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With Authority

September 10 2023

Book: Luke

Scripture: Luke 4:31-44

We’re looking for the heart of God in the Gospel of Luke and this morning we will begin to see Jesus do some of the things He said he would do last week. Speaking of last week, I’d like to commend Caleb for doing an excellent job with that text.

We’re going to pick up this morning in verse 31. Luke chapter 4:

31 And he went down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee. And he was teaching them on the Sabbath,

32 and they were astonished at his teaching, for his word possessed authority.

Authority comes from the word “Author”. Authority is something coming from the original. Jesus speaks to the people as if He is the original source.

Every other teacher these people had ever heard would base their teaching on the words of others. They would quote other people’s opinions or speak only from the words in the Bible. No one offered their own explanations – except Jesus. He didn’t copy someone else.

Jesus had the right to speak with authority because He authored the Bible. John literally starts his Gospel by calling Jesus “the Word”.

But as we are going to see in a moment, Jesus doesn’t just speak. He acts. He verifies his authority with powerful signs. He casts out demons. He heals people. With His words.

And this is making an important connection with God’s Word in the Old Testament. God spoke words and the world came into existence. God made promises and then He did those things. In the same way, Jesus speaks and then immediately backs it up.

As Americans, I think we struggle to understand or appreciate this kind of authority. The most powerful person in our country is probably the president, but he doesn’t have absolute authority. He has derived authority. He derives it from the constitution and from the people. And it’s temporary. Presidents can be impeached. They have term limits. And they have limits placed on their office. But the authority of Jesus is different.

So, to be clear about what Christians believe – we believe we are following the author of life. He has authority over everything in our lives because everything in our lives originated from Him. God’s kingdom is not a democracy.

What that means is that Jesus will press in on you the reality of God’s kingdom. God owns this world. He owns your life. He has the authority to tell us who we are and how to live. He has the power to lead us in any direction that He wants for His own reasons. Your vote doesn’t count.

And that kind of authority makes us uncomfortable… but look at what Jesus does with it. We’re going to read two short stories back-to-back.

33 And in the synagogue there was a man who had the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out with a loud voice,

34 “Ha! What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.”

Take note of the fact that the demons know exactly who Jesus is. We will come back to that.

35 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent and come out of him!” And when the demon had thrown him down in their midst, he came out of him, having done him no harm.

36 And they were all amazed and said to one another, “What is this word? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out!”

37 And reports about him went out into every place in the surrounding region.

38 And he arose and left the synagogue and entered Simon’s house. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was ill with a high fever, and they appealed to him on her behalf.

39 And he stood over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her, and immediately she rose and began to serve them.

Notice that Luke tells us about the teaching of Jesus, but then immediately gives us two examples of how Jesus used his words of authority – not only to teach, but to act.

Jesus used his authority for others! He used it to show people the heart of God.

He did not use his authority so that people would bow down and tremble. He is not demonstrating power for the sake of power. People saw his power and they marveled at it. Some of them were afraid! But Jesus clearly did these things from a heart of compassion, using his authority for the sake of others.

Jesus used his authority to drive out demons, showing the people that He came to make a difference in even the darkest and most difficult places. He was willing to engage with the most difficult people. He has the authority to change their lives… to author a new story.

Jesus used his power to heal Simon’s mother-in-law, and then she immediately begins to serve them. But it is important to see that before she can serve them, she needed to be served. Jesus needed to heal her. He served her and then she served them.

He shows the people, by His kindness – “the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve”. God Himself has the heart of a servant.

And this was only the beginning.

40 Now when the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various diseases brought them to him, and he laid his hands on every one of them and healed them.

41 And demons also came out of many, crying, “You are the Son of God!” But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew that he was the Christ.

This is the most interesting and confusing verse in the chapter.

Jesus heals every sick person in this entire village, but then He tries to keep his ministry quiet by silencing the demons. And there are a lot of theories about why Jesus seems to be protecting his identity. But it seems pointless, because His fame spread anyway.

I think there is one really simple explanation. Humility. Jesus was not just a servant. Jesus was a humble servant. He did not do these things to make a name for Himself. He did them because He genuinely wanted to help.

