“I will ask you one question; answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things.”
In this perplexing text, Jesus turns his critics question into a type of riddle, uncovering their ignorance and inability to see the bigger picture of God’s work through Jesus. The religious leaders in Jerusalem were questioning Jesus and his authority to claim the forgiveness of sins and miraculous healing that he was performing throughout his ministry. The question itself showed Jesus that these people did not understand his vision for the world and his message of the Kingdom of God. They were looking for proof of his authority and he was seeking followers of this message. As a result, they missed his message and authority.
This text calls us to ask ourselves two major questions as we reflect on our world. The first is to what are we giving authority? One of the definitions of authority is, “The power to influence others, especially because of one’s commanding manner or one’s recognized knowledge about something.” As we go through our lives, there are things constantly vying to have places of authority in our lives: advice columns in magazines, competing news agencies, textbooks, teachers, schools of thought. The list could go on and on. We can give these things authority, but are they taking the primary place of influence in our lives? Often we relegate the authority of our faith to influence our lives one (or maybe two) days a week. When looking at this text in anticipation of the new life we are hoping to receive, we must ask ourselves the critical question of whether we are giving our faith in Jesus true authority in our lives.
The second question this text calls us to reflect upon is whether we are relying on or seeking scientific proof, like the religious leaders here, of Jesus’ authority. Do we try to convince ourselves or others of Jesus’ authority, seeking the best, most clear arguments? When we do that, we might be satisfying our thirst to be right and our desire to win, but we are not following the Way Jesus modeled for us. He modeled a way of intimacy with God in which he never sought to win arguments with people. We never see him try to prove others wrong in the scriptures when he disagreed with them. Instead, he showed them a graceful, lived reality that communicated his message.
As we journey to Golgotha this week, it is important to recognize the things that lead us to dead ends. Misplacing authority and wasting our time on trying to prove others wrong are certainly two things that will lead our faith to dead ends. We can seek resurrection by committing to Jesus’ Way that he laid out for us in the Gospels. Consider reflection on the things you give authority. Do you give facts, figures, and best arguments authority in your life? What does it look like to give Jesus full influence and authority of your life?
God, you are the one Jesus called abba. We cry out to you seeking your presence in our lives. We seek for you to be the primary influencer of our actions, but we recognize that sometimes we don’t live as though you are. Restore us, renew us. Give us new life so that we can live for you. Amen.