Date:    10/26/03

Text:     Matthew 7:28-8:17

Title:     Jesus, A Man of Authority

Theme: Because Jesus is the Messiah who forgives our sins and carries our illnesses, therefore we are to submit to his authority.



            This morning’s scripture reading is about Jesus' Authority. In Webster’s dictionary, authority is defined as the power to give commands, to enforce obedience, to make final decisions. It also means reliability of a source, a person with much knowledge in some particular field. We each may consider different individuals as men or women with authority. To some, police officers, doctors, teachers and pastors are people of authority. We also respond to authority differently. Some of us when seeing a police car behind us, will instinctively look at the speedometer and slow our car down; others are bold enough to argue with the officer. When we see the doctor, some of our hearts beat faster, and the blood pressure will be up a little. When we receive a call form the pastor requesting a home visit, some respond with open arms, others will say we are fine, we don’t have any problems. Some respond to authority with fear, some with avoidance or compliance, others with open rebellion.

            To discuss Jesus'' authority in this postmodern world, is not a heart warming event. We prefer talking about what Jesus can do for us. We like to hear messages on how he will bring us prosperity, fame and power. We want to know how we can live a more successful life. We want the know-how’s of a happy marriage. We want a Jesus that will listen to us, taking orders from us.

            However, at the very onset of Jesus' ministry, he clearly establishes his identity. He wants his followers to know who he is. In this passage, we will identify the truth that because Jesus is the Messiah who forgives our sins and carries our illnesses, therefore we are to submit to his authority.

I.          Jesus has authority in his words.           

            In the passage we have read, Jesus had finished his first group of teachings, known as the Sermon on the Mount. This is how his followers responded to him. V28, “…the crowds were astonished at his teaching….” Why? “…for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes (teachers of the law).” The scribes, their teachers, only explain other rabbi’s teachings. In so doing, they have also added a burden to the people. Not so with Jesus. His teaching appeals to human hearts. As they listen to his words, it brings them comfort, giving them direction and purpose in life, and setting standards for them. As they listen, they recognize such teaching is good for them and for their community. It is not to enslave them, but to give them true freedom. As they listen, they also acknowledge his teaching commands attention, demands obedience and expects a decision. After listening to him, no one can remain neutral. One has to make a choice: to obey or not to obey him.

           Moreover, in chapter 8, in the healing of the centurion’s servant, and the casting out of demons and healing of the sick that were brought to him (vs.16), he only used his word. His words have the power to heal. Who else’s words have such power? In Psalm 33:9, “For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm.” This passage refers to how God created the heavens and the earth with spoken words. He spoke and it was done. Jesus' words have that power. His words are the same as God's words. It is powerful and authoritative, it demands our attention and obedience.

            What does it mean to us? First we are to be students of God's word. If we don’t read and study his words, his authority will mean nothing to us. As we read and obey his words, it will begin to change our lives.

            Secondly, it has to do with us preachers and teachers of God's word. We are to remember that it is his words and not our words that have authority. When we prepare sermons and lessons, we pray and study the word. We also read commentaries and books, listen to other preachers’ sermons to help us gain a deeper and broader understanding of the Word and learn from others how they treat this passage. We then organize our thoughts and put them together. We do our best to deliver the message and apply it to our lives. Our ultimate objective in preaching and teaching is to bring the listeners to Jesus Christ, to capture our thoughts and behaviors and place them under his authority. Our words have no authority. Through our words and the work of the Holy Spirit, we bring individuals to Jesus Christ, the one who has the authority.

II.         Jesus has the authority to transform life.

            With the flu season coming, no one wants to be sick. At his moment, there is not much the doctor can do about it. When we get the bug, it is very uncomfortable, we feel lousy, we are house bound. If we do go out, people will avoid us. Some of us probably remember when you returned from Asia this past April, people avoided you like a plague. Its miserable to be sick.

