Let’s talk about Matthew 21:23-32. (This story happens during the last week before Jesus’ death.)
Jesus arrives at the temple in Jerusalem, a big place with lots of space for tours, for teaching, for religious souvenirs, for worship supplies. People came on foot from all over Israel, from all around the Mediterranean, to worship. Mostly blood-born Jews, but some converts as well. This was the spiritual center of their pilgrimages.
There were some groups of people who lived in Jerusalem and worked around the temple. There were the religious merchants. There were the politically-sensitive Herodians. There were the operations staff, the priests. And there were the keepers of the faith, the Pharisees. They had spent the last 400 years being faithful, as they understood it. In the same way that the first group were devoted to making a living, and the second group were devoted to keeping the peace, and the third group were devoted to keeping the peace with God, the pharisees were devoted to following the law, the roadmap.
And now Jesus.
He wasn’t interested in all the ways that these groups thought about making God happy or keeping God happy. Because he was God. He knew why all the pieces of building and sacrifice and rules had been put into place. And he saw all the bad directions they were taken. Away from God, toward people.
On this particular morning, the Pharisees meet him with a question: “Who gave you the authority to do what you do?”
It might have been an honest question, but it probably was combative. After all, they had spent centuries building an authority of knowledge and behavior. They knew the law and the prophets, what we call the Old Testament, inside and out. They memorized it. They memorized what other people had said about it. They had been devoted to studying through political crises, through military rebellions and occupations. They knew what it said, and what they thought it meant.
And now Jesus knew it as well as they did and was challenging their understanding.
This is not Jesus and the Pharisees and the crowds in the temple. This is Andrew and I and Nancy and Hope after Andrew and I finished our races on Saturday. He ran a half marathon, I ran a 10K. Thanks for your encouragement and support.