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Season 5 - Week 3

“Jesus taught as one with authority”

My life is preoccupied at the moment with writing academic essays. As a humble PhD student I spend my days reading and writing and referencing (on repeat). And anyone who has written an essay of any kind will be familiar with the following three components: content, style, and referencing. Perhaps it's my preoccupied brain speaking (highly likely) but I feel that these three components may just help us to understand this intriguing little passage from the end of the Sermon on the Mount, and what it means to say that Jesus 'taught as one with authority'.

Content
Oh what it would have been to sit on that mountainside in the company of Jesus and hear this monologue face to face! Even if it wasn't one big block (which some commentators suggest) there's something electric about the content of this extraordinary sermon. Jesus speaks right to the heart of the everyday issues that his listeners faced. He didn't mess around with religious terminology or confusing concepts in a deliberate attempt to exclude people (as the religious teachers did, see Matt 23:13) or to make himself feel or look clever. He spoke in a way that was accessible, relevant, and to the point. And the content was brand new; no one had ever heard anything like this before. Therefore the content of Jesus’ teaching is itself an indicator of his authority: it was brand new, and the listeners really heard and were changed by his accessible teaching.

Style
The next element of Jesus’ authority was the way that he taught. I was sat with one of my young people last week, and asked her what she thought 'Jesus teaching with authority' meant. We read the passage together, and after she had pondered for a while she replied: 'I think it means that Jesus really believed what he said, speaking with full conviction, as he had no reason to doubt'. I think this hugely insightful comment is bang on, and speaks about the style or manner of Jesus’ teaching. The Greek word for authority (εξουσία) can also be translated as ‘power’. Jesus spoke with power. He spoke with conviction. He spoke with the full confidence and integrity of someone who lives and breathes every inch of what he is saying (again, unlike the religious teachers, see Matt 23:3). Therefore his words hit the listeners straight to the core, and they were ‘amazed’ by what he said.

He spoke with the full confidence and integrity of someone who lives and breathes every inch of what he is saying

Referencing
The final element of Jesus’ authority was in his lack of references. A basic rule of essay writing is to ensure that you acknowledge the contribution that others (more learned than you) have made to the field, and then place yourself within the context of those ‘authorities’. In some ways, in First Century Judaism, the same was true. Rabbis and teachers of the law would refer to prominent Rabbis and religious thinkers from of old, in an attempt to give what they were saying kudos, weight and authority. Authority came by building on tradition (as it does in academic circles today). However, into that scene stepped a lowly carpenter from Nazareth, who not only had the audacity to disregard the wisdom and sayings of other Rabbis and teachers, but to offer his own new thoughts and wisdom! Although Jesus carefully explains that he does not seek to abolish the law but to fulfill it (see Matt 5:17), he repeatedly uses the refrain ‘You have heard that it was said…. But I say to you’ in teaching the crowds on the mountain. You can see why the religious teachers were annoyed. How dare he? Who does he think he is? And that’s exactly the point. Not even Moses had the authority to write or fulfill the law, only to give it to the people. Through the Sermon on the Mount Matthew’s Gospel places Jesus over and above Moses as not only a deliverer of the law to the people, but the law maker Himself. Jesus’ teaching comes with the full authority of heaven, from the very lips of God.

Matthew 7:24-29

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practiceis like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.

This week's author

Staffpics Phoebe Hill

Dr Phoebe Hill

Head of Theology

Questions & Challenges

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Do you recognise the authority?

Phoebe gives us three indicators of Jesus' authority in his teaching. Read the passage again with those in mind - can you see it? Does it demonstrate authority to you? Do you see it in other exampls of Jesus' teaching too?

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"He spoke with the full confidence and integrity of someone of someone who lives and breathes every inch of what he is saying."

Just read that statement out loud.

He spoke with the full confidence and integrity of someone who lives and breathes every inch of what he is saying

Confidence and integrity are exactly what young people today are looking for in their role models. Do they see you as someone who lives and breathes every inch of what you say?

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You, O Lord, are my strength, my patience, my light, and my counsel.
It is you who touch the hearts of the children entrusted to my care.
Abandon me not to myself for one moment.
For my own guidance and that of my students,
grant me the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of counsel and fortitude, the spirit of knowledge and piety,
the spirit of a holy fear of you and an ardent zeal to procure your glory.

Other Weeks

Week 1

RUTH JACKSON

PUBLISHED: 14 NOV, 2017

Week 2

ANDY DU FEU

PUBLISHED: 21 NOV, 2017

Week 4

PETE BAKER

PUBLISHED: 5 DEC, 2017

Week 5

MEGAN DE WALD

PUBLISHED: 12 DEC, 2017

Week 6

CALVIN SAMUEL

PUBLISHED: 19 DEC, 2017

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