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The Final Authority

by Stephen Davey Scripture Reference: Matthew 4:13–25; 8:2–4, 14–17; Mark 1:16–45; Luke 4:31–44; 5:1–16

Jesus Christ is God. As such, He possesses all authority. The only question for us is whether we submit to His authority in every aspect of our lives.


In our Wisdom Journey through the four Gospels, the next event that takes place is recorded in Matthew 4 as Jesus leaves Nazareth, which has turned hostile toward Him. Here we’re told that Jesus settles in “Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled” (verses 13-14).

This is an easy passage to overlook. But it is important to recognize this decision is not random; it was announced through Isaiah 700 years earlier and now fulfilled by Jesus the Messiah (Isaiah 9:1-2). It is also quite possible that Jesus’ mother Mary, now a widow, was no longer safe in Nazareth, a town that had turned murderously violent toward Jesus.

Matthew’s Gospel records that Mary and Joseph had several children after Jesus was miraculously virgin-born—before Mary and Joseph came together. Matthew even provides the names of Jesus’ half brothers (13:55). Two of His half brothers will go on to write books in the New Testament—the books of James and Jude.

But as Mary’s firstborn Son, Jesus moves her, and more than likely the rest of the family, into a safer town.[1]

Matthew, Mark, and Luke all record this next event in Jesus’ life. Luke has the fullest record, here in chapter 5, and the overriding theme is going to reveal the authority of Jesus.

First, Jesus demonstrates His authority over other priorities. Luke 5 begins this way:

On one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret [Galilee], and he saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. (verses 1-2)

Luke names Simon (Peter), James, and John as three of the fishermen. Matthew and Mark mention Simon’s brother Andrew as a fourth.[2] All four have had significant exposure to Jesus’ teaching already.

In fact, Jesus gets into Simon’s boat to finish His teaching and then tells Simon here in verse 4, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” I wonder if Simon had the passing thought, What would a carpenter know about fishing? Simon Peter is a veteran fisherman. But he skeptically follows Jesus’ instructions, and the catch is so huge and the nets so full that they threaten to sink the boats (verses 6-7).

Suddenly, Simon sees the Lord in an entirely new light: “He fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord’” (verse 8). But Jesus responds, “From now on you will be catching men” (verse 10). He and his companions are going to become fishers of men.

Jesus is challenging Peter and these other men to completely change their priorities in life—and they do. Verse 11 says, “When they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.” They are not just leaving their boats; they are leaving their careers—their livelihoods. Their priorities are suddenly rearranged by the authority of Jesus.

Now second, Jesus demonstrates authority as a teacher. Mark 1:21 records: “They went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and was teaching.” And verse 22 says, “They were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes.”

The typical scribe or rabbi was constantly quoting other rabbis. Well, Jesus is not quoting anybody. In fact, Jesus often would say, “You have heard it said, but I say to you.” Jesus taught upon His own authority as the Word of God.

As He is teaching, suddenly a demon-possessed man cries out, “I know who you are—the Holy One of God” (verse 24). Jesus immediately demands the demon “be silent and come out of him!” (verse 25), which it does after creating quite a commotion.

The people are shocked again. Here in verse 27, they say, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.”

Once the service in the synagogue is over, Jesus demonstrates His authority over sickness. Jesus and His disciples walk over to Simon Peter’s house—probably for lunch—but Peter’s mother-in-law is sick with a fever (verses 29-30). By the way, if Peter had a mother-in-law, he had a wife. I don’t know of any man who has a mother-in-law without the benefit of having a wife. Peter was a married man. And Luke describes his mother-in-law as having “a high fever.”

If we put the Gospel accounts together, we see that Jesus rebukes the fever and helps her to her feet; and she is so completely restored to health that she immediately begins to serve them. She just goes right into the kitchen and starts fixing lunch—completely healed.

Not surprisingly, Mark’s Gospel tells us that evening “the whole city was gathered together at the door,” and Jesus continued to heal the sick (Mark 1:32-34).

Now after a busy twenty-four hours of teaching and healing, Jesus gets up before daybreak to pray. Simon and the others eventually find Him and try to bring Him back into town. To their thinking, Jesus has more people to heal there in Capernaum.

They say to Jesus in Mark 1:37, “Everyone is looking for you.” But he says to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out” (verse 38).

The disciples are focused on Jesus’ healing ministry, as if that is His primary mission in life. Well, it isn’t. The ministry of Jesus goes much further than physical illness. Healing a body is good, but healing a soul is greater; and that is because physical healing is temporary, but spiritual healing is eternal.

Finally, Jesus is going to demonstrate His power to save. Here again, Matthew, Mark, and Luke combine to give us the full account.[3]

Jesus is preaching throughout Galilee, and in one of the towns a man with leprosy comes and falls down before Jesus and says, “If you will, you can make me clean” (Mark 1:40). Up to this point in all of biblical history, leprosy had been healed only twice—back in Numbers 12 and in 2 Kings 5. The Jewish people knew that only God could heal leprosy.

But this leper does not doubt the ability of Jesus, does he? “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” He believes in Jesus and calls out to Him in faith.

Jesus reaches out and touches the man and says those wonderful words, “I will”—or “I am willing”—“be clean.” Beloved, Jesus is willing today to save the lost from their sin—and He will. But the Bible also says, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13). He is willing, but are you willing to come to Him?

And now, Jesus says to this former leper in Mark 1:44, “Say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded.” Verse 45, however, records what this former leper did next: “But he went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news.”

This is convicting! He is told to keep quiet, but he can’t help spreading the news. You and I have been commanded to spread the news, but too often we keep quiet!

We cannot excuse this man’s disobedience to the Lord, but we cannot excuse our disobedience either. Who are we telling about Christ? This man cannot keep silent because he cannot get over being delivered. I wonder if we keep silent because we have gotten over it.

Let’s be more faithful to declare the salvation of the Lord.

[1] Thanks to Dr. Douglas Bookman of Shepherds Theological Seminary for this insight.

[2] Luke 5:3, 10; Matthew 4:18, Mark 1:16.

[3] Matthew 8:2–4; Mark 1:40–45; Luke 5:12–16.

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