Friends, in today’s Gospel, the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders approach Jesus and ask him, “By what authority are you doing these things?”
The first witnesses of Jesus were astonished by the authority of his speech and his actions. This wasn’t simply because he spoke and acted with conviction and enthusiasm; it was because he refused to play the game that every other rabbi played, tracing his authority finally back to Moses. He went, as it were, over the head of Moses, as he did at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount: “You have heard that it was said . . . but I say . . .”
His listeners knew they were dealing with something qualitatively different than anything else in their religious tradition or experience. They were dealing with the prophet greater than Moses.
And Jesus had to be more than a mere prophet. Why? Because we all have been wounded, indeed our entire world compromised, by a battle that took place at a more fundamental level of existence. The result is the devastation of sin, which we all know too well. Who alone could possibly take it on? A merely human figure? Hardly. What is required is the power and authority of the Creator himself, intent on remaking and saving his world, binding up its wounds, and setting it right.