The Basis of Faith

The Question of Authority

Matthew 21:23-27

“By what authority are You doing these things, and who gave You this authority?”

 

            For the observer, the question seemed fair enough.  Jesus had entered the temple and cleared out the moneychangers.  The priests and religious leaders had sanctioned these individuals to ply their trade.  Since the priests and elders were responsible for the temple, they had the authority to allow the moneychangers.  Yet Jesus had driven the moneychangers out of the temple.  If Jesus’ actions were legitimate, then it meant that he had been authorized to do so by someone in higher authority than the chief priests and elders.  So, who had authority higher than chief priests and elders?  It seemed a fair question.

            But we discover the question was far more insidious when we go deeper.  It was a question that was designed to trap Jesus.  If he claimed his authority came from the religious leaders, they could quickly condemn Jesus for an improper claim of authority.  The only other option was God himself, for only God stood above the chief priests.  If Jesus answered that his authority was from God, they could accuse Jesus of blasphemy. 

            In their question they reveal their lack of faith.  For them, their ultimate authority was in themselves.  Since Christ did not fit their paradigm, their paradigm was determined by the authority of the elders and tradition as taught by the past rabis.  Their basis for truth was ultimately driven by their reason rather than faith.  If they believed the scriptures, then they would have recognized that both John the Baptist and Jesus were from God, for the scripture prophesied the arrival of both. 

            In Jesus' response, he is not sidestepping the question. Instead, he is going to the heart of the problem.  By asking the question about John the Baptist, Jesus reveals their lack of faith.  Their lack of faith would be revealed if they answered that John was from God.  If John were from God, then Jesus’s authority would be affirmed, for John had proclaimed that Jesus was the Messiah.  If they answer that John was not from God, the people will quickly see their lack of faith, for they recognize that John was a prophet.  Consequently, the only answer they could give was to evade the question.

            This story challenges are to examine our beliefs.  Today, people question the authority of the Bible.  They reject parts of the Bible because it does not fit their paradigm.  Instead of conforming their beliefs to the Bible, they manipulate and reject parts of the Bible to conform it to their viewpoint. Faith is accepting the Bible as the final authority.  It recognizes that the Bible is from God, and thus, it is authoritative for all of life and faith.  If we demand proof for the validity of Scripture, we will be ever searching for evidence that is always illusive.  No matter how much proof we have, it will never be enough.  There will always be something that contradicts our views and perspectives.  Instead, we need to rest in the awareness that God has given us all the proof we need.  He has given us the person of Christ, come in the flesh.  Faith is not having all our questions answered but trusting and surrendering to God despite our questions.  It is the recognition that in the person of Christ, we have all the proof we need, for he is the final authority for faith.  

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