By whose authority? Monday in Holy Week
Rev. Bryan D. Jackson
April 6, 2020
Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen. (Book of Common Prayer, Monday of Holy Week, Year A)
Mondays. They are what they are. Sometimes, they make for the beginning of a long, lonely, and confusing week.
In the week leading up to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, much happened, but perhaps nothing more important than the elders’ questioning of his authority. Today, a great many of the world’s inhabitants cast doubt on his influence and rule. It was the object lesson of this passage. Either Christ has dominion, or he does not. By what authority do any of us act? How do we pick our battles? Our choices, and how we elect to assert the reasons for them, say much about who we are and what we ultimately believe.
Either Christ has dominion, or he does not. By what authority do any of us act? How do we pick our battles? Our choices, and how we elect to assert the reasons for them, say much about who we are and what we ultimately believe.
As this is one in a series of events during the week leading up to Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion, it behooves us to examine the role it plays in our attempts to understand the mysteries of Holy Week. A discussion with what appears to be members of the Sanhedrin leads to a disappointing outcome, with Jesus telling them, essentially, “I’m not telling you squat; deal with it!” Mondays can be a pain, can’t they? As Christians, it’s always good and helpful when we are reminded of our baptismal covenant: Jesus’ question about John’s baptism (Matt 21:25; Mk 11:30) is a powerful one, and baptism in this sentence translates into “immersion,”[i] giving us pause regarding our own baptism as to how immersed we are in Christ’s intent for us and our lives. Who has our attention, and to whom do we grant authority?
Here, Jesus answers a question with a question. He was in the habit of elevating the thinking of those around him by mining their curiosity. He offered an “if/then” proposition: If you answer me, then I will do you the courtesy of a response in turn. The elders’ calculation, perhaps even paranoia, caused them to avoid their gut response—what was likely the real truth of just what it was they were truly immersed in. Instead, they opted for some type of neutral position, which, in this case, was not neutral at all. Feigning ignorance with “We don’t know” took them to a different place, a place where the failure of enlightenment was certain. They missed out on what might have been in that sacred moment.
In what are we immersed, and is it of God or humankind? Is it politics? Well, it is an election year, after all. But, for heaven’s sake, when is it helpful and when is it bordering on neurosis? Our social media profiles often reflect our values. An awful lot of people I know are immersed in the current presidential race (and everything else political); a bit too immersed. But let’s face it: Life is hectic. Spouses require attention, care. Children need attention: food, clothes, school supplies, medicine, braces, glasses, contacts, a referee, a reprieve from their cell phone restrictions; but I digress. My observation is that arguing politics anywhere seldom produces a satisfactory result; let alone on social media, where clarification of thinking and fact-checking are minimal at best. Immersing ourselves in our core beliefs and principles is one thing; aggressively thrusting them upon others on Facebook and then employing “cancel culture” as retaliation for mere disagreement is something else.
The question of authority is an interesting one. As followers of the way, we are continually being called to answer the question of just whose authority we are obedient to. Do we worship God or humankind?
The question of authority is an interesting one. As followers of the way, we are continually being called to answer the question of just whose authority we are obedient to. Do we worship God or humankind? If our worship is delivered to the correct address, then, do we recognize our authoritative source when it counts? When I was ordained, the authority was from above. Sure, a group of people ordained me, but their authority to do so came from God. Not forgetting that has been my salvation on occasion. Jesus’ agency, his rule, is the foundation for the argument of the concept of Trinitarian thought. If God is to be found in three entities, Jesus is both the human and divine agent that connects us to our source. And it is the source of authority for this Holy Week and every week.
The Rev. Bryan D. Jackson is an American Baptist minister and a member of the Mount Hood Cherokees, a satellite community of the Cherokee Nation. He lives in Kirkland, Washington and is the author of Chattahoochee Rain: A Cherokee novella.