1 One day as Jesus was teaching the people in the temple courts and proclaiming the good news, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, together with the elders, came up to him. 2 “Tell us by what authority you are doing these things,” they said. “Who gave you this authority?” (Luke 20)In our world, authority only comes two ways: a) someone takes it or b) people agree to give it. Every generation struggles with the question of legitimate authority. Even today, we are in the midst of an “authority crisis.” Have you ever used “Wikipedia” online? Imagine the ability to search every encyclopedia in the public library for a topic and getting results in seconds.
Some teachers discourage the use of Wikipedia because it does not carry the “authority” of Websters, World Book, Groliers, etc. The authority of Wikipedia comes from the millions of users who not only search for entries, but contribute to the knowledge base through both addition and deletion of content. Authority is no longer isolated and concentrated, or protected.
Even in the news lately, we are troubled by the news about "WikiLeaks," essentially a “wiki” site for information leaks around the world. Leadership can no longer operate behind a wall of separation between themselves and the people. Authority is no longer isolated and concentrated, or protected. We began a movement toward democracy over 200 years ago, but we are still moving closer toward it today.
It can be scary to live in a time of uncertainty and questionable authority. We value autonomy, but we also search for guidance and wisdom in "authority." The same was true in Jesus' day. On Christmas, this humble baby was born that would shake the idea of authority in his world. The Roman political leaders and Jewish religious establishment had cornered the market on authority, but this authority was far from legitimate, especially when they tried to dismiss the wisdom of Jesus.
Authority today increasingly resides in the hands of the masses, the populace of the world. From rise of democracy in the governments of the world to free-flowing information on the internet, the sources of authority are moving from the few to the many. But the question of whether authority belongs in the hands of the institution or the individual is irrelevant and misses the point. The masses are just as prone as the elite to abuse of power, freedom, and authority. Whether human authority is in the hands of the many or of the few, we still face the danger of dismissing the Son of God.
We are in a new age of change and uncertainty, once again searching for authority in our world. In this age of diffused authority may we remember that hope for humanity was born on Christmas day.