The Dilemma of Authority

19 Feb

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Have you ever really considered the dilemma of authority from the point of view of this world’s leaders. An ancient example would serve our purpose here. The name Herod means “hero like,” and history shows that he desired to be known as a great benefactor, both of the people and other world leaders. Most civil authorities today would desire the same thing. Think about the campaign promises politicians make before they are elected to office. They may not want to put forth the effort, but they would like to leave behind a legacy that would show they were wonderful at what they did (cf. Genesis 6:4).

Imagine Herod Antipas finding out that he could have no influence in God’s Kingdom (cf. Luke 9:1-10), or that he would remain in his current office at Tetrarch of Galilee and Peraea only as long as it suited God. Why would he submit to Jesus’ Gospel or influence his world for Christ? Herod was suspicious of the followers of Jesus, and so are the authorities of this world. They don’t understand our behavior or our words. They would prefer that we would behave like everyone else in the world. How can the governments of this world deal with a people who claim allegiance to an unseen authority, an unknown authority, or an authority not of this world (cf. John 8:23; 18:36)? They cannot, and therein lay their fear and suspicion of us.

Knowing this, what was Christ’s purpose in sending out the twelve to preach in the towns of Galilee (Luke 9:1-6)? Was he interested in making himself known to Herod? If that were true, Jesus didn’t show it two years later when he wouldn’t acknowledge Herod, even with a single word, when Herod interrogated him (Luke 23:8-9). The authorities of this world have no power in the Kingdom of God. Their power is impotent to aid or hinder the advance of God’s Kingdom.

What about fame and popularity, was Christ’s purpose in sending the Apostles out to heal the people and to cast out their demons to obtain a great following? If so, he certainly didn’t show it later after feeding the 5000. He avoided the people and went into the mountain to be alone and pray (John 6:15). Why did he publicly send the Apostles out to sea and secretly join them later (Mark 6:45-51)? If Jesus wanted to create a great following, he certainly didn’t behave like someone desiring to do so.

I believe the answer is addressed in John’s discourse in John 6:25-59. Immediately after the feeding of the 5000, the people searched for Jesus and found him in Capernaum. Jesus began to teach them by saying that the reason they had searched for him was not because of a miracle, but because they found that he satisfied their inner hunger (John 6:26; cf. Romans 8:19-23). Jesus spoke of an inner life over which he is Lord (John 6:27-29), but the people asked for a sign. The contrast here is obvious. Jesus is speaking of the inner life, while those who are listening and asking for signs are cognizant of only an outer life, which they can see, hear, touch, taste and smell. These are the five gates for information over which we are lords! Jesus, however, spoke of another gate (cf. John 10:1-10) over which he alone is Lord. This gate is not one through which crowds may enter. It a narrow gate and admits only a one-on-One relationship (Matthew 7:13-14).

John 6:25-59 represents not one discourse but a series of teaching sessions that Jesus gave at the synagogue at Capernaum (John 6:59). In the intervening sessions he healed at Gennesaret (Matthew 14:34-36; Mark 6:53-56), ministered in Tyre and Sidon (Mark 7:24-30), healed and fed 4000 at the Decapolis (Matthew 14:29-39; Mark 7:31-37; Mark 8:1-10), and preached at Dalmanutha in Magdala (cf. Matthew 15:39-16:1-12 with Mark 8:10-26). The theme is the same in all. Jesus said that he alone is able to satisfy man’s inner hunger (John 6:35-40). Elsewhere, he taught that man’s inner life was already defiled and cannot be cured using outside methods (Matthew 15:1-14; Mark 7:1-13). The healing of the gentile woman’s daughter was an inner healing (Mark 7:29-30); the 4000 were fed and their inner hunger was satisfied. Throughout it all, the Pharisees, cognizant only of an outer realm, were continually asking for a sign (Matthew 16:1-4; Mark 8:11-13; cf. John 6:30). Jesus pointed to the Scriptures that spoke of himself (John 6:45) and said that inner life comes only by him (John 6:53-58), but no one understood (John 6:52, 60).

The Pharisees were offended with his teaching (Matthew 15:12) and so were the people who all their lives had been taught by this religious sect (John 6:61, 66). Jesus told the Twelve to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees (religious doctrine, cf. Luke 12:1; Matthew 16:6-12) and of Herod (the state – Mark 8:15). The disciples did not understand at first, but after Jesus rebuked them, they realized that he spoke of their authority. Jesus had been teaching the Apostles about the effect of authority on men. Those to whom we yield ourselves as servants to believe and obey are the authorities in our lives (Romans 6:16). Lord, give us eyes to see.

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Posted by on February 19, 2017 in Gospel of Luke


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