View print-optimized version
Tuesday, March 31, 2015
Today’s Reading | Mark 11:27–33
Again they came to Jerusalem. As he was walking in the temple, the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders came to him and said, “By what authority are you doing these things? Who gave you this authority to do them?” Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one question; answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin? Answer me.” They argued with one another, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But shall we say, ‘Of human origin’?”—they were afraid of the crowd, for all regarded John as truly a prophet. So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.” (NRSV)
“Faith is not some hard, unchanging thing you cling to through the vicissitudes of life. Those who try to make it into this are destined to become brittle, shatterable creatures. Faith never grows harder, never so deviates from its nature and becomes actually destructive, than in the person who refuses to admit that faith is change. I don’t mean simply that faith changes (though there is that). I mean that just as any sense of divinity that we have comes from the natural order of things—is in some ultimate sense within the natural order of things—so too faith is folded into change, is the mutable and messy process of our lives rather than any fixed, mental product. Those who cling to the latter are inevitable left with nothing to hold on to, or left holding on to some nothing into which they have poured the best parts of themselves.”
—Christian Wiman, My Bright Abyss
I’ve always read this story about Jesus’ confrontation with the temple authorities as if the question posed by the leaders was a trap and Jesus’ counter-question was a clever riposte.
But what if some among those scribes and priests were really looking for an answer?
Were they genuinely disappointed not to get an answer about Jesus’ identity and the source of his power? Jesus’ lack of willingness to provide an answer to their questions seems cruel, but perhaps it just flows naturally from the leaders’ own silence.
To state that John’s power to baptize flows from divine authority would wipe away all their certainty about how repentance, blessing, or holy power worked. To claim it was only of human authority would risk their hold on the loyalty of the people. Their faith was too narrow to hold a God who ran free in the wilderness; it was too fragile to withstand the agitation of the people. They were far too invested in a thing that had become too meager to bear the truth of Jesus’ answer. They lost the courage to answer big questions; they could no longer receive big answers.
God, who calls me to boldness, give me strength for this Lenten journey. Grant me the courage to leave behind ways of thinking and living that are too small to contain the grace you offer. Stir in me a voice that offers a response to life’s important questions—even if the answers are partial and faltering. Carve out in my heart a space big enough to receive the love you would have me feel, for you and for the world. Amen.
Written by Hardy H. Kim, Associate Pastor for Evangelism
Devotion index by date | I’d like to receive daily devotions by email