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Matt 8-10: The Authority of the King and the Mission of the Kingdom Print E-mail
Monday, 08 August 2005

One of the important questions we can ask when considering the life and ministries of the Church is, ‘Who ultimately has authority?’  As even the kids at VBS learned this past week, the right answer to most questions that the pastor asks is, ‘God,’ and ultimately this is obviously the case here.

God has ultimate authority in the Church.  And to be more specific, we know from passages like Colossians 1:18, that Christ, God the Son, is the head of the Church.  For all things have been created by Him and for Him.  Indeed, the ultimate authority in the Church is Christ.  He has redeemed her by his life and death and resurrection and Paul tells us in Ephesians 1:19-23 that the Father has put all things under his feet.  Even as Matthew tells us at the end of his gospel, all authority on heaven and earth has been given to Christ (28:18). 

At the end of the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew writes of Jesus’ authority in teaching.  Look at 7:28-29 with me.  Building on this theme, Matthew goes on to identify two general lessons in chapters 8-10.  The first deals with the Authority of Christ, or the King.  The second deals with the mission of the Kingdom.  As we will see, these lessons are related to one another.

Before we look closer at those two lessons, let me begin with just a basic outline of chapters 8-10.  Chapter 8 begins with three miracles (healing of the leper, the Centurion’s servant, and Peter’s mother-in-law).  Then, 8:18-22 deals with the cost of following Jesus.  Matthew then offers three more miracles (calming of the storm, casting out of the demons, healing of the paralytic in chapter 9) followed by the calling of Matthew and the issue of fasting and the disciples.  Matthew, once again, offers three accounts of miracles (the healing of the woman and the girl, the healing of the two blind men, and the casting out of another demon) and concludes chapter 9 with Jesus’ teaching concerning the labors’ being few and the harvest being plenty.  Building on the theme of missions in chapter 9, Matthew then gives us the second discourse in the book in chapter 10, known as the missions discourse.  Hopefully, this will give you a broad overview of the three chapters.  Now let’s look at the two general lessons from these chapters.

First, we see the authority of the King (8:1-9:34, also includes 7:28-29).

In all these particular stories about healings and miracles performed by Jesus, Matthew is once again conveying to his readers that Jesus is none other than the promised King of Israel, even as he quotes from Isaiah in 8:17.  With these particular events, although Matthew is teaching us much about Christ as we can see, he is emphasizing the authority that Christ has.  We see this authority extend over at least 5 different areas in the text.

First, Jesus has authority over sickness, death, and disease (8:1-17, 9:1-8, 18-26, 27-31).  Matthew begins by telling us of Jesus healing the leper in 8:1-4.  He then tells us of the healing of the Centurion’s servant in 8:5-13.  Notice what the Centurion says to Christ in verses 8-9.  The Centurion, being a Roman officer in charge of 80-100 men, is a man who understands authority.  Because of the chain of command, he understands that when he speaks to those under him, it is as if Caesar is speaking.  Thus, he is saying to Christ that he recognizes Christ’s authority over sickness.  All Christ has to do is say the word and the servant will be healed.  And, needless to say, that is exactly what happens.  Christ speaks and the servant is healed.  Thus, Matthew is using this situation to teach us of the authority of Christ even over sickness as he does in the following passage with Peter’s mother-in-law.  In chapter 9, we see the healing of the paralytic, which we will look at in a moment, the healing of the woman with a hemorrhage, and the raising of the little girl from the dead.  We also see Jesus heal two blind men at the end of chapter 9.  In all of these miracles, Matthew is making it clear to his readers that Jesus has authority over sickness, death, and disease.

Second, Jesus has authority over nature.  In 8:23-27, Matthew relates the story of the disciples crossing the Sea and finding themselves in a great storm.  Fearing for their lives, they wake up Jesus and tell them they are going to die.  After rebuking them for their lack of faith, Jesus simply calms the storm by rebuking the winds and the sea.  Not only does Jesus have authority over sickness, death, and disease, Jesus also has authority over nature.

