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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

On Your Mark by Dr. George O. Wood


The Question of Authority

They arrived again in Jerusalem, and while Jesus was walking in the temple courts, the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders came to him. “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you authority to do this?” (Mark 11:27,28, NIV)

We define Holy Week as the span of eight days from Jesus’ triumphal Palm Sunday entry into Jerusalem to His resurrection from the dead the following Sunday.

On the Monday after the entry, Jesus cleansed the temple by overturning the tables of the money changers. In the evening He returned to Bethany, on the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives. The events of the next day, Tuesday, are found in Mark 11:27–13:37. That day divides into two components: (1) In the temple courts, Jesus was asked four test questions, and He also asked His opponents a test question (11:27–12:44); (2) Leaving the temple, crossing the Kidron Valley, and sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Jesus laid out the course of human history (13:1-37).

The first question Jesus faced relates to His authority and comes from the religious establishment that controls the temple. Their question is also a current one for us to consider because the authority of Jesus is very much under attack in our culture and throughout the world.

As I write, the newspaper this morning carried a full-page ad from The Freedom From Religion Foundation urging readers to leave the Catholic Church because, among other things, Catholic teaching is opposed to abortion, gay marriage and homosexual practice. While we, as Protestants, do not agree with Catholics on a range of issues, we nevertheless recognize that we do share common ground on matters of life and sexual morality. We hold to our position on morality not because of tradition but because of the authority of Jesus, who speaks on these issues. In reality, the newspaper ad attacked more than the Catholic Church — it attacked the authority of Jesus and all of us who are bound to obey His authority. The ad exemplifies the language of Psalm 2:3, “Let us break their chains … and throw off their fetters.”

Jesus’ opponents, unlike contemporary critics, recognized He had authority, since they asked Him, “By what authority are you doing these things?” His works of power spoke for themselves. His words were persuasive and penetrating. His cleansing of the temple the day before had been done with authority — so much so that the opposition wanted to know who gave Him that authority. They certainly had not.

The opposition knew that only two possibilities existed: Because His miracles were beyond human ability, Jesus either acted under the authority of God or the devil.

Their minds were made up. Three years earlier these same teachers of the Law walked nearly 100 miles from Jerusalem to Galilee to pepper Jesus with the accusation that He was in league with the devil (3:22-30). Jesus responded that the devil cannot drive out the devil and a house divided against itself cannot stand.

Thus, when the question of authority is asked by the chief priests and teachers of the Law, it is not because they want to know. They had already reached their own conclusion. The question is asked because they wanted to trap Him.

Is Jesus’ authority from God? How do you answer that question? And how does your answer affect how you live?

A prayer of response
Lord Jesus, may I willingly and joyfully submit to Your authority in every area of my life. Your words are true because You come from God.

GEORGE O. WOOD is general superintendent of the Assemblies of God.

On Your Mark

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