Taking It All the Way to the Top
How many of you have ever called customer service? You know—the toll free phone number on the product you buy meant to be your hotline to satisfaction. “If you have any problems or questions please call this toll free number.”
But you soon learn satisfaction isn’t always just a phone call away. Most of the time you’re put on hold, waiting for that elusive creature known as “the next available operator.” When you finally talk to a human being, sometimes they take care of the problem, and sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they give you the old runaround, trying to get you to drop the whole thing and quit bothering them.
And maybe it works. Maybe you decide it’s not worth the hassle, and you’re tired of trying to get things fixed. Or maybe you’re one of those folks that demand to speak to the supervisor, the manager, the president of the company, because by George they promised customer satisfaction and you’re a customer and you’re not going to give them a minute’s peace until you’re satisfied! Not even if it means going all the way to the top! You want to speak to somebody with the authority to fix what’s wrong.
Authority is one of the foundations for life. Without authority there can be no society or civilization---only chaos. If nobody’s in charge, things can get ugly.
One of the biggest questions you and I need to answer in life is: Who is the ultimate authority? Not just the highest authority at AT & T or Microsoft or Proctor and Gamble-- but the highest Authority in the world? Who is the ultimate Judge of what’s right and wrong? Who’s in charge of how this world is run? Who is the One Who possesses the answers for how life really works? How do you get to Him? Where do you go—to Whom do you go—when you want to take things all the way to the very top?
The Bible gives some clear answers to this question in Luke 4:31-44- a true story about the Man Who claims to be the Authority above all other authority, Who claims to have the answers to life’s ultimate questions. Let’s see how He says you and I can take it all the way to the top. Read with me, beginning in vs. 31-32.
Who is the ultimate Authority? Jesus Christ, of course. In these verses we find 3 truths about His Authority over all things.
First of all these verses show us Jesus’ words carry the weight of ultimate authority.
Vs. 31 picks up the story of Christ after He’s rejected in His own hometown of Nazareth. He walks away from a murderous mob into a city where people are more receptive. In fact, the city of Capernaum becomes the headquarters of His ministry from this point on.
One reason they are so receptive is because, as vs. 32: …His Word was with authority…
Why is this so astonishing to them? What is there that makes Jesus’ words so different from the words of other teachers? One thing Scripture says is different is described in
Mt 7:28 … He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.
Teachers and preachers back then did what teachers and preachers do today—we appeal to other sources of authority (mainly the Bible or other books or scholars) to add weight to our words. The scribes did this, but Jesus didn’t do this. He didn’t quote other teachers to confirm His Words. In the Sermon on the Mount He repeats over and over again …you have heard it was said….but I say to you….
In the Gospel of John He says things like
Jn 8:51 …if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death.
Jn 5:24 … he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.
No other preacher or teacher in their right mind would claim this much weight for their words. But Jesus does, and what’s more people recognize the authority of His Words. This is why His preaching is so astonishing to the people, and so aggravating to the scribes and Pharisees. Even when they send soldiers to arrest Jesus they come back empty handed.
Jn 7:45-46 45Then the officers came to the chief priests and Pharisees, who said to them, “Why have you not brought Him?” 46The officers answered, “No man ever spoke like this Man!”
Jesus’ words are heavy with the authority of God Himself, because Jesus is God in the flesh. Jesus’ words are God’s Word, and God’s Word is Jesus’ Word.
Do Jesus’ words carry the same weight for you and I? I wonder. We read Jesus’ word, preach and teach Jesus’ word, even put His words on pretty plaques and frame them up, but do His Words carry enough weight for us to obey them? Take for example some of His most famous words found in
Lk 6:31 And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise.
The Golden Rule is one of the simplest expressions of how you and I should treat one another. But do these words carry enough weight with you and I that we actually practice them? Even Christians seem to have a hard time obeying such simple words. Yet if Jesus’ Words carry the weight we claim they do, we’ll not just hear them, not just honor them, but we’ll put them into practice. His words carry the authority of God Himself.
The football game was grueling, and tempers were getting short when the referee called a 15 yard penalty on the home team. As he marked off the 15 yards and put the ball down, one of the players yelled at the referee You stink!
The referee calmly picks up the ball and walks out another 15 yards against the home team, looks directly at the player, and responds, “How do I smell from here?”
