Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Devotional: Jesus’ Kingdom Authority, Mark 11:27-12:17

Mark 11.27-12.17 outline

11:27 begins a new section (11:27-12:44) in which Jesus debates, with the Jewish leadership, the source of his authority to bring in the kingdom of the “age to come” and to rule over it. The big point is that his authority is God’s authority and, because, the promised king is present, everyone must make a decision about whether or not they will submit to Jesus and his heavenly kingdom or continue to resist God and be removed from their positions of leadership of God’s people. They will continue to reject and resist Jesus’ claim and kill him thinking that they have squashed and removed him. But his resurrection will vindicate his claim. The Son of God has broken into his creation and calls his people into his kingdom. Will they listen and obey?

The Jewish leadership responds to Jesus’ acted out parable of judgment on the temple by questioning his authority to do so (11:27-33). They ask who gave him the authority over the temple. His answer is very clear. The same authority that authorized the preaching of John the Baptist authorized his temple actions. John had already announced that Jesus was the coming one who would bring in the kingdom and called the nation to repent to be ready to serve him. Jesus is saying that his call to the people to prepare for judgment and follow him is also authorized by God. Jesus will not allow the religious leaders' arguments against his authority to deter His mission of setting up the new order that God had promised.

The challenge of the Pharisees and Herodians to Jesus about paying taxes to Caesar makes the same point (12:13-17). They think they have trapped Jesus between loyalty to Caesar and loyalty to God. But, Jesus rebukes their worldly view of how authority functions. Caesar has limited power. His coins claim ultimate power but really he has been delegated only limited power by God (the Pharisees’ use of the coins showed that they recognized this power as well.), But God (the authority Jesus claimed) rules over the whole being of every person. God’s kingdom supersedes and replaces all human kingdoms. We recognize that God delegates authority to governments,and we honor that, but ultimate authority belongs to God. When governments make claims beyond that, whether they are Roman, Jewish or American, their claims must be rejected. The real solutions are not political. They are found in submission to God’s rule through Jesus Christ and within the new community he has set up, as it humbly serves, endures persecution and builds up his people. 

The parable of the murderous tenant farmers (12:1-11) is framed by Jesus’ claim to Divine authority. This is an updated version of Isaiah’s vineyard parable (Isaiah 5). Israel was God’s kingdom and its land was God’s. He gave it to his people as a stewardship and they were to work in it to serve God’s people and accomplish God’s mission. This was the fruit God desired. God had done everything possible to make that mission a success. But the nation took God’s gifts and used them selfishly. They misused the temple (the vineyard tower represented the temple) for personal power and prestige. Instead of listening to the many prophets throughout their history they resisted, persecuted and even killed some of them. Now they were about to reject the ultimate expression and revelation of God: his own Son. This would be a mistake from which there would be no going back.

Jesus has handled the leaders’ questions in a way that showed clearly his Divine authority and the corruption of their leadership. They had missed the point that devotion to God and taking care of His people is the most important thing. Thus, they did not see what God was doing in their time, they rejected His Messiah, missed His kingdom and would soon be subject to judgment. We all must keep close account on our devotion to God and our tendency to compromise with worldly power and honor, so that we do not miss what He is doing around us now.

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