Are you fighting or respecting the authority of Jesus?
A statement my family has often heard me make is that I believe “there’s a song for everything.” When I say that, what I really mean is that there really isn’t a subject, emotion, or circumstance that someone hasn’t written a song about. And I often try to prove that point by immediately playing songs that have something to do with what we’re talking about as a family. I think they get a kick out of that, but I have seen some eyes roll from time to time when I do it.
Like most people, some of my favorite songs were written and recorded during the era when I was growing up. One artist from that era that remains on heavy rotation in my household is John Mellencamp. He had a lot of big songs in the 1980s and 1990s, but one of his biggest hits was called, “Authority Song.” Here’s a few of the lyrics that stand always stand out to me…
So I call up my preacher
I say: "Gimme strength for Round 5"
He said: "You don't need no strength, you need to grow up, son"
I said: "Growing up leads to growing old and then to dying,
And dying to me don't sound like all that much fun"
I fight authority, authority always wins
I fight authority, authority always wins
I been doing it, since I was a young kid
I've come out grinnin'
I fight authority, authority always wins
I suspect it’s pretty fair to say we’ve all spent some time fighting authority. I certainly have, and over the course of my life I’ve witnessed just about everyone I know do the same. It’s human nature to fight authority. It’s human nature to elevate our own ideas and preferences over the thoughts of those who have the responsibility to lead us. We often think we know better than our bosses, elected leaders, and spiritual authorities.
In fact, I don’t think it’s a stretch to acknowledge the fact that there have been seasons of our lives when we’ve felt like we knew better than God Himself, and I can easily prove that statement to be true by asking a very simple question. “Have you ever done the opposite of what God instructed you to do?” Not only is our collective answer to that question “yes,” most of us can admit to the fact that it’s hard to think of a day in our lives when we haven’t spent some time rejecting God’s instructions, in small ways and in big ways. That right there demonstrates that we have an authority problem. Like Mellencamp, we’ve been fighting authority since we were young kids, but I hope we aren’t still grinning about it.
The Gospel of Mark demonstrates the authority of Jesus is various ways. As we read these words, we’re encouraged to respect His authority instead of fighting against it.
“And they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and was teaching. And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes.” (Mark 1:21-22)
A major facet of Jesus’ earth ministry involved teaching. As He traveled place to place, He taught in the local synagogues and He taught out in the open. He wanted people to understand the message of the gospel and experience the hope of everlasting life through a relationship with Him.
When Jesus taught, however, those who were listening to His words couldn’t help but notice a difference in the way He spoke. The scribes who typically taught appealed to an authority outside themselves. They read the Scriptures and they quoted other educated men. They presented theories and contrasts. It’s likely that they occasionally presented theories and assumptions to encourage their audience to think, but some of those thoughts hung out in the air without resolution and without taking a definitive side.
That wasn’t how Jesus spoke. When Jesus taught, He did so as one with ultimate authority. He explained what people needed to understand from the Scriptures. He even made it clear that He was the fulfillment of the prophetic words they were reading. Jesus spoke to the head, heart, and hands of those who were listening to Him. When people heard Jesus teach, they were listening to the very person who spoke creation into existence. It was clear that there was power and authority behind what He was saying, and those who heard Him were astonished.
By the way, in many respects, it can be said that our words are the most powerful things about us. As people who have been created in the image of God, we’ve been given the capacity to use words to communicate. We can build people up or tear them to shreds with the words that proceed from our mouths. Never minimize the power that’s present in the words we speak.
And if you’re ever given a pulpit or a platform from which to communicate the Word of God, do so with clarity, accuracy, enthusiasm, and with the authority of Jesus.
“And he called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal.” (Luke 9:1-2)
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.
Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you. (Titus 2:11-15)
Jesus has blessed us with His authority to speak the truth in love. He’s given us His authority to confront and call out the lies and deceptions of the evil one. Never cower from proclaiming the truth when He gives you the opportunity to make it known.
And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him. And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” And at once his fame spread everywhere throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee. (Mark 1:23-28)
While Jesus was speaking in the synagogue at Capernaum, a man who was demonically possessed interrupted Him, and the demon inhabiting him started crying out loudly. The demons are fallen angels who had previously seen Jesus in His unveiled glory, so even though they have chosen to fight His authority, they know exactly who He is. I get the impression that this particular demon was attempting to interrupt the timing of what Jesus was revealing about Himself and possibly provoke the spiritual leaders of the day to turn against Jesus before He could do what He came to do.
With authority, Jesus rebuked that demon. He told him to be silent and to come out of the man he was tormenting. With convulsing and loud cries, the demon complied, and this left the rest of the people even more convinced of the authority of Jesus. Not only had His words come with authority, His actions demonstrated His spiritual authority as well and word of Him began to spread rapidly throughout the surrounding region.
Please know that if it’s your desire to see others come into a saving relationship with Jesus, you can participate in that effort by demonstrating His authority in your life. When we claim to have met Him, our submission to His authority will demonstrate the authenticity of our claim.
At this point, Christ’s nature, power, and the purpose of His mission were becoming more visible. Word of His activity was spreading, and He was about to use the miraculous act of healing to authenticate His teaching. His healing miracles were demonstrations of power that were meant to reveal more about the compassionate heart of our Lord while also proving that He has authority over sickness, death, and demons.
“And immediately he left the synagogue and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon's mother-in-law lay ill with a fever, and immediately they told him about her. And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her, and she began to serve them.” (Mark 1:29-31)
After speaking in the synagogue, Jesus went to Simon Peter’s home where Peter’s mother-in-law was very ill. Jesus healed her and immediately she began serving Jesus and His disciples who were with Him. I love reading that example because there’s a lesson for us in her actions. When Jesus healed us and restored our lives, He didn’t require that we wait decades to serve Him. There’s a place for new believers to serve Him as well, and often that place is at the side of a seasoned believer who can help in their ongoing spiritual development and discipleship.
“That evening at sundown they brought to him all who were sick or oppressed by demons. And the whole city was gathered together at the door. And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. And he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.” (Mark 1:32-34)
While Jesus was healing Peter’s mother-in-law, word of His authority over illness and demonic oppression began spreading, so at sundown when the Sabbath day was considered over (early evening on Saturday), a large crowd gathered outside Peter’s house. They brought with them all their sick relatives and friends. They even brought those who were dealing with various forms of demonic spiritual oppression. Others just showed up to see what Jesus would do for these people, and they watched as Jesus healed the sick and demonically oppressed. It was a magnificent demonstration of His power and authority.
But it’s one thing to read about these events in Scripture and another to internalize their meaning. Jesus didn’t just do these things to get the attention of the generations that lived a couple thousand years ago. He did these things to grab our attention as well so there would be no doubt in our hearts about who He is, what He wants to do for us, and what it means to recognize His authority in our lives.
It is the natural posture of the human heart to question and rebel against the authority of Jesus. We’ve all spent time doing that, but that’s no way to live a full, abundant, and joyful life. We will never find peace through rebellion. We’ll never find joy through fighting with our Savior. If it’s your desire to experience a life that isn’t characterized by demonic influence or oppression, stop fighting the authority of Jesus. Respect His authority. Embrace His authority. Live in the spiritual freedom that He grants to all who trust and submit their lives to Him.
© John Stange, 2023