Thursday, December 10, 2009

Day 17: Luke 4:14-44


Seldom does anyone have an issue with authority when they agree with what they are told. The rub comes when we don't agree with what the authority tells us. Then a decision must be made, do I do what the authority tells me or do I usurp them and make myself the authority.

That is the question that Jesus presents to us. Who will be the authority in life? Will we listen to Him and obey Him or will we reject His teaching and make our own decisions. This is the essence of sin. We remove God from authority and place ourselves in His position.

Jesus initiated His ministry and throughout, the people are amazed by the authority and power with which He taught. However, they still chose to ignore His authority when they did not agree with it. We may look at them and think condescendingly about their attitudes and approach, but we have to realize that we do the same things today.

Jesus arrives in His home of Nazareth and goes to the center of teaching on the day of worship. He is surrounded by people who had known him for the past 30 years. They had seen him laboring alongside Joseph, His earthly father. He had grown up playing with their kids. At some point, He had left home and during this time, amazing reports began coming in about things He had said and done. This is the environment He faces as He takes the scroll of the prophet Isaiah, opens it and begins to read (Isaiah 61:1-2). After reading this portion of Scripture that predicts the coming Messiah (Saviour), Jesus makes a claim that He is the one predicted.

The people are amazed by His teaching, but begin to ask "How can this be? We've known Him. He grew up in the house of Joseph." The question is one of authority. How can someone who was raised among us be any better than us? What makes Him any different? They do not have the faith necessary to believe what Jesus claims.

In response to this, Jesus' teaching becomes more pointed. Instead of "God is on your side. I am the demonstration of that," Jesus begins to rebuke their lack of faith. He does so by pointing to two examples where God bypassed His "chosen people" the Jews and worked through "unclean people," the Gentiles. Neither the widow nor Naaman were Jews; they were Gentiles. The Jews saw the Gentiles on the level of dogs and other animals - certainly God would never stoop to involve Himself with them. Now Jesus is saying that the Jews are not recipients of God's grace due to their pride, but that the Gentiles will receive His grace because they will humble accept it by faith.

This is not well received and they face the question, "Who is the authority?" Is Jesus the authority? Do the words of God carry the day, even when they are not what we want to hear? The Jews in Nazareth made their decision very clearly. They walked Jesus to the edge of the cliff, ready to push Him off, when God miraculously enabled Him to escape.

Today, there is no escape needed. God comes to us and presents Himself by the power of the Spirit through the Scriptures. In Nazareth, Jesus spoke on the authority of the Scriptures, empowered by the Spirit. We encounter Jesus, just as the people in Nazareth. Just like them, as we read the Scriptures, we will find things that we don't like. There will be things that will be painful. There will be moments that we see things we don't like about ourselves. The question will be, who is the authority - us or Jesus?

There will be no attempt to kill Jesus if we reject Him as the authority. That would be unnecessary. We already killed him. We were present, driving the nails through his hands and feet, just as much as the Roman soldiers. It was our sins that led Him to the cross. Our sins brought His death. He was there, in our place, paying the debt we owed. Once and for all, Jesus demonstrated His authority because He died and was buried, but after three days, He rose to life. Jesus defeated forever the enemies of sin, death, and the grave. He has proven once and for all His authority and opened the way to God. The question is not, will we kill Him, we already have. The question is, will we follow Him?

Jesus presents Himself to you today. You have a choice, to make Him the authority for your life or take that place yourself. Jesus is willing to let you decide and you will live with the decision. Just like the people of Nazareth, if you choose to be your own authority, you will find yourself standing in the crowd on the cliff wondering, "Where did Jesus go?" He won't strive with us forever, at some point He will allow us to have what we have chosen.

Jesus is the authority, but the choice remains yours.

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