authority issues?

A couple Sundays back, I got up during the sharing time and challenged something the pastor had just preached. (About the military, which I have a lot more experience with than he does.) The next day, another leader in this community sent me a letter calling my public challenge prideful. The letter did not ask for a response and I did not respond (but I did think about it).

Then, this morning, this man brought up the incident again. And at one point called my challenge an exercise of "power" (presumably because my tone was stern and my words sharply challenging). I mentioned to him that I had no actual power in that situation, but rather the pastor had all the power there. Which he exercised by immediately taking the microphone and rebutting my statement, something he usually doesn't do during sharing time.

But the mention of power got to me. Later I wrote a note to this man pointing out that my resistance (and challanges) in this community have been almost always directed at those who hold positions of authority and power here (while I have none and am completely vulnerable to being sent away at any time). I asked him how that compared to Jesus' words and actions during his life.

Jesus' criticism was almost always directed at those in authority or power (usually within the religious organization of his time). Why? I remember, years ago, when I was challenging someone in authority over me and they accused me of having "authority issues." Couldn't we ask the same thing about Jesus?

I think it's a relevant question, especially because Jesus so often made such broad generalizations about the wrongs of those in power and authority (for example, in Mt 23):

Then said Jesus to the crowds and to his disciples, "The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat; so practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice. They bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with their finger. They do all their deeds to be seen by men; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues, and salutations in the market places, and being called rabbi by men.

..."But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because you shut the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither enter yourselves, nor allow those who would enter to go in. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you traverse sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.

..."Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law, justice and mercy and faith; these you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!

"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you cleanse the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside they are full of extortion and rapacity. You blind Pharisee! first cleanse the inside of the cup and of the plate, that the outside also may be clean. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within they are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but within you are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.

"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, saying, `If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.' Thus you witness against yourselves, that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers.

"You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell?"
(That's not this Jesus, is it?)

But how can Jesus say such harsh things so broadly, to whole groups of people (the leaders and religious authorities of his time)? Did Jesus have authority issues?

Or is there perhaps something inherently wrong (and corrupting) in assuming positions of human authority and exercising the power of those positions?

I think Jesus' other teaching (along with his consistent behavior towards those in power) supports that conclusion. For example:
"But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brethren. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called masters, for you have one master, the Christ." (Mt 23.8-10, from the same discourse quoted above)

And Jesus called them to him and said to them, "You know that those who are supposed to rule over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them.

"But it shall not be so among you.

"But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Mk 10.42-45)

Pilate entered the praetorium again and said to Jesus, "Where are you from?" But Jesus gave no answer.

Pilate therefore said to him, "You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you, and power to crucify you?" Jesus answered him, "You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above; therefore he who delivered me to you has the greater sin." (Jn 19.9-11)

[Note that it is implied here that Pilate is also sinning, as Jesus says the sin of the leaders that delivered him up is "greater" (than Pilate's).]

At this point people always protest, "But didn't Jesus have authority?" And I say, "Yes. But it was very different from the authority I'm challenging here." It was quite clear to the people of the time that Jesus' authority was different: "And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes. ...And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, 'What is this? A new teaching! With authority he commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.'" (Mk 1.22,27)

So I'm led to believe that my inclination to resist and challenge those in (humanly instituted) positions of authority may indeed be appropriate and Christ-like. But when I do resist (often harshly, as Jesus did), those in power act surprised and say they just want to be my friend (this morning he wanted to be my father). They want to help me get over my authority issues. I have to smile at that. It reminds me of this cartoon I clipped from The New Yorker: