Jesus Teaches With Authority
Beware of big words. Over the decade that I’ve been your pastor I’ve been teaching you that the danger in learning big words is that we think we know them, but the danger is this: that we either don’t know what the word means, or we aren’t able to actually tell others what the word means. And one is just as bad as another. This morning we bump into one of those words: authority. What does it mean to speak with authority? We might conclude that speaking with authority means that the person is really sincere and truly believes what he or she is saying. But that’s not how the word was used 2000 years ago. In the words we are just about to look at, we hear that the people were amazed that Jesus taught with authority. And I’ll give you a hint. That word does not mean that Jesus was just speaking authentically and sincerely. So what does it mean that Jesus taught with authority? Let’s read these words and find out: “21 They went into Capernaum, and right away he entered the synagogue on the Sabbath and began to teach. 22 They were astonished at his teaching because he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not like the scribes.” (Mark 1:21–22 CSB17)
Here in these words we begin to understand what it means that Jesus taught with authority. We learn what authority is by contrast. Jesus did not teach like the teachers they were used to. You see, Jesus said the simple and clear words, “This is what the Lord says.”1 But the teachers of their own time would says words like, “I think, I feel, Some say…others say, I suppose.” Jesus would leave his hearers with a clear understanding of the truth. Their own teachers left them with a mountain of doubt.
So Jesus speaks with authority against the teacher’s doubt. And in this we see what authority is. Authority is simply saying what the truth is and taking your stand is. That is what authority looked like during Jesus’ day. And the same is true today. For forty years the Lord has blessed this congregation with faithful teachers who taught with authority. And you could tell that they taught with authority because, instead of saying , “I think, I feel, some say, others say,” they said, “This is what the Lord says.”
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this is something to rejoice in. But it brings up a real question. And that question is: why. Why is it that a pastor would change from saying “thus saith the Lord” to saying “I think, I feel, I suppose”? A pastor can very easily change from speaking with authority to thinking his own opinion when he speaks with authority and his own people don’t like it. It sounds good to have a pastor who speaks with authority…until he speaks with authority against me. When your pastor condemns your own laziness, lustfulness, gossipping, lovelessness, then, all of a sudden, having a pastor who speaks with authority becomes a bad thing. And when the people push back, sad to say, there are many pastors who change from “this is what the Lord says” to “I think and I feel.”
As Christians we receive what God’s word says not just when it speaks comforting words to us, but also when it crushes us by exposing our sickening sin. We repent. But if God’s word is true when it comes to our sin, then it is also true when it comes to all the comforting promises contained in it. When it speaks about my forgiveness in Christ, my Salvation won by him, my resurrection from the dead paved by him—in all these areas God’s word speaks with authority. And because it speaks with authority, I know that my sins are forgiven.
Jesus speaks with authority. He speaks with authority against the teachers doubt. But he speaks with authority in another area too: “23 Just then a man with an unclean spirit was in their synagogue. He cried out, 24 “What do you have to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” 25 Jesus rebuked him saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” 26 And the unclean spirit threw him into convulsions, shouted with a loud voice, and came out of him. 27 They were all amazed, and so they began to ask each other: “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” 28 At once the news about him spread throughout the entire vicinity of Galilee.” (Mark 1:23–28 CSB17)
Jesus speaks with authority against the teachers’ doubt. But he also speaks with authority against the Devil’s Dominion. When Jesus spoke with authority people heard it and embraced that truth that Jesus spoke. But there was someone else listening to what Jesus was preaching. The Devil was there. And so the Devil pushed back. There was a man who was possessed by a Demon. And through this demon the Devil pushed back in two ways. First, he tried to discredit Jesus. Having a known-liar say that you are trustworthy is probably not what you would like to have happen to you. Even more so, a demon endorsing Jesus as the Holy One of God is the opposite of what Jesus would want.
So the Devil tries to discredit Jesus. But there is a second way he pushes back. He resists Jesus’ command. Jesus tells him to ‘shut up’ and ‘come out’ and the demon doesn’t. And even more so, he throws the man down to the ground trying to do as much damage as he can to the man. And look what happened. The Devil at every turn planned so much evil. But, at the end of the day, every evil the Devil planned and actually carried proved Jesus’ authority. Because authority doesn’t just speak the truth. It also produces results.
It’s somewhat funny to put yourselves in the shoes of the people gathered there. The man says all his demon-possessed crazy words. Jesus tells him to shut up. The demon doesn’t. Oooh, what is Jesus going to do? He commands the demon to come out. But the demon doesn’t. Hmmm, what is Jesus going to do now? The demon even throws the man to the ground. But at the end of the day Jesus is the one who has authority, not the Devil—and everyone knows it.
And my dear friends in Christ, the same is true today. But do you have the patience to wait till the end of the day? Do you have the tenacity and strength to cling to Jesus’ promises until he fulfills them? About a hundred years ago people went over to Israel and dug up almost everything. And they found Jericho. And when they found Jericho they also started reading the bible and they found out that the bible mentions not one, but two Jerichos. They used what they discovered to try and prove that the bible was full of lies. And the people lived the rest of their lives without archaeological proof that God’s word was true and they died that way. But then, years later, people did more digging and found that there were actually two Jerichos near each other. So the bible was true.
