Text: Luke 4:31-44
By Whose Authority
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for the sermon this morning comes from the Gospel which was read earlier.
In today’s society, authority is something which can be taken advantage of or something which can be given up. A perfect example is the show Super Nanny. It centers around a family who has problems with their children. The parents’ authority is missing or not taken seriously. That’s where Super Nanny comes in. Her job is to try to restore order to the household and to help the parents regain their authority.
In our lives, it’s not always easy to keep or properly exercise ones authority. Anyone who has ever “borrowed” their parent’s car without asking knows this lesson. Who said you could borrow the car? Who gave you the authority to make that decision? Even in the Church, there is constant discussion about who has the authority to do this or that, and discussions can at times become quite contentious.
In our liturgy on Sunday mornings, the absolution has been clarified with what the pastor says: “As a called and ordained servant of Christ, and by His authority….” Note that it is not on my authority that I forgive you your sins; it is the authority of Christ. God has called me to be a pastor and to distribute His means of grace. Trinity Lutheran Church in Gillette, Wyoming has called me to be their Assistant Pastor to distribute God’s means of grace. I am not acting on my own. I’m under the authority of Christ and called by the congregation.
The question was even asked about Jesus. By whose authority did He say and do things He said and did? What was His authority all about? He was frequently challenged about both the things He said the things He did. But by His Word, Jesus showed His divine authority to heal all men.
In our text for today, there are three instances where Jesus exercises His authority. The first instance was in the synagogue. Jesus did what He normally did on the Sabbath; He preached. Notice what Luke records for us. “And he was teaching them on the Sabbath, and they were astonished at his teaching, for his word possessed authority.” The people listened to Jesus’ Words, even though they may not have fully understood what He was saying. They didn’t need to know everything that Jesus was saying because they knew that what Jesus was saying had authority behind it. He wasn’t like any other teacher in the synagogue. No other teacher could stand before them and tell them what He did: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” He just quoted the prophet Isaiah, just like any other teacher did. But what Jesus added could only be said by Him, one who has authority: “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
Where did this authority come from? When the man with the unclean demon came before Jesus, he knew exactly where that authority came from: “I know who you are—the Holy One of God.” The people stood in amazement, not because the demon left the man, but because how the demon left the man: by Jesus telling the demon to leave. It was by Jesus’ authority that the demon left. Had anyone else tried to tell or force the demon to leave, the demon would have probably just laughed in their face. But with Jesus, the demon couldn’t laugh because it was the Holy One of God who spoke.
The second instance of Jesus’ authority was in Simon’s house. Simon’s mother-in-law was ill with a high fever. With a simple request of Jesus, the fever left her and she began to serve those in her house, probably as she normally would. The people saw what Jesus had done and other people with illnesses began to show up desiring to be healed. Jesus exercised His healing authority to heal those who were infirmed. By His powerful Word, He rebuked the fever and by His personal loving care with His hand of compassion, He healed them.
Jesus heals us still today, just as He did then. He heals us by His Word. “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.” He heals us still with His body and blood, given and shed for us, for the forgiveness of all of our sins. Why does He do this? What did you do to earn this gracious act of Christ? “All this He does only out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me…that I may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom…” You didn’t do anything to deserve Christ’s forgiveness. On the contrary, you only deserve His eternal damnation. Thanks be to God, you do not receive eternal damnation. You receive forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. You receive full membership in the family of God.
Finally, Jesus showed authority in His message. Jesus’ authority over demons and illnesses of all kinds is only part of His broader authority: His message, His teaching, and His mission for coming to earth.
What is this message that Jesus gives to us? “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” The message is forgiveness. The message is the cross. The message is that you are a sinner. You are filthy. You are disgusting. You have no part of God. Jesus comes to us and He tells us that while you are a sinner, you are a saint. While you are filthy, your Heavenly Father sees nothing but the righteousness won for you on the cross by Christ’s bloody sacrifice for you. While you are disgusting, you are made new. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” That is Christ’s message, for you and for me.
What is Christ’s teaching that Jesus gives to us? It was Jesus’ authoritative teaching that first caught the attention of those in Capernaum. It is the very Word of God which leads you to forgiveness in His name. The teaching is of God and what He has done for you, namely forgiven you of all your sins. His teaching is not of anything that you have done because whatever it is that you do, it will never equal the atoning sacrifice which was made on your behalf.
What is Christ’s mission for coming to earth? It is simple: to bring all of mankind to Him, for all of mankind to recognize that without Christ, there is only death. Without Christ, there is nothing. When you die outside of Christ, you die. But when you fall asleep in Christ Jesus, you have eternal life. You have forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. Christ’s mission is to restore creation to God the Father. Christ’s mission is to restore you as a child of God.
Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, came into our broken world to help us. He came into our sin-filled world that the Holy One of God might bear the iniquity of us all on the cross. He gives us the Good News of personal forgiveness and new life forever with Him in heaven. By whose authority does He does this? It is God’s authority. Thanks be to God for what we have been given, not by our authority, but by God’s: forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Now the peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ. Amen.
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