Hope Lutheran Church
January 28, 2024
If you want to talk about someone who served God and spoke and acted with authority, you can’t help but think of someone like Moses.
Just think about what Moses did and saw during his life. Here was a man who was out in the desert, minding his own business, when God came to him in a burning bush and said, “You’re going to lead my people out of slavery.”
This was the man God sent to confront the ruler of Egypt so he could tell him, “The LORD says, ‘Let my people go.’” And when Pharaoh refused, Moses was the one who announced all the plagues that fell upon Egypt until God’s people were able to leave.
This was the man who stood at the shores of the Red Sea with an army at his and his people’s back, and stretched out his staff as God parted the waters before everyone who was there so the people of Israel could pass through on dry ground.
Moses was the one who went up Mount Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments from God himself and bring them back down to the people.
If you want to talk about someone who served God and demonstrated authority, you can’t help but think of Moses.
And so I have to think the people Moses had been leading for all those years were a little surprised when they heard what Moses said in our Old Testament lesson. “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him.” Moses, this great servant and prophet of God, said that someone even greater than himself was coming. One with authority.
Moses died. The people settled down in the Promised Land. And for almost fourteen-hundred years, the prophet Moses had spoken of never showed up.
During that time there were still plenty of teachers claiming authority. Some of them taught God’s Word properly. But there were other teachers. Teachers who told people they had to do this or that to please God. Teachers who started adding their own ideas and rules to God’s Word. There were plenty of teachers claiming authority, but that prophet, that one with real authority that Moses promised, still hadn’t come.
I read a book a while back and the author took a look the effect the Internet has had on the way we think. One of the conclusions he came to was that because we have access to so much information right at our fingertips all the time, a lot of us far more likely to question and scrutinize people who, up until recently, we would have agreed and recognized as an authority figure.
And, you know, I think I have to agree with him. For example, think of the last time we had something health related come up. If you’re like me, what’s the first thing you did? We pull out our phones, enter in our symptoms, and then hope Google or WebMD give us a diagnosis that maybe sorta kinda fit our symptoms. And then go with that.
Sure, if we asked our doctor they might have an educated and more informed opinion but who’re they to argue with my phone that will give me an answer in a few seconds?
Now, I’m not suggesting we should all go blindly following people who are in authority. It’s good for us to ask questions and make sure someone is telling the truth and has the proof to back up whatever they’re claiming. There’s tremendous value in doing that. But what about when someone does that? What do we do when someone has proven themselves to be an authority?
I think that raises a question that’s good for us to think about in our lives. Is there one with authority we can always listen to no matter what? Is there one with authority we can know is always telling us the truth?
In the gospel that Mark has before us today, it was early in Jesus’ ministry. He had just been baptized, called his first few disciples, and now it was time to start revealing himself to other people. So Jesus went into a synagogue on a Sabbath day to teach. And as he was speaking, the Bible says, “The people were amazed at his teaching.” Why were the amazed? “Because he taught them as one who had authority.”
You see, the people at the synagogue were used to hearing their teachers not really do much teaching at all. Their teachers might start by sharing what God says, but then they would quote some other teacher and tell you what he said and then quote another teacher and tell you what they said. And when it came to the topics they taught, they often didn’t matter much. They would teach about things like when and how to wash dishes, or what the length your robe should be, or the exact second when the Sabbath day should begin.
That’s why when Jesus taught, the people were amazed. Because when Jesus taught, he wasn’t quoting all of those teachers of the past. He wasn’t relying on the authority of someone else. He wasn’t talking about trivial things.
When Jesus stood up to teach, he taught God’s Word in its truth and purity. When Jesus spoke, he touched hearts and souls with his words. When Jesus taught, he told people about life and death. He taught them law and gospel. He taught them about sin and grace. When Jesus taught, it wasn’t just as one speaking for God. It was God himself speaking.
