Day in day out, week in week out we witness the way human beings abuse power and authority. The news reports themselves are loaded, reflecting an agenda. The abuse of influence over our lives is manifest. Is there no hope of anything better than the continual round of negative news reports about selfish politicians and power brokers ?
Well, in our consideration of the gospel of Mark we reach chapter 11 where we find an interesting record of events. To consider the record there, let’s focus on the leading figure involved, Jesus Christ.
The events recorded were
- the entry into Jerusalem in the days before his arrest and crucifixion, hailed as a king but riding on a donkey
- the cursing of the fig tree
- expelling the merchants and money changers from the temple
- confounding the politics of the religious leaders who challenged Jesus actions
Let’s consider Jesus and the meaning of those events together as
Jesus enters Jerusalem as a conquering hero, riding on a donkey. We celebrate this event as Palm Sunday, the Sunday before the Thursday on which Jesus was arrested, the Friday he was crucified and buried, and the Sunday on which he was Resurrected.
The people of Jerusalem welcome Jesus as a king, crying out:
HOSANNA; BLESSED IS HE THAT COMETH IN THE NAME OF THE LORD; BLESSED BE THE KINGDOM OF OUR FATHER DAVID, THAT COMETH IN THE NAME OF THE LORD: HOSANNA IN THE HIGHEST
Jesus is accorded his status as a person of historic and scriptural significance. Everyone knew that there was an earthly king on an earthly throne, and that there existed religious and political leaders. But here they were according Jesus a different status. A spiritual king, coming into the capital city on a spiritual mission ordained by God in the outworking of the history of the God chosen Jewish nation.
Jesus comes in the name of God, that is in God’s will and purpose, as God’s ordained messenger to men, ordained with God’s authority and power. Ordained not just to deliver a message but to be the message, to enact the message: to introduce an entirely new Covenant written for us as the New Testament in which the Gospel of Mark is one record among many.
Jesus expels the merchants and moneychangers from the Temple. He takes to himself the authority to clean up the temple; to expel the abusers of the order ordained by God in the Old Testament. Jesus references the great prophet of the Jews, Isaiah [chapter 57,7] when he says:
MY HOUSE SHALL BE CALLED OF ALL NATIONS THE HOUSE OF PRAYER
Jesus references holy writ. He does not act in a vacuum, claiming authority in himself alone. No, he appeals to what all Jews knew; he appeals to the established record of centuries; he appeals to God’s standards and to God’s order; he makes clear he is acting in accordance with God’s requirements and in God’s purpose.
And the point is that he acts. He does not just make an observation, then leave it to others to enforce it. No he enforces it himself; he carries through with applying God’s standard for God’s purpose.
No-one dare stop him because they know he is right. Perhaps they even sense just who he is …
Jesus curses the fig tree and next day it has withered. Jesus not only claims authority from God and in God, but he displays the power he possesses over the very physical elements of creation. He declares the fig tree withered, and it withers.
Just by speaking.
And he tells the disciples to whom he will give authority to continue his work after his departure, that they can do likewise. By obeying the spiritual provisions he outlines in these verses, the men whom Jesus will shortly ordain to take his place, will indeed have power from God to do what God will require of them.
A note of caution here. There are people of an evil disposition who believe they have the right and ability to curse others. No-one has the authority or the power to curse others but God alone. No-one.
The power God gives to Christians is to live a godly life in obedience to him. Remember, when the disciples asked whether they should call down fire from heaven on the Samaritans who refused to meet Jesus, Jesus rebuked them [Luke 9, 51-56] saying:
YE KNOW NOT WHAT MANNER OF SPIRIT YE ARE OF. FOR THE SON OF MAN IS NOT COME TO DESTROY MENS LIVES BUT TO SAVE THEM
Hearing of what Jesus had done in the temple and elsewhere, the religious leaders came to him in the Temple and demanded that Jesus tell them on what authority he was acting. They had not given him permission to cast out the merchants and money changers: just who did he think he was ! They therefore demanded that he justify himself.
But Jesus has no intention of justifying himself to men who were hypocrites, disobedient to God and leading the people astray. Who were they to demand from God an explanation for enforcing God’s law in God’s own house !
Jesus answers them with the truth but exposes them to their own manipulative, man centred reasoning. He honestly references God’s ordained purposes when he asks them about John the Baptist.
They are caught out in their own man centred, man appeasing reasoning. They cannot answer without putting themselves in the wrong. They refuse to acknowledge any wrong on their part.
With such wisdom, Jesus demonstrates his position, his authority and his power. He asserts who he is according to God’s ordained plan and purpose. He exposes the evil being done. He makes clear what the answer is.
In chapter 11 of Mark’s Gospel, we see a statement of who Jesus is, and we see a statement of what earthly, human position, authority, power and wisdom actually are besides God.
Question: Does Jesus position, authority, power and wisdom apply in us, today ?