Practical Proverbial, from Mark, 9 November 2015

They arrived again in Jerusalem, and while Jesus was walking in the temple courts, the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders came to him.  By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you authority to do this?” Mark 11, verses 27-28.

Here’s yet another example of how little things change.   In a way, stories of the petty ways in which the Jewish Temple leaders treated Jesus give even more credence to the truth of them.   The chief priests and elders schemed, conspired, nit-picked, and finally plotted to bring down this interloper from Galilee. They used every dodge and ploy at their disposal in trying to box Jesus into rhetorical corners, yet He refused to play along.   If Jesus was ‘the big dog,’ they were the pack of little Chihuahuas nipping at Big Dog’s heels.   Yet if you get enough little dogs, even the Big Dog’s life can be in danger.

How little things have changed. Our politics today are rife with stories of how the media and the powers-that-be try to take down anyone who seems to threaten the establishment status quo. In corporate America, the quickest way to losing your job is to rock the boat (even as every new CEO promises to ‘turn things around by changing how we do business;’ freaking rah already). Do you know people, maybe even family members, who gossip and tear down other people for no reason other than petty envy? And what about you?   Where do you or I fit on the spectrum of mis-behavior?

If Jesus walked up to you or me and said, “Friend, let me help you change your life,” would we respond with “who do you think you are?”   Or “who made you the boss of me?” or some other churlish retort.

Noodle it long enough and I believe you’ll see how we really aren’t different from the chief priests, teachers of the law, and elders in these verses.   In their defense, some of them were only doing what they thought was best to protect God’s Temple against the violent tendencies of Rome and the plotting intrigues of their Gentile neighbors.   The Jews of Jesus’ day were used to being treated like second class citizens yet they still fiercely clung to their ancient status as God’s chosen people.   Anyone who came along and was perceived to be a threat would naturally be suspected, likely targeted for elimination.   Should it be surprising to us, then, that they questioned Him, “who do you think you are, pal?”   “Not so fast, young man.   Who gave you permission to rock the boat?”   At what point did prudence turn into venom?

Eons later, we respond every day in the same way.   I respond by immediately being suspicious of the corporate VP who sends me snarky emails about my project; they immediately make me question her agenda.   You respond by questioning when your kids tell you that their teachers know best on American history, Islam studies, and other subjects du jour.   We each act the same with new neighbors, strangers in the mall, and politicians with whom we disagree.

I wonder:   how many times have we missed opportunities to act like Jesus with strangers who honestly didn’t know Him. How many times have our words and actions hindered His Kingdom when we could have helped it?   Are we the Big Dog or the little yappy toy?   We haven’t changed.

Lord, forgive me. Help me yet again to not question You and to do my part for Your work.

Read Mark 11, verses 27-33.

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