Jesus’ authority on earth (Matthew 9:2-8)

When Jesus healed and forgave sins, was he showing his deity or his human authority?

Open Matthew 9:2-8.

Matthew 9:2-8 (my translation)
2 Look, they presented him with a paralysed person restricted to a stretcher. Having seen their trust, Jesus said to the paraplegic, “Be encouraged, child, your sins are revoked.” 3 Look, some of the Bible scholars said among themselves, “He’s blaspheming!”
4 Seeing how they were thinking, he said, “Why are you thinking evil in your hearts? 5 What’s easier? To say, ‘Your sins are revoked’ or to say ‘Get up and walk’? 6 So you can know that the son of man has authority on the earth to revoke sins,” he says to the paralysed person, “Get up, pick up your stretcher, and head off home.” 7 Having been raised up, he went off home. 8 When the crowds saw it, they were overawed and honoured the God who gave such authority to people.

When Jesus finally mentions someone’s sin in the New Testament, it’s to revoke it. The Bible scholars (scribes) weren’t happy. Jesus revoking sins? They can’t let him do that! They need to drag him down into the morass of human sin too. He’s a sinner, they say, a blasphemer.

Blasphemy isn’t just saying a naughty word against God; it’s demeaning our sovereign’s authority, often by making a claim to that authority. When Assyria attacked Jerusalem in King Hezekiah’s day, the Assyrian general claimed to be more powerful than Israel’s God. He claimed God had given him authority to take Jerusalem (2 Kings 18:25, 35). Isaiah denounced his claim as blasphemy (2 Kings 19:6, 22 NIV). When the scribes label Jesus as a blasphemer, they reject his claim to speak and act on earth on behalf of Israel’s sovereign God. Continue reading “Jesus’ authority on earth (Matthew 9:2-8)”

What is forgiveness? (Matthew 9:5-6)

If you think of forgiveness as dealing with your personal guilt, you’ve only got part of the story.

Open Matthew 9:5-6.

Jubilee. What a joyful word! It’s the Hebrew word yôbēl carried over into English.

The way God designed it, Israel’s economy was to be reset every 50 years. Slaves would be freed. Debts would be forgiven. Property sold in tragedy would be returned. Obligations would be released.

A couple of centuries before Jesus, the Hebrew Bible was translated into Greek, and they chose an interesting word for yôbēl. It’s Greek word ἄφεσις (AH-fe-sis), meaning forgiveness. That’s right: in the Septuagint, the Jubilee year was known as the Forgiveness year. Continue reading “What is forgiveness? (Matthew 9:5-6)”

What about sin? (Matthew 9:2)

Why did Jesus talk about sin much less than we do? Is there something we should learn from him?

Open Matthew 9:2.

As you read the Gospels, are you learning from Jesus? To be a disciple is to become like the Master. Watch what he did that’s different from what we do. Close the gap where our understanding and practice doesn’t match his.

That’s especially important when it comes to the gospel. When people today present the gospel, we tend to start with the problem, identified as sin. We present Jesus as the antidote for sin, and then we ask people to sign up so they can have the benefit — the forgiveness of their sins. Sound familiar? Trouble is: that’s not how Jesus did it. Continue reading “What about sin? (Matthew 9:2)”

Intensive on Kingdom of God

Would you be interested in a week’s formal study on what the kingdom of God is? Count me in.

What is the kingdom of God? A week-long intensive. Here in Perth, Western Australia. I’m in!

Derek Tidball is presenting, all the way from London. He has formal education in sociology (yep, a kingdom is a social entity), theology (yep, it’s God’s kingdom), and missions (yep, God’s kingdom is his mission — missio dei).

Dr Tidball has experience in both pastoral life and the academy. He’s written several commentaries, study themes, and other books published by InterVarsity Press, including: Continue reading “Intensive on Kingdom of God”

What if people don’t want Jesus as king? (Matthew 8:28-34)

Can the Jewish Messiah save the world? What if people won’t submit to him?

GalileeFromGolanHeights_20170513_171959
Looking across the Sea of Galilee from the Golan Heights

Open Matthew 8:28-34.

Matthew is proclaiming Jesus’ kingship. His people are surprised at his authority (7:21-29). His authority extends to outcasts (8:1-4), officers of their oppressor’s army (8:5-13), even beyond the borders of the land to the turbulent sea (8:23-27).

