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Who's the Boss

We Would See Jesus  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Who’s the Boss?
In my final year of seminary I got involved with a group of other students to do outreach at a newly built apartment complex. Idea behind this complex was that it would be mixed housing - some apartments people would pay full rent, others would be government subsidized. The developers invited Christians to come and live in the complex, as a ministry, to intentionally to “love your neighbor”. Several seminary students did exactly that. I continued to live on campus, but I was part of a group that led an after-school club for area kids that we did once a week.
Take turns leading the various aspects of the club - songs, played games, crafts. And someone would give a talk each week.
Talks varied greatly from week to week, depending on who gave it. Content of the talk revealed the different perspectives in the group, what we saw as our purpose there. I think it was clear that everyone had best interest of the kids in mind - we all genuinely wanted these kids to experience good in their lives - to learn and grow, to achieve their capabilities, experience being loved and valued
Question was - what was the best way for them to achieve that? That’s where differences came out. For instance, one week one of my fellow seminary students encouraged the kids to “follow their hearts.” Listen to their hearts, let your own sense of what’s best for you be your guide. That’s a common bit of advice shared in our culture.
But others of us wanted kids to listen to a different voice, what we consider a more reliable voice. The voice of Jesus. So we would encourage the kids to consider Jesus and giving their lives to him, to live in obedience to him.
I share all this because the voice we listen to, the authority we place ourselves under, is going to make all the difference.
This morning, as we continue our sermon series, We Would See Jesus, we going to be looking at the story in Gospel of Luke about Jesus - we’re doing this because our goal in this series is to see Jesus more clearly.
My conviction is that the more clearly you see Jesus, more you’ll be enthralled with him, the more you’ll willingly follow Jesus, devote yourself to him.
And especially this morning, as we take a look at the authority of Jesus. We’re going to be in Luke 4:31-37 - and I want you to pay attention to how the authority of Jesus is reflected in this story.
Then he went down to Capernaum, a town in Galilee, and on the Sabbath he taught the people. 32 They were amazed at his teaching, because his words had authority. 33 In the synagogue there was a man possessed by a demon, an impure spirit. He cried out at the top of his voice, 34 “Go away! What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” 35 “Be quiet!” Jesus said sternly. “Come out of him!” Then the demon threw the man down before them all and came out without injuring him. 36 All the people were amazed and said to each other, “What words these are! With authority and power he gives orders to impure spirits and they come out!” 37 And the news about him spread throughout the surrounding area.
The Authority of Jesus
Revealed in his Teaching
Story begins with Jesus making his way from his hometown in Nazareth to Capernaum, along the Sea of Galilee. It’s a Sabbath, so Jesus is there in the local synagogue where the Jewish faithful would be gathered. He takes opportunity to teach.
Now, we don’t learn what Jesus teaches here, we just learn about the response of the people listening. Luke tells us that they were amazed at this teaching.
Which is remarkable in and of itself. Like all of you, I’ve had a lot of different teachers in my life - think about all teachers you’ve had in your life - your parents, all the teachers you had through years of schooling - elementary, middle, high school. Then college. I had seminary professors. People leading workshops and seminars. Bible studies I’ve been a part of - pastors. I’ve appreciated the vast majority of them, and a number of them I was really impressed with - they knew their stuff, taught it in a way that was engaging. You knew they really cared. But it’s a rare teacher that I’ve been amazed by, where I was just in awe - that’s a whole other level. Jesus amazed with his teaching.
Luke makes a point of emphasizing exactly why they were amazed - he writes, “because his words had authority. What does that mean, his words had authority? Two things are helpful to know here:
First, the practice of Rabbis (or teachers) was to cite the tradition - teachings of Rabbis that had been passed on to them - they would quote other Rabbis. So when the Rabbis taught, the authority they relied on was not their own, but that of the entire community, this tradition that had been passed down, their interpretations of the Torah, the Law.
But Jesus didn’t do that - that’s what it means to say, “his words had authority.” Jesus taught on his own authority.
Which is why you see so often in the Gospels, when Jesus begins teaching, he will start by saying, “Truly, Truly I tell you.” It’s not truly, truly, Rabbi so-and-so tells you, or according to tradition. Jesus assumes authority when speaking. - truly, truly I tell you. He speaks on the basis that he has the authoritative word, that you should listen to him.
