Some things never change. For quite a few years now nearly all social conversations relate to use and abuse of power. I live about seven miles from Ferguson, Missouri – a name that represents racial tension rather than a city itself. Anger burned hotter than the flames as the protests jumped from one small city in the mid-western US to metropolitan cities in the east. Media outlets filled the air with accounts, images, and despair. Urban death and violence continues.
Black lives matter. White lives matter. Latino lives matter. Asian lives matter. People matter.
In a sinful world people suffer in so many ways. Power abuse, victimization, rebellion, self-protection, and fear represent just a few of ways society suffers as human beings harm self and each other. To bring order out of chaos society endows some people and institutions with authority – the right to use power to make others conform. Small societies like families, churches, and gangs have their authority patterns as do cities, states, governments, stock markets, multinational corporations. Change disrupts the balance and brings efforts to reassert some sense of order.
Some things never change. Luke 20 takes place during Passion Week as tensions heightened between Jesus and various authorities. This upstart Teacher had made blind people see, raised the dead, reinterpreted the law, and tipped over temple tables. Such behavior could not be tolerated. Something had to be done. Blind people belonged at their beggar’s corner and low station in life. Dead people should stay put. The law had to be explained by the right authorities. The temple had a job to do, and chaos upset the economic, social, and religious balance.
Everyone talks about the weather, but no one does anything about it. Everyone talks about the pain of sin, but very few want anything to be done about it. This week has so much in common with that first Passion Week. What right does Jesus mess up people’s choices and consequences of those choices? Do we prefer sin’s consequences to surrendering to Jesus’ authority?
Luke 20 records heightened tensions where various influence groups questioned Jesus’ authority. The power brokers could not question Jesus’ power … He had proven His ability to attack brokenness and suffering too many times for them to question His power. All they could question was His authority to use such disruptive power. Jesus engaged the various interrogators, but He would not answer their authority questions. He rejected their authority.
The parable did not help the court of public opinion. Jesus’ story revealed how the fallen, sinful powers plotted to kill the Lord of the vineyard’s heir. Jesus was that heir. He was the rejected stone. He had power and authority to confront all sources of abuse … even spiritual abuse. Since the fallen powers could not kill Jesus right after the Triumphal Entry parade, they set more traps to support a flimsy court case. They failed. They stopped questioning Jesus’ authority.
The chapter ends with Jesus warning the crowd about abusive power around them. Power abusers tried to generate authority by their robes, titles, and seats in synagogues and feasts. They siphoned off resources from the poor and glamorized themselves through lengthy prayers. Empty shells always fight to keep their ill-gotten authority. Some things never change.
I enjoy Easter’s resurrection, but I do not know if I like Passion Week. Your work heightens the gap between Your authority and our efforts to keep control. Lord, You would think we would see when we work harder to protect our position than to actually use what little power we have to do righteousness.
Have mercy on me, I pray. How often have I challenged your authority? Your power is beyond question. You have healed, saved, filled with Your Spirit, provided miraculously, and comforted in difficult times. Yet these days between Palm Sunday and Easter illustrate my feeble efforts to resist Your authority as Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer. Have mercy on me, I pray.
Forgive me for times when my life pointed to my feeble power rather than Your divine authority. I pray Your Spirit guides Sherri and me in ways that we can point to Your goodness. Can we touch the sick, broken, marginalized, lonely, and dying as Your hands? All our resources are Yours; we pledged that in our baptism. Instead of questioning Your authority, please help us serve as better farmers in the field.
All the abusive use of power in our world sickens You now as it did that first Passion Week. Sin has that effect on You. This Friday serves as a reminder of how much You hate sin, its effects on humanity, and how far You go to brake the power of sin. Thank You for Friday. I am sorry of my contribution to forging those nails.
Would You help me hear the warning You gave the audience at the end of the chapter? Too often I just accept the broken world as ‘just the way things are.’ Your passion rejects my acceptance. I need spiritual strength to confront the weakened powers of this world. The fallen systems work so hard to keep their power, power You unmasked and broke on Calvary. Sometimes I fail to see how I benefit from the brokenness of the world. Forgive me and open my eyes to what You see. I give up my ‘piece of the action’ in abusive power. All lives matter… particularly those that suffer at the expense of abusive power in a broken world.
Thank you for unmasking the shame of power abuse by your suffering.
In Jesus’ Name,
Thank you for walking with me through Luke 20. I realize my devotions sounded a little political today, but reading about Jesus’ Passion Week shines a light on sin wherever it may be. I pray you have a powerfully redeeming week as you look forward to Friday and Easter.