This is post #6 of a series entitled RELIGION OR RELATIONSHIP: Five Days that Define Our Call in Christ. We hope you’ll enjoy this series of 27 podcasts and blogs that focuses a bit deeper on the first five days of what we now call Holy Week. Using the Gospel text found in Matthew 21 through 25, we explore the major differences between organized religion and true relationship with Christ. Practical sessions that give us Jesus’ view of spirituality as compared to the religiousness found in so many people today. Here’s the homepage for the entire series.
Today’s Lectio Divina: Then He (Jesus) was back in the Temple, teaching. The high priests and leaders of the people came up and demanded, “Show us Your credentials. Who authorized You to teach here?” Jesus responded, “First let me ask you a question. You answer My question and I’ll answer yours. About the baptism of John—who authorized it: heaven or humans?” They were on the spot and knew it. They pulled back into a huddle and whispered, “If we say ‘heaven,’ He’ll ask us why we didn’t believe him; if we say ‘humans,’ we’re up against it with the people because they all hold John up as a prophet.” They decided to concede that round to Jesus. “We don’t know,” they answered. Jesus said, “Then neither will I answer your question.” Matthew 21: 23-27 (MsgB)
Growing up, my parents taught me to always respect people in authority. How about you?
You see, showing respect for authority is a good thing. It teaches us humility, helping us to become otherly, caring as much for others as I care for myself.
A healthy respect for authority also helps keep a society in a balanced state of being. A society without laws, with no one in charge, no one in authority, is one that is destined for destruction.
Mob rule is no rule at all.
So, on one hand, it’s only right to look at those who have been placed in authority around us and learn to respect and honor them, if not for their own accreditation, but because of the position of authority they represent.
But here’s the rub.
There comes a time in life when those in authority around us have become so corrupt, so drunk with the power and position that has been bestowed upon them, that we, the people, need to step away from that authority in order to remain free. History is full of good examples where this abuse of power and authority has birthed a revolution, an uprising of those who will no longer put up with the abusive leadership or ugly corruption coming from those in power.
An in-depth look at the times in which Jesus lived, tells us that the social environment of Israel in 33 A.D. was ripe for revolution. A foreign government ruled the land with an iron fist, placing a heavy burden on everyone and everything. Roman soldiers, armed to the hilt, patrolled the occupied territory, commissioned to put down any uprising at any cost. Even the synagogues were controlled by a puppet king who used his power and authority to intimidate anyone who dared to speak out against Rome or the established religious system of the day.
So, when Jesus, after three years of successful grass-roots ministry near the stick-town of Nazareth, steps into the holy city of Jerusalem, the region’s center for power and authority, the tension is, quite honestly, off the charts.
The powers-to-be knew all about this young rabbi, Jesus, who was now trafficking their turf, stepping into their court of power, threatening to shake-up a religious system that was working quite fine, thank-you, as long as everyone understood how the system works.
“Respect our authority!” the high priests commanded. “Show us your credentials!”
A true revolutionist would have held his ground here. A true freedom-fighter would have pushed back, maybe even causing an intentional fist-fight to draw his supporters into the fray.
But Jesus is not your typical revolutionist or freedom-fighter. He has no need to prove Himself to others. The authority He carries doesn’t come from religious organizations or political parties. The authority Jesus carries is different from the authority the high priests have.
And over the next few days, Jesus will exhibit that authority, not by pushing Himself around town, bullying and demeaning others, but by literally loving “the hell” out of everyone He comes in contact with. You see, while Jesus says some pretty strong words to the high priests, the Pharisees, and the Sadducees, there’s never a moment when Jesus pushes or shoves His ultimate authority in anyone’s face. As a matter of fact, whenever His disciples or followers want to pick up a sword and start a revolution, Jesus does just the opposite, disengaging the fray, offering faith, hope, and love where His friends want blood, sweat, and tears.
Quite the revolutionist, don’t you think?
My Prayer: Jesus, You amaze me. Your ability to take a very tense moment like the one You found yourself in with the high priests, and rather than questioning their authority or insisting upon yours, you simply asked a great question that disengaged the tension rather than fueling a fire. Holy Spirit, please give me that ability to better discern situations around me. Keep me from acting out of my own insecurities, allowing Your authority to become evident instead of being one who demands authority and respect from others. For Your Name’s sake. Amen.
My Questions to Ponder: A pastoral friend once told me that the greatest power and authority on planet earth is the authority to love. What would it look like for me to walk in that authority, where I choose to love with great power, and care with great authority, never insisting upon any respect or honor, but simply resting in that authority of love Jesus has given me?
So, what are you hearing from Jesus as we take this journey into the first 5 Days of Holy Week?
Religion or Relationship: Five Days that Define Our Call in Christ.
A 27-session Lenten blog series from Matthew’s Holy Week Gospel.
Throughout the Lenten season (Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday), you and I will take a deeper look at Matthew 21-25. In order to keep all the blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our blog series home page for ease of use.
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