By What Authority is This World Ruled?
May 22, 2014 1815
By Levi James
Matthew begins his Gospel with the information that Jesus is David’s Royal Son (Matthew 1:1). The Magi call him the King of the Jews in the Nativity story. As Matthew builds his account of Jesus’ life, he focuses on the authority of Jesus; an authority which mounts as the narrative proceeds. Early, Jesus shows his power over evil spirits (4:23-25). Unlike the Scribes, his speech is with authority (7:29). He has power on earth to forgive sins (9:6). His legal and moral authority equals—and surpasses—that of Moses and Elijah (17:1-5). AT his trial he announces that that will vindicate him before his enemies and glorify him at his own right hand (26:64), and at Golgotha, the announcement of Matthew 1:1 is reprised by Pilate: “This is Jesus, King of the Jews.”
When Jesus was crucified, the disciples’ confidence in the authority of Jesus was murdered too. All the signs of kingship which had attended Jesus’ ministry till that day seemed to be a trick. They had entrusted themselves to One whom they believed would save Israel from its disgraceful bondage to a heathen power. They had left all to follow him only to have their hopes dashed. The Son of David had failed to slay Goliath. Goliath had won. Obviously they had been naive; they had been duped.
Many know the feeling. They have found to their dismay, that the thing on which their hope was fixed, turned out to be a con, a swindle, a ruse. It let them down at a critical moment. For many this betrayal takes the form of a failed marriage, the treachery of a business associate, parental disappointment, disillusionment with a friend, church, government or trusted institution. They are left devastated, cynical and wary.
To all who feel thwarted or disenchanted, burned and gutted by people or events, Jesus makes an announcement and an appeal. It is a very powerful one because it comes after he has shown himself alive to his disciples, after his death. If his statement is a lie, all is lost. Truth, justice, innocence and virtue are value-neutral. The universe respects them no more than indecency, impurity, cruelty, vice and greed. But if Jesus is telling the truth, there is every reason, to live, to strive, to trust again, because the highest and finest values the world ever saw have been endorsed and vindicated by God Almighty. The will of evil in its collective menace and strength has been overturned. The world is indeed under the authority of One who has triumphed over death—Not through deception, cunning, artifice, murder and mayhem, but with patience, truth and longsuffering love. These are what guides the world, and it will arrive at its desired haven.
“Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18).