Authority: “the power or right to give orders, make decisions, and enforce obedience.”
1 Guaranteed Way to Anger Religious Leaders
I signed my daughter up for BOYS basketball camp. Not on purpose, of course, but, after spending the first-half of summer anticipating the 4-day camp at a local high school, we showed up for Day #1. Noticing the gym brimming with 100+ boys, with naivety, we asked, “So, where’s the girls?” In the respondent’s split second of indecision, my mind awakened to the unlikeliest of possibilities. Having already paid and with the authority that comes from being her dad, I could have forced her participation; but instead, sheepishly, I turned to my daughter and questioned, “Ummm…how do you feel about four days of boys basketball camp?” #awkward
After telling an afternoon Texas-sized tornado-swirling hail-pelting rain-piercing storm to “Shut up and sit down!” and liberating two men living in a cemetery by ejecting thousands of demons into a nearby heard of pigs, Jesus steps back on shore in his hometown to a couple guys and their friend suffering from paralysis. Jesus, amazed by the faith of the paralyzed man’s friends, remarks, “Cheer up, son. I forgive your sins.” Immediately, the present religious leaders begin asking each other, “Does he think he’s God?”
Mostly, we tend to respond, “Well…yeah, actually, he is God, so what’s the problem?” But to the locals, Jesus was the carpenter’s kid. No specialties. No fanfare. No authority. Just another Galilean, and “Can anything good come from that area?” The religious leaders are asking each other if Jesus thinks he’s God, because, in their minds, only God has the authority to forgive sins. For Jesus to even attempt to pronounce the paralyzed man as forgiven must mean that he considers himself equal to God.
Authority. That’s what this is about. So, with words, Jesus proves his authority by transforming a paralyzed man laying on a mat into an exuberant man jumping up and down on his way back home. You think LeBron’s homecoming deserves headlines? All he did was switch basketball teams.
Try being unclean and, therefore, ostracized from your family, livelihood, and hometown. Try being filled with nervous excitement about returning for your 10-year high school reunion only to discover everyone ignoring you at best and leaving the room when you approach them to initiate conversation at worst. This was the paralyzed man’s life…all the time.
That’s what impressed Jesus about the paralyzed man’s friends in the first place. Their friend was paralyzed, right? So, how’d he get on the mat?
I’m guessing the paralyzed man’s friends picked him up, and in order to do that, they had to touch him, and because they touched him, they made themselves unclean. I just imagine the people parting like the Red Sea as they trudged through town carrying their friend on a quest to find Jesus.
Authority. After the miracle and celebration of the man who is not so paralyzed and not so unclean anymore, “Fear swept through the crowd…” Of course, they were afraid. This was an unexpected, untamable authority refusing to play by the rules.
Forgiving sins? Healing paralysis? Commending the unclean? Restoring the hurting? Freeing the captives? Sending the ostracized back home? Who does this guy think he is?
Apparently, a man sent by God with great authority.
*How does this quick glance at Jesus’ authority make you feel about him?
*How do you feel about the concept of authority?
*In the story, which character(s) do you identify with most?