I have been reading Matthew in my personal Bible time lately. In the course of a couple days of reading, Jesus heals a leper, the servant of a centurion, Peter’s mother-in-law, and ‘many’ who came to him. He raises a dead girl and feeds a crowd. Then, my favorite, He sleeps in a boat during a storm, scaring his disciples to death, and then calms the storm and gives them an exasperated “Have you no faith?”
And I was struck, while reading, how far outside of this world Jesus was. I mean, He was here. He lived here, ate here, slept here, and had friends here for thirty years. But the rules of the world didn’t really apply to Him. Illness, demons, storms… Not a problem. It’s why He could face angry leaders without arrest for three years. Whatever problem He faced, He walked through it like it didn’t exist, not letting anyone stop Him until it was time, when He stopped and let them catch up and do their worst, but only because it was His idea and on His terms.
This is who loves me. He’s Other, not quite tied to this world. That means I, as His daughter, am also other, not quite tied to this world. Anxiety, which plagues me, is worse when I forget that, and it lessens when I remember. The rules here, the chaos and noise, the rises and the falls—this isn’t my kingdom. It’s not my home. Jesus was homeless, and in a way I am, too, only it’s a good thing. How much time do I want to spend on real estate here? This place is a mess, and it isn’t mine. Not permanently.
The authority of Jesus
John gave me better words to describe what I had realized while reading Matthew. In John 17 Jesus says He has been given authority over mankind. Authority. I brought up Bible Gateway and did a little research, because the word authority is the key to what I’ve been thinking about. Turns out the word is used very little in the OT, but in the NT, it shows up often. Jesus and the Pharisees argue often over what authority Jesus has to do what He does and to say what He does. The people marvel because Jesus speaks with authority. Finally, Jesus Himself says in Matthew 28 says “All authority on heaven and earth has been given to me.”
This is why He does what he does. He has authority. Because of his identity and that of His Father, the world has to bow to His desires.
Not a superhero
We live in a culture where most of us understand the superhero concept. Someone appears on the scene with great power that allows him or her to do things the rest of us cannot do. But, almost to a man, these super-powered beings have weaknesses. Superman has Kryponite. Some have character flaws. That’s the meat of most superhero stories, how these superhumans fight their humanity to do better.
That is NOT what we deal with when talking about Jesus. He didn’t do miracles because He had a well of superpower. He did miracles because He had authority. Because He is God incarnate, the authority of God is the authority of Jesus. And why does God have authority? Because he made all this. He owns it. Creation bows to Him because He is over it, above it, other to it. There is no other authority over anything. All of it, every last bit of authority in this world, is God’s.
Authority over what?
I started to go through Matthew (because I am currently studying Matthew) and marked what aspects of life Jesus shows authority over. Jesus has authority over:
- Illness (8:1-2 The leper, among others)
- Nature (8:23-27 He calms a storm)
- Demonic forces (8:28-34 Demon-possessed men)
- Resources (14:13-17 He feeds the five thousand)
- Forgiveness and rightness with God (9:1-8 He forgives and then heals a paralytic)
- The Law and legal interpretation (12: 1-13 Gleaning and healing on the Sabbath)
- Gentiles (15:21-28 Healing a Canaanite’s daughter)
- Death (9:18-26 He resurrects a leader’s daughter)
- Everything (28:18 Jesus says He has authority over all things in heaven and on earth)
So, what worry do you have that is NOT included in this list? Worried over inflation and the economy? He has authority over resources. Five loaves and two fish can feed 5000 people. Worried over your health? Jesus has authority over illness. Worried about living in a world where you are persecuted for your faith? Jesus has authority over the realm of darkness. Worried over droughts or fires or storms? Yep, He has authority over that, too.
All things, Jesus says. That’s pretty inclusive. There is no problem in your life Jesus does have authority to deal with as He sees fit, because the authority of Jesus is limitless.
Not my circus, not my monkeys
Have you heard it said that we live in uncertain times? I admit when I look at the grocery bill I cringe. I listen to the powers that be redefine the simplest things to make reality fit their agendas. Anxiety about the future is at an all-time high. Jesus may have authority over all this, but sometimes it feels like the world is winning, and that can cause anxiety. What good is Jesus authority if He isn’t using it to help me?
Back to John 17, where Jesus specifically says He is not of this world, so His people are not of this world. Yes, we too are other. We can slough off the concerns of this world because, in crude terms, this is not our circus and not our monkeys.
But then Jesus says something not so joyful. He says He isn’t praying for God to take us out of the world but to protect us from the evil one. Hmm. So, while Jesus has authority over all things, some distressing things are still allowed to happen. The truth is, while this isn’t my world, and I don’t have to perform in the circus of the world around me, I can’t completely walk away. We can’t hide from the world and not participate. There are days I wish I could. I would grab everyone I love, everything I value, and hide in a commune somewhere completely cut off. But that isn’t the case.
So how do I live outside of this place, not let its darkness darken me, and still love so much that’s here? Some of what I love is rooted here, unwilling to move out of the dark, unwilling to step away from the circus of the world and follow me into the kingdom of light.
But I really love some of those monkeys
I admit some of my worst anxiety has to do with that very problem, with people I love who are entrenched in the broken, messy kingdom of this world. Of all the prayers unanswered, that one hurts the most, when I call for the hearts of loved ones and God says not yet. Maybe He’ll say no, but as long as those I love have breath, I choose to hope the answer is not yet, and I can pray for them to move from the circus to the kingdom.
I need to remember when I pray for those lost-but-loved souls that I pray to Someone other and outside, Someone who isn’t remotely slowed by the way this place works, Someone with complete authority over it. Psalm 2 says God actually laughs at those who conspire against Him and His people. That’s Someone who isn’t worried about how this will all turn out. That means I can hand it over to Him and also not worry how it will all turn out.
Easier said than done, I know. So I keep saying it. One day it will sink in for both me and you. John 17 says this is the number one reason Jesus didn’t ask to have us removed. We are here to go into the world and to draw people to Him down through the generations. So our love and heartache for the unsaved that plagues us—that’s on purpose. God wants us to love them, pray for them, even agonize over them, and we only hope He will follow up by bringing those we love to Him.
It sounds good on paper
I realize all of this is easier said than done. But acknowledging the authority of Jesus over all things is a good step. Stop and tell yourself that when you next fear. No, Jesus hasn’t taken us out of this, and that can hurt, but it’s for a good reason—the way He loves you, and you love Him—is how He wants to love and be loved by others, and for some reason we are the path for that to happen. You have great purpose.
Keep in mind that Jesus slept in the boat. The world does not bow to Him. God laughs at the nations that seem to have so much control. Then walk outside of it. Your purposes are for another kingdom, another king, one with true authority. The world will tell you they have all the power. It’s okay to laugh like God, because you know better. They have none. And while God’s ways can be difficult, those ways are built on perfect love, perfect understanding, perfect compassion, and perfect authority, things the nations know nothing about.
Do not be afraid, little flock. For it is the Father’s great pleasure to give you the kingdom. It is here, now, outside the world, filled with amazing purposes for you. Embrace it, knowing there is no better, safer place to be.