What about the land across the sea ruled by non-Jews? Does Jesus authority extend there? What if they don’t want him as their king?

Continue reading “What if people don’t want Jesus as king? (Matthew 8:28-34)”

When your life is threatened (Matthew 8:23-27)

When so much is out of control, can Jesus restore this unruly world?

Open Matthew 8:23-27.

Matthew 8:23-27 (my translation)
23 As he boarded the boat, his students followed him. 24 And look! The sea became severely agitated so the boat dipped into the waves, but he was sleeping. 25 They came and roused him saying, “Lord, save us! We’re perishing.” 26 He says to them, “Why are you fearful, trusting so little?” Then, rising up, he told off the winds and the sea. It settled to a great calm. 27 The people were astonished saying, “What kind of person is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him?”

What kind of person indeed! In the ancient world, the sea was outside the boundaries of the nations, beyond human control. Matthew’s point is that Jesus has authority over the natural world, even the parts that are unruly and unruled. Continue reading “When your life is threatened (Matthew 8:23-27)”

What’s your view of humans?

How could Jesus be human? Surely he’s not like us!

What’s your opinion of people?

  1. Humans are wonderful. They’re born with so much potential. They have the capacity to make the world a better place by fulfilling that potential.
  2. Humans are flawed. They’re depraved by nature. They’re incapable of doing good without external help.
  3. Humans are both wonderful and flawed. They have the capacity for both good and evil.
  4. Humans are neither wonderful nor flawed. They’re not uniquely different to the other animals with whom they share the earth.

You might want to hone the wording, but which is nearest to your belief? Continue reading “What’s your view of humans?”

The homeless king (Matthew 8:20)

When his people are homeless, the Saviour is homeless too.

Open Matthew 8:19-20.

Matthew tells us that people had begun to recognize Jesus’ authority (7:29; 8:9). The king walked among his people, freeing them from their oppression (8:16). He bore their weakness, their dis-ease (8:17).

He was a homeless king (8:20). Ever heard of such a thing? He chose to be homeless as he moved among his people, identifying with them. In a sense, his people were homeless too. They had lost their homeland to foreign powers long ago. When Babylon invaded, so many died trying to defend Jerusalem they couldn’t bury them all, so their dead bodies became food for the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth (Jeremiah 7:33; 19:7). The birds and the beasts had homes, while God’s people did not. Continue reading “The homeless king (Matthew 8:20)”

Jesus, the son of man (Matthew 8:20)

In calling himself “the son of man” Jesus contrasts his vocation with what’s inhumane.

Open Matthew 8:19-20.

So why did Jesus call himself the son of man more than eighty times in the New Testament? Here’s the first one:

Matthew 8:19 – 20 (my translation)
19
One of the scribes approached and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever go. 20 Jesus says to him, “The foxes have dens, and the birds of the heavens have roosts, but the son of man has nowhere he could rest his head.”

In Ezekiel, son of man meant the human servant of Lord YHWH, after Israel had fallen. In Daniel, the Ancient Ruler promised to take the kingdom from the beasts and give it to someone like a son of man. The beasts were still ruling when Jesus was born, so he received the commission given to Adam: to subdue the earth and rule over it as the representative of the divine sovereign. Jesus was to be a son of man in the face of the beasts. Continue reading “Jesus, the son of man (Matthew 8:20)”

Son of Man in Ezekiel

Why did God refer to Ezekiel as “son of man” 93 times? Is there any similarity between Jesus’ ministry and Ezekiel’s?

Open Ezekiel 2.

The Book of Ezekiel opens in devastation. Ezekiel the priest (a son of Aaron), Jehoiachin the king (a son of David) and the other exiles (sons of Israel) sit by the waters of Babylon. Everything has fallen apart. All the progress towards restoring the earth under YHWH’s rule has been lost.

Ezekiel isn’t called son of Aaron, for the holy temple is defiled and destroyed. He isn’t called son of Israel, for the nation established at Sinai no longer exists. He isn’t called son of Abraham: Abraham left Chaldea for God’s land, but the Chaldeans have taken God’s land. God addresses Ezekiel merely as son of Adam, or son of man (since the Hebrew word adam means man.) Continue reading “Son of Man in Ezekiel”