Hi everyone, Rob here. One of the things that amazes me about Jesus in the gospels is how free he is from others people’s opinions. I don’t know about you but I quite like being liked. Being rejected or ignored is not high on my fun feelings list. The danger for me is that I can end up being a people pleaser and promising things that I can’t deliver on. This then erodes trust and disappointing the people that I was working so hard to please! I can also end up beating myself up for my lack of integrity. Oh to be like Jesus!
In Mark 11:27-33 we see Jesus in Jerusalem walking in the temple courts soon after he had entered Jerusalem as king and cleared the temple courts of the buyers and sellers, thus creating quite the stir. So “the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders came to him. ‘By what authority are you doing these things?’ they asked. ‘And who gave you authority to do this?'” Do you know the moment when the spotlight is on you; the job interview, the end-of-year review, the questioning of your decisions, getting called out on something you did wrong? It messes with your head doesn’t it? Feelings of accusation, rampant shame gremlins (to borrow Brene Brown’s great phrase) and sheer inadequacy can overtake us so quickly in those moments can’t they? This is not true for Jesus though and it doesn’t have to be true for us either.
Jesus’ response is staggering in its audacity and accuracy. He moves deftly from being the one under questioning to being the questioner. He responds to their question (which is actually an accusation because they are assuming the answer is that no one gave him the authority) with a question of his own: “I will ask you one question. Answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. John’s baptism – was it from heaven, or of human origin? Tell me!” Jesus was the master at exposing the motives of his enemies. In this case his question exposes the motive of fear. They didn’t want to say ‘of heaven‘ because that would expose their rejection of John as unbelief. They didn’t want to say ‘of human origin’ because that would expose their unbelief to the people who did believe John was a prophet. They feared they would lose their power over the people if they were seen to disagree with them. They finally come up with ‘We don’t know.’ Their powerlessness and weakness has been exposed so Jesus simply replies with “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.” In other words, you have to decide! You have to make a stand! Do you think God is at work in me or not? If so, believe. If not, arrest me!
Jesus is so secure in who he is and what he’s about that exposing the fear-filled motives of so-called authority figures is par for the course. His ability to speak plainly and truthfully without fear of their reaction is what is so counter-cultural to us. We fudge and fumble, trying to anticipate people’s reactions to us. This leads to inauthentic communication and the hiding of our true selves. We need to learn from Jesus that we can’t control what others think of us and trying to do so leads to manipulation and exhaustion. It is far better to know who we are in Christ, be filled with his peace, presence and power, be secure that we are God’s children and speak plainly, kindly and lovingly. That means coming before God often, laying down our agenda, our fears, our insecurities and allowing his Spirit to rise up in us and lead us into authenticity.
I’m on this journey and it’s a hard but rewarding one. I still say yes sometimes when I need to be saying, ‘let’s talk about that’ or ‘not this week’. I still sometimes say ‘no’ when I need to take a risk and say ‘yes’. But the rewarding part is that I feel like me when I communicate these days. The ego is dying and my true self, made true by Christ, is emerging. May it be so for you too.