September 26, 1999

Matthew 21:23-32

Jesus had gone into the temple and was teaching when the chief priests and the leaders of the people came up to him. They asked, "What right do you have to do these things? Who gave you this authority?

Jesus answered, "I have just one question to ask you. If you answer it, I will tell you where I got the right to do these things. Who gave John the right to baptize? Was it God in heaven or merely some human being?

They thought it over and said to each other, "We can't say that God gave John this right. Jesus will ask us why we didn't believe John. On the other hand, these people think that John was a prophet, and we are afraid of what they might do to us. That's why we can't say that it was merely some human who gave John the right to baptize." So they told Jesus, "We don't know."

Jesus said, "Then I won't tell you who gave me the right to do what I do."

Jesus said: I will tell you a story about a man who had two sons. Then you can tell me what you think. The father went to the older son and said, "Go work in the vineyard today!" His son told him that he would not do it, but later he changed his mind and went. The man then told his younger son to go work in the vineyard. The boy said he would, but he didn't go. Which one of the sons obeyed his father?

"The older one," the chief priests and leaders answered.

Then Jesus told them: You can be sure that tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the kingdom of God before you ever will! When John the Baptist showed you how to do right, you would not believe him. But these evil people did believe. And even when you saw what they did, you still would not change your minds and believe. [CEV]


1. What authority do I have to write these notes and have them posted here? What authority do you give to them? Somewhere between these questions we all get caught.

Authority taken and authority given are an interesting pair.
Authority can be taken but not given.
Authority can be given but not taken.
Authority can be not taken and not given.
Authority can be taken and given.

     The circles of meaning don't stop here when one begins to ask questions about whether the authority taken or given in any combination is helpful to the situation or not.
     So gather your authority while ye may and use it to expand the grace of life. To deal with authority is to deal with assurance. The more you are in touch with the presence of GOD the more your authority (in the image of GOD) will clarify and gentle the world around us.

2. I am always amused that the folks asked the question by Jesus about John's authority to baptize are busy trying to take into account a next question from Jesus that he said he wasn't going to ask. He said answer this one and I'll answer yours. But no, they had to spin out the arguments of both sides of the question. It is very difficult to remain in the moment and answer from the heart. We try so hard to give "the" right answer that we freeze ourselves into no answer. Try "an" answer and be ready to ask forgiveness.

3. The Great Reversal strikes again. We are not looking for purity here. Lies to the father are not what it is about. It is simply a question of what are you or are you not doing. Forget about the intention, measure the behavior. On that basis there is much more good going on in the world than we would admit. And, also much more evil.
     Want to try something daring? Ask a friend, "How well do my words match up with my deeds?" "Am I living a better life than I'm talking?" "Am I talking a bigger game than I'm really living?" Be careful, with this, though, for if you take it seriously it will change your life by getting you in touch with your authority for living.

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