What does it mean to have been given authority by Jesus?
When God first created man and woman, he gave us authority to represent his rule on his behalf on this earth. God wasn’t absent – he walked with his representatives each day, in the cool of the evening. But, he gave humans a particular responsibility, to exercise authority over this part of creation: to name creatures (and, biblically, in naming you are shaping, not responding to, character; not in a totally determinative sense, but to a significant degree: that is why I named my son ‘Noah,’ because in a restless generation, I wanted him to know and to display what it means to ‘rest’ in God); and to act in ways that enabled creation to flourish.
Adam and Eve abdicated that authority to the accuser, under whose influence we still see creation suffer, including at our hands.
In coming, as fully human and fully God, Jesus took back authority; with his resurrection a decisive validation.
But God didn’t say, “Right, I’d better keep hold of this now; we don’t want any more trouble…”
Jesus came to restore God’s original plan, that men and women should exercise authority on earth; men and women who had been liberated from the rule of the accuser. And those who recognise that Jesus has set them free are in a position to exercise that God-given authority within God-given parameters.
So, how are we to respond?
Here’s a scenario that runs around my head. We see someone who is sick, and our heart is moved (with God-given compassion), and we pray, “Lord, please heal this person!” And Jesus replies, “I’ve given my disciples power and authority to heal the sick…and I’ve told you plainly that I want my disciples to heal the sick…and I’ve brought you and this person in need of healing across each other’s paths…join the dots!”
And Jesus’ tone isn’t about making us feel stupid, though there is that familiar exasperation-with-my-disciples to it…
To pray, “Lord, please heal this person!” is to abdicate authority. We do it because we don’t feel worthy: but Jesus has always chosen followers who hadn’t made the cut. To feel unworthy is not the same as humility: feeling unworthy denies the worth God put on us in sending his Son to die in our place. Rather, we should pray, “Lord, help me to exercise the power and authority you have given me more fully, so that your kingdom is extended!”
As agents of God’s kingdom, we have been given a role of participative freedom that, I increasingly suspect, is far bigger than we have realised.
What does it mean to have been given authority by Jesus, in the world I see on the News – a fragile world of the ‘credit crunch,’ hurricanes, fuel and food crises, global warming, displaced peoples? How might we partner with God, with supernatural power as well as natural gifts, to see more of his kingdom transforming our global-local network of communities?
I have more questions than answers, but, I’m sure there must be more than we have seen so far.