JESUS CHRIST: SO MUCH AUTHORITY!
This past week President Bush delivered his State of the Union address. There was much fanfare, much anticipation. It was televised all over the world. It was interrupted over 70 times by applause. With much authority the president spoke, covering such topics as the economy, and the possibility of going to war. He was very forceful in his speech, and spoke with great hope and confidence and authority about the future of our country.
The State of the Union address is a good thing, but, most of the time, in this sort of speech, you really don’t learn anything new. Will the economy actually get better? We still don’t know. Will we actually go to war with Iraq? It sounds like it, but we really don’t know for sure. The State of the Union address is treated with much pomp and circumstance. The President speaks with great authority. This speech is a good thing. But most of the time, in many ways, it is more of a pep talk than anything else.
Let’s go back in time to a different “state of the union” address. The audience is much smaller. No television. No fanfare. I’m talking about the “speech” that Jesus gave in our Gospel lesson for this morning. He wasn’t talking about the state of the union, but the state of the world. He wasn’t talking about a future war with Iraq. He was talking about a future war with Satan. And it was much more than a pep talk. As people listened to Jesus speak, they were very struck by the way he spoke. He carried himself with so much authority. He was different from the teachers of the day, who did not speak with all that much authority.
And then Jesus proved his authority by casting an evil spirit out of a man who had been in the audience. The people there were shocked – they had never seen someone conduct himself with so much authority!
But really, they shouldn’t have been surprised – Moses had predicted that someone would come with an incredible amount of authority, and now, he was here – Jesus Christ, standing in the synagogue before them. Today, we are going to focus on the authority of Jesus Christ and his Word, and we’re going to let Moses teach us, even though Moses lived over a thousand years before Jesus was born.
We go to Deuteronomy 18, and we find Moses delivering a “state of the union”-type address to the people of Israel. They had just escaped from Egypt, and God had just given to Moses the Ten Commandments. Moses was addressing the people about these commandments from God. Right in the middle of this speech, Moses took a break from the commandments, and spoke to them about the coming Messiah. Look at verse 15: “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him.” He’s speaking about Jesus here.
Two things to note about this description of Christ – Moses said that Jesus would be a prophet “like me.” How would Jesus be like Moses? Remember, Moses was a very unique prophet. Of all the prophets, he was the only one God spoke to face to face. The Bible says that Moses actually saw the form of God, had face to face contact with God – no other prophet had that privilege. In the same way, Jesus would have face to face contact with God the Father. Just like Moses, Jesus could say that he has stood in the presence of God the Father, and has received first-hand words of God to share with the people. That’s how Jesus would be like Moses.
The other thing to note, is that Jesus would be a prophet “from among your own brothers.” Jesus wouldn’t just descend from heaven like an angel, an outsider. He would become a human being, through and through, and he would be born a Jew. In this way, he would be raised up “from among your own brothers.”
Isn’t it interesting that Jesus fulfills this prophecy exactly? In verses 17 and 18 we hear about this again: “The Lord said to me: ‘What they say is good. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers; I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him.’” This is why Jesus spoke with so much authority – his words were God’s words. God the Father had placed into Jesus’ mouth the exact words he wanted Jesus to speak.
But the people of Israel did not recognize Jesus’ authority. They listened to what he said, but they didn’t like what they heard. And Jesus didn’t look like he had much authority – he was brought up in a small town. None of the leaders of Israel supported him. Sure he performed miracles, but he seemed too humble to be someone with so much authority. And so the people of Israel rejected Christ, rejected his words, and eventually crucified him, even mocking the words of God that Jesus had spoken to them. They did not see his authority.
Our world today has the exact same problem – our world today fails to see the authority of Jesus Christ and his Word. This Bible – it’s just a book, people say. There’s no authority there. And look at the preachers of God’s Word – they’re not speaking the Word of God – there’s no authority there. Our world today even goes so far as to replace the Bible, to replace God’s representatives, with their own teachings, and with their own teachers. Moses spoke about this in verse 20: “But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded him to say, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, must be put to death.” This was such a serious offense in the Old Testament that it called for capital punishment. Today, our world commits this same offense, not recognizing the authority of Jesus Christ and his Word, replacing it with man-made ideas.
