Summary: In this sermon we examine Jesus' authority and various responses to his authority.
Luke began writing about the public ministry of Jesus when Jesus was in the region of Galilee. The basic question that Luke asked and answered is: “Who is Jesus?”
Luke first gave us a summary of Jesus’ ministry in Galilee (4:14-15). Next, he gave us an example of Jesus’ teaching (4:16-30). Then he gave us an example of Jesus’ authority, which is seen in the way in which Jesus healed a man with an unclean demon.
Let’s read about account in Luke 4:31-37:
31 And he went down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee. And he was teaching them on the Sabbath, 32 and they were astonished at his teaching, for his word possessed authority. 33 And in the synagogue there was a man who had the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out with a loud voice, 34 “Ha! What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.” 35 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent and come out of him!” And when the demon had thrown him down in their midst, he came out of him, having done him no harm. 36 And they were all amazed and said to one another, “What is this word? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out!” 37 And reports about him went out into every place in the surrounding region. (Luke 4:31-37)
When you think of someone who personifies authority, of whom do you think? Perhaps you think of parents, or teachers, or policemen, or politicians, or bosses. Generally, people exercise authority because it has either been given to them or assumed by them.
Today we are going to examine the authority of Jesus. How did Jesus exercise authority? Unlike anyone else in history, Jesus’ authority is intrinsic. That is to say, Jesus’ authority was neither given nor assumed. He possessed authority simply because of who he is.
So, let’s examine Jesus’ authority in Luke 4:31-37.
An examination of Jesus’ authority in Luke 4:31-37 will show us various responses to his authority.
Let’s use the following outline:
1. Examples of Jesus’ Authority (4:31, 32b, 33a, 35)
2. Responses to Jesus’ Authority (4:32a, 33b-34, 36-37)
I. Examples of Jesus’ Authority (4:31, 32b, 33a, 35)
First, let’s look at examples of Jesus’ authority.
Jesus exercised his authority in several different ways. However, in our text I would like to show you two ways in which Jesus exercised authority.
A. Jesus Taught with Authority (4:31, 32b)
First, Jesus taught with authority.
Jesus left Nazareth and went down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee (4:31a), about 30 miles away. Capernaum was a small town on the upper northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee, about two miles from where the Jordan River flows into the lake. Jesus literally “went down” from Nazareth to Capernaum because Nazareth was about 1,200 feet above sea level and Capernaum was 686 feet below sea level.
Capernaum was a prosperous fishing village with a more varied population than Nazareth. Several of Jesus’ apostles were associated with the town, such as Peter and Andrew (Mark 1:21, 29), as well as Matthew, who was a tax collector in that area (Matthew 9:9). Capernaum eventually also became Jesus’ adopted hometown (Matthew 9:1).
By this time Jesus was enormously popular. His teaching and miracles were the talk of the country (Luke 4:14). He was invited to speak in every synagogue in every town in Galilee. Crowds thronged to get a glimpse of Jesus.
So, when Jesus got to Capernaum, as was his custom (4:16), he was teaching the people on the Sabbath (4:31b) in their synagogue. People who visit Capernaum today can view the remains of a second-century synagogue, excavated in the 1920s, that may well have been built on the site of the original synagogue in which Jesus preached.
Luke notes that Jesus’ “word possessed authority” (4:32b). The parallel passage in Mark’s Gospel says that Jesus “taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law” (Mark 1:22, NIV).
R. C. Sproul says that “it was traditional for the [teachers of the law] to take pride in the fact that they added nothing of their own to the orthodox teachings that they taught.” In those days the teachers of the law would read the text of Scripture, and then simply quote comments made by previous teachers on that passage. So, their teaching was a chain of references. After reading the Scripture passage, they would say, “Rabbi Hillel says this about this passage. . . . And Rabbi Gamaliel says this. . . . But Rabbi Isaac says this. . . .” And the teachers of the law would never say what they themselves understood the passage to mean. They always quoted other authorities.