Chances are, if you’ve been in the working world for very long, you’ve run across a boss or supervisor that you don’t think of with fondness. There might be all kinds of reasons for this – perhaps that authority had an abrasive personality. Maybe she was arrogant about her intelligence or accomplishments. Perhaps he was a micromanager who would periodically interject himself into projects or assignments only to criticize.
Or perhaps your negative experience with this particular boss was because he or she was simply aloof. This person wore their authority with great seriousness in the sense that they were never shy about issuing orders, setting deadlines, and demanding status reports. They wanted to see the results, and gave assignments accordingly, but never involved themselves with the day to day operations of what it actually took to achieve those results.
Part of that is the nature of authority. A person in authority has the right (and even the responsibility) to set direction and tell you what to do. They can set expectations for your performance. They can issue orders and demand they be followed. They can do this because, whether right or not, they have the authority to do so. And there is no greater authority than Jesus.
Jesus can set whatever expectations He wants. He is the rightful King of the universe, the very Word of God, and the Creator of all things. Whether we recognize His authority or not really makes no difference; His authority over the world, and us who inhabit it, is an objective truth. So when Jesus comes to His followers and makes demands of an extreme nature, He has every right to do so:
Therefore, everyone who will acknowledge me before others, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever denies me before others, I will also deny him before my Father in heaven. Don’t assume that I came to bring peace on the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to turn:
a man against his father,
a daughter against her mother,
a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
and a man’s enemies will be
the members of his household.
The one who loves a father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; the one who loves a son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever doesn’t take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Anyone who finds his life will lose it, and anyone who loses his life because of me will find it. (Matt. 10:32-39)
Jesus has the authority to tell us to leave everything behind and follow Him. He has the authority to demand that we sell everything and come with Him. He has the authority to tell us not to seek revenge but instead to forgive and pray for our enemies. He has the ultimate right to command.
But Jesus is not a naive leader; He is not an out of touch boss; He is not an aloof dignitary. Gloriously, Jesus is the one who has every right to issue any order He desires, and yet He is also the One who grasps better than we do the implications of any of those orders.
Jesus is the One who commands, but He’s also the One who understands.
This same One who calls us to leave all behind, to forsake the priorities of the world, to seek not earthly treasure, to forsake power and prestige, to give up our lives for the sake of the kingdom, this is the same One who understands all the temporal difficulty and pain that commitment might bring. What’s more, He’s the One who invites us not to suffer with our doubt, fear, or apprehension in silence, but instead to bring it to Him:
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin. Therefore, let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in time of need” (Heb. 4:15-16).
He is more than our authority; Jesus is our friend. He is more than the One who commands; He’s the One who understands.
Today, friend Jesus is calling you to all those things. He is commanding a life of faithfulness, of loyalty, and yes, in many cases, sacrifice. But He is not unaware of what He’s asking. He understands.