The Scripture passages for Sunday are Exodus 17:1-7 and Matthew 21:23-32.
So who is in charge, here?
We continue to follow the people of Israel through the wilderness. The passage from last week was one filled with complaints; this one provides more of the same as the people continue to quarrel with Moses and test Yahweh. Moses becomes frustrated in his role as leader of the people and says to God, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.” It seems that Moses is between a rock and a hard place. Well, not really. Not really because God shows up and brings forth water from a rock sending a clear message that the LORD is still among the people. Moreover, the LORD is still in charge.
Now, let’s look at our reading from the Gospel of Matthew. The chief priests and elders approach Jesus with a question about his authority. It’s a fair question. Perhaps they see him as some young fellow touting his own new teaching. It’s more likely that by this time in Jesus’ ministry, they see him as a threat to their own way of doing things. When Jesus answers their question with a question (something Jesus does quite often) they deliberate among themselves and decide that it might be best to keep silent—for now. (But only for now since it will be leaders such as these who serve on the final court that sentences Jesus to death.)
Jesus’ answer, in the form of a question, may be considered an indirect response. If these leaders can see the hand of God in John’s ministry, perhaps they can do so regarding his own ministry. Certainly there have been signs and wonders enough! Jesus has been teaching as one who has authority. He has been healing the sick and loving the un-loved.
Wondrous works of God are all around, but the religious leaders aren’t really interested in changing their beliefs. They will not bow to Jesus’ authority. And in the parable that follows, they are portrayed as those who may have pledged allegiance to God with their mouths, but failed to follow up on their beliefs by their actions.
Consider the following:
A simple definition of “authority” is the power to control or influence the actions of other people. Think on your own life. Who has influenced you in a positive way? What good things have you learned and acted upon because of some teaching you have received along the way? In what way have you been a positive influence for someone else?
Take some time this week to read Matt. 21:23-32 several times. Quietly sit with the text and try to imagine yourself in the story. First, imagine that you are a chief priest. How does the story strike you? Ponder these things for a moment. Then read the text as a tax collector or a prostitute. Do you find hope here? Finally, read the story as a Jew who has happened upon the scene. What are your thoughts about Jesus once you hear his teaching? Might you consider giving him authority over your life?
In our earthly pilgrimage toward eternal life, we all “bow” to something or someone. Who or what is “in charge” of your life? If this is the word you proclaim, how do your actions line up with your words?
May the LORD bless your week as we journey toward Sunday. I look forward to seeing you in worship.
Grace and Peace,