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 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)”

A secret Messiah? (Matthew 8:4)

How do we announce Jesus’ kingship in a world where power is always oppressive?

Open Matthew 8:4.

Matthew 8:4 (my translation)
Jesus says to him, “See you tell no one, but head off to show yourself to the priest and offer the gift that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”

Why was the leper to tell no one about his healing? And if he was already cleansed, why send him off to offer a sacrifice for purification? Continue reading “A secret Messiah? (Matthew 8:4)”

Hearing the king (Matthew 7:28-29)

What kind of authority do you find in Jesus’ teaching?

Open Matthew 7:28-29.

Matthew 7:28-29 (my translation)
28 When Jesus finished his message, the crowds were astounded at how he taught. 29 He was instructing them authoritatively, not as their scribes.

“We need to teach with authority. Be like Jesus, not like the Jewish scribes,” the preacher said. I was only a college student at the time, but it sounded good to my young ears. What could be wrong with encouraging us to follow Jesus’ example?

That preacher missed the whole point. The crowd’s reaction raised the question who Jesus thought he was. What authority did he think he had? He wasn’t exegeting Scripture as Bible scholars do. He was redefining God’s decrees: “You’ve heard it said …, but I say to you …” Jesus acted as king. He set the laws of the kingdom. That’s a whole different level of authority to any preacher or teacher. Continue reading “Hearing the king (Matthew 7:28-29)”