SUNDAY MORNING SERMON NOTES
The Unique Authority of Jesus and its Meaning for our Lives
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Sunday, July 22, 2012 - 10:00 a.m.  Sermon #: 1576
Pastor Don Horban

Matthew 8:1-15 - “When he came down from the mountain, great crowds followed him. [2] And behold, a leper came to him and knelt before him, saying, "Lord, if you will, you can make me clean." [3] And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, "I will; be clean." And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. [4] And Jesus said to him, "See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a proof to them." [5] When he entered Capernaum, a centurion came forward to him, appealing to him, [6] "Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, suffering terribly." [7] And he said to him, "I will come and heal him." [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. [9] For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, 'Go,' and he goes, and to another, 'Come,' and he comes, and to my servant, 'Do this,' and he does it." [10] When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, "Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith. [11] I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, [12] while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." [13] And to the centurion Jesus said, "Go; let it be done for you as you have believed." And the servant was healed at that very moment. [14] 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.”

In this summer series, we’re going to focus our attention on Jesus. We’re going to study the authority of Jesus, the call of Jesus, the compassion of Jesus, the mission of Jesus, and the cost of following Jesus.

This first message is all about the authority of Jesus. This is the logical starting place. If you don’t yet know Jesus Christ personally as your Lord and Saviour this is very important to you. Why should you acknowledge Jesus Christ? What is so special about Him?

Chapter 7 introduces us to what people noticed immediately about Jesus' teaching: Matthew 7:28-29 - “And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, [29] for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.”

People, even critical people, were struck with the authority of Jesus. He was different from their Scribes and Pharisees who would quote their sources and recite from their leaders. Jesus didn't bolster His authority by quoting somebody else - "You have heard it said....but I say to you....”The people weren’t used to hearing teachers who didn’t beef-up their words by quoting Moses or Abraham or some other authority.

Then came Jesus. He was immediately self-authenticating. You got the impression that He was the final authority when He opened His mouth. Other teachers stood or fell on how well they lined up with Jesus Christ. He just instantly put Himself in another realm altogether. You knew He believed what He said. And you knew it was powerfully true. That’s what made Jesus such a threat to the power-brokers and religious leaders of His day.

And Jesus taught about such big, important issues. Especially, He said such astounding things about Himself. He taught in Matthew 7 that He and He alone would determine who would and who wouldn't enter the Kingdom of God - "Depart from me, I never knew you!” It was all up to Him.

Jesus said He was greater than the Old Testament law or any of the prophets. That got Him into a lot of trouble, but He said it anyway. He said in Matthew 12 that, "One greater than the temple is here". And the religious leader wanted to kill Him. There was nothing else they could do with this gigantic messenger.

The religious leaders lacked that kind of authority. Their teaching was verbal information. Just words. And, most of all, the talk was void of the ability to change lives or circumstances. There was no power. They were just in the business of giving out information.
Jesus wasn’t just talk. He really backed up the things he said. Wherever Jesus went, He made a difference. That's where Matthew 8-10 comes into the picture. With the claims He was making about Himself, should Jesus be dismissed as some kind of kook? Or should people bow before Him in worship?

That’s the first issue we’re considering in this series - the authority of Jesus. That’s what chapter eight is all about. If you’re still not sure of Jesus Christ this is what you need to know. Why should you bow before Jesus as God the Son, the Redeemer of mankind? Or, if you are a Christian, reflecting on the authority of Christ should awaken self-examination. How do you give attention to Him in a way that is unique and worthy of His Person? How does He dominate your heart in a way movie stars and sports superstars don’t? How does Jesus make you bored with any other form of admiration and adoration? Those are the important questions to ask as we study the greatness of Jesus Christ.

The authority of Jesus is immediately put to the test by the situations and elements of this age that most needed to be changed and freed by the power of that authority. Matthew marshals three scenes in rapid succession:

1) THE CLEANSING OF THE LEPER

Matthew 8:1-4 - “When he came down from the mountain, great crowds followed him. [2] And behold, a leper came to him and knelt before him, saying, "Lord, if you will, you can make me clean." [3] And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, "I will; be clean." And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. [4] And Jesus said to him, "See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a proof to them."

We probably can't understand what those few verses really meant in those days. People didn't get better from leprosy. They just got worse and died with no medi-care or painkillers.

The leper would shout out, "Unclean! Unclean!" everywhere he went. He had to ring a bell when approaching other people. Crowds scattered. Historians tell us that priests would run and hide themselves at the very sight of a leper. Get that. Nobody prayed for lepers. They scattered.

