus left the withered fig tree where He had taught the disciples about faith and entered the city of Jerusalem. From there He proceeds to the temple where He began to teach on the topic of authority, with the context of His message centering on and around the “chair of Moses”.
When Jesus talked about the chair of Moses, He probably was referring to it, both literally and symbolically. The chair itself was a stone seat on a raised platform. It was placed at the front of the synagogue next to the Ark containing the Torah scrolls, facing the congregation. Usually the most prominent elder or leader would sit on it while he expounded upon the Law and the Prophets. Undoubtedly this is what Jesus was referring to concerning the scribes and Pharisees when He said, “They love the place of honor at banquets and the chief seats in the synagogues, and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called Rabbi by men.”
Symbolically, the chair of Moses represented the place of judgment. From there legally binding decisions were made for the people in regards to the Law. This concept was derived from Exodus 18:13-16. According to the Mishna (oral tradition), this right passed from Moses, to Joshua, to the Judges, to the Prophets and finally to the Sanhedrin.
Read: Matthew 23:1-2, Mark 12:39
Beginning His teaching by saying, “The scribes and the Pharisee have seated themselves in the chair of Moses,” Jesus was making the point that these men had appointed themselves to this high position, it had not been granted to them by God. All the individuals in the line of succession for the chair of Moses from Moses, himself through the last prophet, Malachi, all had a personal relationship with God and their authority was derived from Him because they heard and obeyed His voice. From that time on men were appointed by other men based on their knowledge and understanding of the Law.
God has always wanted a personal relationship with His people, where they heard His voice and fellowshipped with Him. This was never more evident than when God led the Israelites out of bondage to the Egyptians. Moses took the Israelites from Egypt to Mt Horeb (Sinai) where they could meet with and talk to God (Exodus 19:1-14, 20:18-21). No sooner had God spoken to His people than they broke their covenant with Him. They were settling for second best, wanting to listen to Moses’ voice instead of His. God granted their request.
At this point everything changed for the nation of Israel. Since they didn’t want to hear Him speak, God gave Moses a set of laws for the people to follow and he became its first mediator. This became the Law of Moses and has led these people the past 3,400 years. The Law of Moses was added because of sin (Galatians 3:16, 19), the refusal to hear and obey God (This was the original sin that occurred in the Garden of Eden: Adam and Eve refused to hear and obey God), and its purpose was to lead men to Christ (Galatians 3:24-26).
God having mercy on His people came to them in the likeness of a man . . . Jesus, the Christ. That way, He wouldn’t frighten His people and could show them what He was really like (John 14:8-10). Even though God came in a lowly, humble and gentle way to his people most of them still refused to listen to Him . . . preferring their own ways to His.
In part 2 of this lesson, we will be challenged by Jesus’ continued instruction on authority and its purpose to cause men to follow God alone.
Until next time . . . Godspeed!