I sat on the bench at the back of the hall as the names were being read by our headteacher. The time had come for team captains to be announced and I knew I had worked hard, behaved appropriately and been a model pupil. I may not have been popular at school – never interested in sport and ridiculed for unfashionably curly hair – but I knew I had the respect of my teachers. Tears filled my eyes when I discovered that not only had another person been given the honour of leading my team, but it was someone who had made my life miserable. When I later realised how many lunch and break times they had had to miss because they had duties to perform, and when I saw our team defeated on sports day despite our captains best efforts, I knew that I had been saved from the burden that authority brings.
Authority always involves sacrifice.
To step up on the corporate ladder invariably means defeating several other hard working competitors, some of whom may have worked harder but simply not known how to demonstrate their determination. The newly appointed head teacher has to accept that they have lost the ability to sit casually in the staff room without the people they manage feeling at least a little awkward.
Even taking on roles in the wider community comes at a cost. Imagine being asked to lead a core social group at university in your second year, but the catch is that you have to live on campus surrounded by first years while your friends move on to experience life in the city. Imagine being given your first promotion at work, only to discover that your spare time is much reduced by extra paperwork.
Whatever happens, authority costs. It may be time, it may be relationships, it may be experience. Authority costs. And usually, the greater the authority, the greater the cost.
We dream that grappling with science will give us some sense of authority over the world around us, as if we were in control. The failing battle against bacteria – one of the most simple forms of life – is proof enough that our authority over science is worthless. The monetary cost has barely scratched the surface; we are still a long way from having true authority over the world around us.
And authority over death itself? Imagine the cost! Imagine the sacrifice that would be needed! Imagine how much would have to be invested! Surely this is the most valuable of all things. When even science itself fades, to have authority enough to continue life into the realms of eternity. Now that is authority! Surely no man could ever gain that level of authority, unless of course he did something extreme enough for some sort of all powerful being, a benevolent loving creature that wanted us to make the life-eternal discovery so that we could be with him.
But what if that being was real, and having realised that no human could fully grasp that authority, decided to reduce himself to human form so that all of humanity could at least have a chance to make it?
And what if that’s what happened on the cross when Jesus was crucified?
And what if the proof that it worked was his coming back to life?
And what if Jesus was right?
Then surely he made the biggest sacrifice to gain the highest authority…