Authority is everything when it comes to respect. If you lack authority, one tends to lack respect as well. In today’s society, authority is something that can be taken advantage of or something that can be given up. The one to whom authority is given is the one to whom we should obey, but as we often see, that is rarely the case. As we look at today’s Gospel, it’s all about authority: who has it and who does not.
When we find Jesus today, He is in the city of Capernaum and teaching in the synagogue. As He was teaching, Luke says, “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, for He had the authority that the teachers did not – the full authority that comes from God Himself.
Strangely enough, it wasn’t the teachers of the Law who declared that fact, but rather it was the demon-possessed man. He declared, “I know who you are—the Holy One of God.” Jesus’ authority comes from God, not from man. The teachers of the Law, though they had been given authority to preach and teach, did not exercise that authority properly, for what they preached and taught did not agree fully with what Jesus taught. They taught that the Messiah would come, while Jesus taught that He was the Messiah. They taught that in order to be saved, you must keep the Law in its entirety. Jesus taught that man could not keep God’s Law and so He comes to keep the Law in man’s place.
Jesus’ authority is in more than just preaching and teaching. His authority is also seen in actions. Jesus commands the demon to be silent and he is silent. Jesus commands the demon to come out of the man and he comes out. His words lead to actions being done. Once again, 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. The people were so impressed with His authority that they spread the word of Jesus far and wide.
Once Jesus leaves the synagogue, He proceeds to Simon’s house, where Simon’s mother-in-law was ill. 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.
The common thread through all of these events is the power and authority of Jesus. He taught with power and authority. He rebuked demons with power and authority. He even rebuked a fever with power and authority. Jesus speaks to nature and nature listens and obeys. Jesus speaks to spiritual powers and they listen and obey. A little word from Jesus has power and authority over all things.
Jesus brought His power and authority to us in order to undo the damage that sin had done to His creation. Every sickness that He healed, every demon that He cast out, every person that He raised from the dead was a reversal of the curse of sin. Every healing was a sign that pointed forward to the ultimate healing that Jesus worked for us.
The ultimate, eternal healing that Jesus worked for us happened on a cross. On that cross, Jesus suffered the final, eternal consequence of our sin. He endured the full punishment of sin for us. He endured the full wrath of God in our place. He satisfied the judgment of God against our sin. As Isaiah writes, “He was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.”
The message that needs to be heard—shouted from the rooftops and shared and lived out in all of everyday life—is the message of Christ’s all-redeeming suffering, death, and resurrection. This is not just religious truth, but whole Truth. It’s not just true for Lutherans or Catholics, Baptists, or even Christians. It’s not just true on Sunday mornings. Christ suffered and died for the entire world! This trumps everything, for there’s nothing more important than this: Christ Jesus bore and suffered the sins of everyone for all time, and that even includes the people you don’t like or those you don’t think deserve God’s mercy. Contrary to popular belief, you and I don’t deserve God’s mercy either, and yet He extends that mercy to us. We must remember what Paul writes to the Romans: “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
The healing that Jesus gives to us was authenticated by His resurrection from the dead. Through His resurrection we have the promise that all His work – His perfect life and His sacrifice on the cross – all His work is for us. He promises that we shall rise just as He rose. He promises that we shall also live with Him in heaven forever.
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 that 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 that was made on your behalf.
Through this Word, the Holy Spirit changes unbelieving enemies of God into faithful children. We cannot produce faith, our own or anyone else’s. Instead the Holy Spirit calls us by God’s word. He gathers us all together in one, holy, Church that is eternally united with Jesus Christ.
Christ’s Word is powerful. It has what we need. It does what it says. Christ’s Word has power and authority – the power and authority to rebuke demons – the power and authority to rebuke fevers, but ultimately, the power and authority to forgive your sins and save your soul. In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.