Passion Week VII

On one of the days while He was teaching the people in the temple and preaching the gospel, the chief priests and the scribes with the elders confronted Him, and they spoke, saying to Him, “Tell us by what authority You are doing these things, or who is the one who gave You this authority?”  Jesus answered and said to them, “I will also ask you a question, and you tell Me:  Was the baptism of John from heaven or from men?”  They reasoned among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say, ‘Why did you not believe him?’  But if we say, ‘From men,’ all the people will stone us to death, for they are convinced that John was a prophet.”  So they answered that they did not know where it came from.  And Jesus said to them, “Nor will I tell you by what authority I do these things.” (Luke 20:1-8 NASB)

Did you every hate it when your parents would tell you to obey “because I said so”?  Have you ever heard the term, “it is what it is” (probably original with Yogi Berra)?  Well, this word “authority” used here in Luke is sort of like that.  In Greek usage, the word has both a legal and a simple “unhindered” usage.  In other words, it refers to actions which are not prevented for some reason, but also to the right or legally granted right to act.

But the elders questions are not redundant because they examine two options.  They first ask, “…in what sort of authority…”, and then “…who gave you this authority?”(emphasis mine)  The connecting conjunction is “or”, meaning that both were not assumed to be true.  Either Jesus had this authority derived from some quality, or the authority was derived from another Person.  They didn’t consider it being both.  It was ironic that, in Jesus’ case, it was actually both.  He explains this ironic situation in His parable that follows.

Jesus explicitly refuses to answer.  He bargains with them asking them to reveal what they thought of John’s Baptism.  They feared the crowd stoning them (seriously?), so didn’t answer.  Therefore Jesus refused to answer.  But had He answered, what would He have said?  How could He explain that He had the authority by qualitative nature of being the Son of God, and it was therefore also derived from God the Father?  How do you explain that to people looking at a man in rumpled robes, dusty sandals, scraggly beard, and bad breath?  He didn’t appear in such royal powerful qualities one would expect of Deity.

The truth we often miss is that the people saw a person, much like them.  He was at least so much like them that He was too far removed from God to be any more like God than they were.  How could they have been expected to see beyond the human before them to the divine beneath?  We wouldn’t.  So Jesus’ refusal to explicitly answer the question isn’t strange at all.  In a sense, He also feared the crowd’s response.  It wasn’t time, not yet.  But soon, the crowd would be seeking His death, and it would be granted.  Again, He explains that in the parable that follows as well.

So, what is my lesson?  It has to do with authority.  I believe that, as children of the Creator of the universe, we have authority.  And I believe that, like Jesus, our authority is both qualitative and given.  Our authority is derived from our status as children and given to us by our Father.  I know I behave as if I have nothing, I’m poor, I’m wretched, I’m worthless, etc.  But if I truly believe that my Master has redeemed me, then how can I believe those things about myself?  Certainly my status before my Savior cannot be founded upon a personal quality within myself (self-righteousness).  But He has justified me, and is sanctifying me.  That means I am righteous because of His qualities.

I know that I tend to debase myself, probably in false humility, so that I don’t appear proud.  But authentic assurance in qualities derived from my Master is not pride, it’s faith.  I have authority derived from my Master, I ask and act in His name.  In fact He commands me to act and ask in His name.  I really struggle with this because it’s very easy for me to rely on myself and my abilities or knowledge.  I can appear to “have it all together” to other people.  The problem is that maintaining that facade drives me to crash and burn.  I can’t believe my own press, for my own good.  Instead I have to acknowledge the derived quality of my authority, and act authentically in His purpose and design.

I can dig further down, but that’s deep enough for one entry.  What’s your view through the fence?


Passion Week VI

On one of the days while He was teaching the people in the temple and preaching the gospel, the chief priests and the scribes with the elders confronted Him, and they spoke, saying to Him, “Tell us by what authority You are doing these things, or who is the one who gave You this authority?”  (Luke 20:1-2 NASB)

And Jesus said to them, “Nor will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”  And He began to tell the people this parable: “A man planted a vineyard and rented it out to vine-growers, and went on a journey for a long time. (Luke 20:8-9 NASB)

I discovered something in this passage.  Jesus tells the elders He won’t tell them of His authority, then turns around and does exactly that.  He says one thing and does another.  In this account in Matthew (21:22-45), in between these two is a short “parabolic question” about a father with two sons.  Each said one thing and did the other.  The one who did what was asked was obedient.  Then Jesus tells the parable which explains His authority.  I wonder if the “father” could also be the elders?

Jesus is asked to tell why He can cleanse the temple and teach there.  His authority comes from God as the Only Beloved Son, but how does He say that without inciting a riot right there?  On the other hand Jesus wants to declare His authority to the religious leaders, in fact they have a right to know, it’s their responsibility to check such things.  In a sense, the elders are afraid of the same thing Jesus is as they answer about John’s baptism.

It winds up that the elders and religious leaders know that the parable is about them.  Do they also realize they’ve had Jesus’ authority explained as well?  I think so.  And just as John’s baptism was problematic for them so too is Jesus’ claim of authority.  In the parable, the Beloved Son is sent to the vine growers by the Owner.  The leaders caught that they are the vine growers, which makes Jesus the Beloved Son who has authority from God and actually owns the Temple and the people therein.  He asserts His authority over theirs, claiming they are beholding to Him, not the other way around.

As Jesus points out in the parable, the vine growers want to destroy Him.  And so they do.  But He also points out they will destroy Him, outside the walls.  The very indicting parable also predicts their “success”; while predicting that it will spell their destruction.  The vineyard of Israel/Judah/Jerusalem will be given to “others”.

What I learn here is that my roles and responsibilities within my Master’s Kingdom are conditional.  I am expected to be responsible and honoring to my King.  I learn that I must gauge my response to Jesus.  Am I behaving in line with my belief that I am beholding to Him, working what He owns on His behalf?  Where can I honor Him more?  What do I owe Him as my King that I have not given Him yet?  It’s not comfortable for Americans to think this way.  But I believe it’s necessary.  The truth is that my King will accomplish His purposes and His design, with or without me.  I’d like to be included.

What’s your view through the fence?

Of Slaves And Masters

“And a centurion’s slave, who was highly regarded by him, was sick and about to die.
When he heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders asking Him to come and save the life of his slave.” (Luke 7:2,3 NASB)

For some people, all people are persons. For others, some people are things. This commander of 100 troops owned a slave, but thought of him as a person, a valuable person. In fact we learn that this Gentile soldier actually cared greatly for the people living in the country he occupied by force. These were not easy people to love by foreign occupation troops, but he does. And we know he is authentic in his love for them because the Jewish elders go to Jesus on his behalf.

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Because He Said So

Then He went down to Capernaum, a town in Galilee, and was teaching them on the Sabbath.   They were astonished at His teaching because His message had authority. (Luke 4:31-32 NASB)

Growing up I always hated it when my parents said, “Because I said so.”  It felt like I was being talked down to, like they thought I wasn’t smart enough to understand their reasoning, as if I wasn’t able to be like them.  And I wasn’t.  I wasn’t able to understand, I didn’t know, and I wasn’t experienced enough to get what their reasoning was.  And so, yes, they talked down to me. After all at the time, I was probably four feet shorter than they were.

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