(Today’s readings.. (Exodus 26), (Psalm 79,80), (Mark 11)
It is necessary for the orderly functioning of life for there to be those in authority to approve and oversee what is to be done. This is essential for the proper functioning of life, but is it so in every case? In particular, is it so with Christianity?
Jesus was the authority until he ascended to heaven. Then the Apostles were given special Holy Spirit powers to exercise authority. An outstanding example was the drama with Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5 v.1-11) who told lies to the Apostles, but Peter said, “You have not lied to men but to God.” [v.4]
Our thoughts on this question arose from today’s reading in Mark 11 where we read, “as he (Jesus) was walking in the temple, the chief priests and the scribes and elders came to him and they said to him, ‘By what authority are you doing these things, or who gave you this authority to do them?” [v.27-28] These men were the bosses, no one was supposed to teach unless they gave them authority, this is one reason why John the Baptist went into the wilderness to preach. It was this exercise of authority that saw the disciples thrown into prison when they taught in the temple (Acts 4 v.1-3) although later, such was the prestige of the Apostles, created by their miracles, that dramatic scenes unfolded. (Acts 5 v.12,13,17-20), but “none of the rest dared join them.”
History shows that as the early believers evolved into large established churches these churches too began to exercise an attitude of authority climaxing in the power of the Pope and the cardinal system. In the Middle Ages, if you were not appointment by church authorities to minister in a church, you had no authority to preach. Some, such as John Bunyan, were put in prison for doing so.
But as we will read at the end of Mark’s Gospel, Jesus said, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptised will be saved …” [16 v.15,16]. That authority is given to everyone, so we all have the responsibility to share our faith. Paul challenges us when he expresses this responsibility in the bluntest terms, “Woe is me if I do not preach the gospel” [1 Cor.9 v.16]