Real authority

But Jesus came to serve

Mark 1:22 The people were amazed at Jesus’s teaching, for he taught with real authority, quite unlike the teachers of religious law.

Mark 10:42-45 Jesus called his disciples together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant … for even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Philippians 2:5-7, 14 You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. … Live clean, innocent lives as children of God.

One of my favorite books when I was a child was The Scarlet Pimpernel, published in 1905 by Baroness Orczy. I loved the fact that Sir Percy led a double life, apparently a wealthy fop, but secretly risking his life to save others. The ridicule Percy experienced actually protected him–no one suspected he could be the one carrying out amazing heroic deeds. Orczy wrote this long before Marvel popularized the idea of a superhero who seemed a mild-mannered, ineffectual, or unremarkable person. In fact–just after writing that–I read on Wikipedia that Stan Lee, the Marvel co-creator, read The Scarlet Pimpernel as a boy and has called Sir Percy the first character who could be called a superhero.

I’m not sure I can agree with Stan Lee, and you probably anticipate what I’m going to say. The Gospels show us members of Jesus’s family and his neighbors not thinking there was anything special about Jesus. He was looked down on for his humble place in society, for coming from a nothing place (“Can anything good come from Nazareth?”), for not having wealth or credentials or position. He was killed like a common criminal.

Yet Jesus’s words and acts as a teacher, a healer, a servant, and a redeemer have impacted the world, transforming lives, for two thousand years.

In the current film series “The Chosen,” early episodes show us Jesus playing with children. In the episode about Jesus healing the paralytic let down through the roof, kids watch the spectacle from another roof nearby. OCD Matthew awkwardly climbs up beside them and starts to tell the children who Jesus is. “We know him,” they nod, startling Matthew. We can imagine Matthew’s churning thoughts: Who is this man?

By Allen Hogan. I couldn’t find one of the kids on the wall with Matthew.

Real authority comes not from words alone, but from deeds and attitudes that match the words, done not to garner attention but out of love. It’s called integrity. Some of integrity’s fruits are safety and trustworthiness. I love this passage from Henri Nouwen’s little book, The Inner Voice of Love (pages 49 and 50):

A part of you was left behind very early in your life … it is full of fears. Meanwhile, you grew up with many survival skills. But you want your self to be one. So you have to bring home the part of you that was left behind. That is not easy, because you have become quite a formidable person, and your fearful part does not know if it can safely dwell with you. … Jesus dwells in your fearful, never fully received self. Where you are most human, most yourself, weakest, there Jesus lives. Bringing your fearful self home is bringing Jesus home. As long as your vulnerable self does not feel welcomed by you, it keeps so distant that it cannot show you its true beauty and wisdom. Thus, you survive without truly living. … When you become more childlike, your small, fearful self will no longer feel the need to dwell elsewhere. It will begin to look to you as home. Be patient … Gradually you will become one, and you will find that Jesus is living in your heart and offering you all you need.

Nothing enchants me more than discovering quiet integrity. It’s as thrilling now in real life as it was for me through fiction as a child. And no one embodies this more than Jesus, loving us in the past, the present, and the future.

This is an old song with a still-relevant message.

2 thoughts on “Real authority

  1. Yes. The book showed up at my house; I have no idea who sent it to me. I’m reading it bit by bit; really appreciating it.


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