The Authority Question
Now when I do Texas weddings, I have to have the marriage license in hand, but I can simply go home, fill it out, sign it, and send it in to the government. In the Kenyan marriage ceremony, the signing of the marriage license is part of the ceremony and it’s a big deal. Five signatures are needed—the bride, the groom, a recognized pastor, and two witnesses. And on Friday it could not be signed until Bishop Nyaranga had officially said, “On behalf of the Country of Kenya and the Karen Baptist Church, I now pronounce you husband and wife.” He could say this because he had traveled to Nairobi, consulted the proper authorities, and purchased the official licenses. This made the marriages legal and recognized by the Kenyan government.
It’s hard for us as American to understand how important this is. Some of the couples had been married before God for many years, but their marriages were not legally recognized. I wish you could have seen the radiating smiles when they signed those licenses.
Consulting the right authorities and then obeying them is important in all our lives, but when it comes to obeying God’s authority, the ultimate Judge, it’s a matter of life and death.
You can imagine the stir in Jerusalem when Jesus turned over the moneychangers’ tables in the Temple. What if someone came into your church and turned things upside down? The authorities would certainly come to conduct an interrogation.
“Coming again into Jerusalem, Jesus was walking in the Temple when the high priests, the legal experts on the Law, and the elders came to him and said, ‘By what authority are you doing these things? Who gave you this authority?’ Jesus responded, ‘Let me ask you one question, and if you answer, I’ll answer yours. John’s baptism was it from heaven or from human origin? Answer me.’ They argued back and forth among themselves, ‘If we say from heaven, then he will say then why didn’t you believe in him? But if we say from only human authority—.‘ They feared the crowd because all held that John was a prophet. So they said to Jesus, ‘We don’t know.’ Jesus responded, ‘Neither will I tell you by what authority I’m doing these things.’” Mark 11:27-33
Jesus’ question about John the Baptist takes us back to the beginning of Mark’s Gospel. John the Baptist was the voice crying in the wilderness to prepare hearts to receive the LORD, his Messiah. If we track the Story, it’s not complicated to figure out the source of Jesus’ authority. Twice from heaven God the Father said this was his beloved Son. Listen to him.
The irony is that the religious authorities in Jerusalem who were responsible for teaching God’s Word, helping them know the clues to the Messiah from their Scriptures, are totally blind as a group. Instead of submitting to Jesus’ authority and crying out for him to forgive them, they clung to their religious prestige and power.
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