Just as the words of the referee carry the most weight in the ball game, Jesus’ words should carry the most weight in our lives. When you hear Him speak through the words of the Bible, you are hearing straight from the top. How much weight do Jesus’ words really carry in your life? Enough weight to read them, hear them---or enough weight to do them, to obey them?
Jas 1:25 But he who…is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.
Jesus demonstrates His ultimate authority by His Word.
Weighty words are great, but authority is more than just weighty words.
A young businessman had just been promoted in the office and it went to his head. He had a big impressive sign made up and hung on the door of his office that simply read THE BOSS. A little later he returned from lunch to find a post-it note attached to his sign that read your wife called and she wants her sign back.
It’s not enough to speak with authority, unless you demonstrate the power to act with authority. In vs. 33-41 Jesus demonstrates the power of His authority over both the invisible and visible world.
Some modern readers wince when they read about demon possessed people. They’d like to come up with some better explanation for what’s happening rather than face the possibility that the devil and demons are real, and that they can affect the lives of human beings.
Neither the Bible nor Jesus ever try to prove the existence of the invisible world—they take the existence of angels, demons, and even the devil for granted. They assume that parallel to the visible physical world is the unseen world of the spirit. Apparently during the ministry of Christ, the devil and his demons were especially active trying to oppose His ministry. Today they work their mischief more behind the scenes. Perhaps the reason for this is if they openly revealed themselves, more people might actually believe not only in the devil, but in God.
In any case, these demons certainly recognize Who Jesus is. But notice Jesus takes charge of the situation in vs. 35: Be muzzled and come out of him! Vs. 41 tells us Jesus silences the servants of Satan because Christ doesn’t need them to testify about Who He is.
Vs. 36 tells us the crowd is impressed. One reason why is that exorcists in those days had different methods for chasing demons out of people.
Exorcists had two main methods of expelling demons: (1) scaring the demon out or making it too sick to stay—for example, by putting a smelly root up the possessed person’s nose in the hope that the demon would not be able to stand it—or (2) invoking the name of a higher spirit to get rid of the lower one.[i]
Jesus doesn’t do any of that superstitious mumbo-jumbo. He just orders them to leave and they go---demonstrating His absolute power and authority over the spirit world.
But vs. 38-39 demonstrate Jesus’ power doesn’t just extend to the spiritual world, but to the natural world as well.
Jesus goes to Peter’s house to rest, but finds Peter’s mother-in-law sick with a high fever. Somebody asks Jesus to help her, and He stands over her like a good doctor, and rebukes the fever and suddenly she’s well and strong enough to go about her business.
That’s an interesting phrase: rebuked the fever. The idea here is Jesus orders the fever, or whatever is causing the fever, to leave her body. We know today what the crowd in those days didn’t—that fevers are the way the body fights off infections of bacteria, viruses, or other germs. We have medicines that help our body fight off infections and fever.
But Jesus doesn’t need any medicine. He just orders the fever to go away, orders the germs to get lost—and they do!
How would you like to go to a doctor who can order your cold germs, or that stubborn virus to take a hike, and they obey! Throughout the Gospels Jesus demonstrates His authority over other elements of the physical world---calming storms, walking on water, even calling dead people back to life. All of these scenes reinforce the point Luke makes here: Jesus’ authority extends to both the spiritual and the material world.
He still has this authority, you know.
The devil and his demons are still around, and they’re still just as dangerous and deceitful as they’ve always been. They may work undercover, but they’re still doing some serious damage in the lives of many people. They don’t mind if you don’t believe in them, or if you ignore them, as long as they can do their dirty work without any hindrances.
But they are limited by the authority of Jesus Christ. When you and I pray, “deliver us from evil” the devil cringes, because we go over his head, straight to the top, and ask for help from the One Who has absolute authority over Satan and his servants.
When you and I get sick and pray for healing, Jesus still has the power to heal our bodies, no matter what the sickness. He still has power over this physical world to do miracles, to change things in answer to prayer, in order that His will may be done.
He hasn’t lost any of His authority over the physical or spiritual realm. The question is, do you and I go straight to the top when we need help in these areas, or do we flounder around trying to handle things on our own?
