As a first-born, I’m not the most rebellious person you’ll ever meet. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t know how to buck authority when I thought it was justified.
Indeed, isn’t that the problem with people like me: we think we know it all, so we don’t NEED authority?
Regardless of our birth order (or any other excuse we might conjure up), we all have that authority figure we find it hard to submit to at some time or another.
- That Department of Motor Vehicles that should ask you how to improve their customer service.
- The highway patrolman who doesn’t know that you really do have permission to ride in the HOV lane b/c you feel like it.
- The librarian who lost that book you supposedly returned on time.
- The cashier who counts your items to see just how many over 10 you have.
Yes … we love to buck authority.
And we particularly love to buck authority in areas where we are certain that we ARE the authority.
This is one of the reasons why the religious leaders and teachers of Jesus’ day had a hard time accepting Jesus’ authority. THEY were supposed to be the authority. But to show them just how wrong they were, and just how tragic their error was, Jesus told them this parable in Matthew 21:33-46.
There was a master of a house who planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a winepress in it and built a tower and leased it to tenants, and went into another country. 34 When the season for fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to get his fruit. 35 And the tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. 36 Again he sent other servants, more than the first. And they did the same to them. 37 Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 38 But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.’ 39 And they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. 40 When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” 41 They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.”
42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:
“ ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing,and it is marvelous in our eyes’?
43 Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits. 44 And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.”
45 When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that he was speaking about them. 46 And although they were seeking to arrest him, they feared the crowds, because they held him to be a prophet.
The allegorical references are clear and striking. The landowner who planted a vineyard is God. The vineyard is Israel. The tenants are the religious leaders of the nation. The messengers (servants) are the succession of prophets whom God has sent to them. Last of all he sends his son, an indirect self-reference to Jesus.
And the point is as clear as the allegories: those who think they are in authority and reject the true authority will themselves be rejected.
It’s absolutely frightening to me that Jesus’ authority was never questioned by Satan or demons or other blatantly evil beings, but WAS questioned and challenged by the most biblically grounded, respected, holy people known to man. It’s a parable that, while specifically addressing Israel and her leaders, in turn challenges me to look inward for those areas in my life where I’m questioning Jesus’ authority over them. In my heart of hearts, I often prefer a love-hate relationship with Jesus’ authority.
- I love His authority over my eternal salvation, but I loathe it over my finances.
- I love His authority when He tells me to get married, but I struggle with His authority when He tells me how to actually BE married.
- I love His authority when He delivers me from my enemies, but I squirm with His authority when He tells me to love my enemies.
And so it goes: a love-hate relationship with Jesus’ authority.
But Jesus’ authority cannot be challenged.
It can … and will … only be submitted to.
The only question is whether it will be done joyfully or begrudgingly.