When I got a little sassy as a child, my mom might ask me, “Who do you think you are?” When I was really young and didn’t get what she was really asking, I was a bit confused. “Mom doesn’t know who I am?” As I got older I realized that she was reminding me that she was the person who held authority over me, and not the other way around. We like to tell people who we think we are. As a writer, I am beginning the process of selling not only my book, but me. A publisher invited me to submit a query to them, and their submission form had a breath of fresh air: “PLEASE DO NOT INCLUDE ANY PERSONAL WRITING CREDENTIALS, AWARDS, REVIEWS, OR PROMOTIONAL LINKS.” They said that because in their philosophy, if you can write a good story, all the awards and credentials mean nothing – and if you can’t, they mean the same thing.
Some people need an authority for everything. Try writing a doctoral dissertation without showing where you got the information – and it better have come from an authoritative source. As a writer, I am more willing to take advice from a person who has published and won awards than from some guy sitting in a coffee shop who reads a few lines over my shoulder. The Pharisees were big on authority. Any teaching was buttressed with the words and sayings of great teachers who had gone before. Then came Jesus who taught as if He was the authority. So, they called Him out. “Jesus entered the temple courts, and, while he was teaching, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him. ‘By what authority are you doing these things?’ they asked. ‘And who gave you this authority?’ (Matthew 21:23)
The Pharisees probably thought they had caught Jesus on this question. He didn’t quote the authorities of the past. He had no teacher who backed Him up and supported Him. They must have wondered what He was going to say. If He said from God, right there in the Temple, they would catch Him on blasphemy. Jesus didn’t answer their question, He asked His own. “Tell me about John. Where did his baptism come from?” The wheels turned. They knew that if they said from God, Jesus would call them on their hypocrisy for not believing. They also knew that if they said it was man made, the people would rebel since they believed him to be a prophet. So they punted. “We don’t know.” Jesus must have shaken His head and laughed at them. Then He said, (my paraphrase) “If you can’t figure that out, it’s no wonder you can’t figure out My authority.”
There are a lot of people today who might ask Jesus the modern-day version of that question; “Who do you think you are? How do you get off trying to tell me what to do?” Jesus showed up the Pharisees, who were the religious authorities of His day. In a world that thinks that God doesn’t exist, sharing His love can cause those kinds of reactions. Our authority is our desire – we will do whatever our desire leads us to do. If the word of God is contrary to what we want to do, then our authority is our experience. If the word of God lends support in places to what we want to do, we will ignore the authority of all of Scripture and just focus on the Scripture that supports our beliefs. What authority governs your life? Is it your desires? Or a desire to follow God? As much as many people claim to reject authority, especially the authority of God in their lives, that rejection is a symptom of following another authority; one that won’t work out in the long run. So to those who would live by their own authority or any authority other than the authority of Jesus, remember what He did to gain His authority for all mankind: He went to the cross and died so that we might be forgiven and fellowship with God forever.
Oh Lord, I so want to do things my own way. Help me to learn to live under Your authority.