Authority. The presence of authority is all around us. And it doesn’t take us long to see that our society has a problem with authority. Just ask the worker whose boss gives them something to do that they think is beneath them. Ask the child whose parents tell them to do something they don’t want to do. Ask the driver who is pulled over by the police officer for speeding. Ask the athlete who is called for a foul they think they did not commit.
We don’t have to look far to see that our society has a problem with authority. Protests turning to violence. Police officers being shot and killed. Athletes whining to referees. Kids talking back to their parents.
We also don’t have to evaluate our own lives too extensively to see that we fall into the same trap of having a problem with authority. No one seems to like to be told what to do or what not to do. We all seem to adopt the mentality with those in authority over us: “Who are you to tell me what I can and cannot do?” Instead of seeing authority as something that is good and a gift, we view it as something that restricts or removes our freedom. All too often, we conclude that life would be better without those in authority over us, and if we were the ones to call the shots.
But would that be true? In the country of Somalia, as an example, there is no centralized government. There is no one to dictate laws or carryout discipline throughout the land. The presence of civil war among factions and tribes is a daily routine for those living in Somalia. Such division has led to the rise of the terrorist group, Al-Shabaab. With no government in place to provide security for the people, there is no one to stop Al-Shabaab members from advancing their version of radical Islam. They force people with the threats to join them, and if they don’t, then they risk losing their lives. This is what has people fleeing Somalia…looking for order and authority to be restored in their lives.
When the proper authority is in place, there is a sense of security and stability. To know that justice will be carried out gives a sense of peace. It also means that our lives will not be consumed with constant fear. There are authorities in place to defend and protect.
Today’s text has to do with authority. Amazing authority. The amazing authority of God’s Word.
Our text says: And they were all ‘amazed’ and said to one another, “What is this word?” For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out!” And reports about him went out into every place in the surrounding region (Luke 4:36-37).
The amazing authority of God’s Word! That was the reaction of the people as they witnessed Jesus rebuke the spirit of an unclean demon in a man in Capernaum. Immediately, as Jesus said, “Be silent and come out of him!” the demon came out. Immediately, a man’s life that had been filled with chaos and disorder was restored to peace by the authority of God’s Word being spoken.
It was much the same with Peter’s mother-in-law who was ill. Jesus rebuked the fever afflicting her, and immediately it left her. So it went with all those who were sick and demon possessed that day in Capernaum. Jesus spoke, and boom, whatever He said, happened!
It’s like dynamite. Really it is! Our text said that “with authority and ‘power’ he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out.” The Greek word for ‘power’ is dunamis. Dunamis. Dynamite. And how does dynamite work? I had to look it up. “Dynamite is formed into explosive sticks that feature a wick and blasting cap. The wick is lit, which leads to a small explosion when it reaches the blasting cap. When the blasting cap explodes, the nitroglycerin then causes a much larger explosion.” Boom! It’s amazing!
And so it is with the authority of God’s Word. He speaks, and the amazing happens. Boom! It’s dynamite!
So, why then, do we have this tendency to call the authority of God’s Word into question? Why do we doubt, and sometimes even deny His Word? Why?
Do we think it’s because He won’t back up what He says? Do we doubt that there is any power in His Word to do any good? Or is it because, deep down, we have a problem with authority…we think we would be better off without the authority of God’s Word…we think that we rightfully deserve authority over our own lives? …that even though we are the creatures and God is the Creator, we still have the audacity to think that our word usurps God’s Word?
Unfortunately, there are countless examples of that happening all around us and in our own lives: Perhaps we think abortion is now permissible because there are now eight states that permit an abortion up until the time of birth…or we think of a same-sex union is acceptable simply because a majority on the Supreme Court said so…or we think living together before marriage and having sex outside of wedlock is acceptable because so many others think it’s a good idea…or maybe we think we are justified to not forgive someone until they say they are sorry first…or maybe we think it is alright to be lazy and avoid prioritizing a life of worship, Bible study, and prayer. The list goes on, and the list affects us all. Because we all struggle when God’s Word is clear, but it isn’t in alignment with our opinion and what we want to do. And when that happens, we still, more often than not, side with ourselves, because we think we know what is best for ourselves.
But do we? Do we know better than God? You see, the unfortunate reality is that the more we dismiss God’s Word having authority, the more we conclude it has no place in our lives. It’s a slippery slope. A slippery slope to denying God’s authority altogether. This is what the third commandment refers to as the ‘despising’ of God’s Word. Instead of being amazed by God’s Word, we tend to be annoyed, antagonistic, and apathetic towards it. We no longer see the need for His Word. We no longer see the need to hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.
And this is precisely why we ‘need’ the dynamite of God’s Word spoken into our ears and into our lives…to wake us up from our apathy toward the Word of God. To help us to see that for as much as we have rejected authority in our lives in favor of our own agenda, we desperately need the security and stability that God’s Word provides. Otherwise, we are doomed to death and damnation.
Left to ourselves, that will be the result. Like the streets of Mogadishu, Somalia. With no authority present, nearly all of the people live in buildings that have been damaged and demolished. So it will be with us if we live life thinking we get to call the shots. Apart from the authority of God’s Word, all that will be left of our lives will be rubble.
But what we see in our text is that Jesus is not afraid to enter into our damaged and demolished lives. For here today, we behold just how amazing the authority of God’s Word truly is. With a few words, Jesus rebukes a demon and it comes out of a man, immediately. With a mere rebuke, sickness leaves Peter’s mother-in-law. Jesus speaks, and amazing things happen. And countless others that day benefited from that same authority of God’s Word. Here we see that in this world where we have little control at all, the One who has the authority is in total control.
And these certainly aren’t the only examples in Scripture. With His Word, He brought forth creation, the sun, the moon, the stars, the earth, everything in it, including you and me. With His Word He took on the devil’s temptations in the wilderness after forty days of no food and defeated him. With His Word, He healed the paralytic, ten lepers, and countless others who were sick and demon possessed. With His Word He raised the widow’s son in the village of Nain from the dead, and Jairus’ daughter, and Lazarus too. All with His Word.
But none of that compared to the authority He displayed in the words He spoke from the cross. “It is finished.” As He spoke those words and bled and died our death, He manifested His authority over the devil himself. The very stranglehold that Satan had over us was loosened and we were set free. Set free from sin. Set free from guilt and shame. Set free from death. Set free to serve our Savior. Our Savior whose foot is firmly planted on the head of the serpent once and for all. With those three words, Jesus made clear for all time who was the One who calls the shots. It isn’t Satan. It isn’t us. It’s Jesus.
Take comfort in the fact that He is in control. With the same authority He displayed on the cross, He rose from the dead and proclaimed victory over the devil. Because no one takes His life from Him. He lays it down of His own accord. He has the authority to lay it down, and He has the authority to take it up again (John 10:18). And that’s exactly what He did.
And He still exercises His authority among us here today. His Word is like dynamite that reverberates throughout the land and throughout our lives. Jesus speaks, and amazing things happen. Here at the font, we who were doomed to die are raised to life. Here at the church, we sinners are set free from guilt and shame. Here at the altar, under bread and wine, we are forgiven by His body and blood. When Jesus speaks, amazing things happen. Just like that demon he told to get out, so it is with us. He has cast out our sin as far as the east is from the west, and He remembers them no more.
And with every word He speaks to us, He is there to back it up with His own flesh and blood. Because He didn’t just ‘say’ He would save us. He actually did it. Jesus has been given all authority in heaven and on earth, and He uses it to redeem us and set us free. Amen.
The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guard and keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.