Trickery, deception, temptation
Third week of Advent: Monday
Reading: Matthew 21:23-27
Jesus had gone into the Temple and was teaching, when the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him and said, ‘What authority have you for acting like this? And who gave you this authority?’ And I’ replied Jesus ‘will ask you a question, only one; if you tell me the answer to it, I will tell you my authority for acting like this. John’s baptism: where did it come from: heaven or man?’ And they argued it out amongst themselves, ‘If we say from heaven, he will retort, “Then why did you refuse to believe him;” but if we say from man, we have the people to fear, for they all hold that John was a prophet.’ So their reply to Jesus was, ‘We do not know.’ And he retorted, ‘Nor will I tell you my authority for acting like this.’
Ever slow to believe, the scribes and pharisees continue their assault on Jesus’ mission. Previously, in John 8:3-11 ‘The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman along who had been caught committing adultery; and making her stand in full view of everybody, they said to Jesus, “Master, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery and Moses has ordered us in the Law to condemn women like this to death by stoning. What have you to say? They asked him as a test, looking for something to use against him.
In Matthew 12:9-14 He went into their synagogue. And a man was there whose hand was withered. And they questioned Jesus, asking, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”—so that they might accuse Him. And He said to them, “What man is there among you who has a sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will he not take hold of it and lift it out?
In all instances, Jesus is aware of the subtle power of the evil one who wishes to detract him from his mission. There is no place in his dealings with people for trickery or deception. He turns the tables on the pharisees challenging them to answer one direct question about the source of his authority. They are unable to do so and there ends the discussion.
I am reminded to be alert to the power of the evil spirit in the world. I may be tempted by his subtle connivance to question God’s authority in my life. Like the pharisees, I may choose to walk in my own paths rather than those of the Lord. Through the grace offered to me in this holy season of Advent I seek once more to deepen my relationship with God and to respect his authority in my life.