Matthew 21:23-32 (click for full reading)
“Jesus entered the temple courts, and, while he was teaching the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him. “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you this authority?”
Failing the Jesus Quiz
(click on the title above to listen to the sermon)
Jesus offended everyone.
There, I said it. I was trying to figure out how to summarize our gospel reading this week and I believe that little sentence does the trick. Jesus offended everyone.
His chosen disciples were often baffled by Jesus. “Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman… (Jn 4:27)” The crowds seemed to hope that Jesus could lead a rebellion to free them from Roman tyranny. The political leaders had their sights set on Jesus from the day he was born. The religious leaders were threatened by all the attention Jesus was getting, so they decided to challenge his credentials.
You see, eventually, Jesus offends everyone. That includes you and that includes me. It’s one thing to call myself a follower of Jesus, but does he really mean that stuff about praying for my enemies or loving my neighbor like I love myself? Have you seen my enemies? Have you met my neighbors? And why all the talk about money and generosity Jesus? Yes, I am a Christian, but I would like to decide when and where that identity affects what I do with my time and my talents and my money.
So Jesus told a story about two sons. One son did the will of his father and the other son talked a good game but never followed through. Jesus used the story to bug some religious people who were complaining that he hung out with the wrong types and acted like a boss. And then Jesus told those deeply religious people that when they get to heaven, there would be prostitutes in front of them in line. I’m guessing they were offended.
This all happened while Jesus was on his way to the cross. There, he would take all of our best intentions, our selfishness, even our virtues, and die with them. In their place, Jesus will give us forgiveness, grace and new life. That we are expected to actually live out that new life seems to come as a surprise for some reason. We even get offended at times. Which is probably just fine. Sooner or later, Jesus offends everyone.
Questions to Ponder/Discuss
1. Have you always followed through on your good intentions to volunteer or be more generous? What are some of the things that get in the way?
2. Do you know someone who seems to always find a way to donate their time and energy to the causes they support? How are they able to do follow through on their best intentions? (You should ask them!)
3. Is being a follower of Jesus always convenient? How does living out your Christian faith make life more difficult? How does it make life more meaningful?
This week be mindful of any impact your Christian faith has on your life. How does it show up in your schedule? Where does it affect your interactions with others? At the end of the week, ask yourself which sibling you most resemble in the little story Jesus tells in this gospel. If you don’t like the answer, consider taking at least a small step in a new direction.