Jesus Spoke With Authority


Dr. John Hoole



This morning we come to the end of our journey through the Sermon on the Mount.  I hope this section of Scripture has been a friend to you.  But, also, I hope it has been a challenge for each of us.  For me it has been challenge for me, because in many of the topics, it has been like looking in a mirror directly at myself.


Turn with me to Matthew 7:28-29.  Just as there are two verses in Matthew 5 that precede the Sermon on the Mount, there are two verses in Chapter 7 that follow the sermon.


Matthew 7:28-29 NKJV


28     And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His teaching,

29     for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.


These two verses record the reaction of those that heard the Sermon on that day.  And they give a reason for that reaction.  This passage tells us they were astonished at His teaching,  Many translations use the word, “amazed.”


There are a several different angles one could approach or dissect these two verses.


         •  You could compare what Jesus taught with the manner in which He taught.

         •  Compare the Preacher of this sermon with the Scribes of His day.

         •  Examine the two-plus types of authority in the world today.

         •  Discuss how authority is obtained.

         •  How the crowd that day responded to the authority of Christ.


Remember that in the chapters in Matthew leading up to the Sermon on the Mount in chapter 5, that Jesus, we are told, had been busy going about in all the region of Galilee.  Jesus does this immediately, in Matthew’s Gospel, after called Peter, Andrew, James and John to follow Him.


Matthew 4:23 NKJV


23     And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people.


Great multitudes had come out to see Him, to be healed from their diseases and follow Him.  They came not only from the immediate area of Galilee, but also from the Decapolis.  The Decapolis was the name applied to identify a grouping of 10 cities, mostly located to the east of the Sea of Galilee.  This would be as far as Damascus, some 70 miles from the Seal of Galilee, to Philadelphia (Amman), some 85 miles from the sea.  Only one of the 10 cities was located west of the Jordan River.  At the time, that city was called Scythopolis, but called Beit Shean at other times.


Matthew 4:25 (NKJV) the scope of the distances from which people came to see Jesus.


25     Great multitudes followed Him — from Galilee, and from Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and beyond the Jordan.


As Jesus sees the multitudes, He walks to the top of this small hill that is today called, The Mount of the Beatitudes.  Jesus sits down, in the custom of the teachers and Rabbis of that day, and began to teach first the disciples, then the multitudes as they gathered.


I probably should mentioned that Jesus was never interested in large crowd for the sake of having many people following Him.  Jesus really does not need that acclaim.  The fame of popularity is a fleeting thing.  The same crowd that had been shouting ΅Hosanna΅ as Jesus entered Jerusalem, were, only a week later, shouting for Him to be crucified.


I have had people tell me that “if you Christians would live the peace and love of Christ in the Sermon on the Mount, your Christianity would be more attractive.”  Adherents of other religions, or of no religion, tell us they are prepared to accept the Sermon on the Mount as containing self-evident truth.  They know that it includes such sayings as:


                   •  “Be merciful and you will obtain mercy.”


                   •  “Love your enemies,”


                   •  “No one can serve two masters.”


                   •  “Judge not that you be not judged,”


                   •  “Whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them.”


“Here” they say “is Jesus of Nazareth the moral teacher at his simplest and best.  “Here is the core of his message before it became encrusted with the worthless additions of his interpreters.”  “Here is the ‘original Jesus’, with plain ethics and no dogmas, an unsophisticated prophet of righteousness, but no more than a human.”


A Hindu professor once said to Stanley Jones:  “But the Jesus of the sermon on the Mount and the cross I love and am drawn to.”  A Muslim Sufi teacher told him that ‘when he read the Sermon on the mount he could not keep back the tears.’


It is obvious that the statements to me and Jones, as well as others, show each proclaimer not really fully understanding the Sermon on the Mount.  They are mistaken on two counts:


                   •  First in its view of the teacher,

                   •  and secondly in its presentation of his teaching.


         When we look more closely at this sermon, something very different emerges.