A couple months ago, on Small Road outside of LaPorte, there was a man who was driving very recklessly in his truck. He was tough, proving his manhood to the world by driving down Small Road at 55 MPH, passing cars left and right. To his shock, an SUV that he had passed way back was suddenly right on his tail, and that SUV had red and blue police lights flashing. As it turned out, it was the sheriff of LaPorte, driving a sheriff’s vehicle that blended in with the rest of the cars. The reckless driver was fined, nailed for drunk driving, and taken downtown. He did not recognize the authority of that sheriff while he was driving down Small Road, because the authority of the sheriff was hidden.
And so it is with Christ. His authority is hidden, in a humble book called the Bible. His authority is hidden in the humble preaching and teaching of pastors and Christians. Millions of people push away the Bible, talk about Christ in a disrespectful way. Why? They fail to recognize his authority – it’s hidden. This is a temptation for us as well. When the rest of the world says, “It’s just a book,” we might say to ourselves, “Maybe it is just a book.” When the rest of the world makes fun of God’s representatives, people who speak the authoritative Word of God, we are tempted to do the same. We are tempted to stop listening to God’s Word. It has no authority over my life, we say. I have more important things to do.
God has strong words for those who do not listen to his Words. Verse 19: “If anyone does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name, I myself will call him to account.” God is talking about punishment here. Eternal punishment in hell. That’s how God calls people to account.
But there is good news about Jesus Christ and his authority. You see, Jesus not only has the authority to condemn us for our sin. He also has the authority to forgive us. And he does. Jesus Christ forgives you for every sin you have ever committed in your life. He forgives you even for those times you have pushed away his Word. He forgives you for those times you have not recognized his Word as the authoritative Word of God. Jesus Christ forgives you.
Where does Jesus get the authority to do this sort of thing? It’s because he is the Son of God. But not just that – there’s more. As the Son of God, Christ sacrificed himself on the cross for the sins of the world. He allowed himself to be killed, to take away your sins. And then he rose from the dead. That’s what gives Christ the authority to forgive you of your sins. My friends, of all the religions in the world, there is no other religion in which God himself becomes a man, and as a God-man humbles himself to the point of being publicly executed. Christianity is the only religion in which God – the Son of God – dies for the world. Christianity is the only religion in which God forgives the world. It’s the only religion in which God freely and completely forgives you and offers you eternal life as a gift, free of charge.
No other religion carries with it that much authority. It’s the only religion that’s true. It’s the only religion based on the historical fact that Christ, the Son of God, died, and then rose from the dead, and at that moment on Easter God forgave the world. This is the message of the Bible. A message filled with comfort and hope and joy. A message that Jesus shares with you this morning. A message with more authority than any speech or teaching or philosophy you have ever heard before.
In the State of the Union address this past week, you heard some interesting things, things like, “We hope the economy gets better.” “We want to defend our country, so we might go to war. Probably.” These are things that the President needs to say, and we pray for him, and for our country, that God’s will be done.
But when Jesus speaks to you, through his Word, there is much more authority. Jesus doesn’t say to you, “I hope you go to heaven someday.” He says, “Because of me, you will go to heaven someday.” Jesus doesn’t say to you, “I might forgive you of your sins.” Jesus says to you, “Because of me, your sins are forgiven.” Do you see the authority? The Gospel is a sure thing – the words of God himself, the words of Christ – the only sure thing you have in this unstable world.
That is why we gladly say “Yes” when Moses says to us, “You must listen to him.” Yes, we listen to Christ. He has saved us. He says it right here, in his Word. Today, we honor that Word as the very Word of God, the ultimate authority in our lives – what gives us strength and comfort and direction and hope. And for that, we rejoice. Amen.