Third, Jesus has authority over demons.  In two places in our passage, we see Jesus cast out demons: 8:28-34 and 9:32-34.  In the familiar story, after crossing the Sea, Jesus and the disciples encounter two men who have been possessed by demons and have been living in the tombs in this particular region.  The demons recognize who Jesus is, calling him the Son of God, and ask to be cast into the pigs.  Jesus casts them into the pigs, who then run into the Sea and drown themselves.  Matthew then points out that the people of the region were more concerned with their pigs who had been lost than with the men who had been healed.  In 9:32-34, we see Jesus cast out a demon who was causing a man to be mute.  In both events, we see the clear authority of Christ over demons.

Fourth, Jesus has authority over the forgiveness of sins.  We see this in the healing of the paralytic found in 9:1-8.  As we saw when we read a moment ago, a paralytic is brought to Jesus and when Jesus sees their faith he says to them in verse 2, Take heart, my son, your sins are forgiven.  What an unbelievable statement!  The scribes rightly made the connection that only God has the right to forgive sins.  What they failed to understand was that Jesus has the authority to forgive sins because He himself is God, God the Son.  Thus, in order to show to the scribes that He indeed had authority to forgive sins, Jesus healed the man.  And just in case the reader has missed it, Matthew adds in verse 8, When the crowds saw it, they were afraid, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to men.

I should pause at this point to clarify an important lesson that Matthew is teaching.  He has demonstrated that Jesus is indeed the promised King of Israel by showing that he is a descendent of Abraham and David.  He continues to show us that He is the King by his fulfillment of the Scriptures.  Now he is showing us that Jesus is King through the authority that He displays.  And not only is this Jesus just a king, no, He is the King, the Son of God.  Jesus’ authority over all these areas is a clear display of His divinity.  Again this is a point that Matthew is conveying to his readers through his gospel.

Fifth, Jesus has authority over the Pharisee’s and others.  We have already seen Jesus’ authority in teaching the crowds and correcting the errors of the Pharisee’s in the Sermon on the Mount.  Once again, Matthew points this out in Jesus’ dealing with them after the calling of Matthew in 9:10-12.  They are confused at why Jesus would eat with sinners and tax collectors.  And Jesus makes it clear that He eats with them because it is the sick who are in need of a doctor.  As just a side, we see again the teaching that Blessed are the poor in spirit (5:3).  Jesus is not interested in our self-righteousness, He came to minister to the desperate and needy.  And if we are honest with ourselves, we realize that we all fall into that category.  Going on in chapter 9, Jesus also displays his authority over the disciples of John by explaining that the purpose of fasting in the law is passing away (the old wineskins) and that fasting will now center around the longing for the return of the King, or the Bridegroom. 

In the end, Matthew makes the authority of Christ clear in these passages.  Whether it be sin, sickness, or disease; nature; demons and evil spirits; the forgiveness of sins, or whatever, Christ has authority.  As we shall continue to see, the authority of the King stretches over all.  So, then, how should we respond to such authority?  We see different people and different groups respond in different ways.  In 8:27, we see the disciples simply marvel at Christ’s authority and the crowds do the same in 9:33.  In 8:34 the people are gripped with fear and respond with rejection to such authority.  And in 9:34 the Pharisees accredit such authority to the prince of demons. 

Yet, true followers of Christ must acknowledge Jesus’ authority and simply believe.  This is how the Centurion responded, he believed.  Over and over again, Matthew notes the faith of those whom Jesus healed, pointing us again to the importance of belief.  In between these miracle stories, there are three instances of people being called to follow Christ.  In 8:18-22, Jesus calls for his disciples to follow him in spite of the material sacrifices and over above the commitment even to bury the dead.  In 9:9, Jesus calls Matthew to follow him and he immediately obeys.  And in 9:35-38, Jesus speaks of the importance of laborers because the harvest is plentiful.  Thus, the call to us is to acknowledge the authority of Christ, submit ourselves to such authority, place our faith in him and his work, and set about fulfilling the mission of the Kingdom, which leads us to the second general lesson in these chapters.

