Why Christians need to stop “claiming authority”

Mark 1
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claimingauthority
Saying you have authority in the kingdom of God is like playing king of the mountain. It’s childish, and it seems like a lot of fun until you get pushed off.

Unlike regular humans, Jesus does everything on purpose.

I’m not saying regular humans don’t plan or devise. Our ability to organize and reason is what makes us distinct, reflecting the character of God Himself.

But Jesus exercises remarkable authority and intentionality that everyone around Him seems to notice early in His ministry, and it’s something we should notice as well.

Because Christians, particularly in America, have a belief that we have this magical ability to conduct the orchestra of players around us when we simply do not have the authority to do so. We usually respond to particular situations in our worldview; in contrast, Jesus demonstrates authority outright without negotiation or waffling.

If you’re “claiming authority in Jesus’ name”, you’ve got it backwards, my friend.

 

Baptism: the death of self

Jesus’ first activity is a symbol of His future death and resurrection on the cross.  Later, He will tell His disciples in the same way to deny themselves and pick up their cross. Jesus takes the position of submission, and implores us to do likewise. He follows this up by telling people to repent, which requires a person to put their own desires to death.

 

Temptation: the mark of suffering

The next thing He does is head into the desert to be tempted. This is an intentional act, a remarkable sacrifice and illustration of suffering. Similarly, Peter would later remark on a Christian’s hardships:

Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter.

Christians are not immune to suffering or plight. Instead, it is to God’s glory, for we share it alongside Jesus Himself; furthermore, we become wholly dependent upon Him instead of seeking our limited selves for respite. Is there something wrong with that?

 

Jesus’ followers: the example of submission

Further proof of complete submission to the authority of Christ lies in the calling of the disciples.  They left everything they knew to follow Jesus; even more remarkably, Jesus picked scrubby guys to follow Him around.

Jesus chooses the weak to do His work. These low-life tradesmen would learn to never glorify themselves. Any act that promotes the self is in the wrong spirit, even if it “helps” or produces intended results. Complete abandonment of personal glory and any desire for attention is imperative if we want to do it right.

 

Jesus gets to work

Jesus’ first order of business is teaching. In the gospel of John, Jesus attends a wedding and turns water to wine first, which is arguably His first miracle, but His first public stance as the authoritative Christ takes place at the front of a synagogue.

Much like Paul does in the book of Acts, Jesus goes straight to the pulpit and reasons with people about why He is the Christ He says He is.

If I had the power of the whole universe and the heavens in my fingertips, I’d probably pull a Bruce Almighty and see what I can get away with. But Jesus keeps His bearings and opts for intellect and rationality first.

 

After this, Jesus begins healing. But it’s done on the Sabbath — and that’s on purpose too. Later, He would be indicted for this purportedly criminal activity. But once again, He demonstrates His authority, this time over religious methodology.

 

Some of Jesus’ healing targets responded in unique ways. Simon’s bedridden mother-in-law is brought to her feet, and her immediate response is service. So often we believe somehow we deserve healing, and glory is granted to ourselves or the doctor. Our “will” and the doctor’s procedures are mere instruments.

The correct response to healing is worship; this woman’s method is serving others.

 

An oversight by those who might wax authority as a Christian has to do with the humble attitude of the leper. The man is healed, but only after a simple acknowledgement of Jesus’ authority:

Now a leper came to Him, imploring Him, kneeling down to Him and saying to Him, “If You are willing, You can make me clean.”

He suggests that Jesus must be willing — the man cannot expect Jesus to heal him without His intention to do so.

How often do we make the mistake of believing we have jurisdiction over God’s will? Perhaps this is somewhat Calvinist in perspective, but it’s difficult to believe we can steer God here and there as if it’s our prerogative to tell Him what to do. Our daily prayer should be that God would make us more like Him, not for God to do for us what we personally desire.

 

Today, my hope is that, in reading this, you would find out for good that Jesus is in charge, and that you are not. Just to make sure, Jesus makes it clear one last time right before heading to heaven. But this should be understood with great confidence: everything He does is on purpose, and while it is often out of convention, it is certainly for good.

Philippians 2:5-8

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.

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