Across the Pastor’s Desk: Issues of authority still exist
Across the Pastor’s Desk by Don Rose
Throughout the Gospel according to St. Matthew, Jesus is consistently faced with opposition over the issue of his authority. When asked by what authority Jesus acts in a particular way, the questioner’s expectation is to hear some reference to a great rabbi or teacher of either past or present who has been the source of Jesus’ actions as well as words. Those expectations are never realized, as Jesus refers not to the past nor to others, but rather asserts an authority that is his own as the one who brings the dominion of God near to God’s people.
Issues of authority continue to be in the hearts and minds of people today. Institutions in every sector of life are questioned as to their authority as a result of various scandals and disappointments that have become all too common. If institutions are not seen to have authority, individuals begin to assert their own authority in their lives.
“What I want, what I desire” become the basis for what people believe is authoritative for their lives. Mixed messages and competing points of view aggravate the situation.
Many who participate in some form of worship this week will hear the story of the wicked tenants for Matthew. One of the fundamental issues at the heart of the story is the tenants’ desire to make their own that which belongs to someone else and the lengths to which they will go to make that happen. The story is a reminder that what people have is not their own ultimately, but rather God’s. God calls upon workers for God’s good purposes, for the realization of God’s dominion. If people lose sight of the one to whom the dominion belongs and begin to think they can take it over and make it their own, they will find themselves replaced. There is a greater authority than the individual’s wants or desires.
Once believers truly recognize God’s authority in their lives, they recognize the call to work toward God’s purposes more than for their own. The prophets said God’s desire was for justice and righteousness, not for just some, but for all of God’s people. That is the direction to which the kingdom calls. Jesus continued that call in his life and death and resurrection.
The authority of institutions may be tarnished but the authority of God remains. That is the authority and to that authority alone that believers are called to acknowledge for their lives. It is an authority that desires life and not death, an authority that wants all to share in the abundance of God’s gracious gifts.
This was Jesus’ authority, and by the work of the Spirit it will be the authority of God’s people today as well. To know and to acknowledge the own to whom the dominion belongs will make all of the difference in the world in the lives of believers and non-believers as well.
Don Rose is a pastor at Mansfield and United Lutheran churches.