What we find is that it is impossible to drive a wedge between the Jesus of the Sermon on the Mount and the Jesus of the rest of the New Testament.  Rather, the preacher of the Sermon on the Mount is the same supernatural, dogmatic, divine Jesus who is to be found everywhere else.


On this day, the crowd was astonished.  My paraphrase is that those who heard the sermon were ΅blown away.΅


It appears to me the crowds were amazed at two things:  The matter and the manner of His teaching.  They were astonished by what He taught.  His words differed from anyone they had heard before.  He didn’t urge them to new forms of religion, to give more money, or to attend services more often.


He didn’t summon them to a greater commitment to a religious routine.  All the way through this sermon, Christ kept going back to their motives, that is, to what they were deep inside.  He said that what mattered to God was their relationship with Him.  He said that true religion wasn’t a performance, but rather, it was a deep reality of who we are deep inside.


Everyone knows the difference between a person who speaks out of vast and accurate knowledge and a person who merely repeats what he or she has heard from others.  The one is the voice of authority; the other is the voice of a parrot.  The first is the sound of the fountain bubbling forth freshly from the ground.  The second is the sound of a empty cistern.


If a person wills study the teachings of Jesus Christ, whether in the Sermon on the Mount, or throughout the Gospels, they will soon see the character of a man, whose words are distinguishable from the words of other people.,


In addition to their amazement as to the matter of Jesus’ teaching – i.e. what He taught, the crowd was greatly impressed by the MANNER in which He taught.  Jesus taught as one having authority, not as the teachers of the law – the Scribes.


As you have heard me say before, the Scribes were the one who today would have a Doctor of Theology degree.  They were skilled in the Law – not Roman law, but the O.T. Law.  They knew their nearly 2,000 years of religious tradition inside and out, and they had studied all the learned opinions of prior scribes.  But they did not teach as if they had authority.  In most of their teachings, they simply quoted past experts.  Listening to them, it was more like reading the footnotes at the end of an article.


There are times in history when there are none to speak with authority, and, when that happens, there will always be some who, although they have not authority, nevertheless will assume it.  That was true in Christ’s day.  For 500 years the Jews had been without a prophet, and, as a result, the Scribes had emerged as the apparent authorities, because they had learned the Scriptures by rote.  They were the recognized expositors of the law, and it was their duty to memorize the law, together with all the various opinions about it given by the most learned rabbis of the past.  They were then to pass this knowledge on for the benefit of their contemporaries.


But when the crowd heard Jesus for the first time, they were at once impressed with the infinite distance that lay between His preaching and the teaching of the scribes.  Jesus spoke with authority, while they spoke from the authorities.  The scribes rested their authority of traditions espoused by past scholars.  Jesus spoke with authority, out of his own soul, with direct utterances of truth.


Now, Christ had so much authority that He was a problem to the Jewish system because, you see, they believed that they were the authorities.  And they had a very highly develop and sophisticated system of authority and He absolutely ignored it.  He never asked their permission for anything.  He didn’t ask them to approve His doctrine.  He didn’t ask them to approve his healings or the casting out of demons.  He didn’t ask them to approve his verdicts and His judgments.  He did not ask them for advice on how to give eternal life.  He totally ignored them.


Jesus, however, uses no footnotes.  With us standing some 2,000 years away from the sermon on the Mount, we may not fully appreciate the significance of this difference.  Jesus was about 30 years of age, not very old by the standards of the ancient world.  He had grown up in Nazareth, a small town of little importance.  He was a carpenter, and had not gone to the schools the Scribes and Rabbis had attended.


This was not the only time when people were astonished by His authority.  Here are a couple of passages along the same line.


Mark 6:2 NKJV


2       And when the Sabbath had come, He began to teach in the synagogue. And many hearing Him were astonished, saying, "Where did this Man get these things? And what wisdom is this which is given to Him, that such mighty works are performed by His hands!”


