When we think about Jesus, it's easy for us to think that He was truly the expert in all things holy. It was Jesus who knew best how to live. It was Jesus who understood best God's Word. It was Jesus who epitomized what a holy life looked like. Clearly, Jesus was the expert.
But tucked away in Matthew 7 is this quiet little verse that turns our "expert" opinions on their heads. Just after Jesus finishes the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew says, "Unlike their experts in Moses' Teachings, he taught them with authority."
Unlike their experts...
Their experts were pretty good. Let's just be honest. Their experts knew the Scriptures inside and out; they could wax eloquent and quote at length the words that God had given them. They knew the law, all six hundred and something points of it, and they came from a long line of those who spent their time developing the finer points of Israelite theology. Faced with the toughest questions of life, they knew the answers as they were written, and they had devised both standards for living and burdens of proof from all that they knew.
When their experts spoke, the people listened, hoping to gain more knowledge of the mysteries of God. When their experts challenged Jesus, the people listened, wanting to know how He would respond to their inquiries. These were not weak questions that their experts asked. Not by any means. In fact, it was probably only because of the Pharisaical emphasis on these points that the people knew them at all, which means that the people easily believed that these were the important questions.
They must have been; their experts seemed to think so.
And so the people were surrounded by their experts; these were the men who had shaped their faith for centuries. These are the men they turned to for truth, for guidance, for justice. These are the men who knew everything there was to know, and the people were sure of it.
But here is a Man who is so unlike their experts.
Which raises the question - what is an expert, anyway?
An expert is someone who knows things. An expert is someone who possibly knows everything, or close to everything, that there is to know about a certain subject. An expert is someone who can explain the finest nuances of an idea, who can spout from memory the heart of the matter, who can talk circles around the common man (and he often does) on the area of his expertise. And in the case of the Pharisees, they were experts because they had been given the knowledge that they had. They had been chosen and groomed to be the experts. They had been trained and had studied to be the experts.
Interestingly, they are the last set of experts that we see in the Scriptures.
Interestingly...because there are at least twelve men (then eleven, then twelve again, and then perhaps a thirteenth) who had been chosen and groomed in the ways of Jesus Christ. There are at least twelve men (then eleven, then twelve again, and then perhaps a thirteenth) who had been given all knowledge of His story. There are least twelve men (then eleven, then twelve again, and then perhaps a thirteenth) who were the men by which this incredible Good News was to come into the world, and it is through their witness that a new movement was born - a movement called Christianity.
And yet, not once in all of Scripture are these men called experts. Not once. Not once in all of Scripture is Jesus Himself called an expert, even though He clearly knew far more than the "experts" did. No, there was something about this Jesus and something about His disciples that was far, far different than what the people had known.
That something was "authority."
It was on these grounds, Matthew says, that He was so unlike their experts.