“And when he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came up to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?”
April 3, 2012
Tuesday of Holy Week
One of the slogans I recall from the late1960’s was ‘Question Authority’. Young people were encouraged to be skeptical of all forms of governance, all forms of authority. How much of this was sheer wilfulness or genuine concern for the public welfare is a matter that can be debated. But there can be no doubt that authority matters because those in whom authority is invested have power. In fact, much of the story of human history is the story of the struggle to establish authority and therefore the right to wield power, for good or for ill.
According to the gospel accounts, Jesus spent this day of Holy Week teaching in the Jerusalem temple. The issue became one of authority. His triumphal entry into the city together with His driving the moneychangers out of the temple created a tense atmosphere. The religous leaders, who had been aware of Jesus for some time, were running out of patience. As Jesus is teaching they confront Him, questioning the basis of His words and actions.
At the end of the day the question of Jesus authority to do what he did and say what he said is of the utmost importance. If Jesus was just another religious figure, teaching principles and godly wisdom, then He simply becomes one more subject for the school of religion; equivalent to the Buddah, Mohammed or any number of religious practitioners.
But if the authority of Jesus is rooted uniquely in the Living God, then what He said and did have ultimate authority, in the cosmos and in your life, whether you acknowledge it or not. This is what the Scriptures proclaim and this is what Christians have believed and confessed about Him from the very beginning.
As the events of Holy Week continue to unfold, this One who could have exploited His equality with God, humbled Himelf even unto death on the cross (see Philippans 2). And this gives us ample reason to confess His name to be above every name. Why? Because the divine, ultimate power Jesus holds in His hands is not used to dominate, intimidate or control; it is employed, in love, on your behalf. By His authority, the Holy Sprit works through Word and sacrament, to keep you in the grip of His grace and forgiveness and align you continualy toward the eternal future He has prepared for His people. We may need, from time to time, to question earthly authority. We never need question His.