Authority is an interesting concept. If I make truth claims about something then I must back up my claim by some kind of authority. For example, I could claim to be the best artist in the world. In order to prove that claim people would want to see my work. If I don’t have any works to show them then they may laugh and tell me I have no authority to make that claim. But if my art has been sold or used in some famous well known way then I might have some authority to make that claim. If I claim to be an authority on species of birds, I might be able to point to college degrees and past peer reviewed publications to back up my claim to authority. A fascinating down side to authority in our lawsuit crazed society is that if I put on a white coat, earn degrees, and then as a doctor someone gets hurt because I was wrong then my authority that was worked so hard for becomes a snare. For example this NBC News Report. In Italy there was an earthquake that killed hundreds. The experts on earthquakes made authoritative claims that the chance of an earthquake was low. Should these experts be held accountable for being wrong? Here is the main quote from the article.
“an Italian court convicted seven scientists and experts of manslaughter Monday for failing to adequately warn residents before a temblor struck central Italy in 2009 and killed more than 300 people.”
In the aftermath of the convictions other scientists resigned from disaster prediction boards and groups because they do not want to accept the downside of the authority they had claimed. And this is completely reasonable because they claimed an authority to predict earthquakes that is not yet settled. Scientists and “experts” go on broadcast media to make definitive claims that they can’t possibly know for sure all to puff up their credentials, egos, and wallets. I know it may seem shocking but a court finding them liable for not living up to those claims is a reasonable outcome if we accept that their authority is as definitive as they willingly lead the public to believe.
One of the most famous events of the Bible is the moment God speaks to Moses from a burning bush. God asks Moses to go to Egypt and free the Hebrew people. Moses rightfully objects because he has no authority with the Hebrew people. How will he as an outsider walk in and say to everyone come with me? How will he have any authority to speak to the king of Egypt and ask for the Hebrew people to be freed? It is an overwhelming and impossible task to ask of Moses.
13 Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?” Exodus 3:13 ESV
Moses asks God by what name will I come to them? By what authority will I go and make this revolution? Moses rightfully knows that this is not his ambition or his place. He will only be a messenger sent by God.
14 God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’” Exodus 3:14 ESV
There is no greater claim of authority ever in the history of the world than God’s response to Moses in this moment. God tells Moses to tell the people that “I AM” has sent him. God makes the claim that he exists. God also tells us in this name that he has no beginning and that he is beyond the constraints of the start and end of time. What is more God then backs up his claim to being the ultimate authority by delivering the Hebrews out of Egypt through some of the most amazing miracles recorded in all of the Bible.
19 But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless a mighty hand compels him. 20 So I will stretch out my hand and strike the Egyptians with all the wonders that I will perform among them. After that, he will let you go. Exodus 3:19-20 ESV
God told Moses that he exists and God backed up his claim of authority by doing everything he told Moses that he would do to free the Hebrews. But this is not all, there is one more claim of authority that goes along with this burning bush event. Fast forward to the New Testament where the religious Hebrews constantly challenge Jesus because they did not want to accept the authority he claimed (and backed up through miracles). In one of the debates Jesus tells them that the father of faith and the father of all Hebrews Abraham looked forward to the time when God would send Jesus to save the world.
57 “You are not yet fifty years old,” they said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!” 58 “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” John 8:57-58 ESV
Jesus responds to their childish mockery by doubling down. Before Abraham was even born “I am!”. The parallel between God telling Moses that he is “I am” and Jesus now telling everyone that he is “I am” even before the birth of Abraham is a shocking claim of authority. Jesus is claiming to be the same God that spoke to Moses from the burning bush. If there are any doubts to the meaning of what Jesus said look at how the Jews respond to Jesus after he said this.
59 At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds. John 8:59 ESV
Moses was called by God out of a burning push. God’s authority is unquestioned in freeing the Jewish people out of Egypt. Jesus calls out to you dear reader with an authority that no expert, no scientist, no guru, no crystal, and no medium can ever claim. Jesus is God with us. Jesus is God in the flesh. Jesus came to die, to be buried, and to be resurrected so that God and his creation might be restored to fellowship. How will we respond to such an ultimate authority? Now is the time to trust and have faith in, Jesus, the authority that will never fail.