This is especially amazing when you consider the second point -Jesus did not have formal training that Rabbis typically had. Normally, Rabbis would be the best of the best, ones who showed most promise in their studies, they would get the opportunity to study under most prominent of Rabbis, go through years of education.
But we know Jesus was a skilled laborer. All young men would study Torah, but only the best of the best would continue in studies. We don’t know how far Jesus went in his studies, but we do know that at some point he quit formal schooling in order to study craft of his father, Joseph (carpentry or perhaps masonry). Jesus made his living that way until he was thirty years old.
He didn’t come from a serious academic background. He was a laborer. It’s as if one of our local plumbers started challenging university professors, listen to me, I know what I’m talking about, I’m true authority here.
It’s one of the reasons the teachers of the law and the Pharisees couldn’t stand him - because he challenged their authority, their teaching. Jesus spoke with clear conviction - you should listen to me, it’s my teachings you should listen to.
And that’s exactly the issue, isn’t it - whose voice should we listen to? Think about what a contentious issue this is in our culture today - what authorities should we listen to?
One of the biggest authorities is “the science.” Trust the science. The science says. The problem is that “science” doesn’t say anything. Science is compilation of observations, data. It’s how that data is interpreted, understood - or ignored.
A great example of this of course was the Covid pandemic - that was a battle for authority. Who should you listen to? The CDC and their guidelines? Should opposing viewpoints be squelched - dangerous misinformation?
As a nation we’re divided in what news sources we trust - what authorities we’ll listen to. I’m not here to tell you which news sources to listen to - though I definitely have some opinions on that matter. The point is simply to say that there are always competing voices. Voices who claim authority. Who say, listen to me…and not to them!
And we all live according to certain authorities - even if it’s our own (“listen to your own heart”). Voices from the culture. Voices that we deem trustworthy.
Jesus comes and says unabashedly - listen to me. I am the voice of authority. I am the one you should listen to and obey?
And we either believe that - or not. It’s either truth - or “misinformation.” We either trust his word, live by it - or we’re living according to some other word, another voice.
How much do Jesus words have authority over you? When we proclaim “Jesus is Lord” that’s what we mean. Will you - will I - submit to his words, to his teachings? Come with a readiness to listen, to respond in obedience, to live out the wisdom of Jesus in our everyday lives?
Are we firmly convinced that Jesus is the greatest teacher that ever lived - because he was smartest person who ever lived? This is what it means to be enthralled with Jesus - to share in that amazement those listening to him experienced. I hope that’s what you’re seeing in Jesus. There’s more to see in Jesus.
Revealed in His Power
Story goes on to demonstrate just how much authority Jesus has. In the midst of this Sabbath gathering at the synagogue, a man - possessed by a demon, begins to cry out. As you might imagine, he’s not happy Jesus is there. He does not want to listen to Jesus’ teachings - he rejects Jesus’ authority over him.
He makes that very clear, crying out at the top of his voice, “Go away! What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth?”
That phrase here is same exact phrase that Jesus used when speaking to his mother at the wedding in Cana in John 2 - not the “go away” part, but the other - what do you want with us? It’s this sense of what do you have to do with us? Jesus asked this mother this when she was asking him to be involved. This demon-possessed man is asking Jesus this as a way of saying, why are you trying to teach us, bring us under your authority? We don’t want it. Leave us alone!
Then demon-possessed man takes it a step further - he starts to reveal who Jesus really is. Note he first refers to him by what everybody would have known him by, Jesus of Nazareth. But then he says, “Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are - the Holy One of God!” The demon is seeking to reveal Jesus as Messiah - which Jesus isn’t ready to reveal yet, time is not right.
I want you to note Jesus’ response here, because it speaks to his authority. This demon has made it clear that it rejects Jesus’ authority. But it’s a futile effort. You can resist, but you ultimately cannot reject Jesus’ authority. Whether we like it or not (hopefully, we love it, we rejoice in it), Jesus is Lord.
“Be quiet!” Jesus said sternly. “Come out of him!” Jesus issues the command, you,demon, zip it. Then, out! Get lost, buddy.
Think for a moment about demon possession - it’s an act of authority, demon possesses the person, assumes ownership, control over that person. Person is helpless. They are unwillingly under authority of the demon.
