Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Question of Authority

“’By what authority are You doing these things? Who gave You the authority to do these things?’” (Mark 11:28)

Authority was THE supreme question. At least, for the religious leaders it was. From their perspective, the only way Jesus would have the right to drive the money changers and animal vendors out of the Court of the Gentiles was for Him to have the authority to do so. Authority requires an authorizer. They were the authorizers for what went on in the Temple, and they knew they had not authorized Jesus to take these actions. In fact, it was just the opposite. They had authorized the money changers and animal vendors to set up shop in the Court of the Gentiles. So, this was a direct challenge to Jesus to produce His authorization. They were certain He could not.

Jesus responded with a question of His own about the basis of John’s baptism. It was the same question about authority – was it from God or from men? These were smart men, and they recognized that neither response would end well for them, so they said, “We don’t know.” So, Jesus refused to give them a response to their challenge. The truth is: Jesus owned the Temple, as the Son of God.

This story may seem to be specifically 1st century only, but the reality is that the challenge to the authority of Jesus is as current today as it was then. We live in a culture and society that, more than ever, challenges the authority of Jesus and His teachings through the word. Many give lip-service to the word of God, while in reality they may often dismiss its teaches as outdated and archaic when it comes to applying its teachings in the real world. For example, children and youth are raised on a steady diet that free sexual expression is a personal decision and ok when you are ready for it or mature enough for it. (What teen doesn’t think he or she is mature enough to handle it?) It is modeled for them through a steady stream of television shows and movies. It seems that this is the essential message that is taught in the public sector in government-mandated sex education classes. What is taught is not “no sex outside of marriage” but “safe sex.” The Christian community seems to sometimes have little to say in response, while the word of God is very clear. The charge that it is outdated and archaic is nothing short of a challenge to its authority and thus to the authority of Jesus. The bottom line belief of many is that there is no real consequence in challenging the authority of Jesus, just as it was in the 1st century. An unspoken belief is that WE are the real authority. Really?

Father, as Your children, help us not to just give lip-service to Your authority but instead to give heart-service to it. Amen.

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