the authority of jesus – how do you respond?
All of us have authoritative figures above us, ranging from parents, bosses, police, tax agents, etc. Each draws a different type of reaction, but they all call for obedience in some way, shape, or form: you must pay your taxes, perform your tasks at work, follow laws and ordinances. And when we knowingly stray and an authority figure is nearby, we cringe and try to hide as if everything is fine. A vivid example would be getting pulled over by local law enforcement after getting caught in a speed trap; your stomach drops and fear has brought a chill down your spine. Yet, this fear of authority does not cause us to stop disobeying what we know is right, regardless of whether or not we are caught. Jesus in his earthly ministry manifested authority over numerous realms, especially the forgiveness of sins.
Read along with me from Matthew 7:28-9:13 as I expound on 1) Authority Acknowledged, 2) Authority Manifested, 3) Authority Affirmed, and 4) Authority Despised.
From Matthew 5-7 we find Jesus’ sermon on the mount, in which he discusses various things: Beatitudes, his fulfillment of the Law, teachings on prayer, etc. Upon his conclusion Matthew in 7:28-8:1 says, “And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes. When he came down from the mountain, great crowds followed him.” If we look back to the old testament we find a strikingly similar event in Exodus 19-34, though key differences are important:
1. God gave Law to Moses to pass on to the people, yet here we find the Son of God teaching the people directly from the mountain.
2. God remained while Moses comes down from the mountain,yet the Son of God himself came down to the people.
3. People saw the shining face of Moses caused by his drawing near to God, and similarly the people saw something they had never seen before: a teacher with peculiar authority, yet could see it with unveiled faces.
So we see some typology here with Moses being a “type of Christ,” a shadow of what was to come. Jesus didn’t come saying, “Thus says the Lord,” for he himself was God in human flesh. And all the common folk and the Pharisees knew that he came from the Lord (John 3:2). This was no ordinary man, teacher, or prophet; the Savior and future judge of the world was in their midst.
I have not come to abolish [the Law or the Prophets] but to fulfill them (Matt. 5:17). Jesus’ authority is seen in his teachings on the Sermon on the Mount with the statements: You have heard it was said…but I say to you… and Truly, I say to you…
He cast out the spirits with a word and healed all who were sick (Matt. 8:16). It is no surprise that Jesus had authority over the demons, for in Matthew 4 we find Jesus resisting every temptation from Satan with the word of God, and sent him running (vv. 10, 11). Matthew in 8:17 further explains Jesus’ authority to heal the sick by identifying him as the fulfillment of Isaiah 53:4 (a messianic prophecy).
What sort of man is this, that even winds and seas obey him? (Matt. 8:27). In this instance where the faith of his disciples are tested, a great storm had arose and they feared for their lives. When Jesus woke up, he asked them why their faith was so small, as if they could not trust their master in the midst of a storm; and then says three words: Peace! Be Still! (Mark 4:39). Thus, this Jesus has manifested his dominion over the natural world.
Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven…Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick (Matt. 9:2, 12). Here, Jesus connects his healing of bodily sickness to his healing of spiritual sickness caused by sin. Jesus himself has the authority to forgive sins, and here it was manifested by him commanding the paralytic to: Rise, pick up your bed and go home (v. 6). Secondly, the authority to acquit sinners came by Jesus’ fellowship with tax collectors and “sinners.” Jesus identifies himself as the great physician who heals those who know they are sick. Those who think they are well won’t go to a doctor. Spiritually, those who are well sacrifice rather than ask for mercy, but Jesus told them to decipher this bit of wisdom: I desire mercy, and not sacrifice (v. 13). As the physically ill need medication, so the spiritually ill need mediation.
Lord, if you will, you can make me clean (8:2). The first person to approach Jesus was a leper, which were one of numerous types of outcasts. By touching a leper, one would become “unclean” also. Yet Jesus sees this man’s faith and cleanses him by his touch.
Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I too am a man under authority…I say to one, “Go,” and he goes, and to another, “Come,” and he comes, and to my servant, “Do this,” and he does it (8:8-9). Secondly, we see a Roman officer interceding for one of his servants. The centurion not only recognizes his undeserving of Jesus’ attention, but he also draws a parallel between his own authority and what he sees in Jesus. Just as his soldiers and servants do anything at his command, so he knows that by Christ speaking a word he can do the same. Jesus commended him by saying there was not a soul in Israel who had such faith.
