In the 1960’s it was popular to “question authority”. Every perceived authority – in some people’s minds – had become subject to scrutiny. They may have said, “by what authority does a city prohibit protest?” Women may have asked, “by what authority must my skirt be a certain length?” Men may have asked, “by what authority must my hair be short?” Soon it was, “by what authority must I follow any law?”
Their challenge to authority grew into a destructive desire to create anarchy which we see today in our government leaders and the legal profession – they knew why – they simply chose to stir things up. Now they are the authorities, and they are much more harsh on anyone who questions their questionable authority than were those who once exercised legitimate authority over them.
But the point is not to question authority for the sake of questioning it. The point is to identify the legitimacy of their authority, and then hold it in check. Is it a legitimate authority or isn’t it? From there one can determine how to proceed in an orderly way – without riots, anarchy or bloodshed.
Jesus was asked by those who claimed religious authority over the Jews, “by what authority are you doing these things and and who gave you the authority to do this?” (Mk. 11:28)
Jesus’ authority was well-established by prophesy – prophesies these Pharisees and teachers should have recognized – and by the valid testimony of John the Baptist. But they were blinded by the power and wealth their authority had given them. And Jesus was a threat.
But Jesus did not defend Himself. He knew that their authority was questionable to the people who suffered under it. Jesus exercised His legitimate authority by exposing the weakness in their own: “Was John’s baptism from heaven or from men? Tell Me!” (Mk. 11:30)
If they had answered, “from heaven”, they’d have to recognize John’s testimony that Jesus’ authority was from God. If they said “from men”, the people who believed John would reject their authority, and they’d lose their power over them. So they said, “We don’t know.” (Mk. 11:33)
In this way, Jesus proved His strong, legitimate authority and exposed their weak and illegitimate authority. Jesus did not create anarchy, He settled the dispute and established God’s authority over all men.
Will you submit to God’s ultimate authority?