Authority is important.
It might get a bad rap from time to time. There will be aspects of it that rub people up the wrong way from time to time, but the concept of authority itself isn’t a bad one. It’s meant to be a very liberating one – we know where you’re coming from, we know what you’re able to do, there’s scope and freedom to be everything the author has enabled you to be. That’s fairly clear.
Where it becomes murky is when we fail to acknowledge true authority. Luke chapter 20 has written across it a question of authority. The religious authorities of the day are unnerved by the audacity of Jesus. His words, his acts, his demeanour have all proved to be a challenge to them overtly and implicitly. They want to know who gave him permission, who has authorised him to be the way he is. Jesus agrees to answer their question if they answer his.He takes up the authority baton and asks about the guy that prepared the way for him – John. When they recognise that they’re in a trap, the religious authorities cop out and say they don’t know.
The parable Jesus presents afterwards, however, actually goes to identify who exactly has authorised him. Not only who has given him authority, but how that same authority had given those religious authorities their status. Not only how that authority had given them their status, but how historically that status had been used to disrespect the authority by abusing the servants that authority has sent, even to the point of killing the son of the authority. It was clear who Jesus was talking about, even the religious authorities could take the hint.
Persisting, however, they look to chip away at his appeal and his authority by bringing up the issue of authority through the question of taxes. Jesus still puts it back to referring to the true authority. After addressing a question about resurrection with those who don’t accept the authority in that situation anyway, Jesus presses the matter of authority further by referring to authority again in scripture as to King David referring to one lord speaking to another Lord and what that could possibly imply.
He rounds it off, however, by giving a stern warning to watch out for those put in a position of authority and responsibility who abuse it. There’s a significant contrast between an enabling authority that gives you permission to cultivate a fruitful garden and a disabling authority that seeks to suck the life out of those who are given to their care.
True authority does not disable – it enables. That might pose a threat to those who aspire to wield some degree of authority, but when you know who the true author and finisher of your faith is, that can embolden you to do what you’ve been given the authority to do.
For His Name’s Sake
C. L. J. Dryden