And they came again to Jerusalem. And as he was walking in the temple, the chief priests and the scribes and the elders came to him,28 and they said to him, “By what authority are you doing these things, or who gave you this authority to do them?”29 Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one question; answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things.30 Was the baptism of John from heaven or from man? Answer me.” 31 And they discussed it with one another, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’32 But shall we say, ‘From man’?”—they were afraid of the people, for they all held that John really was a prophet. 33 So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.” – Mark 11:27-33
I’ll admit: I would rather not have to take a stand when two opposing parties vie for my approval or support. One child wants pizza for supper. The other wants McDonalds. OK, I admit; those arguments and opposing sides were pretty easy to land on. But what if you’re forced to choose between spending Christmas at your in-law’s house or your wife’s in-laws house? What if you have to choose between offending your c0-worker or your God?
Before we’re too hard on the chief priests, scribes, and elders, we need to be careful that we’ve got our own Sophie’s Choices well in hand. Sometimes the stakes are high, and the choices we must make peel away any pretense of having an undivided heart.
The scribes, chief priests, and elders refuse to make a choice about who will rule and reign in their hearts, how they will live, and the values for which they will live or die. They will not admit that John’s baptism is from God, nor will they deny it. They fear the people’s reaction if they reject John’s ministry, for everyone thought him to be a prophet. If, however, they allow that he is a prophet of God they would have to acknowledge the One to whom John had pointed: Jesus, the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
The issue for followers of Jesus is seldom so bold and obvious. But there do come times when we must make an enemy of someone close to us in order to follow Jesus and remain true to our values. We need not become a martyr in the process. It need not be an ugly moment. But it is even more ugly when we abandon the way, truth, and life of God for the sake of our own supposed safety and security.
Truth be told, we often bring ourselves to these difficult choices by our attempts to build our own kingdoms. To call Jesus “Lord” is to recognize that he has redeemed us, that we are his – bought with a price – and that we live under him in his kingdom, and serve him for all eternity. Faith sees that as a very good thing. Fear stymies faith, and refuses to embrace the gracious rule and reign of Christ. He rules the hearts of his people by grace. He has all authority in heaven and on earth, and commissions his followers to invite others to embrace his gracious reign and rule.