In the last post we looked at the final words of Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount.” In this post I would like us to consider the crowds response to his sermon. Their reaction is summed up in a couple of verses at the end of Matthew chapter 7:
“Now when Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.” Matthew 7:28-29
Summed up in today’s language, the response of the crowd can be expressed in one word, Wow! They were impressed with Jesus, blown away at his teaching. I imagine them coming down the mountain fired up and ready to go, passing out high-fives and sharing with one another what they appreciated most from what Jesus had said. Earlier today I was sitting with maybe 250 others listening to a motivational speaker, and he was really good. Yet, I could not help but wonder how many of us in attendance would still be talking about and more importantly applying the speakers’ lessons five weeks from now. Have you ever had a similar experience? I am in no way comparing today’s speaker to Jesus, I mean he was good, but c’mon! No, what was similar in the experience, for me, is the ability to listen to good information, perhaps soul-saving information and then walk away and forget what was heard as we re-enter the daily grind of life.
The above verses from Matthew tell us that the crowd recognized the authority with which Jesus taught. He was not like the other religious teachers they were used to being taught by. Even though Jesus’ authority was recognized we know that very few people “stuck” with Jesus to the end. In fact, on the night of his arrest, even his closest followers scattered and he was left all alone. My point is that it is not enough to recognize the authority of Jesus’ teaching, we must submit to his authority and surrender ourselves to him. There are some authorities that are imposed upon us. If you make it your habit to drive 100 miles per hour on the interstate, sooner or later you will come face to face with the authority of a State Trooper. Continue to rebel against that authority and you’ll probably have to take the bus or hire a driver because your drivers license will be revoked. Jesus’ authority does not always confront us like that. Some people, it seems, can live a lifetime rejecting or ignoring Jesus’ authority without facing any drastic consequences. We are given an invitation to submit to Jesus’ authority by accepting his gift of salvation and allowing him to be the director of our life. He will never force himself upon us, we have to see our need for him and make the decision to let him lead.
All Authority and Every Knee
We usually like to stay clear of words like “all” and “every,” thinking they are either generalizing or too constricting. I want to offer a couple of verses to challenge our thinking and our action. The first is found at the end of Matthew’s gospel where Jesus himself says, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me…” (Matthew 28:18 If Jesus has all authority, then I do not need to scurry around seeking out others who might have power to help me. That is not to say that there is no authority which is delegated to governments, leaders, parents, etc… However, ultimately Jesus has all the authority. The second verse I want to share is from the apostle Paul who basically lets us know that sooner or later every human being will come face to face with the truth about who Jesus is and the authority he possesses. Paul is sharing about Jesus’ incarnation (God becoming human) and what took place after the resurrection: “Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11) I am given the choice to willingly surrender now, or I can willfully live my life the way I see fit and some day, perhaps even after I’ve left this earth, I will be surrendered to the fact of Jesus and his authority.
I apologize if this post comes across “preachy,” but I am committed to sharing about the pathway leading to abundant life. Jesus’ teachings and his life are what allow us to live abundantly.