Wednesday, November 15, 2017


The authority with which Jesus spoke, which did not come from men, was vastly different than the authority of the experts, which depended upon men to grant it. That does not mean, however, that every person who speaks without the authority granted by men is somehow divine.

Think about it. Some random guy you've never met comes off the street and starts talking about all of the things that he knows for sure, all of the things that he's confident in, and he tells you that these things would be great for you, too. He tells you how to live your life, what you should do next, and he speaks very highly of himself, making all kinds of claims about who he is. He speaks, whether or not you appear to give him any credibility for doing so, and he doesn't care what you think about him. Your first thought is not: this guy must be something special. 

Your first thought is: this guy must be "special." He's crazy!

I think it was C.S. Lewis who said that when it comes to Jesus, He can only be a liar, a lunatic, or the Lord. And it the authority with which He spoke, the same authority that sets Him apart from the experts, that sets Him apart from the lunatics. Jesus was no madman.

He was no madman because He spoke with an authority that did not come from within Himself, either, which is the authority that lunatics depend on. They have delusions of grandiosity, thinking themselves greater than they actually are. Thinking that what they have to say is vastly important, even though the only voice telling them such a thing is the voice in their own heads. 

Jesus's authority is not this authority. It doesn't come from within Himself, even though by every measure, it very reasonably could have. He was, after all, God in the flesh. But He understood that unless His authority came from outside of Himself, He was no better than the madmen. 

That's why every time we see Him, He's trying to give His authority away. He's trying to make it clear that what He says does not come from Him, but from somewhere else. He's always referring His hearers back to His Father, that they can know for sure that He's really not crazy. 

But there's something else about His authority that stands out, and that is that He knows who - not what, but who - He's talking about.

The experts in Moses's Teachings knew what they were talking about; they knew the law forward and backward, inside and out. The experts tell you what you should do, no matter who you are, because it is the right thing to do, no matter what. Lunatics claim that what they are talking about is universal; it applies to everyone, without any specific consideration of who might be listening. The lunatic tells you that he's talking about you, but you don't recognize yourself in his language. Both of these groups are missing something essential in their authority, and that is intimate relationality.

Nothing really means anything unless it means something for you. That's the kind of radical authority that Jesus spoke with - it was an authority that truly understood the message and the audience and took them into account, specifically and intimately. 

When Jesus spoke about the law, He told persons what they should do. Not because it was the right thing to do, although it was, but because in doing it, they set themselves free from the burden of the law itself. It was meaningful for their lives, intimately. There was not a man among them who, when Jesus spoke, could honestly claim, "That doesn't apply to me." It applied to them! The groups He addressed at the Sermon on the Mount - those who mourn, those who thirst, those who ache, those who are persecuted - were not theoretical groups; they were the men and women on the mount. They weren't tucking these ideas in their back pockets for later, for some future day when they might mourn; they were mourning that day, and they knew it. When Jesus spoke about the persons, they recognized themselves. 

What the experts made propositional, Jesus made personal; what the lunatics made personal, Jesus made intimate. 

That's authority.

So unlike their experts. So unlike their madmen. 

So much like their Lord. 

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