Each Tuesday and Thursday I do a short reflection on a Bible verse from a devotional and social justice perspective. You can sign up to get a prompt via SMS here:
Text Of The Day
Today’s text is from Mark 11:28-33:
They asked, “What kind of authority do you have for doing these things? Who gave you this authority to do them?”
Jesus said to them, “I have a question for you. Give me an answer, then I’ll tell you what kind of authority I have to do these things. Was John’s baptism of heavenly or of human origin? Answer me.”
They argued among themselves, “If we say, ‘It’s of heavenly origin,’ he’ll say, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ But we can’t say, ‘It’s of earthly origin.’” They said this because they were afraid of the crowd, because they all thought John was a prophet. They answered Jesus, “We don’t know.”
Jesus replied, “Neither will I tell you what kind of authority I have to do these things.”
Religious leaders have not changed much in 2000 years. We don’t want to alienate anyone, least of all members of our congregations. We cling to the belief that in any conflict between oppression and liberation there is some third way or a mushy middle that will keep our hands clean from human fallibility or political consequences. It’s what led some white Birmingham church leaders to tsk-tsk at Martin Luther King, Jr. for “moving too fast” and “stirring up trouble,” and why his letter back to them is a classic. They could not recognize this audacious movement as a movement of God.
When our neutrality and our authority is questioned, we get butt hurt. “Who gave you this authority?” they ask Jesus. They are indignant precisely because they lack moral courage to name the theological reality in front of them.
If Jesus were a typical religious leader, the only reason anyone would ever want to crucify him is because he was boring.
“Mark’s Gospel originally was written to help imperial subjects learn the hard truth about themselves. He does not pretend to represent the word of God dispassionately or impartially, as if that word were innocuously universal in its appeal to rich and poor alike. His is a story by, about, and for those committed to God’s work of justice, compassion, and liberation in the world.” — Ched Myers, Binding the Strong Man.
The power to speak truth to power does not come from earthly power. It comes from God, and God is never neutral. And it’s only from this perspective, that God is active on behalf of those who are oppressed, that the good news can actually be heard.
Something to think about: the powers that be fear YOU.