Whose Authority?

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Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany

Whose Authority?

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.

        If you have ever worked with animals or if you have ever raised a child, I am sure you can well appreciate the necessary continuous re-iteration of your position of authority. The difference between the two is that, as an animal gets older, the better it obeys.

        We all know the voice of authority. I can remember quite well how my mother or father would address me when I was young. My mother would use my full name when I had transgressed some rule of the household. When fighting with brother or sisters our actions immediately ceased when we heard the voice of our Father demanding us to stop.

        In both such incidents, there was no doubt who was in charge and to whom we were to listen. It was the voice of authority.

        The evangelist Mark wrote of Christ’s life focusing on the deeds of our Lord and Savior. Throughout this Gospel, we hear how the people to whom Jesus spoke all responded immediately to the authority of his teaching.

        It is true that Jesus also healed the sick, blessed the poor and dispossessed, and even raised the dead with the authority given to him by his Father in heaven. Jesus Christ not only talked the talk but he also walked the walk. When he spoke, people listened. Whether those same people who heard and witnessed his miraculous works believed or rejected his teachings is also revealed in this Gospel.

        Take for example the chief priests and teachers of the law in the temple courts of Jerusalem in chapter 11:

“By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you authority to do this?” [Mark 11:28]

They had heard of and may have even seen Christ’s works and many of them had certainly heard his words, yet they could not understand that his authority came from God. Even when Jesus cast out demons, the scribes could not believe it was through the almighty power of God but instead claimed he was Satan.

And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebub,” and, “By the ruler of the demons He casts out demons.” [Mark 3:22]

They absolutely rejected his voice of authority.

        The story of a young child running away from home is not unique. Most of us have heard of such a story and some of us may even have experienced such an instance. The child runs away from his or her parents rebelling against the authority of their household. The first thing a parent does is to seek out the runaway child. They search throughout the area calling the child’s name. They do this hoping that the child will hear their voice and return safely home.

        What does the parent say? First, the parent calls the child by name, and then says, ‘Come home. I love you!’ Whenever I strayed in my young life and was too far away to properly recognize my father’s voice, he would whistle. This sound carried farther than his voice and I would stop and listen. Faintly I would hear him call me by name and command me to return to his side.

        Although we are not at the same level as our Father in heaven, even though we are not His equals, we are not mere animals. Hear the words of our Lord in Genesis 1 verse 26:

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” [Gen 1:26]

We are more than the animals of the earth. We are the children of God. Also, we are the children of God who reject His word, His voice of authority. We run away from him through our sin. He set the boundaries of our lives with the Law. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, and you shall not steal. We wish to overthrow the yoke of His authority by turning away from Him.

        We try to go around the Law to chase after our own desires. We lose ourselves in the world’s pretty and false promises of joy. We hear Him calling us by our name and we ignore him. We hear his promises of reward in His kingdom if we would only turn to Him and come back. We hear Him pleading with us to turn from our sinful ways and to follow Him. Yet we still chase after what we can never catch. We think we are free when we are actually running headlong to our own condemnation.

        This is where our Father in heaven differs from our father on earth. God does not say, “Don’t make me come down there and get you!” Instead He says, “I will come down and get you. I will send my Son into the flesh of your flesh. I will give him all authority in heaven and on earth.”

        This is the Gospel, the good news. Jesus Christ became man so that he could suffer the slings and arrows of the evil one. He walked the walk of righteousness and he talked the talk of salvation. It was on a cross of wood where he gave up his life so that we would not rightly suffer eternally for our sins. His death was our death to sin. On the third day, His resurrection from the grave was our resurrection into a holy and righteous life eternal.

        We have not been left out in the countryside chasing our own desires. Our true father and master has sought us out, calling us by our full name that is written in the book of life. He calls out to us, ‘I love you. Come back.’ We know his voice. It is the voice of authority.

        Now we are on the true path with our other brothers and sisters in Christ. We are free from death. We no longer thirst or hunger for we have been given the bread of life. Through Jesus Christ, we have not only been saved but we are continually and eternally blessed by God.

        It is true that we are still sinners. We sometimes run away from our blessed home. But we are also under the promise of life after death. We have been given the Holy Spirit who leads us in a sanctified life. By our baptism into Christ through the Holy Spirit, we have been made true heirs to the kingdom of God.

        In the word of God we are told of His grace given to us by the death of His Son. The crucifixion of Jesus Christ was the redeeming sacrifice that paid the debt of our sins. Jesus Christ was the Lamb of God given up into death as the atoning sin-offering for all humankind and for all time.

        What was greater than his death was his resurrection from the grave. The Only Son of God can be the only acceptable payment for our disobedience. Jesus Christ, the only true man and true God can guarantee our life eternal through his rise from certain and complete death.

        We now have the fulfilled promise of a life like his. We now have the certain hope of resurrection from the grave. We gain that promise through our baptism. At the baptism of our Lord, the God and Father of us all spoke to His Son from above. With the voice of all authority He claimed Jesus Christ as His beloved Son and gave him that same authority over all creation.

            God the Father commanded us to listen to His Son. His Son has this to say:

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” [Matt 28:18-20]

        Through the Holy Spirit we now have the voice of authority. It is not our voice, but the voice of Jesus Christ. By His authority, we forgive sin. By His authority, we baptize all nations. By His authority, we speak the true word of His salvation for all human kind.

        Let us pray for the power of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit to continue to lead us all to speak the truth through the love of Jesus Christ. Amen

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