Jesus Claims Total Authority: A Former Drill Sergeant’s Thoughts on John 2.

Troy Singleton

In the mid-1960s, two people participated in research to analyze the effects that darkness has on the human psyche. They went in two separate caves. Both tried to guess how long they had stayed, and were off by months. One stayed in the cave for 88 days, and the other for 126 days. When they got out, they realized that darkness has a drastic effect on you. 

One took what he thought was a nap and ended up sleeping for 30 hours. Darkness can have some drastic and baffling effect on our psyche. Spiritually, it can do the same thing, as well. It can cause us to fall; it can cause us to stumble. It can have us thinking right is wrong and wrong is right. Darkness can be confusing and can cause serious problems.

Psalm 119:105 says, “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” And if you’re familiar with that Scripture and understand that, and if you’ve ever walked in darkness, you understand the need for a lamp, because a lamp helps you see where you’re going, makes sure you’re going in the right direction, and makes sure you’re not falling into holes or deep pits or anything like that. It prevents those things from happening, but the Word of God can help keep you out of darkness. It can be that light. 

We are continuing in our series in John, the second chapter, looking at verses 13 through 25. And we’re still talking about Jesus in real life. If you are familiar with those texts, you know that this is the text where Jesus is going into the Temple. He had just left the wedding feast a couple of days or months prior, and he’s going into the Temple. He is 30 years old at this point, and he is beginning to start his ministry in life.

So, when you talk about darkness, we’ll see Jesus is in their face, and yet they still don’t recognize him. So our big idea is, Jesus claims total authority. He claims total authority. He doesn’t request it or ask for it. He demands it whether we like it or not. He is going to establish authority in the Temple. He’s going to establish authority with Christianity. He’s going to establish authority with worship in order for us to be effective and have a foundation. 

Jesus claims total authority.


You are familiar with the idea of building a home, building a house, or building anything. You need to have a strong foundation. And Jesus is attempting to do this. Living in a world that we’re living in and seeing everything that’s going on in it, you can just realize that we still need a savior that has not surrendered his authority.

I think A.W. Tozer said it best when he wrote, “While it looks like things are out of control, behind the scenes there is a God who hasn’t surrendered His authority.” When I read that, the first thing I thought was, Whew! I’m glad God hasn’t surrendered his authority to this world in the midst of everything that’s going on. It’s just assuring to hear that. Most of us know that, but it’s just good to hear it. And that’s just an awesome thing. 

1. Authority over the Temple

So, our first point we’re going to look at is, Jesus claims authority over the Temple. When I was a drill sergeant, we loved day one of pick-up. It was the day that you first get the soldiers in, a wonderful day for a drill sergeant. That’s the day we looked forward to. We had guys that would look at full medal jackets before pick-up, just excited. Even if guys had the day off, they would come in for pick-up. It was a very important day in the life of a drill sergeant. A lot of it gets lost in the media, and then now they’ve changed it. But you get a lot of yelling. You get a lot of throwing things around, a lot of confusion, a lot of time hacks, giving guys 10 seconds to do something that takes 20 to 30 seconds to do. -just a lot of yelling. 

You see guys cry. You see guys lose bodily functions. All of this is happening during day one of pick-up. We called it the “shark attack”. We just go in and wreak havoc on those soldiers when they first come in. You who are soldiers kind of smile, remembering those days. But a lot of the reasons it gets lost on people is, why did your son do a shark attack? The bottom line is, they’re trying to establish authority. 

They’re trying to let these civilians know, trainees know, that, “Hey, we are the authorities here. I don’t know what your background is. I don’t know where you came from or what you’ve been going through, but drill sergeants reign supreme here.” That’s why the cadence goes everywhere I go; there’s a drill sergeant there, and we are there to establish authority. We are there to execute the commands of those higher over us, issue out task conditions and standards, and hold these guys to a standard in order for them to finish. And as we all know, a lot of them don’t, but that’s the reason why we have a shark attack. 

Well, what if I tell you the drill sergeants weren’t the creators of shark attack? What if I told you Jesus was? That’s what we’re going to look at in this first part. That’s kind of what I’m used to and what a lot of soldiers are used to. This is kind of what Jesus is doing here. He’s that guy (without the explicit words). He is that guy in that second chapter of John, beginning at verse 13. And He is laying down the law. But let’s look at what He says in verses 13-17. It said:

13 The Jewish Passover was near, and so Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple he found people selling oxen, sheep, and doves, and he also found the money changers sitting there. 15 After making a whip out of cords, he drove everyone out of the temple with their sheep and oxen. He also poured out the money changers’ coins and overturned the tables. 16 He told those who were selling doves, “Get these things out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a marketplace!” 17 And his disciples remembered that it is written: Zeal for your house will consume me.

