Good morning, everyone. It is now Tuesday of Holy Week. Our scripture is from Luke 20:1-4: “One day as Jesus was teaching the people in the temple courts and proclaiming the good news, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, together with the elders, came up to him. “Tell us by what authority you are doing these things,” they said. “Who gave you this authority?” He replied, “I will also ask you a question. Tell me: John’s baptism—was it from heaven, or of human origin?”
As Jesus arrives back in Jerusalem on Holy Tuesday, the overturned tables are now upright, and most of the scattered animals have been recaptured and are back on sale. The religious leaders are ready and waiting for his return.
They immediately come after Jesus with a fiery question and a thinly veiled accusation, “By what authority are you doing these things?” Jesus meets their question with a question of his own. He is not being evasive. It is perfectly obvious what authority Jesus is claiming. He has said over and over he is here doing the work his Father sent him to do, but he knows they don’t believe him. So, he frames his response within the ministry of John the Baptist. Was it from heaven or a simply another human endeavor?
Here we get the classic political non-answer. Every candidate anticipates the questions which will hurt his or her chances, and learns to speak in fluent non-answer. Their mouths move and words flow, but at the end of the sentence, nothing of substance has actually been communicated. All three Gospel writers who include this incident, give us insight into their whispered impromptu strategy session. If we say if it was of God (as the people commonly believe), we’ll look bad. And if we say it was another well-meaning man gone off the rails (as we all believe), we’ll look bad. Since there is no upside to either response, they broke their huddle with the well-reasoned, but useless reply, “We don’t know.”
It is easy to heap our contempt on these religious non-leaders with their political rhetoric, but I can’t help but wonder how many times our time in the Word carries with it questions Jesus sends our direction. Do we evade them with the savvy of a political insider? Do we have our own set of time tested, often repeated, non-answers?
Jesus will always cut through our non-responses and present us with the obvious – He is God’s Son come from heaven, taken on the flesh of humanity, in order to be our Savior. As Jesus asked his disciples back in Matthew 16, He asks us once again, “Who do you say I am?” At the end this day things start to heat up for Jesus. What will Holy Wednesday bring?
Pastor Bryan E. Drebes
Pastor Drebes attended Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri, beginning in 1997. He spent the summer of 1999 teaching English to Chinese middle school teachers in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, China. He served a four-month vicarage at St. John Lutheran Church, Plymouth, Wisconsin, followed by eight months at Bethany Lutheran Church, Overland Park, Kansas. Pastor Drebes was ordained into the Office of the Holy Ministry at Zion Lutheran Church, Palmyra, Missouri on August 19, 2001, and installed as Associate Pastor of Bethany Lutheran Church, Overland Park, Kansas on September 9, 2001. He served Bethany for 14 years. Pastor Drebes accepted a Divine