There are many things that we take “on authority” all the time. When we do, we consider the source: If my doctor tells me that something is needed for my health, I listen…but if the same person tells me that something is needed with my car, maybe not so much. Or the reverse: I listen to my mechanic about the car, but not about my health. Whenever you hear someone speak on a topic that they know well, one which is firmly within their area of expertise, it’s usually pretty easy to recognize their confidence and authority on that subject 1.
When deciding whether or not to take Jesus’ word for something, we can use the same thought process. Does He know what He is talking about, enough that there is good reason to accept what He says? Well, let’s see. If He is not just a man, but is also God 2, then:
- He created the world. (Genesis 1:1)
- He knows each person from the inside out. (Psalm 139:16)
- He defines the standards of right and wrong. (Deuteronomy 30:15-20 3, Psalm 19:7-9, Isaiah 2:2-4)
- He not only knows, but He also controls the future. (Isaiah 46:10)
The question then becomes whether or not Jesus really is more than just a man.
The gospels record that the common people were “amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.” (Matthew 7:28-29, Mark 1:21-27, Luke 4:31-36). 4 The people saw the contrast to the usual teaching style of the leaders at the time. Those teachers spent a lot of time deferring to other teachers, not saying much that was original from their own ideas.
Come to think of it, that’s what I’m doing with this website also: I quote the Bible; I look for creative ways to pass along information learned from a lifetime of Sunday School classes and sermons; I refer to other authors, like C.S. Lewis and Randy Alcorn, who have influenced me. What I don’t do is make any original pronouncement on my own authority. I would have no business doing such a thing!
Jesus’ authoritative teaching is very noticeable in the Sermon on the Mount. He repeatedly said variations of “You have heard…” followed by “but I say to you…” (Matthew 5:21-22, 27-28, 31-32, 33-37, 38-42, 43-45). In fact, if you read the entire thing in Matthew 5-7, you will see how authoritative it all is. Jesus is stating things as truth, just on His own say-so. He doesn’t give His reasons or try to persuade; He just tells it like it is.
When He was questioned about His disciples doing something “unlawful” on the Sabbath 5, Jesus referred to Himself when He said “So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:23-28). That was claiming authority over a foundation of Jewish life, instituted in the Ten Commandments! (Exodus 20:8-11)
In the story of the healing of the paralytic in Luke 5:17-26, Jesus first told the sick man that his sins were forgiven. The religious leaders bristled at that, thinking that it was blasphemy because only God is allowed to forgive sin. Jesus knew that, and challenged them: “Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven’; or to say, ‘Get up, and pick up your pallet and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—He *said to the paralytic, “I say to you, get up, pick up your pallet and go home.””. When the paralyzed man did just that, and walked out of the building, the people were amazed. Jesus truly did have the authority to both heal and forgive.
Jesus was impressed with the centurion 6 who understood His authority. The officer needed for Jesus to heal his very sick servant back at home. When Jesus started to go to the place, the centurion stopped him. He knew that Jesus didn’t have to do everything Himself; He could just give the command and it would be done (BTW, it was!). (Matthew 8:5-13)
In predicting His death and resurrection, Jesus said that these things were happening under His own authority (John 10:17-18). He could give up His life whenever He chose, and He could take His life back up whenever He chose. He reiterated that point in the Garden of Gethsemane when the hordes came to arrest Him. His disciples wanted to defend Him but He wouldn’t allow it: “Do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions 7 of angels?“. (Matthew 26:51-54)
In Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus, he went into one of his run-on sentences 8, trying to describe the extent of Jesus’ authority as “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come” (Ephesians 1:17-23). In his letter to the church at Philippi, Paul put it this way: “God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9-11)
In describing his vision of the end of all time, the Apostle John records a voice saying “Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come” (Revelation 12:10).
A common theme throughout the Gospels is that the man Jesus continually behaved as if He had God’s authority. Some were amazed and believed in Him; others were offended and rejected Him. Still today, some believe while others reject and want to reduce Him to a more manageable level. Many try to compromise and say that He was only a great teacher. C.S. Lewis has the best answer to that attempt that I have ever read:
I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him [that is, Christ]: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic–on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg–or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse…. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come up with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity
Footnotes and Scripture References
- Although, I do realize that people can be deceptive and still sound quite convincing. Read the rest of this article, and study more about Jesus. Decide for yourself whether He can be trusted.
- See this article for reasons to consider Jesus to be God as well as man.
- This choice was presented to the Israelite people as they were poised ready to enter their Promised Land after the exodus from slavery in Egypt.
- Even as a 12-year-old child, Jesus was already amazing people with His understanding of the scripture (Luke 2:41-47).
- Picking grain while walking through a field, which the religious leaders considered to be “working”. (Actually, that was their own expansion beyond the actual Law.)
- Roman military officer
- A “legion” was a regiment of about 6000-7000 Roman soldiers.
- He is known for them; they are typical of his writing style.