Tuesday of Holy Week - Jesus’ Authority is Questioned

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"Jesus entered the temple courts, and, while he was teaching, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him. ‘By what authority are you doing these things?’ they asked. ‘And who gave you this authority?’ Jesus replied, ‘I will also ask you one question. If you answer me, I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. John’s baptism—where did it come from? Was it from heaven, or of human origin?’ They discussed it among themselves and said, ‘If we say, “From heaven,” he will ask, “Then why didn’t you believe him?” But if we say, “Of human origin”—we are afraid of the people, for they all hold that John was a prophet.”’ So they answered Jesus, ‘We don’t know.’ Then he said, ‘Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things." - Matthew 21:23-27

This text deals with the issue of authority. It is clear that the way Jesus taught was a source of disquiet among many of the Jewish religious leaders. They approached him one day in the Temple and asked him, "By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?" Jesus seldom directly answered provocative questions put to Him, and in this case, as he does elsewhere, he answers their question with a question of His own. He informs them that if they will answer His question, then He will answer theirs.

His question is, "Was the baptism of John the Baptist of divine or human origin?" Immediately His questioners are in a dilemma. If they answer "divine", they will be further asked why they did not receive John’s baptism.
We know that when John baptized they came to observe but they themselves clearly felt no need to be baptized themselves. To do so would have been to put themselves on the same level as the sinful and the unclean.

If they were to answer "human", then they would run the risk of offending the people who had no doubts about the matter. They all held that "John was a prophet". So, instead of answer, they lamely bow out of the discussion by saying, "We do not know."

So Jesus refuses to reply to their question.

Ultimately the leaders were being accused of a stubborn blindness, unable and unwilling to see the hand of God either in the mission of Jesus or of John. They could not see that the authority with which Jesus spoke clearly resided in himself. He was not just the bearer of a good message; he was himself the source of the message, the Good News, the WORD.

Perhaps a word about "authority" may be relevant here. The word “authority” comes from the Latin ‘auctoritas,’ which is itself an abstract noun from the verb ‘augere.’ ‘Augere’ means "to increase, or to make bigger". We find the same root in the word ‘author.’

A person with ‘authority’ is not just someone who wields coercive power over others. The exercise of genuine authority is not to control or to keep people in line, but, on the contrary, it means to be an agent who can release the potential that is in a person, to be an agent of empowerment, to lift up someone and make them better.

Jesus the Christ did not wield coercive authority. He invited people to follow Him. He came to serve, rather than to be served. He came to give life, life in its fullest! He came to lead people into fully developing into all that they could be AND were meant to be!

He did this most dramatically when he got down on his knees and washed the feet of his disciples. This was an act of One with a servant’s heart, but this was also an act of authority – the authority of outreaching love.
My friends, it is up to each one of us to decide whether we wish to follow the way of love or to go through life our own way.

Perhaps each one of us could examine how we exercise authority in our own lives – as parents, teachers, employers, or like myself a pastor, OR in any capacity where we have some authority over others.

Do we seek to lift up others? Are we, like Christ, leading them to better life, a life in the Lord with leads to eternal life!

Please pray with me…

Lord Jesus, whatever authority I have, let me use it in loving service of those around me. I want to live more and more each day under Your authority, alone. May I only point others to You! Amen.
Apr 16 2019