O, how Matthew organized his historical material from the ministry of Jesus to strengthen our faith! Right off the bat we're introduced to a Jesus who starts with the most hopeless of situations. He seems to offer the very best we could ever hope for immediately. He seems to call our attention to this situation first as if to tell us right away that, unlike everyone else we already know, you can’t expect too much from Jesus. It’s always a mistake to limit Him by fearing disappointment.

The authority and sheer might of Jesus intrudes - crashes in - with unexpected power on our small minds. Surely Matthew is trying to tell us there are no lost causes - no hopeless situations where Jesus is involved!

There's something so powerful about this revelation of Jesus. Nobody dared to touch a leper. But when Jesus touches a leper He doesn't contract leprosy. The leprosy vanishes. It simply cannot stand up to the authority of Jesus.

This is relevant to us. Jesus’ authority matters. Think of all the dead bodies - our dead bodies - that, deep in the earth, will actually respond to the death-conquering authority of Jesus Christ! When you’re physically alive, and someone calls out to you, you hear and then make the choice whether or not to respond.

But in the grave, with dead, decaying bodies, your hearing will have long ceased. You won’t be a conscious listener. You won’t make a choice to hear the voice of Jesus. Your dead, decaying body will have no choice at all but to obey the authority of its creator. It will be Jesus’ authority, not your choice to obey, that will being your body out of the grave!

This picture of Jesus needs desperately to be recovered by the church. We need the courage to pray for the big needs of our day with faith in the authority of our Lord. Apply this any way you want - that stubbornly lost teenager with no interest in Christ - the bondage of sin that tightens its grip over our cities and nations in abortion, homosexuality, and greed - that inner nagging sense of guilt in the dark corners of your own heart, where inwardly you have your own voice that hopelessly cries out, “Unclean! Unclean!”

Keep this passage in mind when you face cancer, Parkinson’s disease or financial loss. I know that those things seem so scary that we perhaps don't even expect God to work. But we have to believe what the Word of God says! We pray with faith in the authority of Jesus!

Read the last part of verse 3 in slow motion - Matthew 8:3 - “And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, "I will; be clean." And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.”

Either Jesus does those kind of things or He doesn't. There will always be some doubts. There will always be questions I can't answer about why people aren't always healed. But I don't need more doubts or more questions. Surely I need to arm my prayer life with this kind of solid truth about the authority and power of Jesus!

And here’s something important to remember. I know there are all sorts of distortions and false teachings regarding New Testament faith floating around today. And I want no part of them. But, having said that, there were places in the New Testament where the text specifically says Jesus couldn’t do all He wanted to do for people because they didn’t fully trust in His authority over all that oppressed them. They didn’t trust the authority of Jesus.

2) THE HEALING OF THE CENTURION'S SERVANT

Matthew 8:5-13 - “When he entered Capernaum, a centurion came forward to him, appealing to him, [6] "Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, suffering terribly." [7] And he said to him, "I will come and heal him." [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. [9] For [So this is the reason for this man’s confidence in Jesus] I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, 'Go,' and he goes, and to another, 'Come,' and he comes, and to my servant, 'Do this,' and he does it." [10] When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, "Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith [And what Jesus notices is this gentile’s concept of how divine authority works]. [11] I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, [12] while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." [13] And to the centurion Jesus said, "Go; let it be done for you as you have believed." And the servant was healed at that very moment.”

This miracle is significant for this reason: This is the first time we see Jesus healing anybody where He wasn't physically present. In other words, this miracle is all about the authority of Jesus, not the touch of Jesus. The man who made request of Jesus wasn't a Jew with a lot of background revelation about the coming Messiah.

But he was a man familiar with authority. He was probably a Roman soldier who was ordered to keep the Jews (Jesus included) under submission and control. He knew the importance of the sequence of command followed by consequence. This issue of authority is at center stage. This man knows all about how real authority works:

Matthew 8:9 - "For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, 'Go,' and he goes, and to another, 'Come,' and he comes, and to my servant, 'Do this,' and he does it."

Matthew includes those seemingly extra comments on the nature of this man’s career for good reason. It ties in with Matthew’s lesson on the authority of Jesus. This man knows how authority works from his own occupation.

"I exercise the authority of Rome. When I speak, Rome speaks. My words carry that kind of clout in the military realm. I don't have to stand around and oversee every order. My authority assures that my wishes will be carried out!"

