Today we will look at Luke 19:45-20:8
19:45 Then Jesus entered the temple courts and began to drive out those who were selling things there, 46saying to them, “It is written, ‘My house will be a house of prayer,’ but you have turned it into a den of robbers!”
47Jesus was teaching daily in the temple courts. The chief priests and the experts in the law and the prominent leaders among the people were seeking to assassinate him, 48but they could not find a way to do it, for all the people hung on his words.
20:1 Now one day, as Jesus was teaching the people in the temple courts and proclaiming the gospel, the chief priests and the experts in the law with the elders came up 2and said to him, “Tell us: By what authority are you doing these things? Or who is it who gave you this authority?” 3He answered them, “I will also ask you a question, and you tell me: 4John’s baptism – was it from heaven or from people?” 5So they discussed it with one another, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why did you not believe him?’ 6But if we say, ‘From people,’ all the people will stone us, because they are convinced that John was a prophet.” 7So they replied that they did not know where it came from. 8Then Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by whose authority I do these things.”
By who’s authority? Readers of the Gospel will know that Jesus has the authority of his Father, the chief priests, experts in the law and the elders did not know or more likely were unwilling to know, that Jesus is in fact God. He judged those who were selling things (probably at exorbitant prices) for worship in God’s house and drove them out and they were upset and demanded to know who gave him the right. Jesus was acting on behalf of the Father. The Father was judging those in the temple through Jesus.
There are some things in the life of the Lutheran church that those from other Christian traditions question. One is when I forgive the sins of those gathered who have confessed their sin before God and others, but the bigger one is over our understanding of the sacraments. Some see Baptism as something we do. A confession of faith with a symbolic washing, an opportunity for someone to share their faith publicly. We see it as much more than that, and something God does. When John performed a baptism, he was doing so on behalf of God. He was doing so by God’s authority that had been given to him to perform those baptisms. By giving his authority to John, God was in-fact doing them himself.
When I act as dean of our Mission District, I act on behalf of the bishop. When I act according to his will as he has directed me to do, then it is as if he is doing it himself because I act under his authority. When I baptize, I do so under the authority of Christ who authorised and commanded me to do so. I do not do it, but Christ does it through me by his authority. God is the actor in the sacraments. We do things as he commanded and he keeps the promises that he has made that are tied to them. We say that God saves through baptism. I cannot save anyone. God does the saving because he has promised to in his word. It is God’s word that gives us the assurance of what the promises are and that he keeps them.
This is perhaps one healing point on our differences of understanding the sacrament. When we baptise, we are both confessing our faith. We both confess our trust in God and the promises he made to us in scripture. We both confess that Jesus saves us through faith in him. There are other more challenging differences of course, but we both celebrate the promises God has made to us.
Perhaps that is enough for me to get beyond myself and open up the dialogue with my brothers and sisters in Christ who understand things differently. I hope it is enough to save me from having the hard heart of the chief priests, experts in the law and the elders and open my eyes and ears to hear and recognise Christ for who he is and his authority to do what he says he will do.