Like I said, drill sergeants didn’t create shark attacks. This is Jesus’ version of it. This is Jesus establishing his authority. We all can know and see that Jesus is 100% God and 100% man. There’s no question of that. This is the first attack on the Temple that Jesus performed. The second one comes as he is dying on the cross, and the veil of the Temple is torn in two. 

In the same way, as soldiers were shocked on day one of pick-up, the people in the Temple were totally shocked when Jesus started going in and turning over tables, telling them to get out and do this and that. If you could imagine a Temple area during Passover with thousands upon thousands of people, and you’ve got one guy just coming in there, lone survivor, just toss things and telling people to get out and move. And remember that Jesus is not a priest; he’s not a Levite. He has no religious affiliation with Israel’s leadership or anything like that.

The Jews at this time were looking at Jesus and saying, “Who is this? Why are you desecrating our Temple with no authority?” Jesus was looking at them, a man with authority, telling them to get out of his Father’s Temple, and pushing them out. This should have been a clue to them to let them know, in fact, that this was the Messiah. Yet, they didn’t recognize him at all. If you look at the priests and the Levites, these were the ones that constantly read the Bible, constantly looking for the Messiah to come. They had 30 years to recognize that Jesus was who he said he was and why he was doing what he was doing. 

He was born in Bethlehem. All of this stuff leading up to this 30th year was written in Scripture that they could have read up on and seen. And you look at verse 17, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” That’s a quote from Psalms 69:9. David said that when he was talking about a lot of other things. But one of the things he was talking about was his affection and love for God.

So when you hear someone saying, “Zeal for your house has consumed me,” it’s meaning that he loved the house of God so much that if anyone desecrated or did anything outside of what God would have him or her to do, they would get upset and get offended and want to defend what God wanted them to defend. 

That’s the same thing that you see Jesus doing here and why he did it and why that text was so important in what was going on. So Jesus was upset over religious corruption. These Jews in the Temple were doing nothing different from they would all normally do during Passover. The only difference is that they were selling more for profit than anything else. So, if something cost a dollar during those times, they were charging five dollars. So, they were overpricing the sacrifices for the people for Passover.

And those were the things that Jesus identified when he walked into the room. He saw that they were taking advantage of the people at the time. So when he kicked them out, he was kicking out those people who were there for all the wrong reasons. They weren’t there to worship God. They weren’t there to sell offerings to God. They were there to make a profit more than anything. They didn’t care about God. They didn’t care about what the Passover meant. They were there just to make money. And when you have dollar signs in front of your face instead of God-like signs in the front of your face, that can be a problem for you.

2. Authority over Christianity

The second point that he makes is, he claims authority over Christianity. And you can say religion, but if there is no Christ, there is no Christianity. And the source of religion in Jesus Christ is based on the Bible. So, if you have authority over Christianity and you are Christ, you are establishing your reign and your superiority, not as a, “I demand you do this or that,” but, “I’m saying that’s who I am. I come from God. I have all power in my hand. I’m here to do this, and you knew I was coming. Now I’m here, and now it’s time to serve up.” But let’s look at how the Jews replied to Jesus. 

18 So the Jews replied to him, “What sign will you show us for doing these things?”19 Jesus answered, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it up in three days.” 20 Therefore the Jews said, “This temple took forty-six years to build, and will you raise it up in three days?” 21 But he was speaking about the temple of his body. 22 So when he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the statement Jesus had made.

During close to the end of the cycle when soldiers are getting ready to go get assignments, to go to the next station, we would call out a roster. So for me, first platoon, I would say roster number 101: Fort Hood. Roster number 102: Fort Campbell. Roster number 103: Fort Couch. Roster number 105: Fort Campbell. Roster number 106: Fort Living Room… 

And at the end of telling soldiers where they were going to, I would say, “Any question?” They would say, “Hey, I’ve got a question. Just where is Fort Couch and Living Room?” I would say, “Oh, that means you are going home. You didn’t make it. “

And that’s what we see this verse. They weren’t convinced that Jesus was who he said he was. No amount of miracles could convince them that he was Jesus. In the same way, no amount of task-conditioning standards, no amount of leadership the drill sergeants provide will prepare these soldiers to be soldiers.

So they were still there with the same hat on and the same uniform as everyone else, but they were going to Fort Living Room and Fort Couch, but other soldiers were going to these other installations that existed. And it’s just the way it was. 

They were looking for a sign from the sky. They were looking for something like fireworks. Jesus could raise someone from the dead. He could heal someone. He could do all of these marvelous things, but that didn’t do anything to persuade them that he was the Messiah. They looked at Jesus as being just a man. To them, he put his pants on the same way they put their pants on. He looked like them. He dressed like them. He talked like a man. He acted like a man. He didn’t have a halo over his head. He didn’t walk, moving on a cloud. He didn’t have a heavenly expression on his face, even if there was such a thing. They just saw him just as a man.