And so, we see the heart of God in the ministry of Jesus – and we’re going to see it every week in the Gospel of Luke… a God who cares, who serves…

But there’s something else here I don’t want us to miss. And Luke tells us twice, because He doesn’t want us to miss it either.

In verse 34, a demon-possessed man cried out in a public synagogue “you are the Holy One of God”! That is a very direct claim about the identity of Jesus, in front of a bunch of witnesses.

Maybe the people are in shock because someone is shouting in worship. Maybe they dismiss his words because they know he is demon-possessed or because they think he is crazy. But they obviously don’t walk away believing that Jesus is the “Holy One of God” or even asking questions about it. They completely miss it!

And then in verse 41, Luke tells us that more demons are cast out and that they also make public professions – “You are the Son of God”. That’s even more direct.

Luke makes it clear that these DEMONS had a better understanding of who Jesus was than the humans did. The people were starting to believe Jesus was a good teacher and that He was able to perform some miracles. But only the demon knew exactly who Jesus was.

This is something I hope you’ll really pay attention to…

A lot of people assume they are safe with God because they believe in God or because they know some things about God.

You may even accept the knowledge that Christianity is completely true. But that does NOT make you safe with God. It does not make you a friend of Jesus. Listen to James 2:19:

“You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!”

What’s He saying? You believe there is one true God. Good job. But the demons don’t just believe it, they know He exists. They knew Jesus was Him. But they don’t love him. They don’t follow him. They don’t like him. And they certainly don’t trust him.

The story of the week in college football was Deion Sanders at Colorado. Coach Prime was already famous, but now a new generation of young people will know his name. And yet, knowing His name is not the same thing as love. Appreciate, respect, maybe even fear – but not necessarily love. Even the Colorado fans will turn on him if he loses every other game this season!

You see, there is also a big difference between knowing God exists and loving Him.

Jesus would later say that on the last day many will call out His name presuming that they are His friends and He will say to them, “Depart from me, I never knew you.”

Jesus was becoming famous. The whole town was gathered at Simon’s doorstep to witness these miracles. They could see Jesus doing things a man shouldn’t be able to do. And Jesus kept doing it. Look how the chapter ends:

42 And when it was day, he departed and went into a desolate place. And the people sought him and came to him, and would have kept him from leaving them,

43 but he said to them, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose.”

44 And he was preaching in the synagogues of Judea.

You know, there are a lot of skeptics today who say they would believe in Jesus if they could see Him perform some of those miracles with their own eyes.

But Luke it setting us up with this story. It’s not enough. A lot of people saw Jesus do amazing things and they still were not His friends. They didn’t trust Him. They didn’t follow Him. They even wanted to kill Him.

Knowing about Jesus does not make us His friend. What does?

The short answer is that we don’t make ourselves a friend of Jesus. He makes Himself a friend of ours.

There’s a hint of this in today’s story. Jesus had to heal Simon’s mother-in-law before she could serve them. And this will be true of all the physical healings. They all point us to a deeper need for spiritual healing. God has to change something at the level of our soul before we can repent and believe.

And this bothers us, again because of the issue of authority.

The lie of this world is that we have authority over our own lives. We think that we are running the show. We may not be literally possessed like the man in the story, but in our hearts we wrestle the same demonic attitude.

We question God if something doesn’t go our way. We think He is a threat to our plans. We worry about what He is going to do to us. And the truth is that God has proven He is willing to do whatever it takes to release His people from the bondage of our own rebellion and lead us into His kingdom… even death on a cross.

I still struggle to accept the authority of Jesus in my life every day. I’m a planner and I find myself thinking, “If God would just stick to my plans everything would be great.”

A lot of Christians think they can manipulate God with their faith and their prayers. “I said it. I declared it. God has to do it.” That’s ridiculous.

Whatever authority we have been given as Christians is not meant to be used for ourselves anyway. It is for others. Start believing God for a blessing in someone else’s life and we might see some things happen! That’s more how God’s kingdom works.

Jesus is the authority. He used his authority for others. Knowing about Jesus doesn’t make him your friend. May He give us the grace to turn from our own path and follow His and trust more and more each day in His power and authority over our lives.