That revelation is very important to us today. We don't see Jesus physically present when we pray. We rely on His authority, not His physical touch. If His physical absence means that His authority is somehow weakened or diluted we're in big trouble.

But what pleases Jesus so much is that finally He has found someone who recognizes that his word on any issue is enough. Here is one who understands Jesus' authority isn't limited by time or distance. His power is an unchanging power. His authority is a never ending authority. It doesn't fade as the years go by! It's always fresh and available and potent to any task!

The power of God is actually abiding in Jesus’ words. Jesus said so: John 14:10 - “Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works.”

This verse clearly links the words of God the Son with the works of God the Father. In a very unique and special way the words of Jesus are living words. The work of God is in them. That’s why Jesus can speak to waves on the sea and they lie down at His word. That’s a kind of authority the disciples weren’t quite used to.

It's in the context of this miracle that Jesus offers a promise and a warning: Matthew 8:11-12 - “I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, [12] while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."

What strange words in the middle of a miracle account. How do they fit in?

a) The promise He offers is all who extend this same kind of faith and trust in who he is, and the power He has, will find themselves partaking in the joys of his consummated kingdom when He comes again: Matthew 8:11 - “I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven....”

The living words of Jesus can transform your circumstances. That much is true. But there’s so much more. They can give each one eternal life. They can seal a future you can’t even see yet. They can control eternal destiny.

And the offer of grace is for people “from the east and west.” That means not just the “religious in crowd.” The kingdom of God comes to people like this centurion - to people hated by the Jews - to people with no background in the covenant - to people on the outside.

What wonderful words of hope and encouragement! A future to those who find everything organized against them. Outsiders can become insiders. You need to know that Jesus’ words - believing what He says and trusting in His authority to say it - can give you eternal life. No other religious leader or teacher or prophet can do that.

b) The warning He gives is anyone rejecting or ignoring the authoritative message of Jesus Christ will find himself in "outer darkness" - Matthew 8:12 - “....while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."

Jesus’ authority so authenticates who He is and what He said there is simply no excuse for not submitting to that authority immediately. To resist such revelation is blameable. Jesus said it brings eternal damnation.

Please notice something carefully. The division between these two crowds isn't drawn where people usually think. It actually isn’t based on what the world calls "moral behaviour" at all. Behaviour is important - even essential. But moral behaviour isn’t the starting point. It's not a division between bad and good people in that sense at all. The context of these strong words is the glue holding their meaning in place. It’s all about the authority of Jesus Christ.

In Jesus’ mind, the crucial first step to eternal safety is the place given to Himself. It’s all about bowing the knee to His Lordship and grace. The sole issue is the authority of Jesus and the place it finds in our lives!

Notice something else. Those on the outside looking in are described as the “sons of the kingdom” (12). This warning is to fight off the complacency that would rely on some kind of religious heritage or even upbringing. Life isn’t determined by the beginning of things, but by the end of them. The first can become last. The writer of Hebrews says it’s possible to neglect a great salvation at eternal peril. The faith doesn’t have to be denied. It is lost when it is neglected.

Jesus would like to take many in the church and shake them and say "Your religious upbringing and grooming won't cut it in the Kingdom of God. Do you, like this centurion, appreciate My absolute authority and do you recognize it in your life every moment?"

3) THE HEALING OF PETER'S MOTHER-IN-LAW

Matthew 8:14-15 - “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.”

There's a little detail that Mark records that Matthew doesn't. Mark tells how they told Jesus of the sickness and brought Him to her: Mark 1:30 - “Now Simon's mother-in-law lay ill with a fever, and immediately they told him about her.”

The only reason that's important is it fits in with a pattern recorded all through the book of Matthew. Every specifically mentioned healing recorded by Matthew finds Jesus responding to the steps of faith taken by somebody else.

In Matthew’s Gospel Jesus rarely, if ever, initiates the miracle. Someone trusts Jesus on behalf of someone else. Someone asks. Someone cries out. Someone brings someone else. Then Jesus responds. He always honours the cry of need and humility. Sometimes it's the cry of the sick themselves. Sometimes it's the cry of others who intercede for friends or loved ones. But always they are people who recognize the compassion and the authority of Jesus and draw on it!

"Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and today, and forever." Please hear me on this, church. That means He still loves to be asked. He still responds to human faith and submission. His authority is a gracious authority.

Bring that understanding - that faith - into every altar time, every prayer group, every home study. Keep bringing people to Jesus on your knees. There’s more power there - and more willingness - than you may think.