What have you to do with us, O Son of God? Have you come to torment us before the time?…If you cast us out, send us away into the herd of pigs (9:29-30) Remarkably, even the demons indwelling two men recognized Christ’s authority: that there will come a day when they will be cast into eternal torment. Again, no surprise here: if Jesus can thwart off Satan’s schemes as he did earlier, no doubt he is sovereign here. Jesus sends the demons off into a herd of pigs, for they would rather run drown in the sea than be tormented by God. In lieu of this event, the herdsmen of the pigs ran to the city and proclaimed what had occurred. Their reaction is mentioned under the next heading.
And behold, some people brought to him a paralytic, lying on a bed…”But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins…Rise, pick up your bed and go home.” And he rose and went home. When the crowds saw it, they were afraid, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to men (9:2, 6-8). Jesus travels to his hometown and heals a second paralytic. Matthew notes that the very act of them bringing this paralyzed man was an act of faith, and in so doing the man rose and went home. Two kinds of authority are seen here: 1) ability to heal, and 2) ability to forgive sins. In a parallel passage, Mark 2:8 adds this question from the Pharisees: Who can forgive sins but God alone? Was this blasphemy as the Pharisees inferred? Here, the most important miracle of all is displayed: a visible representation of sin being forgiven without a sacrificial lamb, but on an act of faith (v. 2).
We see two groups of people in this portion of Scripture who, although have seen the miracles of Jesus, reject him: the Gadarenes & the Pharisees and scribes.
Gadarenes. Recall Matt. 8:28-34 where Jesus cast out demons from two men. After Jesus send the demons (Legion) running into a herd of pigs that drowned, the herdsmen ran into the town and proclaimed what taken place, including the exorcism. But Jesus was not met with praise: in fact, when they saw him, they begged him to leave their region. What an odd reaction, for two men were just healed! The people were clearly upset concerning the two thousand pigs that were killed (Mark 5:15), which is quite a bit of bacon and pork (light humor, my apologies); since pigs were considered unclean by Jews, this region must have been predominantly Gentile. Since they were too concerned about their livestock rather than investigating who this Jesus was, they begged (Greek: parakleo) him to leave (the same Greek word is also used by Legion when they begged him to cast them into the pigs). They wanted nothing to do with Jesus, though his authority was clearly displayed.
Pharisees and scribes. The Pharisees were known for their self-righteousness, that their right-standing with God came through their own obedience to the Law. Both the Pharisees and the scribes knew the Scriptures, but Jesus declared that you can search the Scriptures but lack eternal life (John 5:39). For the Scriptures themselves (of the Old Testament) pointed forward to Jesus’ coming, from Genesis-Malachi. Both the scribes and Pharisees denied Jesus’ authority to forgive sins: This man is blaspheming (9:3); Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners? (9:11). The miracle of a paralyzed man now walking and the idea that “sinners” could fellowship with a religious teacher was scorned, but Jesus’ point in doing it was: Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, “I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.” For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners (9:12-13). The Pharisees and scribes wanted righteousness on their own terms, concerned only about what sacrifice they could give rather than the mercy and remedy that Jesus extends. They were saying, “Jesus you have no such authority to forgive sins, and no justifiable reason to commune with such people.”
To wrap this up, it is imperative for you to see that two options are held in front of you: either Jesus is Lord, or he isn’t. Either redemption is found in him, or he was a good liar, but you cannot walk away with a blasé attitude. For the non-believer, I beseech you to taste and see that the Lord is good (Psalm 34:8). The security, significance, and satisfaction that you ultimate desire can’t be found in any other place, for I know you’ve tried and it has left you empty; this source of living water will surpass any other well that you have built for yourself. And no other place is there that offers eternal life for free: it cost God everything to send His Son, but it costs you nothing:
Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live…Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him wile he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. – Isaiah 55:1-3, 6-7
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. – Matthew 11:28-30
Your sin problem has to be dealt with; Jesus has the authority to lay down his life to purchase sinners and redeem them from its curse and punishment. What you have earned for disobeying the Lord is a physical and spiritual death, but God’s free gift to you is eternal life via Christ Jesus. Salvation costs you nothing, for you cannot earn it. The authority of Christ as Lord to His people is a good thing, as he is not a burdensome master; but those who reject him, his authority of casting you away forever into hell will be irreversible, where his wrath abides on sinners forever. For our sins are cosmic treason against God and God alone, and only Jesus and his life, death, burial, and resurrection can transform an enemy of God into a friend, an orphan into an adopted child, a captive into a free man, a guilty sinner into a justified heir of God and coheir with Christ. Jesus’ authority is clearly known among all who have heard the good news of the Gospel; how do you respond?