(continued…) I must add that Jesus also went by the book, but in his own unique, and sometimes, infuriating way. Jesus did not preach against the Old Testament, nor did he ever dispute its authority. In fact, he said in that same Sermon on the Mount that he came not to abolish, but to uphold and fulfill the old Law, and that not even one letter of the old Word of God should disappear. But then Jesus would go on to preach and teach in such a way that went even beyond what the older Scriptures said, adding an even stricter interpretation of the Law; AND, and an even more loving and gracious understanding of God. Jesus did not contradict, but reinterpreted, deepened, and strengthened all of what had come before. And the people who heard him in person, said he did so with authority.
So Jesus would say “You have heard it said, ‘You shall not kill,’ but I say unto you anyone who remains angry with his brother is subject to judgment, so do all you can to settle your differences.”
Going on to the next of the ten commandments, Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said ‘Do not commit adultery,’ but I say unto you anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery in his heart,” and thus, is in need of God’s forgiveness.
It was not an easier path that Jesus was proclaiming. People did not follow Jesus because they would have a less difficult time of it. But they followed him because he taught ‘as one who had authority.’
Not only did Jesus speak with authority, he acted with authority. There is no end to the number of people in every field who can speak with authority; who can, with their eloquent and powerful words, woo, intimidate, and convince large numbers of people, and then gain a following, push for, promote, and sell just about anything. Speaking with authority can get you a long way, but not all the way. As the old saying goes, you have to not only talk the talk, but you have to walk the walk. Jesus did ‘walk the walk.’ Along with his great words, Jesus also added great actions.
In Mark 1:21-28 Jesus did not only teach with authority, but when confronted by a man possessed by an evil power, a demon, he cured him with a word. “Come out of him,” Jesus said with authority, and then, says verse 26, “the evil spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek.” And then for the second time in this brief text, we read that the people were amazed at how he spoke with such authority that even the evil spirits obeyed him.
This story comes at the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry. He will, of course go on to demonstrate his authority in many other ways. The people had heard it said that God created the heavens and the earth and that God ruled over all. They would be amazed to see Jesus rule even the wind and the waves, having the authority to stop a storm at sea with his words. Jesus would tell them that he was the bread of life, and then he would go on to miraculously feed thousands of people on more than one occasion. And the people had heard it said that God had created them and given them the gift of life. Jesus would offer to all the gift of eternal life, and demonstrate his authority over the power of death. For many centuries they had already been praying that old favorite prayer, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me.” Now, they heard from Jesus that he is ‘the good shepherd,’ he is ‘the way and the truth and the life,’ and that He will bring us all the way through that valley of death to a new and resurrected life on the other side. You can know that he has the authority and the ability to do so.
I can understand the Pharisees initial reluctance to Jesus because of the way he seemed to put himself above even God’s Word. I, like them, am a ‘by the book’ kind of person. But then time after time Jesus clearly demonstrated that he was indeed more than a man; he did indeed not only speak with authority, but had an authority from heaven like no other human being has ever had. He had a power over evil, power over nature, and even power over death. So I do think, had I lived back then, the resurrection of Jesus from the dead would have convinced me to believe in Him. In fact, it was becoming convinced of the historical truth of that resurrection in 1974 that kept me in the faith, after a long period of serious doubt and questioning. Jesus not only spoke with authority, but he lived, died, and rose again with authority; and then Jesus calls on us to respond with faith.
Our response is to Jesus the most important thing we will ever do in this brief life. Jesus said with authority, “I am the resurrection and the life, whosoever believes in me, even though they die, yet shall they live again.”
Matthew 5:17-18 — (Jesus said), “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.”
Matthew 5:21-22a — (Jesus said), “You have heard that it was said to the men of old, ‘You shall not kill; and whoever kills shall be liable to judgment.’ But I say unto you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment.”
Thanks be to Thee, my Lord Jesus Christ;
For all the benefits Thou hast given me,
For all the pains and insults Thou hast borne for me.
O most merciful Redeemer, friend and brother,
May I know Thee more clearly,
Love Thee more dearly,
Follow Thee more nearly.
–Richard, Bishop of Chichester (1197-1253)