August 11 I Thursday
“When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at His teaching, because He taught as One who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.”
Jesus is different from the other teachers of His day; in fact, He is different from any other spiritual leader or teacher in history because Jesus’s words have authority. The Greek word that Matthew uses in the opening verse of this devotion for “authority” is exousia, which literally means “authority, power, privilege, dominion, the right to control or govern.” The word is used in connotation to a ruler.
Many associate the concept of authority with power, but there is a difference. For example, if we were driving on the road and happened to be driving faster than we ought to be and a police officer caught us speeding with his radar, the police officer could stand in our traffic lane, point at our car and force us to pull over. Now, did the police officer actually have the physical power to stop our car? The answer is no, because we could choose to step on the gas and keep moving—which would get us into a lot more trouble. The police officer, however, does have the authority to stop our car.
Different from a police officer, we learn in Scripture that Jesus has both power and authority. After teaching on the ethics of the kingdom in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus demonstrates the dynamics of the kingdom. In the two chapters that follow, Matthew records miracles that Jesus performed; in fact, of the 21 miracles recorded in the Gospel of Matthew, 10 of them are concentrated in Matthew 8 and 9. Jesus goes to the margins of society and begins to manifest the new kingdom that He had just described. He goes to the leper, the foreigner, the demon-possessed, those who are suffering and the diseased. It was as though Jesus went to the outer fringes of what was acceptable in New Testament Israel on purpose. As He does, He is upsetting the well-established system.
The Jewish life was organized by categories. There was the Torah that was at the heart of the Jewish system of religion. Then, there was the Temple, the place where Jewish people went and worshipped God. After, there were the teachings of the leaders, the experts in the law and the Pharisees. There were also the traditions of the rabbis that were handed down generation after generation. Jesus has the power and authority to challenge the way life was ordered according to Jewish understanding of the Torah, Temple, teachings and traditions, which is why the chief priests, Pharisees and teachers of the law were offended by Jesus. Yet, Jesus was simply demonstrating His power and authority to restore the outcast back into the kingdom of God—back into a right relationship with God.
Prayer: Dear Jesus, You have the power and authority to restore the outcast back into a right relationship with You. Thank You for coming into this world to seek and to save the lost. Amen!