All Day (Wednesday)
Meditations for Lent By: Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet Courtesy of Sophia Institute Press Week 5: Wednesday The Scribes While he was preaching in the Temple, “the chief priests and the scribes with the elders came up and
Meditations for Lent
By: Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
Courtesy of Sophia Institute Press
Week 5: Wednesday
While he was preaching in the Temple, “the chief priests and the scribes with the elders came up and said to him, ‘Tell us by what authority you do these things’ ” (Luke 20:1-2). While they seemed to be asking chiefly about his authority to teach, the question extended to everything else that Jesus had done. It was as if they had asked him: “By what authority do you enter so solemnly into the Temple? By what authority do you teach? In the name of what power do you chase off the money changers? Only we can give you that authority, but we have not given it to you. Whence does it come?” These are questions that the scribes and priests have a right to ask.
Jesus, however, does not give them any instruction on this point: “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things” (Luke 20:8). Instead, he reveals their bad faith and hypocrisy.
Jesus is so easily understood by those with docile and humble spirits! The Samaritan woman, a sinner, speaks openly to him about the Christ, and he says to her directly: “I who speak to you am he” (John 4:26). “Do you believe in the Son of man?” he asks the man born blind. “Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” “You have seen him, and it is he who speaks to you.” “Lord, I believe,” and he adored him (John 9:35-38). So it is in other places. When he does not respond in this straightforward manner, which is so fitting, it is because the men to whom he is speaking are not worthy.
“By what authority are you doing these things?” (Matt. 21:23). He had already answered them in a similar case. Having said to a paralytic, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven” (Matt. 9:2), which was to do something much greater than he had ever done, and the scribes finding this to be strange, he spoke to them in this way: “Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins,” he said to the man, “Rise, take up your bed and go home” (Matt. 9:5-6). He had, therefore, clearly established his power to forgive sins, which is the greatest power that could be given to a man. There was nothing more to ask him; the only thing to do was to submit. As they could not resolve to do so, they came to him again: “By what authority do you do these things?” (cf. Luke 20:2), as if they had said, “By what power do you heal the sick?” “By what power do you restore sight to the blind?” “By what power do you raise the dead?” It was only too clear that he did these things by the power of God, and only an evil spirit could have prompted them to ask him about matters so evident.
Elsewhere in the same spirit they ask him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly” (John 10:24). To hear them speak so forcibly, you would think that they were in good faith and wanted to know the truth, but the response of Jesus shows that the contrary was the case. You want me to tell you openly who I am, but “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness to me” (John 10:25). They had two witnesses: his word and, what was even stronger, his miracles. The eternal truth, which they poorly consulted, had nothing more to say to them and nothing more to do than to confound them before the people. And we come to the same impasse when we question our own conscience about matters that are already plainly resolved: we are only seeking to trick the world or to trick ourselves. Let us cease to flatter ourselves. Let us stop seeking the expedients that will bring about our ruin. Let us break this dangerous and scandalous commerce by giving back the good we have wrongly acquired. Let us be faithful to the duties of our profession. Let us not retreat before the precepts of the Gospel, and let us certainly not seek the broad way that leads to perdition.