Do you have the patience and diligence to wait till the end of the day? Here is where it is so beautiful to consider the fact that Jesus speaks with authority. For Satan so powerfully and forcefully drives us to despair when we don’t see obvious, tangible proof that what he says is true. How wonderful and amazing it is that Jesus forgives that sin. And he does even more. He strengthens our faith. Satan is powerful. And he exerts that strength powerfully. I’ve been here serving as your pastor for almost 10 years. And I’ve been there to bury so many of you. And I can tell you that some of you went to your graves confidently. And others went to their graves trembling and doubting. And my dear friends, that should not shock or surprise you. If Satan is there lashing out with his demons as Jesus preaches, you have to know he will be there when you are just moments and minutes away from heaven. But here is where we see Jesus speaking with authority. Jesus didn’t get rid of the demon in the synagogue. And most likely he won’t get rid of every doubt as you face your death. But at the end of the day, you will know that he spoke with authority. For he will strengthen this gift of faith he gave to you so that alongside the doubt and despair there is confidence, strength and trust in his promises.
That, my dear friends, is what it looks like to speak with authority. And that’s what we have in our Savior Jesus. Jesus speaks with authority against the teacher’s doubts and against the Devil’s dominion.
1 כֹּה אָמַ֣ר יְהוָ֔ה
Speak O Lord
The why is just as important as the what. Years ago when I was in grade school I was on the basketball team. And we did these runs where we would run out to the free-throw line and then the half court line, then the free throw line on the other side. And finally, we’d run all the way down, touch the line and run back. We were told to do it, and so we did it. But what was missing was why. And it showed. There were a number of kids who stopped running not as much because they were out of breath as the fact that they didn’t see the point. You could run laps around the outside and get in better shape. That is a danger we face as Christians. We can end up doing the what without remembering the why. For example, if a child asks the question, “why do I need to go to catechism class,” it’s easy to say, “because that’s what we do.” We haven’t answered the why question. This morning we have the answer to a why question. We emphasize how important it is to read, learn and hear God’s word constantly and continually in our lives. But these words answer the question, why. In 1 Samuel 3, we read: “1 The boy Samuel ministered before the Lord under Eli. In those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions. 2 One night Eli, whose eyes were becoming so weak that he could barely see, was lying down in his usual place. 3 The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the house of the Lord, where the ark of God was. 4 Then the Lord called Samuel. Samuel answered, “Here I am.” 5 And he ran to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.” But Eli said, “I did not call; go back and lie down.” So he went and lay down. 6 Again the Lord called, “Samuel!” And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.” “My son,” Eli said, “I did not call; go back and lie down.” 7 Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord: The word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. 8 A third time the Lord called, “Samuel!” And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.”” (1 Samuel 3:1–8 NIV11-GKE)
If we ask the question, why do we read, study and savor God’s word, here in these words we begin to find an answer. Look here at the patience Samuel shows. He’s like the human hockey puck. We know that the Lord is the one who is speaking to him. But Samuel doesn’t know this. So we see this repetition, again and again, three times. And what you will notice is how the Lord could have stepped in at any time and cleared the matter up. But he didn’t. He let’s Samuel be the human hockey puck. And it’s good for us to look at Samuel, because the Lord does the same to us, doesn’t he? Think of your prayers. How many times do you pray to your Lord for something that is necessary and important to you. And then what happens? Seemingly nothing happens. Just as the Lord was silent to Samuel, he is to you too. And you find the same when it comes to his promises. He keeps all his promises, but he does so in his own time and in his own way.
And where we see our sin is when the Lord treats us like human hockey pucks and then we conclude that he has no right to do this. We may not say it. But we think it. And we might pray to God to take away the silence and act. But when he doesn’t, we silently blame him. And that, my brothers and sisters in Christ, is sinful.
You see, it’s easy and tempting to conclude that we are Samuel in this part of the bible, ever-patient, ever-trusting. But there are so many times we are impatient. And for that sin we need a Savior. If we sin by blaming God when there is silence, and if you feel the weight of that sin, then turn to your Savior Jesus. Think of the silence Jesus endured on the cross. There he was bearing the weight of the world’s sin, bleeding and dying for us. There he was, crying out those words, ““My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”” (Mark 15:34 NIV). And what answer did he receive in response? Nothing, piercing silence was all that there was for our Savior. But Jesus endures the silence with absolute, pure patience that his Father would not abandon him. And all of this he did for you.
So why is it that we read God’s word? And why is it that this morning we would say a small prayer to our Lord, asking him to speak to us? We say this prayer because through God’s word we see God’s patience with us. For if Jesus showed perfect patience in our place and if the Father accepted that perfect patience on our behalf and proved it by raising Jesus from the dead, then what grip does that sin have on us? Our sins are forgiven—even those sins we commit when we do not like to be human hockey pucks, bouncing around in silence and blaming God.
And so this morning we pray, O Lord, speak your word. For through it we see your patience with us. But there is another why answer to the question. We read: “8 Then Eli realized that the Lord was calling the boy. 9 So Eli told Samuel, “Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’ ” So Samuel went and lay down in his place. 10 The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”” (1 Samuel 3:8–10 NIV11-GKE)
We can boldly say to our Lord, “speak your word.” For though God’s word we see his patience with us. But even more so, through God’s word we see his patience given to us. Why did the Lord wait so long? He could have stepped in at any time? Did he miss a flight? These words are a reminder to us that the Lord delayed in revealing himself to Samuel not for his own sake, but instead for Samuel’s sake. And through that he not only tested Samuel’s patience but also gave him more patience. And my dear friends in Christ the same is true with us. God gives us opportunities to flex our faith. He gives us time to be patient when we want him to speak and to act. And he does this so that he can let us be burdened by waiting for just a little while and then he acts. And by doing this again and again he teaches us to trust his promises. And bit by bit, as we stretch out and reach out with this amazing gift of faith given to us we begin to be patient.
But don’t worry, there will be areas of our lives where we will grow in and be patient. But just wait, at about that time there will be other times when new areas of stress jump in. And then again, we will have another opportunity to learn to be patient.
So this morning we say the same prayer Samuel spoke. We say, “Speak, O Lord.” For through God’s word we see God’s patience with us. And through God’s word we see God’s patience given to us. Amen.