I’m not telling you that prayer will solve the problem of the devil once and for all. The battle with evil continues in your life and mine until we leave this world for a better one.
I’m not telling you prayer will always heal sickness. Sickness is also part of living in a broken world, and God sometimes uses even sickness to help us.
What I am telling you is that you and I must never forget Who is ultimately in charge---not the devil, not sickness, not our circumstances, but Jesus. He has the power and authority to deal with any and every area of life. If you need help, you need to go straight to the top when you pray.
Do you need to go straight to the top tonight? Maybe you have some spiritual or physical problem or need you can’t handle. These people brought them all to Jesus. Why don’t you do the same thing?
A passenger jet went through a severe thunderstorm. As the passengers were being bounced around by the turbulence a young woman turned to a minister sitting next to her and asks, "Reverend, you're a man of God, can't you do something about this storm?" To which he replies, "Sorry, ma’am, I'm in sales, not management."
Jesus is in management. He has the authority to manage both the seen and unseen world. If you need help in either area, you’ve got to go to Him to go all the way to the top.
There’s one more important thing about Jesus’ authority I want you to see, but it’s so subtle you might miss it. It’s found in vs. 42-44.
Jesus is exhausted from ministering to so many sick and hurting people, so it’s not surprising He takes time to get away. Mark 1:35 tells us He not only got away to rest, but also to pray and commune with His heavenly Father.
But the crowd won’t wait. They find Him and beg Him not to leave them. Maybe they want to bring more sick people to Him to heal; maybe they want to hear Him preach again. Jesus, on the other hand, feels compelled to leave, to go out to other towns and villages. I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, because for this purpose I have been sent.
What does it mean to preach the kingdom of God? We don’t have to guess.
Mk 1:14-15 14 …Jesus came…preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, 15and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”
Preaching the kingdom of God is not just giving a nice religious speech about how God loves us and we all ought to try and get along. It is an ultimatum.
It involves calling for repentance= admitting you have not surrendered to God’s authority. It involves believing the Gospel= surrendering to God’s authority in your life by believing and receiving Christ as Savior and Lord.
In the context of these verses, Jesus is telling us that while His Words are backed by God’s authority, and He possesses authority over both the spiritual and physical realm you and I must make a personal decision to submit to His authority over our lives.
This is part of what it means to put your faith in Christ. It’s not just about believing facts, but about choosing to live under the authority of Christ as your King. His mission was not just to save us from hell, but to call us to surrender to His right to rule over our hearts and lives.
You have the choice either to submit to His ultimatum or reject it, to bow before Jesus as King, or to shake your fist at heaven and say Never! But one day the Bible says
Php 2:10-11 10 …at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
The issue is not will you bow—it is when will you bow? Will you bow now, accept Jesus Christ as Savior and King, or will you bow then, when you have no choice, when it’s too late?
The first duty of every soul is to find not its freedom but its Master. --P. T. Forsyth
Tonight maybe you need to go all the way to the top and surrender your life to the authority of Jesus Christ. Maybe you’ve never surrendered to Christ as your Lord and Savior. Maybe you are a Christian, and there are some areas in your life you need to recommit to Jesus’ authority. God calls us to make this choice, because Jesus deserves to be the ultimate Authority in your life.
Little Jean got into trouble and was sent to her room to think things over. After a while she came out all smiles and said, “I thought and I prayed.” “Fine,” said her mother. “That will help you to be good.” “Oh, I didn’t ask God to help me to be good, I asked Him to help you put up with me,” she said. [ii]
This little girl understood the importance of going all the way to the top when you pray.
I wonder if you need to do the same thing tonight—to go all the way to the top in prayer?
Take all your questions all the way to the top, by accepting His Word as the ultimate authority in everything.
Take all your problems or needs all the way to the top, whether they be physical or spiritual, to the Lord over both the seen and unseen world.
Take your heart all the way to the top, and bow before the One Who deserves to be Lord of your life. He’ll never put you on hold, never give you the runaround. You can take it all the way to the top tonight in prayer. Won’t you do that right now?
[i]Craig S. Keener and InterVarsity Press, The IVP Bible Background Commentary : New Testament (Downers Grove, Ill.:
[ii]Grit Lowell D. Streiker, Nelson's Big Book of Laughter : Thousands of Smiles from A to Z, electronic ed.