One day, as Jesus was teaching the people in the temple and preaching the gospel, the chief priests and the scribes with the elders came up and said to him, “Tell us by what authority you do these things, or who it is that gave you this authority.” He answered them, “I also will ask you a question. Now tell me, was the baptism of John from heaven or from man?” And they discussed it with one another, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From man,’ all the people will stone us to death, for they are convinced that John was a prophet.” So they answered that they did not know where it came from. And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”
There are people who think the uniform give them authority, whether it's folks serving in the police force of folks serving in the church. Some folks like to use their authority to push other people around and get control. My experience is that true authority is visible and humble, the marks of one who is more ready to serve than scream, more ready to bend than bully. I think of Bishop Tutu and his extraordinary laugh, self-deprecating and humble, small in stature and a giant in authority from God.
As the buzz around Jesus grows the religious authorities get more anxious. They massed a group of their biggest leaders to question him. They wanted to intimidate. Instead they found themselves questioning themselves and being rebuffed by a few simple questions. Their strong arm act of intimidation was met with a simple question and their tactics folded in on themselves. Any time we try to muscle others, gain control for the ourselves, or think our human constructs of authority are best, God finds a way to undo them. We are invited by God today to avoid all aggressive authority in ourselves and others, and instead, offer ourselves humbly before God. For God is ready and willing to give us what we need to face the day.
Today, I ask God to help me be always humble and to not wield authority as an hammer but instead to offer it for the good of all. May we all not spend our day trying to control, but rather, setting others free. May we offer our knowledge, gifts and skills at God's feet, understanding that all good gifts come from God alone. May this day be a day of great joy as we step aside from all aggression and sit with the meek and lowly, where God does truly dwell.