Jesus said to them, “I’ll give you a sign. Destroy this Temple, and I will rebuild it. I will raise it up in three days.” Although this was a future fact, they didn’t know that. This was an indication that Jesus not only knows the past; he knows the future. They didn’t know at that time that they were going to kill him, but Jesus did. They didn’t know at the time that they were having him hung on the cross, but Jesus did. They didn’t know at that time that they would turn him over to the Roman government to be crucified, but Jesus did. His death was verified by the Romans stabbing a spear in his side and also with the leaders from Israel standing there and observing. They didn’t know any of these things.

So Jesus was saying, “You wanted a sign. I will give you a deferred sign.” And some scholars believe that when Jesus said, “You destroy this Temple, I’ll rebuild it in three days,” they give the impression that Jesus was pointing at himself when he said that, trying to give them a hint that that’s what he was talking about. Because also, that was in the Scripture that that’s how Jesus was going to die. 

But the Jews still didn’t pick up on the fact that it was Jesus and that he was all-knowing. He knows what we don’t know. He knows what we know. There’s nothing we can tell him that he doesn’t know already. But in a book by A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy, he can say this better than I can. He writes these words: 

“God knows all that can be known, and this he knows instantly. And with the fullness of perfection that includes every possible item of knowledge concerning everything that exists or could have existed anywhere in the universe at any time in the past, or that may exist in the centuries or ages yet unborn. God knows all causes or thoughts or mysteries, all enigmas or feelings or desires. Every unuttered secret, all thrones and dominions, all personalities, all things visible and invisible in Heaven and on Earth, because God knows all things perfectly. He knows no thing better than any other thing, but knows all things equally well. He never discovers anything. He’s never surprised, never amazed. He never wonders about anything, nor does he seek information or ask questions. God is self-existent in self-existent knowledge, and God is self-contained in self-contained knowledge. He knows what no creature can ever know. He knows himself perfectly, and only the infinite can have infinite knowledge of himself.” 

This, my friend, is God.

 3. Authority over Worship 

He brings it home with the last point: authority over worship. And I just love worship. I just love coming to church and hearing songs. I can’t sing. I love to sing, but I just keep that in the car. But, I just love worship in every form, whether we are in church or doing something out in the community. I just love worship. And Jesus is claiming authority over worship, as well. And we honor him with our worship, because there’s nothing we can give him that he hasn’t either made or known about. There are no surprises that we can say, “Surprise! Happy Birthday, Jesus!” or a surprise event. He is just the reason why we’re here to worship.

But in these 23rd through 25th verses, Jesus is talking about those who aren’t worshiping in true worship. And this is what he says in verse 23: 

23 While he was in Jerusalem during the Passover Festival, many believed in his name when they saw the signs he was doing. 24 Jesus, however, would not entrust himself to them, since he knew them all 25 and because he did not need anyone to testify about man; for he himself knew what was in man.

So, if you go back up and look at that second line, it says, “Many believed in His name when they saw the signs he was doing.” That’s when they believed. So Jesus is talking about those who have false worship. He’s saying, “Those who don’t worship me in Spirit and in the truth are just there for what I can do for them.” An example of that is, you ask for something and God blesses you with either finances or with a job or with a vehicle, so on and so forth. Then once you get that item, you move on from Jesus.

They were worshiping him for what he could actually do, not for who he is. They believed in him, but he didn’t believe in them. They trusted in him, but he didn’t trust in them. They had faith in him, but he didn’t have faith in them. We see the presence of an artificial faith that does not save. It’s a reality that must be recognized.

Some people who claim to believe in Jesus have a non-saving faith. So Jesus didn’t need someone to tell him about man. He knows about man. He was there when man was created. He was there when Cain killed Abel. He was there when Jacob took Esau’s blessings. He was there when all these things happened, when man turned on man. He was there when Noah had to build an ark because the world was just so topsy turvy that he had to wipe everything out and start all over again. 

He was there for all that. And he is telling them that, “I’m not going to put my faith in you. I’m not going to give you a pat on the back and go with it. I’m going to continue to do my Father’s will regardless of how you feel about it. I’m going to move forward and do this that the Father has for me as I start my ministry.”

I’m going to close with this story about a carnival performer named Cannonball. In his younger days, he was blasted out of a canon 1200 times, pulled a 90-pound weight with his eyelids, and he did other kinds of bizarre stunts. Someone asked him, “Cannonball, why did you do these stunts?” He said, “Do you know what it’s like to feel and hear the applause of thousands of people? That’s why I did it.” 

Some people do things every day for people, but not for God. We check the block every week. Go to church, check. Sing a song, check. Do a prayer, check. Talk to someone about God, check. But is it true worship? 

Some may never join or lead a life group. Some may never go out to Serve Saturday or talk to someone that they know doesn’t know Christ to pardon their sins. Some people will refuse to follow Jesus openly. Wow! They never choose to follow Jesus openly. So no, Jesus wasn’t going to put his trust in humans, knowing even his disciples would turn on him and deny him and leave him when he needed them the most.