As we continue in Matthew, we need to maintain focus on the Sermon on the Mount. Keep in mind that when the authors of the New Testament wrote, they did not include chapter and verse numbers. Thus, in the crafting of Matthew’s narrative we read, “When Jesus had finished these words, the crowds were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.” (NASB, 7:28–29). As we step into chapter 8, we see a rapid succession of stories expanding this very idea—Jesus’ authority—based on Matthew’s overall theme of Jesus Christ as King.
This point is illustrated by the centurion’s words in 8:9 when, in faith that Jesus can heal his servant from afar, he said, “For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I say to this one, ‘Go’ and he goes, and to another ‘Come’ and he comes, and to my slave ‘Do this’ and he does it.’” Thus, Jesus heals a leper, a Gentile, and a woman—all three were considered outcasts; so, along with Jesus’ authority over sickness, we also witness the compassionate heart of a gracious God.
The question was then, as it is now, “How should we respond to this Jesus?” This is THE question of the Gospels. Contrasting the Gentile centurion’s words earlier in the chapter, in verse 19 we see an “expert in the Law” (somebody who should have understood Jesus’ Messiahship) making a strong verbal commitment with the implication that he really doesn’t mean what he’s saying. He isn’t really trusting in Jesus’ authority despite what he has seen and heard.
Likewise, right after this, we have “another disciple” coming to Jesus to and asking to “first go and bury [his] father.” I mean, the nerve of this dude, right? Most of us read Jesus’ response and think, “Whoa, Jesus, aren’t you being a little harsh, I mean this guy just lost his dad?” Well, that’s probably not what happened. Remember Exodus 20:12, the 5th commandment about honoring your parents? It’s more likely that this man’s words about “burying his father” was a euphemism for waiting around until his father expired so he might receive his inheritance. In the words of Monty Python, “He’s not dead yet!” Either way, Jesus would not ask a disciple to dishonor his family, but he would ask that we maintain the perspective that Jesus’ authority supersedes our obligations or desires.
These two very short interactions illustrate that people should respond to Jesus’ authority with the faith of the centurion, rather than the hasty (and impotent) vow of the first, and the (supposedly righteous) obligation of the second. Nothing supersedes Jesus’ authority!
With this idea ringing firmly in our minds we read of Jesus calming the storm. I can’t go into much detail, but this story not only shows Jesus’ authority over creation, but over the other gods as well. Greece and Rome had an overlapping pantheon of gods. It is important to know the gods never counter-acted other gods. If a Greek god had caused the storm, then (in the prevailing pantheistic worldview of the time) no other god could/would stop it. So, when Jesus “rebuked the winds and the sea, and it was perfectly calm” (8:26, NASB), his authority over creation, but also over all other so-called gods, became evident.
Finally, we see Jesus’ authority over spiritual forces. With one word Jesus drives out demons. Again, the centurion’s words ring true, even for demons (and storms). I bet the centurion wished could issue orders for his enemies like this.
In all of chapter 8’s tales, Jesus never broke a sweat. He exercised tremendous power and authority over every facet of life without blinking. Yet, remember the objections of the two men in verses 19–22 and ask yourself today, “What excuses do I have for not responding to Jesus’ authority in my life?” or maybe, “What areas of my life am I not submitting to Jesus’ authority?”
By: Tyler Short