READ MATTHEW 21:23-32
You walk into a room, and you know that it is not good. The room is usually a comfortable one. Your hosts ask you to have a seat, and you look around the room and let’s just say you don’t have that “peaceful, easy feeling”. Someone offers you some food, a snack probably, and offers you a soda or a water. All eyes are fixed on you. You swallow hard. You try and break the ice with some witty remark, but at best you get only forced laughter. Everybody takes a big, deep breathe at the same time. Finally, someone, most likely the leader simply says, “There is no easy way to do this…but we need to talk.”
“Ok!?”, you say sounding puzzled. But you know with all of these people in this room focused on you and needing to have a talk, they probably wont be giving you cherry-filled chocolates and roses.
Most of us have been in this situation, or simply avoided this situation with a passion. Maybe it is your spouse or your family that fills up this room. (My best friend in Iowa says the 5 worst words in the English language are “Honey, we need to talk”.) Maybe it is a boss or committee assigned to evaluate your work and give you “help in your work”, but you find what they are saying is more rude and belligerent than supportive. Perhaps it was your parents and siblings when you were a rebellious teenager. Maybe it is a mixture of friends and family that have gathered to tell you that you have a problem, and that you need to make a major life change. Or, it could be that you are aging, and several friends and family have to come around and tell you that you really should not be driving anymore, especially at night.
In therapeutic circles sometimes this phenomenon is called an intervention. Sometimes this is over a relatively minor thing, like “Clint, when you wear white dress shirts on Sunday morning it isn’t a good idea to have a printed t-shirt that everyone can read underneath.” Other times it is more serious, like with Donald Trump saying “You’re fired!” When done appropriately and in love it can be just what people need to help them grow. Other times, it is more sinister and more political.
The religious leaders of Jesus’ day were providing him an INTERVENTION in the middle of the temple. It was a very serious thing. The come up to him, as he is teaching and shout out as he is teaching:
BY WHAT AUTHORITY ARE YOU DOING THESE THINGS?
AND WHO GAVE THIS AUTHORITY?
OR IN THE CLINT WALKER PARAPHRASED VERSION……..
WHO THE HECK DO YOU THINK YOU ARE? OR ARE YOU FOR REAL? PROVE IT!
Why were they asking this? Why are the harassing and interrupting him? What is the problem?
(step to left side of the platform) Let me give you a little background….
From Matthew’s report on Jesus’ life, he had been spending most of his time out in the backwoods of Galilee, with occasional trips into Jerusalem. Like John the Baptist, he had been working from the fringe of respectable Jewish society, doing most of his teaching in backwater hicktowns. His popularity had been growing among the common folks. Now Jesus makes his way into the big city Jerusalem, center of commerce for the nation, and home to most of the nations religious and political leaders.
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 story?