As he enters Jerusalem, they throw a big parade and celebrate him as the great, wonderful leader of the people that they were looking for. The next day, Jesus goes to the temple, gets really angry, turns over all of the tables in the temple, and calls people names (yet without sinning). The power-elite of Israel look at each other and say, we need to get a handle on this guy….after all WHAT GIVES HIM THE RIGHT to do what he is doing? WHAT GIVES HIM THE RIGHT?
So, how does Jesus answer this question? How does this speak to us today? Why is there this story that is added to Jesus’ conversation with the religious leaders, and how does it relate to the overall scope of Jesus’ ministry?
They were also implicitly trying to tell him that he did not have the right qualifications to be a leader, to be a teacher, to be an “authority”. It was if they were saying, “Where is your degree? What school did you graduate from? What is on your resume that qualifies you to in any way keep US accountable?
And the questions they were asking were not entirely inappropriate in and of themselves, but their refusal to enter into an open, authentic dialogue with Jesus betrays their motives. Jesus turns the same question basically back on them, in a discussion of the ministry of John, and they show that they are more about popularity and being right all the time than they are about seeking what is true and real. They are not wanting to get real with Jesus. They are not wanting the straight stuff from the Master. They are just wanting to show everybody that they are right and Jesus is not.
And Jesus, in a conversation that shows his utter brilliance intellectually and displays the raw truth of what his ministry is all about, turns the tables on the scribes and the Pharisees just like he turned over the tables of the money changers the day before.
This morning, we only get a glimpse of the whole story, because it goes on for two more parables, a couple more arguments, that eventually get Jesus hung up on a cross. But even in the face of impending, utterly painful, and excruciating death he has the courage to tell us like it is. They ask Jesus, “Are you for real?” and Jesus’ answer seems to be ARE YOU WILLING TO BE REAL?
Our temptation, whether old or young, whether conservative or liberal, is to put up a picture of faith that looks good, that has all the answers, that in many ways has arrived. We try to fake authenticity.
Have you ever been to Joe’s Crab Shack? Have you ever been to one right after it opened? It is made to look like a “unique” and “authentic” local seafood dive complete with old beaten up wood that creaks and buckets to put salt and pepper shakers in cause they are too broke to have something nice. In fact, it is a mass-marketed chain and with specially trained engineering teams that travel all around the country building these things. And what is meant to appear broke down and simple is actually marketed, studied, tested, adapted in a way to pitch to you the story you want to hear, that is really untrue.
Or the whole stonewashed jeans thing. A lot of the jeans that are sold today are jeans that are made to look like someone has worked in them for a year. When they first came out I was a teenager, and my uncle told me he could take a decent new pair of jeans down to the river, lay them on a rock in direct sunlight at his fishing hole for a couple weeks, throw them in the washer three or four times with his workboots, and accomplish the same thing.
The same is true with our faith. At least that is what Jesus implies. There is a temptation to fake our way through our spiritual lives. To make our lives look religious or spiritual(which is the easy way out) instead of to live in the openness and vulnerability of a living, vibrant faith in a living, vibrant God.
We tend to ask JESUS, “ARE YOU FOR REAL?” and his response seems to come back at us “ARE YOU WILLING TO BE REAL?” And when we really hear that question, and that message, the INTERVENTION is the intervention of Jesus in our lives.
So, what do we see here in this confrontation short parable that Jesus tells us that gives us some practical handles on what it means to live our faith in a real authentic way?
Quite a bit actually! But I picked out few things to share with you that seem to stand out most clearly to me.