“Is it steady or moving astern?” the captain called out.
The lookout replied, “Steady, Captain,” which meant they were on a dangerous collision course...
The captain gave orders, “Signal that ship: ‘We are on a collision course, advise you change course twenty degrees.’“
Back came the signal: “Advisable for you to change course twenty degrees.”
The captain said, “Send: “I’m a captain, change course twenty degrees.’“
“I’m a seaman second-class,” came the reply. “You had better change course twenty degrees.”
By that time the captain was furious, “Send: ‘I’m a battleship. Change course twenty degrees.’”
Back came the flashing light, “I’m a lighthouse.”
The captain changed course.
Authority is a battle: some people want the government to have less authority, some more ~ more laws, less laws, tell society what to do, don’t tell society what to do. Children try to find the limits of authority of parents. My 2 year old grandson is willing to fight to the death over the right cup color. Students/teachers. Boss/worker.
It is sad when those in authority abuse their powers, decades of scandals in the church almost all having to do with going beyond their authority, boss’s taking advantage of workers, parents dehumanizing children, anyone in position of power becoming greedy for more.
Everyone has authority at some level. The wise person knows the bounds of their authority and lives within the limits. A few years ago I was in a community meeting including Mark Johnson. When it came time for Mark to introduce himself he said, “I’m the superintendant of the Nooksack School District. Some people think I have more authority than I really do.” I can relate to that. A lot of the world wants me to have more authority as they will tell me the church needs to do this or that thinking all I have to do is wave my hand and magic happens.
Authority. You will find peace and contentment as you learn to trust true and good authority in your life. Some authorities are optional, but you must still choose to find peace: if you want to lose weight, there are at least a dozen major diet plans: which one do you adopt? If you are told you have cancer, lots of people will have opinions as to how to conquer the disease, but who do you trust? You’ll find peace at work when you learn to let the boss be the boss and respect the chain of command. If you are having relationship problems with your spouse, your kids/parents, friends or if you are feeling depressed or thoughts of suicide, what counselor/friend do you trust to advise you…
Those in position of authority need to know the limits of their authority….
When Christian Herter was governor of Massachusetts, he was running for a second term in office. One day, after a busy morning chasing votes (and no lunch) he arrived at a church barbecue. It was late afternoon and Herter was famished. As Herter moved down the serving line, he held out his plate to the woman serving chicken. She put a piece on his plate and turned to the next person in line. “Excuse me,” Governor Herter said, “do you mind if I have another piece of chicken?”
“Sorry,” the woman told him. “I’m supposed to give one piece of chicken to each person.”
“But I’m starved,” the governor said.
“Sorry,” the woman said again. “Only one to a customer.”
Governor Herter was a modest and unassuming man, but he decided that this time he would throw a little weight around. “Do you know who I am?” he said. “I am the governor of this state.”
“Do you know who I am?” the woman said. “I’m the lady in charge of the chicken. Move along, mister.”
That reminds me of a story Bill Hybels told about himself… pastor of Willow Creek at the time, a church of about 20,000… He had to make a quick stop at one of the buildings on campus so he parked in a no parking zone… the next day the janitor came to him and said he saw what he had done and told him he didn’t appreciate that he had violated the rules. If you make yourself an exception, how can I teach others to not park there too? When you are in a position of authority, people are watching and will take cues from you… abusive, overstep, self serving….
The Bible verses today are about the authority of Jesus Christ. Authority is a huge part of defining who we are, how our lives are shaped, the level of peace/satisfaction that we attain. The level of authority we choose to give to Christ is the level of our commitment to serving him. I started preaching through Luke seven years ago! One chapter at a time with many series inbetween. We are now at Luke 20…This is a chapter of questions, many having to do with authority and submission. The religious leaders are convinced Jesus has overstepped the bounds of his authority. How much authority do you place in Jesus Christ in your life?
The timing of this interchange of the authority of Jesus being challenged by the chief priests, teachers and elders is important: this is the beginning of the end of Jesus life on earth. Days earlier Jesus had cleared the temple to restore the purpose of prayer and teaching and so that gentiles could gather in the courts of the temple…. Listen to the set up for today’s scripture from Luke 19:47-48 READ. These leaders are trying desperately to hold on to their own authority…(that sure isn’t my nature/style…). They are going beyond the limits of their authority/abusive. They are threatened by Jesus. They think they have a corner on the market of spirituality and truth. They think they have superior understanding and greater practices of faith. They are willing to blot out that which threatens them. They see the common people giving authority to Jesus “all the people hung on his words” …. this is still the question we must answer: What authority does Jesus Christ have in my life?
