In today’s first reading from Numbers 24, we meet an interesting character named Balaam. Balaam utters a prophecy. “A star shall advance from Jacob, and staff shall rise from Israel.” Though this is not mentioned in the New Testament anywhere, the Church Fathers believed this to be a Messianic prophecy. The star and that staff are, of course, Jesus.
In the Gospel reading from Matthew 21, the chief priests and the elders ask Jesus, “By what authority are you doing these things? And who gave you this authority?” Now, Jesus was often asked “trick” questions. But this one is not a trick question. Seems pretty straightforward, actually. But Jesus does not give a very straightforward answer. In fact, He doesn’t answer the question at all. Like any good rabbi, He answers their question with a question, this one about the baptism of John. By virtue of the fact that they could not answer Jesus’ question, they showed that they were incapapble of speaking with authority.
Authority is a funny thing. We don’t like to submit to authority. “Question Authority” says the old bumper sticker. We know, of course, that Jesus’ authority came directly from the Father. We must submit to His authority. For if we don’t, then we make ourselves the final authority. And when that is that case, then we become our own god. Dangerous territory, wouldn’t you agree?
Father, teach us to submit to Jesus’ authority, the authority given to Him by You. Amen.