John 19:11 Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.”
Authority is a strange thing. God is the ultimate source of every bit of authority, and how we use it can be a grave responsibility. Even in a time of severe persecution Paul wrote, “There is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” (Romans 13:1) That’s one reason fathers and husbands are so important. It has long been noted that our relationship with our biological father greatly colors our relationship with God, who is our heavenly Father. Paul wrote about the authority of the husband/father in the home, in Ephesians 5, but there too we are no more than stewards of God’s authority. In one of the two times it is recorded that Jesus was amazed, a Roman Centurion expressed the whole matter of authority very clearly: “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” (Matthew 8:8-9) We have no authority if we are not under authority, and all of that traces back to God. That’s what Jesus is saying here, even though the authority in question was being used to mistreat him horribly. That’s not to say that we are to be doormats; history is filled with people who served God in defiance of human authority. Peter put a point on that before the Sanhedrin when he said, “We must obey God rather than men!” (Acts 5:29) It was a very big deal indeed when Jesus said, just before rising to heaven, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” (Matthew 28:18) We need to submit to His authority first and foremost, and respond to, and exercise, all other authority in relation to that.
I have always had a somewhat uneasy relationship to authority. I was never particularly rebellious, but I have had a tendency to feel I knew better than whoever it was that had authority over me. Bureaucracy is a major frustration to this day! In its ultimate evil expression, it extends to those who conveyed the orders and kept the records of the Holocaust. We see echoes of that in the “deep state” that is being exposed in America today. However, I recognize their motivation, because when I thought I “knew better,” I wasn’t submitting myself to God, but was rather setting myself up as the authority. At the same time, I have hesitated to exercise authority in the church, and the church has suffered for it. Authority and responsibility are inextricably intertwined. The church belongs to God and Jesus said He would build it, (Matthew 16:18) but He has told me to feed His sheep. (John 21:17) Paul spoke of the authority he had been given to build people up, not tear them down. (2 Corinthians 10:8) I must not run from my responsibility to exercise the authority God has vested in me to feed, guide, and otherwise build up His children, for His glory.
Father, thank You for this reminder. Thank You that my school classes start again today. Help me exercise the authority I have been given over my students to build them up, not tear them down. May I so demonstrate Christ to them that they will be drawn to seek Him themselves, for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!