Posted on August 6, 2014
#66: Who’s In Control?
Once upon a Passover, a group of Jewish leaders and teachers sat spellbound in Jerusalem’s temple. The week-long celebration had just ended and most visitors were headed home. But here in front of the teachers sat a straggler, a twelve-year-old boy from Nazareth. It hardly seemed possible he was so young. His wisdom and maturity seemed to fit one much older.
Hour after hour, they exchanged questions and answers. Whenever He spoke, the teachers would nod to each other. This was a prodigy of the first degree. What was His name again? Ah yes, Jesus. Jesus of Nazareth.
Suddenly a commotion in the courtyard drew their attention. A frantic man ran into the portico, crying out in relief when he saw the boy. “Jesus! Oh Jesus, come quickly. Your mother is so worried! She’s waiting.”
Joseph hurried Jesus to the outer court where women were permitted. Mary was pacing and praying. When her eyes fell on her Son, she broke into tears. “Child, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been searching desperately for you!”
With a few words, Jesus reminded His mother that the scope of His life and purpose went far beyond their little family circle. “Why were you searching for Me? Didn’t you know I would be about My Father’s business?” (Lk. 2:49) Mary didn’t fully understand, but she knew He wasn’t referring to Joseph or carpentry.
As the teachers watched Jesus walk away, they must have agreed that the boy had a bright future.
Welcome to Knowing Jesus, our study through the gospel of Mark. Get your Bible and glance back at Mark 11:15-18a, then read Mark 11:27-33.
Fast-forward twenty-one years to another Passover.
A commotion in the temple courtyard had again drawn the attention of the teachers and priests. To hear them tell it, a man had made quite a scene, overturning the merchants’ tables, sending money boxes and benches flying. All the while, He was shouting some nonsense about His “house of prayer” being turned into a den of thieves. His words were quotes from the scriptures—but what nerve He had using those scriptures to charge them with corrupting the temple! That was yesterday. Today, He’d returned to the temple, with who-knows-what on His mind.
His name? Jesus. Jesus of Nazareth. They knew His identity. Some of them had been plotting His death for some time now. Did His name ring a bell? Had any of these leaders been present two decades earlier when a young boy had dazzled them with His wisdom? Did any of them put the pieces together?
The chief priests, teachers of the law, and elders gathered a committee to approach Jesus. J.W. McGarvey writes, “This. . . august tribunal came in formal state and with a great show of authority, hoping to make it apparent to the people that Jesus was an unauthorized, self-appointed meddler in matters over which they had exclusive control.”
Jesus turned their challenge back on them with a seemingly unrelated question. “John’s baptism—was it from heaven or from men?” Since John the Baptist had clearly identified Jesus as the Messiah, the leaders’ acceptance of John’s ministry as divine would also mean acceptance of John’s testimony about Jesus. The leaders were caught and they knew it. Not for one moment did they concern themselves with what was true—only what was expedient to uphold their claim to power.
These men may once have been fascinated with heavenly wisdom from a twelve-year-old. They had grudgingly admired Jesus’ skillful answers at times—for example, in Matthew 22:22 and Luke 20:26, 39-40. But now, they were past the point of admiration or acceptance. They wanted Him out of their way.
What had happened? Jesus had dared to step into territory they wanted to control.
How often is that the point at which we back away from Jesus today? The minute we realize that He wants to modify our morals or affect our finances or rearrange our life-plan, we become less welcoming.
I believe that’s why the “Christmas Jesus”—the sweet, unassuming baby in the manger—is more celebrated than the “Easter Jesus”—the risen Christ who will lay claim to our lives. We want Him as Lord until He issues a challenge we don’t like. We much prefer the quiet Jesus in the corner of our lives who lets us have our way.
That’s not the kind of Lord He is. He’s still about His Father’s business—in perfect wisdom and love offering us the abundant life God has designed for us, then making us fit to receive it. When He dares to step into territory we want to control, will we trust Him and let go?
© Diane McLoud 2014