Jesus had made a mess in the temple. He had overturned tables of money, sending coins rolling and bouncing, causing every head to turn at the raucous sound of his indignation. The vendors of sacrificial animals had also been sent packing. Jesus had disturbed the cozy industry that had cropped up around the traffic of pilgrims who needed an animal to give to the priest or currency exchanged for the offering plate.
So the next day, as Jesus walked in the temple courts he was confronted by those who regarded themselves as caretakers of the place. They raised the question of authority. “What gives you the right?”
We are rarely confronted with that question in such a blunt manner, but we wear ourselves out answering it anyway. Every day is another day to prove ourselves, to show that we belong, that we really are capable, that we are worthy of trust and confidence and admiration.
There are two kinds of authority. One kind is the kind of authority that is placed upon us by a title or a job or a role. A police officer has authority when he or she wears the badge; the lifeguard has authority when perched in the lifeguard chair.
But there’s a different kind of authority that comes from some deep place within us. The Greek word for authority used in Mark 11:28 (exousia) can be literally rendered ‘out of being.’ It’s a kind of rooted strength that you possess when you know who you are.
The first kind of authority allows us to accomplish tasks: negotiate contracts, hire employees, make decisions, give direction. This is a legitimate authority and the world would be thrown into chaos without it.
But the second kind of authority is what allows us to love people, to give a blessing, to listen to another’s pain, to sit quietly with someone and be present without trying to fix things, to tell the truth in love. This is possible only when we know that we have been loved and blessed by God. We know who we are.
Many of you have authority – the kind that allows you tell your client how to plead or your children to get in the car. But you’ve also been given a deeper authority in Jesus. This day is much more than another chance for you to prove yourself. You will be the presence of Christ in the world today. You are loved by God the Father and filled with his Spirit. You are sent. Let that flow out of your being.
Remind me today, Lord Jesus, who I am and who you’ve called me to be. By your spirit empower me to be that person and live that life, carrying your presence into the world with quiet authority. Amen.