The difference between Jesus and all those other teachers was amazing because when all of those other teachers spoke, they relied on someone else’s authority. But when Jesus spoke, he was one with authority that didn’t need to come from any other person. It came from himself. Because he’s God.
That’s important for us to remember today too. Because there are going to be people claiming authority who, maybe even unintentionally, downplay the authority of Jesus. They might say Jesus was a good teacher with a few catchy saying that can help you live an outwardly better life, but that’s all he is.
And you can find teachers like that pretty easily. Teachers and authors and people who see Jesus as a good teacher. There are lots of books and videos and podcasts based on the Bible and things Jesus said that have the goal of helping you become a better husband, a better wife, a better parent, a better and more charitable person. They’ll teach you sure-fire methods to get past your failures, get out of debt, and to get on with life in a better way. Do this, they say, and you’ll be a better Christian, and if you’re a better Christian you’ll get closer to God.
Now don’t hear me wrong. I’m not saying Jesus doesn’t give us guidance on how to live as Christians in this world. But here’s the thing – Jesus didn’t come just to be a good teacher. He didn’t even come primarily to be a good teacher who wants to help us make our lives right now a little bit better. When you get to the heart of it, that’s not why Jesus came into the world.
Jesus made it clear throughout his life here on earth that he had came into the world to proclaim the truth about God’s Word. He came to be the one with true authority. The one with authority over sin, death, and the devil. He came to be the Savior that we so desperately needed to save us from sin.
Jesus spoke as one with authority and the people were amazed. They were even more amazed when they saw what Jesus did next. Because it’s one thing to be speak and teach with authority. It’s another thing to prove that authority.
Mark goes on. He says, “Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an impure spirit cried out.”
Jesus is up there in front of the people teaching, when this man possessed by the demon gets up and starts screaming. What was Jesus going to do? Was he going to wait for someone else to come take the man away? Was he going to just sit there and hope the man would eventually be quiet? What was Jesus going to do when confronted with someone under the control of the devil?
The man said, “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!” Jesus didn’t need a demon to advertise his authority. Even though what this man possessed by a demon said was true, there was a chance it would cause others to think, “If a demon is saying this, it must be a lie.”
So Jesus, like a parent discipling a child said, “‘Be quiet! Come out of him!’ The impure spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek.”
You see, Jesus didn’t just teach as one with authority. He also acted as one with authority. And the people with Jesus recognized this. “The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, ‘What is this? A new teaching—and with authority! He even gives orders to impure spirits and they obey him.’ News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee.”
One with authority had come. The people knew it. The demons knew it. And you and I, we know it too. So the question for us is, are we going to listen to him? Each of us has an authority in our lives that directs the way we think and the things that we do. What’s the authority that drives you and me?
It's easy for us to say, “Well of course it’s Jesus!” But then I look back at my life in and I have to admit I don't always live like Jesus is that sole authority in my life. Far more often I find that the authority I listen to is myself. I place myself and what I want as the authority in my life. But where does that get me? It gets me in fights. It leads me to hurt the people closest to me. It gives me satisfaction that’s here today and gone tomorrow.
Maybe, instead of listening to an authority like that, I can listen to one with authority who has proven his authority again and again. One who not only spoke with authority, but acted with authority. One with authority who made himself nothing, so we could have everything. One with authority who went to a cross to pay for sins he never committed. One with authority who let himself die, so we could have life. One with authority who rose from the dead on Easter morning to prove that we can trust him no matter what.
And he did that for you and me. Jesus did that for people like us who are so quick to get caught up in ourselves. Jesus found you and me when we were lost in our selfishness and washes us in his blood and he makes us part of his family and says, “I have forgiven you.” That’s one with authority we can trust.
We have one who’s proven his authority to us. One with authority we can always listen to no matter what. One with authority we can know is always telling us the truth. One we can believe and trust in because he has defeated sin, death, and the devil for us.
Let’s hear what Moses said. Let’s look to that one with authority.
And then let’s listen to him. Amen.