John 7:15 NKJV


15     And the Jews marveled, saying, "How does this Man know letters, having never studied?"


He had never studied the religious traditions.  And yet, Jesus spoke with an authority that the older scribes did not possess.  Even the Old Testament prophets did not speak with their own authority, but they spoke with the authority of God.  Unlike the Scribes, the prophets did not have an addiction for the past.  They lived in the present.  They were the living voice of the living God who was heard through their lips.  They often introduced their message by saying, “Thus says the Lord.”  That little phrase appears almost 3,000 times in the Old Testament.  The only person they quoted was God Himself.


Having mentioned that little phrase, it is interesting that Jesus never used that phrase.  He spoke with His own authority.  He spoke with authority throughout the Sermon on the Mount.  When He interpreted or reapplied the Law, when He promised, when He commanded, when He prohibited, He spoke with authority.  He did not speak in the name of God, but as God Himself.  The people had never heard anyone do that because no one like Him had ever appeared on earth before.  Indeed, Jesus Christ was and is amazing.


While Christ did not use the phrase “Thus says the Lord,” or anything like it, He did use phrases like “Truly I say to you.”  He spoke in his own name and with His own authority, which He knew to be identical with the Father’s.  The phrase “Truly, I say to you,” or “I tell you,” occurs six times in the Sermon on the Mount.  Six time in the last half of Matthew 5, we find an even stronger assertion with its emphatic, “But I say to you.”  He was not contradicting Moses, but rather, challenged the corrupted interpretation of the Scribes.  Jesus did not act as a commentator, but gave commands and prohibitions on his own bare word.




Let’s look more closely at the term “authority.”  What does it mean, how is it obtained, and what can one do with it.  The word “authority” is a strong word,  It is filled with meaning.  When we hear the word “authority,” there is a certain force about that word.  There may be even a certain intimidation about that word.  We talk about the authorities and we rightfully have a sense of respect, maybe a sense of awe, or possibly a sense of fear.


We often think of speaking about authority in at least two ways.  One is to acknowledge a particular role or position, where that position carries authority.  This could be a teacher, a boss, a police officer, a military officer, a court judge.           Each of these positions carry a certain authority.  These people speak with the authority of their office backing up their words.


We also use the word “authority” when referring to a person able to address a topic with confidence, speaking as if they are absolutely sure of what they say.  Jesus assumed the right to teach absolute truth.  He was a Jew, but his message was not just Jewish.  Being absolute, His truth was universal.  0Wo he spoke as one who knew what he was talking about.  With absolute self-confidence in declaring the beatitudes, He declared who would inherit the king of heaven, who would inherit the earth.  Without hesitance, He declared who would obtain mercy, who would see God, and who were fit to be called the children of God.


Now, when think about the authority of Christ, perhaps it is helpful to consider two Greek words.  The first is the word DUNAMIS.  This word is almost always translated “POWER,” but sometimes as “mighty acts” or “strength.”


The second Greek word is EXOUSIA, which in our Matthew text is translated “authority.”  You find this word 103 times in 93 verses in the New Testament.  Of the 103 times it is used, 59 times it is translated ‘power’ (in the King James Version).  Exousia is best understood as “authority.”


Though both words can be translated as “POWER,” there is a difference.


         Dunamis or power is the ability to do somethings.


         Exousia is the authority to do it.


God the Father had given Christ the privilege of acting in His behalf in this world with no regard for the authorities of men.  And so, He had both dunamis and exousia.  He had the power and He had the authority.  It was given Him by God and He said that again and again.  He said in John’s gospel several time, from chapter 5 to 8, “I do what the Father shows Me to do and that is exactly what I do.”


When Jesus went into the temple early in His ministry and in John chapter 2, we find Him making a whip and He threw everybody out of the temple, and cleaned the place up.  He didn’t ask for permission.  He did not check in with the Sanhedrin and say, “What are the rules for cleansing the temple.”  He didn’t ask for permission from anyone, except the Father.  And when He was released by the Father’s permission, and the Father’s will, He sought no earthly approval, nor earthly credentials.


In Matthew 9, Jesus healed a paralyzed man and forgave His sin.  Once again, the crowd there that day marveled and glorified God.


