Today I was reading through Luke 4 and was struck by the pictures we get of Christ’s authority. I was tempted to keep reading, but felt that I needed to stop and think more about this. At the end of Matthew he says “all authority has been given to me”. But what does it mean to say that Jesus has authority?
When we talk about authority, there are at least two ways we use the word. For example, Dick Vitale is an authority on college basketball. We know what we mean when we say that. We don’t mean that he has the power to enforce anything, but that he is recognized as an expert in this field – he has the final word so to speak. But when we speak of police authority, or the authority of the courts, we mean something entirely different. We aren’t referring to their expertise, but to their power to enforce their decisions, the law, etc.
What kind of authority does Jesus have? The answer is both. He is the final word on any and every subject and he has the authority to enforce his and his Father’s will.
In Luke 4 we see Jesus teaching (v.14-15; 16-27). Jesus takes a scroll of Isaiah and reads in the synagogue and interprets it to refer to himself and his ministry. He does it with authority – he is the final word on it. In fact, in verse 32 Jesus was teaching again and it says the crowds were astonished because he taught with such authority (He said definitively, this is what it means, this is what you ought to do, instead of this is what Rabbi so and so said and this is how so and so applies this).
But Jesus also shows the other kind of authority. Throughout the chapter he command demons to come out of people – AND THEY DO. He commands a fever to leave Peters mother in law, AND IT DOES. He shows authority over disease and sickenss as well. I think the beginning of the chapter is kinda funny in light of this. Satan comes and tempts Jesus saying he will give him authority over the kingdoms of this world if Jesus would just worship him. Kinda funny cause Jesus already had it, and had authority even over Satan himself.
What does this mean for you and me? Well first, it means I am compelled to believe Jesus. What he says is true, definitive, and authoritative. What Jesus says is good, is good. What he says is harmful to me, what he says will lead to misery or destruction – I better believe it. His word is true. But more than that, if I disobey and disbelieve, I am flaunting my sin in the face of someone who has authority to enforce his will and punish those who resist. My mind goes to Philippians 2 where it says that “every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God” (even the phrase here Lord carries the conotation of authority!). Everyone will recognize and bow to the authority of Christ. Better willingly now than by compulsion later.