There was elder in a church that everyone disliked. He was full of himself, you could tell that his heart was set on ambitious authority rather than Jesus, very often his motives were brought into question, he was overly judgmental, his priorities were less about people and the love of the church family and more about “the church” and the organization. Anyway, one day, he just got tired of the push back from the pastor and the other elders and deacons and he made this announcement to the congregation, “The same Jesus that called me to this church many years ago has now called upon me to leave and serve another church.” As he stepped down off the stage the band leader called an audible (an intentional change in plan), all stood and sang, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.”
Mark 11:27-30 (TNIV)
27 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. 28 “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you authority to do this?” 29 Jesus replied, “I will ask you one question. Answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. 30 John’s baptism–was it from heaven, or of human origin? Tell me!” 31 They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ 32 But if we say, ‘Of human origin’….” (They feared the people, for everyone held that John really was a prophet.) 33 So they answered Jesus, “We don’t know.” Jesus said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”
The chief priest, the teachers of the law and the elders mentioned in verse 27 above were representatives of the three groups that comprised the seventy-one member Jewish ruling council, the Sanhedrin. They were very much like our fictional elder that I joked about above, at least in attitude. Additionally, they were primarily concerned about maintaining THEIR own authority and power over the people and life. Jesus was challenging their power structure!
In fact, He was constantly under attack by these groups of leaders and every time….emerged victorious. The day before, Jesus had thrown the money changers and merchants out of the temple and crowds were following Him. When they tried to trap Jesus with words, He would turn the tables on them and they often would leave in amazement. Yes…..all these things angered them because it threatened their authority!
Interestingly enough, these very men, these very groups of people indeed HAD THE POWER to renew the faith of the people….but they would not let their “religion” change…the traditions that had been built up over time. Indeed, they had lost their spiritual insight and along with it, all power of their own. It all boils down to two things in my mind: They had become too legalistic and forgotten grace. They were not loving the people, nor were they leading the people correctly. They were actually leading the people into spiritual bondage
As leaders in a church, just like Jesus, authority must be based on a heart for God and a desire to serve.
So, these leaders decide to try to trap Jesus with a question, “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you authority to do this?”
How will Jesus answer? If He answers that His authority comes from God, it would be like saying that He was the Messiah and the Son of God. Then they could accuse Him of blasphemy (which carried a death penalty. See Leviticus 24:10-23). If Jesus says that His authority is His own, He could be dismissed as a fanatic.
What does Jesus say? Let’s look behind door #3…..oh, my gosh…..Jesus replies with a question, “I will ask you one question. Answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. John’s baptism–was it from heaven, or of human origin? Tell me!”
As in every case, the words of Jesus proved to be amazing! With His question He reveals the actual motives of these leaders. They weren’t seeking truth, they were seeking to trap Jesus and to bolster their own positions!
So what is the lesson for us? As Christians we must always stay faithful to God’s Word….the Bible. If you are in a position of authority, your authority should always be based on a heart for God and a desire to serve.
Is Jesus the authority in your life? Indeed His heart was always based on God’s heart and His desire was always to serve. Serve with a heart like Jesus!