Matthew 9:6 NKJV


6       But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins" — then He said to the paralytic, "Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house."


                   The NIV Bible has the word “authority” in place of “power.” The same occurs again verses later in Matthew 9.


Matthew 9:8 NKJV


8       Now when the multitudes saw it, they marveled and glorified God, who had given such power to men.


Everything Jesus did, He did with authority and power.  He had the authority to say whatever He wanted to say and make it binding on mankind.  He had the authority to heal, authority over disease, authority to forgive sins.  Indeed, He was remarkable.  Listen to what Jesus said just before giving us the Great Commission.


Matthew 28:17-20 NKJV


18     And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.

19     Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

20     teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen.


The NIV, NAS, RSV, and most of the rest also translate using “authority.”  The KJV has it, “All power is given unto me…”


Based on the definition of the word, the authority that Jesus claimed was absolute.  It was the authority which belonged to God alone.  Christ received His authority from the Father which, according to Ephesians 1, was confirmed by raising Him from the dead.  God raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand…


Ephesians 1:21 NIV


21     far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.


Unlike the prophets and scribes, Christ’s teaching was authoritative became he said it.  It should not surprise us that read of officers who had been sent to arrest Jesus, returning empty-handed and saying, “No man ever spoke like this man” (Jn 7:46).  We need to realize that Jesus is the authority to everything that pertains to our lives as Christians.


Let’s read a few more verses where people were astonished or amazed by the teaching of Jesus.  In Mark 1, we find Jesus teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.


Mark 1:22 NIV


22     The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law. (NKJV says ‘scribes’)


Luke 19:47-48 NIV


47     Every day he was teaching at the temple. But the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the leaders among the people were trying to kill him.

48     Yet they could not find any way to do it, because all the people hung on his words.


Matthew 13:53-54 NKJV


53     Now it came to pass, when Jesus had finished these parables, that He departed from there.

54     When He had come to His own country, He taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished and said, "Where did this Man get this wisdom and these mighty works?


Luke 4:22 NKJV


22     So all bore witness to Him, and marveled at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth. And they said, "Is this not Joseph's son?"


Did the astonished people decide to follow Christ?


If there were any conversions to Christ on that day, we are not told.  However, He did mention early in the sermon that few find the “narrow gate” leading to “life.”  We are only told that the multitudes were amazed at His teaching.  They had never heard such comprehensive, insightful words of wisdom, depth, insight and profundity.  They had never heard such straight-forward and fearless denunciation of the scribes and Pharisees.  The had never heard such a black and white presentation of the way to salvation.  Nor had they heard such a fearful warning about the consequences of turning away from God.


It was entirely appropriate, in fact unavoidable, that they should be amazed, because His teaching was indeed amazing.  But what they needed was not amazement but belief, not astonishment buy obedience.  Jesus did not tell them all of those things for their amazement, or even simply for their information, but for their salvation.  He did not intend merely to show them the narrow gate and the narrow way, but pleaded with them to enter the gate and to follow that way, which He would make accessible by paying the penalty for their sins.


Did the people there that day only watch and listen, only hear and consider?  Did they decide?  Did the majority decide to listen then turn away and stay on the broad way?


Jesus did not let them go without making a decision.  He demanded them to make the right decision.  That is the decision the Lord demands before He can turn empty hearts with empty works, into full hearts that produce the good works for which they are recreated.  It is truly God’s desire that every person come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).


Delegated authority in salvation


While it is true that all power and authority was resident in Jesus Christ, He delegated some of that authority and power to others.  That delegation begins with our salvation.


John 1:12 NKJV


12     But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name:


The King James translation renders part of the verse to read, “To them gave He power…”  The Greek word is exousia, meaning, “He gave them authority.”


I am not going to address this delegated authority given by Christ to his people, because this will be covered in detail when we get to one of our next series of lessons.  One series will be SPIRITUAL WARFARE.  I might say before we end that God has delegated both Dunamis and Exousia to his followers.