The Beautiful Authority of Jesus
by Neatice Warner
And He went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the Kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. So His fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought Him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, those having seizures, and paralytics, and He healed them. And great crowds followed Him from Galilee and the Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan.
Seeing the crowds, He went up on the mountain, and when He sat down, His disciples came to him.
And He opened His mouth and taught them, saying:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
“Everyone then who hears these words of Mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”
And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at His teaching, for He was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.
Recently I heard of a young child’s response to a parent’s decision, “I don’t see why I can’t have some rule over my own life!” Inside all of us is a tendency to resist or criticize authority. Presented with the truth of God’s absolute sovereignty alongside a hard circumstance, who hasn’t wondered “why this” or “why me?”
Jesus, in His life on earth, would be repeatedly challenged about the authority He exercised, though that authority was always evident. Matthew’s record of Jesus’ work on earth begins with a glorious explosion of amazing acts that fulfilled God’s words through His prophets and announced, in Jesus’ own Person, the coming of God’s Kingdom. Even the Lord’s beginning in Nazareth and Capernaum, in “Galilee of the Gentiles,” recalls Isaiah’s prediction that “the people living in darkness have seen a great light” (Isaiah 9:1-2; Matthew 4:12-19). Jesus would continue to live out the prophets’ visions of Messiah’s grace and glory.
The Lord taught in the Galilean synagogues, explaining from the Scriptures God’s nature and His redemptive purpose. He also announced the good news—the gospel—of the coming of the promised Kingdom. Standing before those assemblies, Jesus brought that Kingdom to them because He was the King, who would manifest God’s reign of grace through power but also through sacrifice.
Jesus lived and traveled among the people, and He healed their sicknesses, relieved their pain, released the limbs of paralytics, and liberated those possessed by demons. In this compassionate work, He again fulfilled prophecy but also displayed the magnificent hope of God’s Kingdom: life, wholeness, restoration, renewal, liberation, purity. He traveled throughout the region—among the Jews, yet outside the boundaries of Judea. As the King came, barriers would be broken, God’s people would be assembled, Satan and his forces defeated, damage removed, life made new. This was the beautiful authority of Jesus Christ.
Matthew’s description of that demonstrated authority is background to the magisterial Sermon on the Mount. As Messiah the King, Jesus fulfilled the words of God’s prophets and brought in God’s Kingdom. As God’s Son, He authoritatively revealed the eternal Father and His eternal truth. As Savior, He rescued those experiencing the pain and ruin of sin and the viciousness of Satan. As the people came to Him, they heard Him, and recognized, Matthew said, that “He was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.” (Matthew 7:28-29) That same authority speaks today, from the One who rules the universe, and who died to save His people.
Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount is assuring; He promises comfort to those who mourn, and satisfaction to those who hunger for righteousness. He blesses those who face persecution, assuring them of reward in heaven. He calls His people the salt of the earth and the light of the world. His authority is His people’s security. But Jesus’ teaching is also often startling. His commands may be counterintuitive to us who still, even inside our own heads, cry, “Can’t I have some rule over my own life?” Jesus has better things for His people. The Kingdom life Jesus describes is radical transformation from within, from Him, that will change and renew how we manage conflict, regard money, cope with concerns, pursue prayer, and much more. His people follow Him, for Jesus still demonstrates His goodness, in His full and beautiful authority.