Friday after Ash Wednesday
And when [Jesus] entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came up to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” (Matthew 21:23)
I remember all too well the day our daughter, Rebekah, said to me, “You’re not the boss of me!” I’m guessing every parent has heard that from their children at some point. It grows out of our age-old rebellion against God and parents, as we convince ourselves that we can be like God—or at least, like our parents, making our own decisions and choices without someone (God or parent) telling us what to do. My opinion, for what it’s worth, is that lack of respect for, or belief in, God has led to lack of respect for any authority and the breakdown of homes, families and society. When one believes in and respects the reality of God, one will necessarily respect parents, teachers, police officers and government.
Jesus has just been teaching the Jewish authorities, through deed and word, about God and His will. He cleansed the temple and then told them that they would be cursed because they were not bearing good fruit. Now they are questioning by what authority Jesus was saying and doing such things! Who made you the boss of us, they asked Jesus? They were being convicted by Jesus’ criticism of them, but were not convinced. Rather than take his teaching to heart, they rejected what he was saying and questioned whether and by what right He should be speaking to them in such a way. And isn’t that the way it is today?
As we are seeing a renewal in the Church by a recommitment to the Great Commission and Jesus’ command for us to be disciples and make disciples, there are those who question this initiative and renewal. And yet, it is by Jesus’ own authority that we have this commission. Before calling us to go and make disciples, Jesus says in Matthew 28:18, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”
Interestingly, you can find word usage frequency, over time, in the online Merriam-Webster dictionary. From 1800 to 2010, the latest year reported, there has been a significant decline in the use of the word, “authority.” No wonder and no surprise, really. Adam and Eve rejected God’s authority when they ate of the “forbidden fruit.” The priests and scribes in the Temple chafed under Jesus’ authority. People today would rather not have a “boss” of any kind telling them what to do. Still, the Christ-like life is all about yielding to God’s will and authority. Being a disciple of Jesus is all about following Him, obeying Him, listening to His words of light and life. Lent is a time of opening ourselves, once again, to the absolute authority of Jesus Christ as Lord of our lives and our church!
Prayer: Jesus, Lord of life, all authority in heaven and on earth is yours! Be Lord of my life! Amen.
Lenten Response: Take a few moments to look up the definition of “authority” in the dictionary.
Video Devotional: From Ashes to Easter
Additional Daily Readings: Genesis 33; Psalm 43; Matthew 21:18–27
Weekly Reading: http://bit.ly/2DgeswJ
Today’s devotion was written by the Rev. Dr. David Wendel, Assistant to the Bishop for Ministry and Ecumenism.