When Jesus spoke it was obvious he was different than any other religious teacher of his day or of any other day. Most of the people who heard him speak had heard many other religious people speak, probably even on the same topics that he did. But there was an obvious difference. After the Sermon on the Mount the people were amazed and said, “This man speaks with authority and not like the scribes and Pharisees.” John told of a day when the religious leaders sent soldiers to arrest Jesus. They were tired of his whole teaching and the works he performed. He just refused to fit into the mold they had for a Messiah. He wouldn’t observe their rules and violated their understanding of the Sabbath. When the soldiers returned empty handed they asked the soldiers why they hadn’t arrested him. They said, “No man ever spoke like this man.”
He wasn’t the only one that ever spoke with authority. John the Baptist was not one to waver in the wind. He spoke with authority, power, rage and enthusiasm. The prophets had spoken with sure authority when they condemned the actions of the people and warned of the very wrath of God coming upon the world. So what made their teachings so different from Jesus?
It is amazing that Paul in writing to his young friend Titus told him to “Preach and rebuke with all authority.” If you read the sermons delivered by Paul you know that he didn’t back up to any mere man. Imagine the first people he wrote to when they received the Letter to the Galatians and read verses 8-9. “Though we or an angel from heaven preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As I said before, I now say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel that what you have received let him be accursed.” When John the apostle known as the apostle of love wrote his second letter, it sounds pretty authoritative when he said, “Whoever goes on and does not abide in the teachings of Christ does not have God. He that abides in the teachings of Christ, has both the Father and the Son.”
What was it that made Jesus and his teaching distinct from all others? The prophets and preachers of God’s word spoke with the authority of His word as his men still do. But Jesus spoke with the authority of God himself. He didn’t just speak God’s word. He was and is God’s word. He embodied the message of the Lord, living out in every detail the things he taught us about God and his will. He demonstrated how to balance justice and mercy, obedience and faith, and hating sin while loving the sinner.
We could point to the stories Jesus told and say that made him unique as a teacher. It would be correct to say that no one ever told a story like Jesus told a story. Many of his stories are so well known today that people quote parts of them who have no idea they come from the Bible. No other story ever told comes so close to explaining to us the nature and heart of God than the story of the Prodigal son and his loving Father. But what made that story so powerful is that Jesus knew what it was like for him to love his sheep so much that if one became lost he would leave the 99 to search until he joyfully found the one and brought him home again. He knew what it was like for the widow to loose her coin and search until she found it. He knew the father’s love who would not only allow a son to treat him awfully and exercise his freedom, but when he hit the bottom to come home again and be treated with love and respect as a son. He knew what it was like to have the very religious leaders who should have been the closest allies to become self-centered, judgmental and arrogant sinners but still plead with them to come home and accept their brother. So when Jesus told the story of God’s love and grace he told it with a passion that only one who has been there and done that could understand. He was God searching and longing for lost sinners to come home and be sons.
In a day when slavery was common and when people thought of serving God as just another act of slavery, Jesus came to make us sons and daughters of the Almighty. It has always been part of our problem that we tend to focus on our failures and hurts more than on his greatness and grace. What man lost in the Garden of Eden when he listened to his wife who had listened to the devil, Jesus came to restore, to call us back into fellowship and family.
I wish I could look into the eyes and the heart of Jesus that day when he looked out on the multitudes and saw them as sheep without a shepherd and felt compassion on them. I wonder what expression was on his face as he said, “Come to me, all who are weary and burdened down and I will give you rest. Take my yoke on you and learn of me for I am gentle and humble of heart and you will find rest for your soul for my yoke is easy and by burden is light.” I imagine his eyes would would have shown more than his words. You would have seen so much concern for the lost one that it would surely have melted the hard and sinful heart to cause them to turn to the Lord.
It’s amazing that when Jesus came to the end of his ministry on earth and was ready to make the ascent back to the Father he declared, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” He had been speaking with authority that amazed the world before he marched to the cross. Now the whole realm of authority is being place at his feet.
Before we can participate in the grace and forgiveness Jesus brought to the world, we must accept his authority on a personal basis. “If we confess with our mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in our heart that God has raised him from the dead we will be saved. For with the heart man believes unto righteousness and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” When a person is immersed in water based on the authority of Christ it is an act of submission to him. It is a yielding to him in obedience. (Romans 6:16-17)
Today we may follow Jesus and speak with authority on the things that he has revealed in his word, but it isn’t personal authority. It is delegated from the Lord and it is based on the authority of his word, not on anything that is personal to us.
Listen closely to Jesus words. Look into his eyes and feel his compassion. If the one with all authority said, “I didn’t come to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.” What should be our stance in life?