Jesus here demonstrates that he is Lord. That he has all authority. He commands demon to get out of the man. Demon so wants to resist, but he can’t. He ends up throwing what seems like a temper tantrum, throwing the man down on the ground as he comes out of him. But he will not disobey. He will cause no more harm - he comes out of the man - catch this - without injuring him. He doesn’t dare. Jesus has commanded it.
Crowd continues to be amazed by Jesus. “What words these are! With authority and power he gives orders to evil spirits and they come out!” They obey. They do not reject his authority over them. They can’t.
Story of Larry - Question of whom we give authority of our lives to
Early last year we did a sermon series, He Gets Us, focusing on Jesus’ humanity, that he truly understands our struggles because he’s been there
We did it in conjunction with nationwide ad campaign that directs people to the He Gets Us website where people have a chance to share their struggles
As a church we agreed to receive notification of “Explorers” and follow up with them. We’ve been connected with several dozen people who reached out and I’ve responded to them, letting them know I was available to talk more if they wanted. Only a few have taken me up on the offer.
One of the people who responded I’ll call Larry, and that led to a lengthy series of text exchanges over a week. Larry was feeling desperate - he’d cheated on his girlfriend, she’d had enough and the relationship was about to end. Larry did not want to lose her.
Larry knew it was his problem, that this was his tendency whenever he felt down or lonely, he would seek attention from other women. So he was asking me what I thought he should do so he wouldn’t lose his girlfriend. The whole goal in responding is really to provide a listening ear, to care for them - not like I’d be able to solve his problems through a few texts anyway.
So that’s what I’m trying to do, let him know I’m there, I’m “listening”, asking a few questions to better understand the situation, maybe help him think through the issue himself.
Here’s the thing - I think Larry has a desire to be a better man, a better boyfriend, that he’s sincere about that. The big question is, how could he do that? What would help him become the man I think he wants to be for his girlfriend.
As conversation went on, I started asking him more questions about his faith - did he believe in God? Was he a Christian? He didn’t bite, just ignored those parts of the texts. By the end, he decided that his best option would be to “change who I am” was the way he put it. I’m going to change who I am.
Maybe he’ll be able to do that. My experience is, that kind of change is extraordinarily difficult. I think it takes a power greater than ourselves.
When you think about 12-step programs, that’s the first thing they confess - that some “thing” (alcohol, drugs, sex, food) has power over them. And that they can’t just change themselves and quit. What do they do? Look to a power greater than themselves.
I shared with Larry that the only significant change in my life had come as a result of Jesus Christ in my life - but he decided to go it alone.
This is ultimately why I think the issue of authority is so important. Firstly, it has to do with who speaks the truth? Who knows what is good and right and true. But even more than that - who has power? The power to command demons, willing or not. The power over sin and evil and death.
To “follow your heart” or “change who I am” is to live under your own authority, self rule. If we’re being honest, there’s not much power there.
To become a Christian is to come, willingly, gratefully, under the authority of Jesus. To confess that Jesus is Lord. Jesus is my Lord. Jesus is the Lord. And I believe that his wisdom, his teaching is truth - I should live my life according to it. And I believe that he has the power to save me. To help me become new. To overcome sin. To be good.
Therefore, I will willingly surrender myself to Jesus and his authority over my life.
Spiritual Disciplines - willing surrender to Jesus’ authority over your life
Daily prayer of surrender - this is where we resist (sin is at its heart, resistance, rebellion). Growing as a follower of Jesus begins here, in willing surrender. Consider praying a prayer of surrender on your knees…be attentive to points of resistance within you.
Is there something you’re particularly battling right now? Don’t try to change yourself, on your own. Invite Jesus to work his power in you. Confess your weakness before him, your inability to change. In a posture of humility, open yourself to work of the Holy Spirit in you (put “12-step” into action).
Inspiration - Ephesians 1:17-23…Paul’s prayer, prayer that reveals that Jesus comes in authority not to rule over you, but to share that authority, that power with us, so that we might reign with him.
He works in us to shape and form us to become the kind of people with whom he can share his power.
I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.
Asking God for the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. Pray that God would teach you.
Prayer that eyes of our hearts would be enlightened in order that you may know - the hope, the riches - and then, his incomparably great power for us to believe.
Incredibly description of God’s power - seen in resurrection, ascension to throne - above every other rule and authority, power and dominion.
Notice how it finishes: And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. God is making him Lord of all for us, for those who believe. He wants to share his power with us, he wants us to share in his glorious riches. The power of Jesus is not to lord it over us, but his power is for us.
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