Jun 27, 2011, 2:06 PM
Authority in the manner he taught distinguished Jesus from the other Rabbis (teachers) of his day. He identified with his authority each time he used the word ‘I’. People in whom authority is invested - whether in the home front, work place or public office - all speak in the first person; ‘I’. You may for one reason or the other disagree with the way the authority is being exercised, but remember that authority is God-given.
Abuse of authority
It is another matter how the authority entrusted us is dispensed, how we exercise it or what we end up doing with it. Are you exercising authority with a whip, with harsh words, with temper, with hatred and contempt of those over whom you have authority? Jesus used his for good as we have seen and shall see. By taking the Law one step further, he did not only seek to edify his avid audience but sought to remove the hypocrisy out of the so-called leaders that misused their authority and in so doing “…shut the kingdom of God in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.” (Matthew 23:13)
When authorities behave this way, they only succeed in putting obstacles in the way of those they are called to lead. Jesus did not take kindly to that, because in so doing that trust, confidence and authority is betrayed. Authority is meant to be used for good. “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel overland and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.” (Matthew 23:15) It is sad that our veiled intentions and obscure deeds, packaged to deceive, are revealed in broad daylight by the kind of results we obtain. Our misplaced enthusiasm does not take us very far as every false move, every attempt to frustrate the people we are meant to lead comes to naught and is brought to light.
Jesus did not mince words at the corrupt practices of those who exercised authority over others. He openly condemned their deception and pretence. Does this hit home? Do you feel like a target? Is Jesus evaluating your kind of leadership? It would depend on how real and sincere you are. Here is a fitting evaluation Jesus made of the Pharisees, Sadducees and Scribes of his day. “You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.” (Matthew 23:25) “You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside, but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean.” (Matthew 23:27)
Authority is service
By his style of leadership, our Lord Jesus sets the standards for people in authority. He taught and demonstrated that, in essence, authority is not the art of inflicting pain and hardship on others. That is the trademark of unbelievers who have no fear of God in them. “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them (their subjects), and those who exercise authority over them call themselves benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest amongst you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves.” (Luke 22:25-26) Authority is humility and fair treatment of those under your authority, not pride and pomp. When we exercise true authority we cannot but put others first and ourselves last.
Deception was the name of the game, and that was how the religious authorities in Jesus’ day behaved. Misleading, deception, exploitation of the masses – the poor - were some of the major traits that characterised leadership during Jesus’ day. “Everything they do is done for men to see…they love the place of honour at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted in the market places and to have men call them rabbi.” (Matthew 23:5-7) Self-esteem, a false notion of oneself will take us no where.
It was easy then for the people to see a marked difference in the way Jesus used his authority. How we use our authority impacts on the people we use it on. Used wrongly we abuse them, used rightly we uplift them to their real values as children of God. “How will you escape being condemned to hell?” (Matthew 23:33) For the wrongful use of authority Jesus lashed at them. That was his conclusive evaluation. In other words, your style of leadership will only buy you a ticket to hell.
Authority to forgive sins
Once four desperate men brought their ailing and moribund friend to Jesus but there was such a large crowd at that gathering – with the Pharisees, Sadducees and Scribes occupying the front seats - that access became difficult. They would not let up, so they found an awkward but ingenious way of reaching Jesus. Yes, they decided to strip open the roof of Jesus’ host and let their friend down, exactly at Jesus’ feet. They were so certain he could do something for their friend by restoring his health that nothing would stop them. When Jesus saw the faith they displayed, He said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” (Mark 2:10)
How could Jesus talk like that the teachers of the law muttered to themselves! Who can forgive sins but God? Jesus ‘read their minds’ as we say in everyday jargon. He said to them. “Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier; to say to the paralytic; ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take up your mat and walk?’ But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins…’ He said to the paralytic, ‘I tell you, get up, take up your mat and go home.’ He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!” (Mark 2:8-12)
Jesus exercised his authority in the first person and he did so over sin and sickness. He is ‘the same yesterday and today and forever.’ (Hebrews 13:8) True, he has not changed. At the name of Jesus “every knee should bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:10-11)