The Temple leaders are flummoxed. For once, instead of having all the answers, they are at a loss for words. When they ask Jesus to account for his authority as God’s son, he in turn asks them to explain whom they believe John the Baptist to be. If they acknowledge John’s authority as coming from God, then they know Jesus will question them for failing to heed John’s message to change their hearts and lives. They don’t want to look stubborn or hard-hearted in the eyes of the people they lead. On the other hand, if they deny that John is a prophet, they run the risk of stirring the ire of the crowds of people who heeded John’s words and are now following the way of Jesus.
No matter how they answer, the Temple leaders know that their reputation, authority, and future as leaders are at stake. Because the chief priests and elders cannot imagine themselves outside of their role as experts and leaders on whom others are dependent, Jesus’ question is more than a true/false question. It’s a question about meaning, purpose, and authority.
What should they do?
What would you do in their situation?
From whence do you draw your identity and purpose? Do you see yourself only in relation to your profession or lack thereof? Are you most comfortable identifying who you are in accordance with your relationship to others—perhaps as the “responsible” older sibling, the aimless and mellow middle child, or the parent who can fix anything?
Amid the varying expectations and responsibilities placed upon us, our purpose and authority can be found in how we receive and respond to the love and grace poured into our lives through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.
By whose authority will you live your life today?
God, help me to derive my purpose and identity from you and not the expectations of others. Amen.
For the second time this year, we read the story of the Israelites complaining in the desert about water, only to see God provide a miraculous spring. The psalmist reminds the people of the many powerful deeds performed by the Lord, including leading them through the sea out of Egypt and providing them water from the rock. Paul emphasizes to the Philippians the need for humility and unity. In quoting the earliest known Christian hymn, Paul encourages them with the example of Christ, who gives up all his rights for the sake of others. In back-to-back encounters with religious leaders, Jesus evades an attempt to trap him in his words and then teaches that true obedience is shown not by our speech but by our actions.
Read Exodus 17:1-7. When have you tried to “do it all”? How can admitting your limitations help you lead?
Read Psalm 78:1-4, 12-16. Recall times when you have known God’s presence. How might remembering and retelling these stories shape your faith?
Read Philippians 2:1-13. How does your life speak of God’s love for you and for all humanity?
Read Matthew 21:23-32. How have you created your idea of Jesus in your own image? What would change if you found your identity in Jesus rather than creating Jesus’ identity from your own?
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