Matthew 21:23-32 Children can follow along in Spark page 460.
Verse 25 "Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?”
This is actually a great question from Jesus to continue today. The baptism we do today (of the church), is it from heaven or from human origin? Is it an experience that started with humans and continued in various forms for thousands of years? Or is it an experience that started from heaven - which we'd assume comes from the Spirit of God? This question can be transferred to a host of other questions. Did the idea of building churches come from God or from human origin? Did the use of cars come from God or from human beings? Did the idea of non-heterosexual families come from God or from human origins? What about non-LGBTQ families - from God or from human origins? Capitalism? Currency? Etc. The question of origins and authority is rarely singular. As Anabaptists, we believe in community and in voices as opposed to one voice ruling the rest.
When I read this story I am challenged to think back to one of my favorite stories - the origin of the name Israel, in which Jacob is wrestling with God in the book of Genesis. Instead of thinking that God always has the answer, this is a clear example and metaphor that we have the answers too. We are not trying to reclaim a previous era, but we are all trying to live our best self, our saved self, today! We are not trying to hear what God said centuries (or even decades ago), but are wrestling with God NOW. For God is not light years away, but with us - right now! We are not ancient Greeks telling stories of God up on a mountain, but we are Christians who believe in the God of Jesus, a God who never leaves us. This God is so relational that the answer is not - from God or from human origins, but always both.
For many people, this is hard to grapple with. We want a God far away (or non-existent), or we want a God we can control. But what about this believing in a God with us (Immanuel), and that our authority comes through the process of wrestling with God and man (Israel). Prevailing in this life is not about surviving beyond others, but about living with others. Finding authority is not about choosing the correct origin, but about the process of discernment. It's usually not a nice or pretty process. Jacob was injured for life from his wrestling. Yet, he gained a blessing from an angel of God. In this passage, the priests and elders are troubled by Jesus when Jesus doesn't seek their authority. They are not sure how to live outside their institutional role. Hopefully Jesus' answer didn't bind them as much as free them to see the truth. They had been ignoring the needs and health and well-being of the masses. John had been reaching the masses. Could they find and articulate a theology and life that reached the masses? Did they have authority in themselves and within their roles to reach the masses? Could they strengthen the relationship of God with humanity?
It's a hard challenge for all of us. Can we live a life like John and Jesus, that makes people question their belief in God and authority?
Events & Evites:
Tory - Pastor of Children and Youth Faith Formation.