            In chapter 8, we have the leper, the centurion’s servant, Peter’s mother in law, and those who are sick or being possessed by the demons. In those days, the lepers couldn’t approach anyone. They lived in isolation. The centurion was a Roman citizen, most probably not a Jew. His servant and Peter’s mother in law were both house bound and could not work. Those possessed by the demons, were completely beyond themselves. They had no control of their behavior, because the demons had taken control over them. What do they have in common? They met Jesus and they were healed. Their lives were transformed.

            How so? The leper came to Jesus and called him Lord, saying, 8:2, “And behold, a leper came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.”. He is a man of great faith. The centurion is also a man of faith. 8:8, “But the centurion replied, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed.” He knew Jesus could heal his servant with his word. Jesus doesn’t even need to travel to his house. Just a word will do. How about Peter’s mother in law? Vs.14-15, “And when Jesus entered Peter’s house, he saw his mother-in-law lying sick with a fever. 15 He touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she rose and began to serve him.” Jesus simply entered the house, touched and healed her. There was no request from her. The same was true with those who were possessed by demons in the city. Vs.16, “That evening they brought to him many who were oppressed by demons, and he cast out the spirits with a word and healed all who were sick.” Their friends brought them to Jesus and they were healed.

            What do we see here? Jesus has the authority to heal and transform life. He heals the leper and Peter’s mother in law by touching them. He heals the centurion’s servant and those possessed by demons and are sick in the city by his word. He spoke and it was done. He alone decides when and how to bring healing to these individuals. He sets the agenda. For he is the one who has the authority to heal.

            Even to this day, the principle is the same. He alone can bring true healing to us. He decides when and how to heal us. We have all come here with different forms of illnesses; some physical or emotional. We come with the attitude: if you will, you can heal and make us whole. We don’t tell him when and how to heal us.

            We have seen individuals who are healed of cancer, allergy and other ailments. But others who are equally devoted and sincere in their faith have died of cancer and continue to suffer from different pains.

            In the Christian church history, there was the great Christian hymn writer, William Cowper. His life was full of distress and depression. His sky was filled with clouds of dread. But his poetry was a reflection of the sustaining character of God—music for the mind that led him to endure and to worship more deeply.

            There was David Brainerd, America’s early missionary to the native Indians. In the midst of his loneliness and pain from tuberculosis, he cried out, “…Oh for more of God in my soul! Oh this pleasing pain! It makes my soul press after God.” In his pain he persevered and influenced the world mission for the next 200 years.

            Jesus has the authority to heal and to withhold healing from us. Even though he may refrain the physical healing, he has promised that in all circumstances, he is working to transform us into his likeness.

III.       Jesus authority transcends the Law.

            In the OT law, no one can touch the lepers. They are to live in isolation with other lepers. When the priests see them from afar, they have to hide from the lepers. It is also forbidden to touch anyone who is sick. By doing so, one will be considered as ceremonially unclean.

            Yet in this passage we are told that at the very beginning of Jesus'' ministry, he touched the untouchables. He touched the Leper and later Peter’s mother in law and healed them. Later on in his ministry, he heals a man on Sabbath which is forbidden by the Jewish law. He proclaimed that he is the lord of the Sabbath. His authority transcends the OT law. In vs.4, He told the leper “…to go to the priest and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a proof to them.” According to the OT law, only a priest can pronounce if the person is cured of leprosy and considered clean. On the one hand Jesus transcends the OT law, but on the other, he also shows his compliance to the law. He has not come to destroy, or put away the law, but has come to complete, fulfill the law. 

            What does the phrase, “for a proof to them” mean? It is to prove that Jesus has the power to heal. He is the great prophet that is promised in the OT. By submitting to the OT law, he has also made the law pointing to him. By his healing power, he proves that he is indeed the son of God, the promised Messiah.

