When the Authoritative Jesus Shows Up
We don’t like authority, do we?
Or, rather, we don’t like someone else’s authority. We like our authority just fine. We bask in it. We don’t give it up easily. And that’s why the opening chapter of Mark’s gospel can be so difficult. Mark shows us what happens when the authoritative Jesus shows up. Here is One who has the power to cast unclean spirits from their hosts. Here is One who has the power to heal diseases. Here is One who has the ability to touch a leper without becoming unclean. Mark’s gospel proves Jesus is our authority, whether we like it or not.
Our sinful flesh doesn’t like the authority of Jesus. He is a threat to all that we hold dear. So we construct our idea of personal authority like the Tower of Babel, reaching high enough to become a joke to Jesus. And, if he’s merciful to us, he comes in to change the language, to reroute our plans, to destroy our hopes. The tower of personal authority crumbles.
Personal authority can never save us. But we’ve seen the abuses of authority in this world. Personal authority isn’t only a sinful ambition. For some, it’s a bullet-proof vest. It’s protection from the evil outside even as it prepares the den for the evil inside.
We cannot, however, deny the authority of Jesus. The gospels prove too much. Our sense of personal authority encountering the risen Christ is a battle we cannot win. So the question must become, is there something to fear in the authority of Jesus? If he takes over, what will happen?
The Bible not only tells us what happened but shows us how Jesus acted. In all his interactions with sinners and saints alike, we see the depths of his character. We see what Jesus did with his authority. Did he lord it over others? No, the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
We may fear the authority of others, but if we come to him, we have nothing to fear in the authority of Jesus. All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to him, and what does he do with it? He used it for our good. He goes to the cross. He died on our behalf. He saves our soul! And with that same authority, he rises again, bringing many sons to glory!
That’s really good news, because if you’re like me, you just can’t seem to get your act together. If my salvation was dependent on me keeping up, I would never make it. But it’s not dependent on me. It’s dependent on Jesus. Jesus has authority over me. And he has authority over you, too.
When you can’t seem to get any better, Jesus has authority to save you from yourself. When you fall into the trap of the enemy’s temptation, Jesus has authority to set you free from darkness. When your heart is broken, he has the authority to bind it up again. When you feel hopeless and in despair, he has authority to put hope deep in your heart. He has authority to make your restless soul still. He has authority to restore your fortunes. He has authority to turn your ashes into beauty. And when you fall into the sleep of death someday in the future, he has authority to raise you up again. Jesus has the authority to fix everything in the deepest part of your being and no one can stop him.
In this world, abuse of power comes as no surprise. That’s why when Jesus comes, his use of power is so surprising. With all the power in the universe, he uses it to lay down his life as a ransom for many. His power shuts our mouths not with the force of his hands but with the power of his stripes.
The only reason to fear Jesus’ authority is if you are unwilling to come to him. If you won’t come to the most wonderful person in the world, you will end up like the demon in Mark 1:21-28. You will shriek and cry out and you will be cast from his presence. But if you’ll let him melt your heart with his love, you will be like the man from whom the unclean spirit departed. You will be made clean again. You will stand up straight, with eyes clear, beholding your Savior. You will have your life back, and no demon or anyone else can take it from you again. Why? Because no one has more authority than Jesus. When Jesus saves you, he saves you all the way. He’s a complete Savior. There are no half-salvations in the kingdom of God. There is only Spirit-filled, blood-washed, dead-raised salvation of the authoritative King Jesus. When he sets you free, you are free indeed.