Who is Jesus Christ?
Careful! The way you answer this question determines everything else in life: it’s important to get it right.
The chief priest and scribes in Luke 20 get it wrong. Very wrong. “Who is he who gave you this authority?” they ask. And they should know. It should be clear by now to them that Jesus’ authority comes from the Father. Now it could be that they are really that dense and just don’t know, or it could be that they know but don’t want to admit it.
It appears from their later discussion that they have at least some idea that even the baptism of John was from heaven and therefore that even more so must the authority of Jesus be from heaven. And this is what is so wrong with their answer – not just that they are ignorant of who Jesus is but that they willfully reject Him. Though their knowledge of who Jesus was may be imperfect, they willfully reject what little they do know.
Their answer is the kind of answer that I think a lot of Christians give today. I’m not, of course, saying that Christians explicitly deny their Lord, but what I do mean is that like the chief priests and scribes, sometimes we give pragmatic answers to the question of the authority of Jesus in our lives.
Notice that the chief priests and scribes didn’t simply say, “We know that John’s baptism was from men and not heaven.” If they had said that, they would have been wrong but at least they would have been acting with honesty according to their true belief. But they don’t even do this, for this would imply consequences they didn’t like – rejection by the people, who might stone them!
And that is the way we too often live – out of pragmatism or what we think will “work for us,” rather than out of the courage of conviction and truth. We’ll follow Jesus – until there is some price to pay that we deem unacceptable. Maybe by acknowledging His authority we are afraid we will be found unacceptable by the people, just like the chief priests and scribes. Maybe by submitting to His authority we will be rejected to varying degrees by others around us, even Christians who are still playing the game of pragmatism. After all, we wouldn’t want to be radicals: they’re so . . . uncomfortable.
More likely, it is for our own sake that we don’t fully accept the authority of Jesus in our lives. We want to have little pockets of resistance to His authority and Lordship, our own separate kingdom that we try to carve out within the Kingdom of God that is in us and around us. I picture something like a Lesotho engulfed by a South Africa in my own heart.We actually deceive ourselves into thinking that the kingdom of heaven is a democracy and that if 50.01% of myself acknowledges the authority of Jesus that it’s O.K. to have 49.99% that doesn’t. At least, by majority vote, I am following Jesus. After all, there’s got to be something left for me. It’s just not practical to give it all to Jesus because I know I won’t be able to do it anyway, and anyway I know lots of good Christians who are holding something back.
But the authority of Jesus is one of the few truly All or Nothing propositions we face in life. Either Jesus is God’s Anointed Messiah, the Son of God, and God Almighty Incarnate, or He is not. If He is, then His authority in your life is all-encompassing. If He is not, then He has no authority whatsoever.
The other side of the question “Who is Jesus?” or “What is the authority of Jesus?” is the question “Who are you?” and “What is your authority?” By what authority do you hold back the 49.99% or even 0.01%? By what authority do you deny the authority of Jesus in any way? Is your identity You, the natural man, the old man? Or is your identity Jesus Christ and His authority living in You?
Your daily answer to this question, answered more by action than by thought, makes all the difference in the world and to the world.
*By the way, the lectionary for the past 2 days omits verses 41-46 of Luke 19. Verse 44 (“you did not know the time of your visitation”) would certainly fit with yesterday’s theme of acknowledging Jesus Christ every day when He rides into your life. But verses 45 and 46 (Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple) relate to today’s theme of removing whatever impurities still reside in God’s Temple, which is us. Remember today to take out the trash, whatever it is in your life that is not submitted to the authority of the Lord.
Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, I submit myself to Your authority this morning. Take me, all of me, and make me Yours. I willingly, gladly, surrender myself to You. Grant that it may be You who lives within me today, and not me who lives for myself. I acknowledge the way in which I protect myself from You and in doing so expose myself to danger. Remind me of Your call on my life to deny myself and follow You today.
Point for Meditation:
Examine your view of authority and submission to the Lord? Do you willingly, joyfully, surrender your life to the Lord? What is one area of life where you know that you are still resisting the authority of the Lord? What is one practical way God is asking you to offer it up to Him?
Resolution: I resolve to identify one area where I have not acknowledged the authority of the Lord in my life and to pray for assistance to more faithfully submit in this area.
© 2015 Fr. Charles Erlandson