Posted by: robbiexgibson | 1 April, 2009

The Mystery Defies (Mark 11:27-12:34)

Well, Monday night was kind of hard work! We looked principally at three questions:

1. What was going on?
Way back in Mark 3 we saw the Pharisees and the Herodians starting to plot to kill Jesus, however here we have the impression that they are really looking for ways to put an end to the Jesus story. Little do they know that judgement has already started, as foreshadowed by the fig tree story just before this passage. The religious authorities were obviously scared of his challenge to their monopoly on power through his own quiet authority, although we were encouraged to see the scribe who played the “religious fool”, speaking God’s truth out against a hostile backdrop.

2. Is conflict unavoidable?
The history of the church is filled with conflict, as witnessed by the very existence of so many denominations, each born of a serious conflict. This doesn’t, of course, mean that it is unavoidable, and even less that it is desirable! We moved on to look at situations where we might find ourselves in conflict with (church) authority figures, and considered the hypothetical case of somebody ending up in a leadership position for which they were unqualified. The was (I felt) an unresolved point about minimum standards for leadership roles. The point was justifiably made that it is not up to us to judge, which is true; also, that people can learn a lot through leadership, which is also true; but I would have serious questions about, for example, a bishop who didn’t believe in God, or a priest who denied the resurrection! (I’m staying hypothetical!!) Anyway, we agreed that the approach suggested by Paul to go to the person concerned and to a few elders (sorry, can’t find the reference) was the right way to approach this, especially in a context where we actually know the person concerned.

3. Where does authority come from?
We can see where the world gets its authority: strength, training, elections, etc. There is also something of that in the Christian domain, so that, for example, we would consider someone who has been to Bible school to have more “authoritative” words on the interpretation of scripture – unless it’s a Bible school of the wrong denomination! 😉 However, the ultimate authority comes from being in relationship with God and knowing Him. It is likely to manifest itself in quiet ways rather than imposition (although remember the fig tree and the temple traders). We receive certain authority at baptism (I mean spiritual baptism, not baptism with water) and this should only grow with time.

Lastly we were reminded that authority is stewardship – our point to ponder for this week was to ask ourselves if there is anywhere we are being bad stewards of the authority that God is trying to give us (consider the examples of Jonah, or Moses, for example). For balance, I suppose we should also ask if there is anywhere we have taken authority where we shouldn’t have!



  1. Thanks for this summary Robbie. I suppose Jesus’s authority was closely linked with his calling/vocation. In other words, he was called to enact the judgement upon the Temple system as part of his calling to be the Messiah.

    The question for us might be: are we sure of what God is calling us to right now? Are we ‘stewards’ of that calling and acting upon it faithfully and with the authority that comes with the call?

    To get a bit personal – let’s all move from generalities to application – I can think of a mix of areas where there might be a calling (preaching – ministry at work – to reimagine ways of reaching out to wider society – to name but three). But I don’t feel ‘the fire under my feet’ for one in particular – perhaps I need to seek wisdom in prayer on this.

  2. I’m quite embarrassed about this, but after a bit of lunchtime surfing I found that the three-step approach to conflict resolution referred to in Robbie’s second paragraph is not in Paul’s letters but from Matthew’s Gospel, 18:15-20. Oops..

    On the way, I rediscovered a passage that might help with the “minimum standards” question (Robbie’s first paragraph) – 1 Timothy 3 1-13. This ends on an encouraging note : “Those who do well as deacons will be rewarded with respect from others and will have increased confidence in their faith in Christ Jesus”, which suggests a positive do-loop (or whatever the English translation of boucle d’amplification is). I am expecting Charlotte and Christopher to be on their best behaviour at the next home groups (v4).

    We didn’t mention secular authority but there is a lot of it about at the moment. Is anyone else praying that the G20 will get it right?

    God bless


  3. I wasn’t there on Monday, but Gill, I had Christopher and Charlotte for almost three hours this morning and I wouldn’t get your hopes up for exemplary behaviour next week….! Though I could pretend I asked them to roll around on the forest floor and they were only obeying me 🙂

    In fact I guess I’d say my calling right now is to be a mum, though I confess I’m not prayerful enough about that calling and quite often look for tips on the internet rather than asking for God’s help! I definitely feel “fire under my feet” for this calling though (and sometimes pain in the head!) so I’m challenged to ask God to help me be the best mum I can each day.

  4. Thank you, Robbie, for the clear and complete (!!) write up. I am not sure that I have anything valuable to add here. It seems to me that service is a bit like what I read somewhere about prayer. Just to show up is the first step. I guess I don’t approach this in an intellectual way at all. I just hope to serve and to be open to ‘what I can do’. I am not in charge of it. I aim to do whatever I can where I am.
    This is so drippy and vague. ugh. I am not perfect and sometimes just don’t want to bother, but have learned that that is a kind of death. A separation from God.
    Practically speaking, this means doing as much as one can and not worrying about what is not being done or acheived. Basically I don’t think it is me doing any of it anyway, I am following Him.
    Sorry. This is so drippy. Honestly…

  5. Jenni,

    I am thankful for our roly poly toddlers. I am also thankful for their parents.


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