Tag Archives: Authority

Turned Loose

A guy I knew in high school was confined to a wheelchair.  Then just about this time one year, he showed up at school walking!  He used canes, but he was really walking.  And the look on his face is still etched on my mind.

Imagine the look on the face of the paralytic guy to whom Jesus said, “”Pick up your mat and go home.”  I’ll bet it broadcast alternate waves of amazement and pure joy.  But rereading the account in Matthew, I noticed that the physical healing was secondary.  Jesus’ first words to this man were:

“Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.” (Matthew 9:2b)

The religious experts who heard Him were shocked at His supposed blasphemy.  So, Jesus used the healing as proof of His authority to forgive sins.

Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, “Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts?    Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’?   But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins….” Then he said to the paralytic, “Get up, take your mat and go home.” –  (Matthew 9:4-6)

It is easy to be astonished with the act of physical healing and lose sight of the fact it was given as proof of Jesus’ authority to forgive sins. My guess?  He would have healed the man out of kindness anyway.  But His first gift to the man was forgiveness. 

Jesus said it was easier for Him to say “Your sins are forgiven,” but in fact, it was not easy for Him to make that possible.  Only Jesus had that authority, and He alone, because He was sinless, was able to purchase forgiveness for others on the Cross. 

I think Jesus chose such moments with care, using those that were living pictures of His deeper truth.  Chances are pretty good that you, like me, have felt, paralyzed by sin from time to time, helplessly locked up and unworthy of release.  Jesus has the full authority to say, “Take heart, your sins are forgiven; take up your mat and go home.” 

Trust Him on that…

Who’s in Charge?

“Take me to your leader!”  That line conjures up the old, jittery, black and white, alien invasion movies of my youth.  If aliens did land on earth and asked that question today, depending on where they put down, they’d get very different answers.  Imagine if they landed in Iraq, or Yemen, or even Washington D.C.   Who’s in charge here?  Because that question is not clearly answered, because people don’t agree about who is in charge, it’s chaos down here on Earth.  The nations are engaged in a constant struggle to answer that basic question.

According to Matthew, one of the first things Jesus told His disciples after His resurrection was this:

“Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” (Matthew 28:18)

Think about the full meaning of those words.  His authority has no limit.  It extends even to the farthest reaches of Heaven!  And on Earth.  So then, why do we have such global strife?

Think about the movie, “Hoosiers.”  (If you haven’t watched it or can’t remember it, do it today!  That’s your assignment!)  After Gene Hackman takes over as the new coach, he has been given “all authority.”  Trouble is, the members of the team haven’t submitted yet to that authority.  And neither have many of the people in town.  But gradually, firmly, as the story progresses, his authority begins to be established – the authority he already had from the beginning by title.  Jesus has been given (by God the Father) “all authority.”  His authority is gradually being revealed and established, as more and more people have their eyes and hearts opened to it and submit to it.  That was always God’s plan of how to do it.  As He inspired David to write, 3000 years ago,

“The Lord says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” The Lord will extend your mighty scepter from Zion; you will rule in the midst of your enemies.” (Psalm 110:1-2)

But one day, there will no longer be anything gradual about how the full authority of Jesus is accomplished.  Don’t wait until that day to get it straight in your mind about Who is in charge.

Quotes:  The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Good Question

If you could ask just one question of Jesus, you probably couldn’t come up with a better one than they did.  But Jesus refused to answer them.  But if you  asked Him, would He answer you?  Maybe, maybe not.  Let’s set the stage:

” Jesus entered the temple courts, and, while he was teaching, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him. “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you this authority?”” (Matthew 21:23)

Trouble with that question is that most of the time it’s not really a question, it’s a challenge.  It translates as, “Who do you think you are?”  plus, “Don’t you realize who I am?”  People ask “by whose authority” in order to assert their own authority.  They aren’t really looking for an answer, just a surrender.  Jesus knew that and gave a masterful, “chess move” response.  He asked them to identify the authority behind John the Baptist’s baptism: was it from Heaven or was it from men? The priests refused to answer because either way they answered would have weakened their own authority over the people.

It was a beautiful trap – too detailed to explain in this short format, but worth reading (Matthew 21:23-27).  But with that question, Jesus established that they were not really interested in knowing Who had given Him His authority!  They were only interested in putting down His challenge to their own.  Think about that: the priests were not really interested in learning more about God!

