Jesus and Authority
It is no secret that Jesus has a few run ins with various teachers of the Law, officials, and Roman leaders during the course of his ministry. There are contentious moments where real issues are at stake. And it seems like there is a certain kind of person who responds to Jesus, and there is another kind of person who becomes defensive and is ready to argue/fight/plot/or something far worse. And the debate seems to center oftentimes on different understandings of how God works in the world. Today, I would like to take a moment for us to notice and appreciate where Jesus says his authority in doing and teaching as he does comes from.
Mark 1:27. Jesus has just thrown a demon out of a man in the synagogue on the Sabbath while he was teaching. This is a dramatic moment! And everyone is shaken by the result, and wonders how this could be.
Matthew 7:28. Jesus concludes the famous Sermon on the Mount (as we call it). The crowds have heard Jesus’ words and are amazed at how differently he teaches than the religious leaders.
Mark 11:27. The chief priests, legal experts, and elders come to Jesus to question him on whose authority his ministry and teaching are founded. Jesus sees the trap they are attempting to catch him in and does not answer.
And yet, we do know on whose authority Jesus teaches. By which Jesus heals. And who has sent Jesus. Jesus himself tells us.
John 14:9-14. Jesus boldly says that whenever someone looks at Jesus, they see the Father. It is the Father’s words that Jesus speaks. It is the Father’s actions that Jesus does. And not only that, but Jesus gives that authority to those who will ask for something in his name. (He repeats this again in Matthew 28:18 too. Jesus has received all authority, and he then sends his followers out in that authority.)
These are precisely the kinds of things that Jesus says that infuriate the one kind of person who grows defensive when Jesus speaks. But these words also offer freedom for others. Freedom from a religious system that has shackled them and enslaved them. Freedom from their own feelings of inadequacy or guilt. Freedom from the burden of sin. These words speak of a God who is there, looking at them face-to-face, seeing in their eyes, with compassion, love, and grace.
These run ins that Jesus has with the religious leaders (and others) can sometimes be understood as disagreements about who God is and what God wants. The Law and the tradition asked the people to observe the customs that had been passed down to them, and when the Law was followed by each person, then God would return.
But Jesus, Jesus has a different plan in mind. Jesus has a different understanding in mind. Jesus wants his followers to see how God is already present and how God’s kingdom is already arriving each and every day, and then to participate in what God is doing right then. Jesus asks his followers to notice God’s presence right where they are.
We know that Jesus’ authority comes from the Father. But even more than just knowing, we see, we hear, and we believe that the Father and Son are one. And in their oneness, we have life.
May we live with Jesus today. May we open our eyes, our ears, our hearts, and minds to what God is doing amongst us, even right now at this very moment.