One day, as he was teaching the people in the temple and telling the good news, the chief priests and the scribes came with the elders and said to him, ‘Tell us, by what authority are you doing these things? Who is it who gave you this authority?’ He answered them, ‘I will also ask you a question, and you tell me: Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?’ They discussed it with one another, saying, ‘If we say, “From heaven”, he will say, “Why did you not believe him?” But if we say, “Of human origin”, all the people will stone us; for they are convinced that John was a prophet.’ So they answered that they did not know where it came from. 8 Then Jesus said to them, ‘Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.’
It was flu Jab this morning. After scanning the QR code at the pharmacy the questions came thick and fast. By what authority makes you eligible? Could I tick the correct box that unlocks a free Flu jab? A quick stab and it was all over. Success.
Jesus had ticked the required permissions which allowed him to be teaching in the Temple. This miracle worker has been causing chaos in the Temple courts and beyond, but the tipping the tables over incident in the Temple is the final straw. It now feels a bit like putting the tail on the donkey as the blindsided authorities try to pin Jesus down. We find a similar question asked in John 10:24 ‘If you are the Christ tell us plainly’. Answer this one, then the questions come thick and fast ‘By What Authority (‘Exousia’) are you doing these things? Jesus’ responses were making them squirm: Where had John’s authority (‘Exousia’) come from tell me plainly and clearly. Was this from God or had John made it up?
Jesus was in the temple because he was a learned Rabbi and had earned his place. This wasn’t some random individual who had come in from the outside world: ‘He was teaching the people’. If Jesus was teaching dodgy stuff, they wouldn’t be listening; he could have been taken out and silenced there and then. Those with the authority ‘Exousia’ were biding their time preparing the case: it gets messy later.
Those who were in it and around it were more concerned about maintaining their own privileged position rather than accept that through Jesus (whatever label you give him) God was and is doing a new thing.
It is by the grace of God that we too can share the good news where we are called to be and share. The authority ‘Exousia’ we have been given is to tell the story slowly and clearly so it might dwell in our hearts as we share the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Or in the words of Katherine Hankey hymn:
Tell me the old old story Of unseen things above Of Jesus and his glory Of Jesus and his love Tell me the story simply As to a little child For I am weak and weary And helpless and defiled Tell me the old, old story Of Jesus and his love. Katherine Hankey (1834-1911)
The Revd Andrew Royal, Minister, Maidstone & Staplehurst URC’s