Second, we see the mission of the Kingdom (9:35-10:42).

As we said, in 9:35-38, Jesus teaches his disciples that the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.  Then, he calls for the disciples to pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.  In a very real way, we see this prayer answered in chapter 10, for Christ himself sends out his disciples into the harvest as laborers.  And although verses 5-16 focus on the 12 and their mission, it seems that in verses 17-42 Christ expands the mission beyond just the 12 to include the ever expanding mission of the Kingdom.  So what can we learn about the mission of the Kingdom?

First, we learn that the authority of the mission comes from the King.  Look at 10:1 with me again.  Christ begins his sending by giving his disciples authority over unclean spirits and sickness and disease.  Now granted, the scope of our mission has changed to some degree (for example we are not to go simply to the house of Israel, but to all the nations) so we do have authority to heal exactly as the disciples did.  Yet, this does not mean that we go without authority from the King.  Look at 28:18 with me.  Here, we have the familiar Great Commission, which of course does specifically apply to us (for it extends to the end of the age, until Christ returns) and how does Christ begin in verse 18?  All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…  Thus, even today, we go in the authority of the King.  We will speak more of this in a moment.

Second, we learn that the purpose of the mission is to proclaim the coming Kingdom.  Even as John the Baptist and Jesus preached, Christ tells his disciples to proclaim in verse 7, The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.  At this point the disciples did not understand all that we understand.  They did not know that Christ would die and raise again three days later.  Their understanding of the gospel and the Kingdom were limited.  Yet, in the Great Commission what is the call?  Jesus says in 28:19-20, Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.  Thus, the purpose of the mission continues: we are to proclaim the coming Kingdom, the gospel of the Kingdom, under the authority of the King.  We are to join ourselves in a long line of followers of the King who have proclaimed, ‘Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!!’

Third, we learn that the cost of the mission is suffering and persecution.  We see this throughout chapter 10 and even throughout Matthew’s gospel.  Make no mistake about it, the task of proclaiming the coming kingdom is no cushy job.  Again, as we saw in the Beatitudes, Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  The reality is this, if they persecuted Christ, then they will persecute all who labor to follow after him.  There is a continual call in the teaching and ministry of Jesus for his disciples to count the cost.  In serving under the authority of the King, we may have to give up houses and homes (see 8:20), comforts and pleasures (see 10:9-10), even friends and family (see 10:34-39).  We must understand that we are at war.  The Son of Man did not come to bring peace but a sword, and the enemy is real.  For, We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places (Ephesians 6:12).  Brothers and Sisters, we should not fool ourselves.  Our call is to proclaim the coming Kingdom, under the authority of the coming King, knowing full well that it will cause us suffering and persecution.

Yet, fourth and finally, we learn that the success of the mission is guaranteed by our King.  Look at verses 26-33 and verse 42 again with me.  Yes, persecution will come.  Yes, we have a difficult road ahead of us if we plan to be faithful servants of our King.  But do not lose heart.  Remember whose side you are on.  Remember that we serve the God who always wins.  Remember the victory of the cross.  Remember that Christ himself has promised to return.  And on that day every enemy will subside, every power will be overthrown, and all the authorities will be crushed under the weight of the authority of the coming King.

As we close, I challenge you to meditate on the authority of our King.  Why do we labor to be obedient to the Bible?  Because it is the Words of our King!  Why do we refuse to believe the lies of the world?  Because they flow out of rebellion to our King!  Why do we with boldness and assurance preach the gospel of the Kingdom to the highways and byways?  Because our King has sent us out under his authority to go and win the nations for Him!  We need not fear.  We need not shrink back.  Rather, we need to remind ourselves that one who spoke and leprosy left, the one who commanded and the storm subsided, the one who gave the word and the demons fled, this one is our King.  All authority on heaven and earth has been given to him.  Thus, may we fulfill our mission with boldness under the authority of our Great King!  Amen.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 21 February 2006 )

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