In the Gospel this week, Jesus’ opponents change, but the question still is, “Who is this man and where did he get the idea that he is in charge?” (Matthew 21.23-32) His opponents are the Sadducees and the Elders – the ruling class who living in Jerusalem and have authority over the people because it was given to them by the Roman Empire. These are the folks that were offended when Jesus cleansed the Temple and disrupted the on-going commerce and rota that was going on. Why had Jesus don this and who told him to where questions on the rulers’ minds.
The rulers and elders fear the general population and how they would react to Jesus and his claim that his authority came from God and so feared to act against him. At the same time, they were not willing to admit to his authority coming from heaven for the implications that would have in terms of what is would mean for the Jewish nation (province) and what it would mean for them personally. Rome would throw them out of office for failing to control the population. It would be the end of their power, control.
So, they confronted Jesus in the Temple area, hoping that he would claim openly Jesus would flat out say his power and authority were from God. For doing so would allow them to charge Jesus with blasphemy. To deal with the situation, and to avoid the obvious trap that was being laid for him, Jesus asked a counter question: “What about John? Where did his authority to preach and baptise come from? If you tell me where John got his authority from, then I will tell where I get mine from.”
It does seem obvious in this passage that fear of people, fear of loss of control, power and position, denial of heaven all lead to compromise and paralysis. The people in power down want to admit that some else might be operating under divine power and certain don’t want to empower others to remove them from their own power. Therefore, they chose not to answer Jesus’ question though making it clear where Jesus got his authority from, without saying a word.
And at this point, do you notice the difference in how power and authority are used? The ruling class use it to fortify and to penalize people. Jesus uses his power to serve so that they outcomes are different. Jesus brought people together into community. There was restoration and healing, people being realised from demonic powers, the blind receiving their sight, the deaf hear, the lame walked up right and the dead rise to life. He worked and walked to find and build relationships with the least, the last and the lost and used his power to protect and build them up not for self preservation, adulation and advancement.
These are the people who are entering the kingdom first, not the religious and the powerful. They gave little or no need of God and his help. What they have not realized yet is that they are on the wrong side of their equation. They have fallen into their own trap and displayed their own folly.
So, who do you say that Jesus is, and where do you think is power and authority comes from? What will you do with the power and authority Jesus has put in your hands?