Life Journal (10/7/2015) – Questioning Authority?

Back from a few days vacation time!

Scripture     Luke 20:1-7

One day, as he was teaching the people in the temple and telling the good news, the chief priests and the scribes came with the elders and said to him, “Tell us, by what authority are you doing these things? Who is it who gave you this authority?” He answered them, “I will also ask you a question, and you tell me: Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?” They discussed it with one another, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘Of human origin,’ all the people will stone us; for they are convinced that John was a prophet.” So they answered that they did not know where it came from. Then Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”

Observation

  • What is the distinction between “teaching the people” and “telling the good news?”
  • The answer to Jesus’ question is the answer to their question?
  • Their calculation is based entirely on the consequences of the answer – not the truth / the answer itself
  • Authority of John is a parallel to the authority of Jesus. Their response to John shapes and parallels that of Jesus.

Application

Authority in our day is an interesting idea. The way the chief priests, scribes, and elders ask the question would not make sense to most people today. Authority is mostly rooted today in people’s individual hearts and minds. Except for authority that is coercive in some way (like the police who can fine or jail you for instance), I find many people do not have a concept of authority like that behind the challenge in this passage.

For me as a pastor, it means I have to convince folks to listen to me and then tell them what I believe God is telling me. The same is true of authority figures like teachers and coaches. Our cultural sense of authority is different from what it was in earlier generations. I may have authority granted me by my church in my ordination but even that is dependent on the acceptance of that authority by the local folks whom I am called to serve.

As a Christian it means that my words only matter if they have authority and that authority is granted by people and cannot be assumed by me. I wonder if the first verse of this passage helps me here. Jesus didn’t just teach them what to do – he brought good news in word and in deed. He brought them something they didn’t have and not just another set of demands or instructions. His words are heavy to bear sometimes but with them came not only the promise but the reality of freedom and grace.

Prayer

Lord, you ask me to teach and bring the good news. May i do both, remembering that only when people will listen will my words matter. Only when people accept my right to speak will they accept the words I say. Like Jesus may I bring good news and not just my thoughts today. Amen.

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