The Person of Christ (21): His Unchallenged Authority (1)

A few months ago, we looked together at Scriptural evidence for the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ. In the intervening months, we have considered His humanity and His impeccability. We will now see how this One Who is truly God and the only perfect Man, demonstrated His authority during His public ministry here on earth.

Evidences of His authority are abundant in the gospel records. One example that comes to mind immediately is the stilling of the storm on the sea of Galilee, which elicits the following response from the disciples: “What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him!” (Matt 8:27; Mark 4:41; Luke 8:25). We cannot possibly consider every demonstration of His authority, so we will limit ourselves to looking at His authority to meet the needs of those with whom He came in contact. These needs were many and varied, but can be grouped under three spheres: their need of teaching, of healing, and of forgiveness. In all three areas, the fact of His authority is explicitly stated. The word used in each case is exousia, which, in the KJV, is sometimes translated “authority,” and sometimes “power.”

The Need of Teaching

The people needed to hear the words of the Lord Jesus Christ. The gospel writers record many of the words that He spoke, and also make reference to messages He gave, the words of which are not recorded. Whether it was His teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum on the Sabbath (Mark 1:22; Luke 4:32), or at the conclusion of His long “Sermon on the Mount” (Matt 7:29), the response of His listeners was that “He taught them as one that had authority (exousia), and not as the scribes.”

The teaching of the Lord Jesus must have been a refreshing change for these people in comparison to the rabbinical sermons. Doubtless His messages were much more interesting; His illustrations were much more vivid; His words were uttered with warmth and conviction, in contrast with the lifeless uttering of the Jewish religious leaders. His communications challenged the people and made them think, unlike the tedious monologues to which they were normally subjected; and surely the people were impressed by the weighty subjects with which He dealt, as opposed to the petty and peripheral issues that so exercised the minds of the legalistic leaders among the Jews.

While all that is true, yet the phrase “He taught them as one that had authority, and not as the scribes,” goes much deeper, to something more fundamental. Whereas the scribes, in support of their teachings, quoted other authorities, the Lord Jesus spoke in His own Name, authoritatively, as One Who was to be listened to and obeyed, because He Himself had spoken. This sharp contrast is epitomized in the words that He speaks several times in Matthew 5: “Ye have heard that it was said … But I say unto you … “. The first phrase, “Ye have heard that it was said,” summarizes what these people had been accustomed to hearing from their scribes, who quoted others; the second, “But I say unto you,” summarizes the authority with which the Lord Jesus delivered His words to them. The people noticed the difference, and they were impressed by it.

The Need of Healing

Just as the Lord Jesus spoke with authority, His authority was also evident in the deliverance of people who were suffering. This is highlighted particularly in the case of those possessed by evil spirits. Indeed, an incident referred to above, in which He was acknowledged as speaking with authority in the synagogue in Capernaum is immediately followed by a miracle in which He cast out an evil spirit. The people were amazed, and said, “What a word is this! For with authority (exousia) and power He commandeth the unclean spirits, and they come out” (Luke 4:36; Mark 1:27). The fact that the demons had to depart immediately from the possessed man showed that the Lord Jesus was more powerful than the demons; that is obvious. However, and perhaps this is the more pertinent point in the context, it showed that He had an authority that the Jewish exorcists (such as those referred to in Matthew 12:27) did not possess. Those exorcists invoked other authorities, but the Lord Jesus cast out on His own authority. They could not guarantee the obedience of the demons, whereas in His case, the demons had to obey, instantly and fully. The greatness of His authority was evident, and amazing.

The Need of Forgiveness

While many needed healing, everyone had a deeper need for their sins to be forgiven, and we are not wanting for evidence of the Lord’s authority in that area. The healing of the paralyzed man is a manifest example (Matt 9:1-8; Mark 2:1-12; Luke 5:17-26). The Lord tells him, “Thy sins be forgiven thee,” and He gives unequivocal proof of His authority to do so. “But that ye may know that the Son of Man hath power (exousia) on earth to forgive sins, (He saith to the sick of the palsy,) I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy bed, and go thy way into thine house. And immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went forth before them all” (Mark 2:10-12).

The response of the crowd was one of astonishment. “They marveled, and glorified God, which had given such power (exousia) unto men” (Matt 9:8). His authority to heal the paralysis of the man was evidence of His authority to do an even greater work – to grant forgiveness to this man – and to any who would turn to Him in repentance and faith.

We thank God that, though He is no longer on this earth, He still has that authority, and that we have come into the great blessing of having experienced His forgiveness.