IV.       Jesus' authority transcends national boundary.

            In praising the centurion’s faith, Jesus says, vs 10,11, “Truly I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith. I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Jesus is talking about the future. This is known as the eschatology banquet.  It appears in many of Jesus'' parables. One day, when the present world as we know will come to an end, and God's children will be gathered in heaven, eating with him. You see, at the very on start of his earthly ministry, he already has the end in mind. What is the end like? In God's kingdom, there will be people from the east and west. To the Jews, they were waiting for their Messiah to come and deliver them from the Roman rule. But Jesus has something far greater than this. The heavenly kingdom is to include people from all nations. In every nation on earth, God has chosen and called some to be his children. This is the promise that God gave to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He promised them that many nations will be blessed because of them. Here Jesus is saying that his authority extends beyond the Jewish nation. It includes peoples in all nations.

            What has this to do with us? Sometimes we can be so involved in our ministry here in this city, in this church that we tell ourselves the need here is great, and we need to take care of ourselves first. Certainly this is true. But if we understand God's word correctly, God's world is much bigger than ours. We are to see our world from God's perspective. Our local needs are great, but God also wants us to look at the world beyond the four walls of HCC. In every nation, in every people group, God has called and chosen individuals to be his sons and daughters. What is our responsibility? To go where God leads and to bring the message of God's love and to issue God's call to the people there.

            Early this year, Bruce Wilkinson, author of the Prayer of Jabez moved to S. Africa so he can minister to the poor and the aids victims in that continent. In the latest issue of Christianity Today, is an article about a ministry to rescue and help the victims of sex trafficking. There is a group of Chinese Christians working in Thailand, bringing the monks to Christ. You see, we are to open our eyes and see the world as Jesus sees it. Our hearts are to be broken by what breaks Jesus' heart.

            God has called individuals from this church to serve in different parts of the world. He will continue to call us to go to different people groups. His authority is not to be confined to one place, one church. The entire world belongs to him.

V.        Jesus'' authority is a part of his work on the cross.

            As the author of this book, Matthew was recalling and writing these events in Jesus' early ministry, he must be also asking why did these events occur? Who is this Jesus? In responding to these questions, he made an editorial comment.  Vs.17, “This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: ‘He took our illnesses and bore our diseases.” (Isaiah 53:4).

            Matthew was stating that this Jesus is the promised Messiah. When this Messiah comes, he will take up his people’s illnesses and carry their diseases. This is how the people are healed. By quoting this verse in Isaiah, Matthew was also pointing out that one day this Messiah would be hung on the cross. Not only would he take our illnesses and diseases, he would also carry our sins. When we come to him, our sins will also be forgiven.

            So you see, because Jesus had come to die on the cross, therefore he alone has the power and authority to forgive and to heal. Because of his work on the cross, he has authority in his words; the authority to transform lives, his authority transcends the OT laws and national boundaries. He is the center of authority.


            This coming Friday is October 31. Christians in this country are very much distracted by the Halloween events. We are busy trying to convince ourselves and explain to our children what Halloween is and how not to participate in this practice. Churches across the nation organize activities to provide an alternative to Halloween celebrations. In doing so, we have completely forgotten that October 31 is a very important day in the Christian history. It is known as the Reformation Day. 

            The Christian church sets this day apart to remember the work of Martin Luther. In the 16th century, he called his generation to come back to Faith alone, Scripture alone. He urged the believers of his day to come back to God's word, and his word alone. For his word, himself has that ultimate authority and power over us.

            In this postmodern world, we, including the Christians, don’t like authority, including Jesus' authority. It is my desire and prayer, that we recapture this truth that Jesus is the Lord above all. He alone is the center of authority.

            You know, unless you have never heard his words, otherwise, once you have heard it, you will no longer be able to remain neutral anymore. His words, have the power and authority to command our attention, demand our obedience, and expect our decision.

           Many of us claim to be followers of Jesus Christ. Yes, he has saved us from God's wrath. Yet as we examine our lives, is he our Lord? Do our lives manifest the fact that we live under his authority?