 

But if someone really wanted to know the answer, that would be an excellent question to ask Jesus!  In fact, Jesus came to earth in great measure to answer that question!  God Almighty exists beyond the plane of human sight.  Jesus revealed Who He is in ways humans could understand.  In the same way you are looking at your computer monitor (or phone screen) to understand what is happening in the invisible realms inside your computer, Jesus came to make God visible and comprehensible.  He said:

Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.  (John 14:9b)

If the priests and teachers had really been seeking an answer, He would have given them the answer, the answer that would have blown their minds open and transformed them.  They had a good question but missed out on the answer.  It’s easy to make that mistake when we read the Bible.  If you have a chip on your shoulder when you approach the Bible, if you read it to judge it, you won’t find many answers.  But if you come with a humble, open heart, the answers will amaze you and nourish your soul.

Quotes: The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

What Really Matters

Eric Wallace threw himself out of an airplane and parachuted into the middle of the Air Force Academy football stadium, just before the game.  But when he landed, he knelt down before his girlfriend, Melanie and asked her to be his wife.  The parachute part was sensational.  The proposal was more important.  The day will come when what really matters to Eric and Melanie is that they agreed to be husband and wife, “’til death do us part.”  On days like that, how he showed up to ask her won’t be so important.

Matthew focused in on what really mattered when he told about the paralyzed guy and Jesus. The way Mark and Luke tell the story, his friends smash a hole in the roof and lower him down on ropes, to get him to Jesus.  But Matthew leaves that part of the story out, skipping ahead to what really matters.  He wrote:

“Some men brought to him a paralytic, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.” (Matthew 9:2)

Being lowered through the roof was the sensational part.  Being healed of paralysis must have been what the man was hoping for.  But Jesus jumped right to the part that really mattered: “Your sins are forgiven.”  I realize that some priests and clergy presume to pronounce sins forgiven, but in truth, only God has the authority to forgive sins.  That is why…

“At this, some of the teachers of the law said to themselves, “This fellow is blaspheming!” (Matthew 9:3)

The blasphemy they accused Jesus of was taking on the role of God.  In Luke’s account, they asked, “Who can forgive sins but God alone?” (Luke 5:21)

“Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, “Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts? Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins….” Then he said to the paralytic, “Get up, take your mat and go home.” And the man got up and went home. When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to men.” (Matthew 9:4-8)

The startling part of this story was when they tore open the roof.  The sensational part was when the man stood up and walked home, healed.  That part wowed the crowd!  But the healing was only a sign, a sign to prove the part that really matters.  What really matters for you and me is that Jesus has the authority on earth to forgive sins.

When you go to Jesus, seeking forgiveness, it makes no difference what you had to do to get there.  If He heals your body when you come, that is a bonus, of only temporary significance.  But what really matters to you eternally, is that your sins have been completely and eternally forgiven.  When your mind wonders and doubts if it is really true, you can be sure it really is, because Jesus has the authority on earth to forgive sins.  That’s what really matters.

Directly From God

What’s the deal with all those yellow books in a lawyer’s office?  Those collections of “case law,” decisions and precedents established by judges over many years, carry a lot of weight in how a new case gets decided.  A lawyer refers to those precedents to back up his case in a trial.  That is how the Bible was taught in Jesus’  day.  A priest or teacher might have said, “A long time ago, Rabbi So and So gave this passage this particular interpretation and so I tell you, based on Rabbi So and So’s reputation as a wise man, this is what it means today.”

But not Jesus.   Over and over again, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said…   But I tell you…”  It is hard for us to hear how blasphemous or heretical such a simple phrase sounded in those days.

“When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law. “ (Matthew 7:28-29)

In effect, Jesus said, “All these opinions about what the Scripture means, all this human tradition you’ve been hearing, is misguided and weakened by ignorance.  I speak directly for God!

He still does.

That’s why the Sermon on the Mount retains its power after 2000 years.  It comes to us directly from God.  These words still challenge us, trouble us and  shake us up.  They also give us hope in the midst of life’s chaos and our own weakness.

Listen to Jesus’ teaching.  Be amazed!   Be humbled.  Be drawn to Jesus.