Jesus had a busy day at the office on the Monday after his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. I mean, he did work, son. He cursed fig trees, he ran the chief priests in circles after they questioned his authority, he told a bunch of parables, he debated the Pharisees and, depending on how you read the order of events in the gospel accounts, he even kicked a bunch of people out of the temple (see Matthew 21:18-22:46 and Mark 11:12-19).
In all of the things that Jesus did and said on Holy Monday, one constant theme through all of it is that of authority. Yes, Jesus’ authority is on display — in cursing the fig tree, in cleansing the temple, in the debates with the religious elites — but our authority is also being addressed.
Authority is about the use of power. As image bearers of God, this means that power should be used to bring flourishing, to bring good. We are image bearers because God has given us authority (Genesis 1:26-30). When we express authority in creative, God-honoring and life-bringing ways, we mirror the divine.
(Quick aside: This is why we love filling out NCAA Tournament brackets, by the way. It’s an expression of authority! We’re making sense out of chaos! We’re ordering the world! We’re being creative! And it feels so fulfilling! Until Michigan State loses in the first round. Oops.)
So, when Jesus curses a fig tree, when he drives people of out the temple, when he answers (or refuses to answer questions) about his authority, when he shares parables about stewardship, he is showing us what he wants from our expressions of power and authority.
“Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits. . . . When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that he was speaking about them” (Matthew 21:43).
Jesus’ primary problem with the Jews and the Jewish religious leaders of his day was their misuse of the authority that had been given them. They had been bad tenants. They had been fruitless fig trees. That’s why Jesus told them that he was going to take away the kingdom from them.
And he took it away by dying on the cross. By giving up his authority.
The One who has all power and authority (Ephesians 1:19-23) gave it all up to bring life and flourishing to all who believe in him.
What’s more amazing? That Jesus laid down his authority to make us righteous, or that Jesus laid down his authority in order to redeem our authority as his image-bearers?
“If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
If we endure, we will also reign with him . . .” (2 Timothy 2:11-12)
Jesus is looking for people to bear fruit by bearing his image as ones with authority. He is looking forward to the day when “we also reign with him.” This indeed “is marvelous” (Matthew 21:42).
Your authority matters. Your use of power matters. Your misuse of authority grieves your Creator’s heart. Thankfully, in Jesus’ demonstration of power on Holy Monday and his surrendering of power on Good Friday, we have been given not only an example to follow but the means and motivations to do so.
Watch this 18-minute talk from Andy Crouch about the Bible's directives for demonstrating authority and what goes wrong when we misuse our power.