5 March 2011

Mark 11:27-33

"By what authority are you doing these things? Who gave you this authority to do them?" (v. 28)


The question of Jesus' authority is like a thread running through the Gospels. The people of Galilee early in his ministry commented that Jesus spoke "as one having authority" (Matthew 7:28-29). When Jesus read from the scroll in the synagogue in Nazareth, people were amazed at the way he spoke (Luke 4:16-22). Time and again the religious leaders of the day felt threatened by the natural authority that Jesus was able to display when he spoke either to small groups or large crowds. Those who held official roles in the Jewish hierarchy felt a mixture of threat, jealousy and bewilderment when faced with the impact of Jesus on the ordinary people.

The religious authorities of the temple in Jerusalem were no different. They turn to Jesus and say, in effect: "Just who do you think you are? This temple has been here for hundreds of years, going about its business in a time-honoured way and now you come in and disturb the peace and try to take charge."

As so often when the religious leaders ask Jesus a question about the source of his authority, he refuses to give a straight answer. He teases his questioners and refuses to play their game. He poses a question to them in return which he knows that they cannot answer one way or the other without getting into hot water: "Did the baptism of John come from heaven or was it of human origin?" (verse 30)

But, in a way there was a coded answer in Jesus' reply because he knew and many people believed the Jesus had been anointed by the Spirit at the time of his Baptism by John (Mark 1:9-11). But Jesus was not ready to give that answer yet and certainly not to those who wished to do away with him.

To Ponder

'Authority' is a difficult issue for many people in church. In some people defer automatically to those in 'authority' positions; in others it is the charisma of leaders which commands authority; in yet other circumstances leaders (and people) balk at anything or anybody which smacks of 'authority'. Think about your experiences with authority in churches: which have been positive or negative experiences?What can you draw out of this, in terms of the exercising of authority?

Part of our discipleship is to act in Jesus' name and to exercise 'his authority'. We may be called to break a logjam or challenge the comfortable rut into a church has fallen. How far do you see that as part of your discipleship and do you feel equipped and ready to carry out such a task?

Where are you exercising Jesus' authority in your discipleship today?

Bible notes author

The Revd Jennifer Potter

The Revd Jennifer Potter is a Methodist minister at Wesley's Chapel, City Road, London. Prior to being appointed to serve there she worked in the Connexional Team from 1996-2002 as the secretary for international affairs.