Our scripture this week is Matthew 21:21-32.
Jesus entered the temple courts, and, while he was teaching, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him. “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you this authority?” Jesus replied, “I will also ask you one question. If you answer me, I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. John’s baptism—where did it come from? Was it from heaven, or of human origin?” They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ But if we say, ‘Of human origin’—we are afraid of the people, for they all hold that John was a prophet.” So they answered Jesus, “We don’t know.” Then he said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things. What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’ ‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went. Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go. Which of the two did what his father wanted?” “The first,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.”
Jesus isn’t trying to assert His authority here, He wants those He debates with to understand all authority comes from God. They are using their position and power not to further God’s kingdom but to make themselves look important. Jesus teaches us that we must serve God and each other if we want to do His will.
These leaders seem to have forgotten that the original intent of the laws they enforce was to free people from sin and turn their hearts to the Lord. Now they are used to control people and consolidate the leaders’ power. Jesus challenges their mindset and their position in the community.
The story He tells forces them to consider which example they are living out – obeying the Father with their actions or saying “yes” but not doing the work. It is hard for us to look at ourselves and say we’re not living up to God’s law. It is worse if we use it to punish others or lift ourselves up.
Loving Lord, we are humbled by Your gifts and Your guidance for us. Help us to use both for the good of Your children and Your glory. Amen.