Holy Week – Tuesday - Matthew 21:23-27
Let’s talk about “Authority”. Today’s reading from Matthew 21:23-27 is focused on both authority and its source.
23 When Jesus entered the temple, the chief priests and elders of the people came to him as he was teaching. They asked, “What kind of authority do you have for doing these things? Who gave you this authority?”
But who is kidding who here? These “leaders” are not concerned with Jesus’s authority. As far as they are concerned he has none. This is all about their authority and the challenge Jesus poses to their power. If the true Messiah were to come the people would surely follow him as their religious leader and so the chief priest and elders would effectively be demoted to second fiddle. They could have none of that!
We know from scripture that these religious leaders had no problem attacking the character and claims of anyone they considered a threat. They are not above paying bribes (Mt 26:22-25; 27:3) or influencing public perception (Mt 27:20-23). Their goal was to set a trap to catch Jesus breaking Jewish Law or claiming to be something he wasn’t. Jesus was to wise to be caught in their snares.
Jesus turned their question around on them asking, “25Where did John get his authority to baptize? Did he get it from heaven or from humans?” He knew he had them. They did not like all the attention John was getting either. Jesus knew that if they were honest they would admit that they did not believe John was a prophet from God any more than they believed Jesus was the Messiah.
The religious leaders could never admit that because they knew the people believed in John, the people believed in Jesus. Their power depended on the submission of the people to their authority.
An important teaching of this passage is that Jesus’ authority, unlike that of the chief priest and elders, does not rely on anyone else. His authority is divine, eternal and independent of our recognition. Jesus owes no one an explanation. His power and authority over creation exist whether we submit to it or even acknowledge its existence.
That is why the gift of relationship is so important. When we choose to give our lives to Christ, to submit to God’s Holy authority, we are choosing forgiveness over guilt and shame, community over loneliness and salvation over death.
May the power of God guide your thoughts and actions. May divine authority govern your life.
PRAYER FOCUS: submission, servant-leadership, God’s sovereignty, faith.
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