Jim Crooks, Pastor, Tayside Christian Fellowship
Since January 2016, Jim Crooks has been the full-time pastor at Tayside Christian Fellowship in Perth, having worked in senior management in further and higher education for a number of years, as well as serving churches across Scotland with an itinerant ministry and a long involvement with Tilsley College in Motherwell. He currently serves as an Echoes International Trustee and he has two grandsons, Benjamin and Sámuel.
I have enjoyed thinking about what I would say to build on my previous blog about Matthew 9:36 and ‘How is the world reached?’ This time round, I have been intrigued by the issue of authority, and especially Jesus’ authority in reaching the world.
The Word was God
Jesus’ authority is innate because ‘…the Word was with God… He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.’ (John 1:1-4)
His Divine nature carries with it absolute authority and sovereignty and, as Creator and life-giver, He is unimpeachable.
But yet, Jesus says ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.’ (Matt 28:18).
Jesus’ imputed authority was called into question by the chief priests, scribes and elders in Judaism:
‘By what authority are you doing these things?’ they asked. ‘And who gave you authority to do this?’ Jesus replied, ‘I will ask you one question. Answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. John’s baptism – was it from heaven, or of human origin? Tell me!’ They discussed it among themselves and said, ‘If we say, “From heaven,” he will ask, “Then why didn’t you believe him?” But if we say, “Of human origin” . . .’ (They feared the people, for everyone held that John really was a prophet.) So they answered Jesus, ‘We don’t know.’ Jesus said, ‘Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.’ (Mark 11: 28-33)
This is a brilliant example of the Socratic method, where Jesus uses questions to expose the faulty reasoning of those with whom He is speaking. They don’t play ball, though, because they know they will be exposed as blind cynics. We are left to our own conclusions about Jesus’ authority; the answer is implicit in the question, and we all know the answer!
But how is this imputed authority to be understood?
Consider traffic lights for a moment. A small bulb behind some coloured glass and, yet, when deployed in sequence, this has the effect of stopping vehicles in their tracks and giving safe passage to pedestrians. The lights take their authority from both the law and society. They have imputed authority in a particular dimension of life – and death.
Jesus’ is displayed as the Great Sovereign by God:
‘…he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.’ (Eph 1:20-21)
So, we should be supremely confident in our Lord – in His person and work – ‘to boldly go’
Jesus had previously prayed:
‘Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him.’ (John 17:1-2)
I think we are to understand this passage shows the movement from innate authority to imputed authority in relation to the great rescue plan of the incarnation and Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. Now He is exalted as the God-man redeemer and He has the rule of the universe from His redemptive work, but He has absolute authority over the church and its mission because of ownership and primacy as its Head. He has imputed authority for His great work in salvation for the Godhead; that He suffered dreadfully in the body but carried out the work given Him with perfect faithfulness.
So, we should be supremely confident in our Lord – in His person and work – ‘to boldly go’.
People have disputed the split infinitive (where an adverb between ‘to’ and the verb is inserted) for a long time. Most now accept Star Trek into the grammatical fold and no longer publicly complain about ‘to boldly go’. By the late 60s, people cared more about sexism than grammar and by the time Star Trek: The Next Generation was aired in 1987, the more politically correct last line was used: ‘To boldly go where no one has gone before’ (previously ‘no man has gone before’).
We need to be reminded that while debates on grammar – and gender – and everything else rages on, our Lord Jesus still speaks into our lives with unchanging and timeless authority:
‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations…’ (Matt 28:18-19)