It was a high stakes take down. The lights and sirens were blaring, parked in such a way as to block in an offending car. The police approached the vehicle cautiously unsure of what might happen next. Fortunately, the suspect surrendered without a fight.
Back at the station the suspect was escorted into a questioning room.
“Where were you earlier tonight?
“Who were you with?”
“Where were you going to?”
“Who did you see?”
“Why did you try to flee?”
The questions go on and on. Sometimes they are repeated as the detective’s seek to see if the suspect gets caught up in their own lies. However, the real question that they want to ask is, “Did you do it?”
Of course they couldn’t do that yet, they didn’t want to play their hand too quickly. They needed the suspect to feed them information to help fill in the gaps of the case, to allow the truth to come out.
In Whose Name – Audio Sermon
It is the direct question about the truth of the situation that the High Priest’s and elders seek to ask Jesus. They want to ask if Jesus is the Messiah. However, they are afraid and so instead they ask on whose authority does Jesus do these things?
Jesus has of course just cleared the temple of money changers and vendors saying his house will be a house of prayer.
The High Priests and elders are concerned, but instead of asking the question that is on everyone’s mind they ask Jesus where he derives his authority from.
Jesus chooses to be coy with his response. Rather than directly responding that his authority is from God Jesus asks them another question. He asks where John’s baptism came from? From Heaven or human origin?
It is a seemingly innocent question that is full of implications. The High Priests recognize that they have a dilemma on their hands. What they do not realize is that if they answer from heaven, which I suspect, they would have known is the correct answer that they would also be answering their own question about the authority of Jesus.
This is Jesus at his best with the High Priests and elders. Forcing them to ask and answers questions that have challenging responses.
The second part of our gospel lesson deals with the Parable of the Two Sons. It is a straight forward exchange. There is no twist embedded within the story itself. There are two sons, one says he will not go and work and later changes his mind. The other says he will go and work, but does not go.
Who did the will of the father asks Jesus?
The first is the reply we are given and it is the correct reply. However, Jesus is not telling a story about two sons, he is telling a story about the High Priests own actions.
The High Priests did not acknowledge John and his baptism of repentance because it challenged their authority. To submit to that baptism would have required them to confess that they were guilty of not truly living out God’s call in our lives. This is something they were unwilling to do, to give up their authority.
What Jesus is saying to them is this: You know the right answer, but you refuse to do anything about it.
Friends, let’s be clear. God has a claim on our lives. That claim is present in Jesus Christ and is manifested in the saving grace we receive from God through Jesus Christ.
We need to ask ourselves what else has a claim on our lives? To what do we give authority to in our own life? And if the answer is not Jesus Christ, then is that thing which we have given our authority to life giving? If it is not life giving, then why have we given it authority over us?
Friends what powers in this world rule you and do the separate you from having a full and loving relationship with your creator? Do they separate you from a loving relationship with Jesus Christ?
In our scripture lesson today Jesus is inviting the High Priests and the elders into a new relationship. To accept Jesus as the Messiah, to recognize his authority as coming from God. The High Priests and the elders they fail to accept this invitation. Do we want to make that same mistake?
Do we say yes to God and then wander off in the opposite direction? Is that what we want for our lives?
Now think on this for a moment. Think of that initial question the High Priests ask of Jesus. By what authority are you doing this? Who gave you this authority?
They are bewildered. Puzzled and astounded, because while they might know the answer, they still can’t quite believe it. The actions that Jesus takes are a result of his authority and it forces everyone to stand up and take notice. The status quo has been disrupted.
Friends, here is the question I want you to consider, a question I want you to pray about and to talk about.
What should we be doing today as followers of Jesus Christ that will force the world to look at us and ask by whose authority are you doing that? What right do you have to do that?
To which we will respond that we do these things in the name of Jesus Christ. We do this in and by the authority of one who gives life and who seeks justice and righteousness for all people.
If the church is founded on the testimony that Jesus Christ is the son of God, then we have all the authority we need to stand this world on its head. To be prophetic in our mission and in our faith.
By being prophetic about our faith in Jesus Christ we will find new ways to invite people forward into a new opportunity, a new relationship with God. One that is founded upon love and respect, rooted in the teaching and the grace of Jesus.
When we look at the world around us I think we can fairly easily say that there are many issues where the church can take a step forward and make a claim for justice. Where the church can begin to make a change in the world to bring about God’s justice. To force the people and the institutions of this world to sit up and take notice and the injustice that has been allowed to continue.
Whether it is the issue of homelessness, equal rights, fare wages, environmental awareness, providing food for the hungry or ministering to those who are lonely. God calls us into relationship with him and with one another. If we take the baptism that John performed seriously. If we take the teaching of Jesus seriously. If we believe that God has created us for a purpose then we need to claim the authority that we have inherited through Jesus Christ.
At our Session meeting this week we began to do some dreaming, some visioning of who and what St. Andrew’s is as a community of faith. It is a process that we will continue throughout this year and into the next. Along the way we will gather as a whole congregation to share ideas together, to dream and to plan. Our prayer is that at the end of the process we will have a strategic plan for how we as a congregation will move forward doing God’s work here in Cobourg and beyond.
It is my prayer that when we have finished planning and we move into the action stage. That as we do God’s work people will take notice. They will stand up and they will ask of us, on whose authority are you doing this?
And we will respond we do this in the name of the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ who is the way, the truth and the life. And we invite you to join us. Amen.