Maybe it bothers you that in the scripture for today Jesus does not give a straightforward answer about his authority READ Luke 20:8. If it bothers you too much, maybe you haven’t fully answered the question! Some background to this scripture:
JESUS CHRIST HAS ULTIMATE AUTHORITY. No person apart from Christ can make such a claim. We all have some limited authority… if somebody questions me about my decisions, what I know, I try to be realistic ~ “I’m the chicken lady.” I have authority within the limits of this box… Jesus Christ has ultimate authority. No limits. Jesus shows his authority with his life, with his teaching, his miracles, his love and compassion. He lives a perfect life and becomes the perfect sacrifice for sins. The people in the temple courtyard at the end of Luke 19 are already answering the question in a way the religious leaders don’t like: He is an authority in what he teaches, in driving away the abuses of the temple…. The story of Jesus told by Luke in this gospel testifies of his miraculous nature beginning with the virgin birth, the testimony of John the Baptist, the prophecies of the O.T., the promise of salvation through Jesus’ family tree, his searching for the lost, his lifting up the powerless, his affirmation of the weak, his healing of the lepers, his focus on prayer…. JESUS CHRIST HAS ULTIMATE AUTHORITY.
Many people think as they read Luke 20:1-8 is that Jesus gives a clever answer to the religious leaders. Rather than answering the question about the source of his authority he chose to answer with a question: “Was the authority of John the Baptist human or divine?” The answer to his question would answer their question. John was the forerunner of Jesus that announced the Messiah of God was now among them, as he pointed to Jesus… If the religious leaders agreed John’s authority was divine that would mean Jesus was the Messiah because that is what John said… they found themselves on the horns of a dilemma ~ Jesus exposed their duplicity…. If they answered no then the people would think even less than them…. They thought being wishy washy was the better answer! Have you ever noticed how wishy washy the world is right now….inconsistencies… Sometimes I wonder if anyone thinks anything through… sigh…
The reason Jesus does not answer the question directly is because he doesn’t need to argue to lift himself up: his life testifies to who he is… When the religious leaders ask in Luke 20:2, “Tell us by what authority you are doing these things,” by not answering the question directly Jesus is saying, “The question is for you to answer.”
Years ago in my late teen I guided a few groups up Mt. Baker. I had gone many times with my father. On one particular trip there were 7-8 guys, all older than me, probably in their 50’s and up…. They were all inexperienced. I was the leader. A week before, a man had fallen in a crevasse near the place where the tents were set up. He was wedged against the ice and later died from hypothermia. I told these guys the story. I pointed to the crevasse. I told them about climbing safety. We went up to the top. We made the long trudge back to the tents. Everyone was doing great, until we came to the final descent where you can see at the bottom of the slope the colorful tents the size of ants….
The temptation was too great. Everyone was tired. There was a mass rebellion against the authority (me) as they took off their ropes, rummaged through their packs for something slippery, and swooshed down the hill. A mere 18 years old, I was helpless to stop them. Nobody fell in a crevasse. Everyone made it to the tents safe. But they were wrong. A man had just died a week earlier in that very place. But they chose not to listen.
JESUS CHRIST HAS ULTIMATE AUTHORITY. Do you believe it? Do you listen to Him? My authority is always limited, a shadow of the authority of Christ. Man’s authority is always open to abuse. But not Christ. One of the major lessons of the Bible is that Jesus Christ has no limits in his authority. Listen to Hebrews 1:1-4 READ. The rest of Hebrews is about the relationship of Jesus to humanity… his authority, our needs, the trust we give him… another powerful scripture Col. 1:15-20. READ.
In Luke 20:8 the reason the question of Jesus authority is left open ended is because the question needs to be answered by you and me. Jesus has all authority but he does not force people to accept it. If you choose to jump out of an airplane without a parachute thinking you can land safely on your own, good luck. Jesus has all authority, all wisdom, all power, only he can save, only he is righteous, he is above all ~~// but he does not force people to accept him. You have a choice. You can rebel. Argue. Run. Try navigating through life by your own wisdom. Jesus wants true disciples which means you must answer the question and determine how much authority you recognize in Jesus Christ. The truth is that everyone gives an answer. Being wishy washy is an answer.
Choose Christ. Give Him the place of ultimate authority in your life. Learn to let go of your own desires, patterns and let Christ rule in your heart. To Him be glory and honor and praise. Amen.