4th week of Epiphany

Last time I discussed the significance of two events: Epiphany and the Baptism of Christ. Both these events bring us not only into the people of God but into the family of God. And as adopted sons and daughters in the family of God, we have a different way of living. To take one example, we have a different understanding of authority. This is the subject of our talk today.

The first thing to understand is that authority is inescapable. People will use authority rightly or wrongly, but we can’t avoid having people in positions of authority. In the same way, people can submit to authority rightly or wrongly, or submit to good or bad authorities, but they will always be submitting to some kind of authority. This is because God built authority into the world, and by right of being the Creator, He is the ultimate and highest authority in it. We, however, as fallen sinners, don’t usually like authority, denying it, misusing it, or rebelling against it.  

Jesus came to restore true authority. After having risen from the dead and before ascending into heaven, Jesus tells his disciples: “And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go [a]therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” [b]Amen.”

(That “making disciples” bit is what we’re doing here, by the way.) Jesus models for us what true authority looks like. Even though he’s the “King of Kings,” he serves others. He is also not ruled by bad authorities, either from those who claim false authority (Herod, Pilot, pharisees, etc.) or even from his own passions.

What if someone says, “Nobody rules me. I do whatever I want. I am the master of fate and the maker of my destiny. I am invincible!”? What if a child throws a fit and shrieks and convulses on the ground because their authority was canceled out by their parents’ authority? What if a toddler won’t listen to his teacher? What if a high school student huffs and puffs and argues with her parents because they can’t go to the party or event everyone else is going to? What if the state makes a law that infringes on the rights of its citizens?

In each of these cases, we see how sin is either a misuse of authority or a rebellion against it. We are born knowing how to grab things that aren’t ours, bonking our neighbor of the head if we don’t get the toy that was “ours.” And we are born submitting to our sense of authority. In the examples above, we see that our desires, passions, “affections” can be just as bad as other external masters. In other words, we can submit to our bad desires and be held captive by our emotions.  

Freeing us from the tyranny of our bad desires and passions is what school is supposed to be about. We cultivate habits and desires that receives right authority, respects that authority, and does not submit to the tyrants in the external world (bullies) or to the tyrants inside our hearts (sinful desires). This is actually the true purpose of education, and the mental exercises of knowledge and skill in each varying subject (Maths, Grammar, Latin, etc.) are designed to serve that end: to be truly free. So says our Lord: veritas vos liberabit, and “the Truth shall set you free.”