And they came again to Jerusalem. And as he was walking in the temple, the chief priests and the scribes and the elders came to him, and they said to him, “By what authority are you doing these things, or who gave you this authority to do them?” (Mark 11:27-28)
Though Jesus entered into Jerusalem with unexpected humility, he arrived as the King of Kings. As King of Kings, Jesus has all authority – authority given to him from his Father. Because of this divine authority, Jesus was able to heal, to teach, to cast out demons, and, as we saw in our most recent exposition, to drive the money changers from the temple. But this sort of authority on display posed a threat to the religious and political leaders.
In this Sunday’s text, we’ll consider three passages: 1) the religious leaders asking Jesus about the source of his authority, 2) a parable of Jesus in which he condemns the authorities of Israel for rejecting God’s servants, and 3) Jesus answering a question designed to trap him, concerning how God’s people interact with political authority.
As you may imagine, this section of Mark’s gospel is relevant for us today in very specific ways. Our society is continuing to go down the trail of anti-institutionalism and distrust of authority. “Authority” in itself seems to be a sort of dirty word. We see challenges to authority every day on the news, manifest in how we talk about those in authority as well as in riots, looting, and an attempted insurrection. If we turn the news off, we still need to deal with a growing spirit of anti-authority between children and their parents, employees and their employers, citizens and their governors, and even church members and their pastors.
How do the disciples of Jesus respond to these sentiments? Too often we may go to our favorite pundit or podcast to find out which side we should take. But the Christian’s authority is Jesus Christ. He’s already told us what to do and set the example for us.
Disciples of Jesus, then, demonstrate their loyalty to Christ’s authority by interacting with worldly authority according to Jesus’ teaching. The question we must ask ourselves in preparation for the word this Sunday is this: How does my submission or rebellion to authority on earth demonstrate my submission or rebellion to the authority from heaven?