Authority Over My Life
“Who Has Authority Over My Life?”
Mark 1:14-28 Pastor Bruce Dick – BEFC
Pt. 3 of “Who is Jesus and Why it Matters?” March 25, 2007
I sometimes struggle with authority. I don’t know how you respond to that word – authority – but sometimes I struggle and chafe under it like a child does the straps in a car seat. Last summer when we were on vacation, we spent a day in the Black Hills, seeing Mt. Rushmore and other sites. We’d had a long day of sight-seeing and enjoyed Mt. Rushmore and the Rushmore caves. But it was hot, like 90 degrees hot. And we’re done and we’re in the van and if you know that area, there are a lot of hills and with the 6 of us, luggage and tired bodies and emotions, our journey up and down these hills was mirrored by the emotions of the people in the van. The speed limit in those hills was 45 which I took to be a bit relative. I mean you had to make the van work to get up those hills at 45, and you had to be on the brakes to keep it that way going down. We get through the hills and are just coming back into this little resort town, finally on flat ground and who is waiting there for me as we enter town – none other than a friendly SD Highway Patrol officer. He explains that I was speeding 10 mph over the speed limit and that the fine would be about $89! But for some reason, and maybe he saw the exasperated looks on my face and my counterparts in the van, he let us go with a warning, which we took gladly. By then we were too hot and tired to really care, but dad was happy to have saved $89.
So we continue on. We’re headed to Sentinel Butte, ND that night to stay w/ some friends and things calm down; the a/c is working, we get some food and the travel is good. We just crossed the ND border and stopped for gas and some snacks; the sun is getting low on the horizon and we have about 90 minutes of driving left; this will be just fine; everyone is happy and snacking on licorice and drinking PowerAde. As I was leaving town, the sign said 25 mph; no problem – I’ve been stopped once; not again. Just about 200 yards ahead was a sign that said, 45 mph. I’m in no hurry, so I think, “I’ll just slowly accelerate to 45 and be there just as I hit the sign.” Well, about 25 yards before the 45 mph sign; guess who’s waiting in the ditch?! I can’t believe it! Twice in one day. I honestly thought I was doing just great; I was relaxed, cool, and happy. That all changed in 3 seconds. He comes to the door and makes his little speech and explains that “No, you must drive 25 until the 45 sign and THEN you can accelerate.” Well, we must not have looked exasperated enough, so this time we get a ticket for speeding. But boy do I love good old North Dakota; the fine was a whopping $10! Authority, bah humbug!
Authority; sometimes I just love it and sometimes I just hate it. But do you struggle with authority? Do you hate it when people order you around in school, giving you all this homework; don’t they understand that you have other classes too and that they all have given homework too? And besides, you have track practice and piano to practice. Authority! Don’t you struggle at work sometimes when your day is all neatly planned and you’re mentally prepared for the day and it all falls apart? The boss asks you to do this project for him or her; then someone has called in sick and you have to pick up her slack; and to make matters worse, you have to stay late and when you get home, everyone is starved and there’s no supper anytime soon. Authority. We have all been in situations where we struggle with authority.
This morning, the gospel writer Mark is going to show us someone who has authority, and I mean to tell you, real authority. His authority changes people’s lives. His authority challenges conventional wisdom and the status quo; his authority was like the old EF Hutton commercials a generation ago that said, “When EF Hutton speaks…people listen.” I still remember that slogan 30 years later. This person, Jesus Christ, has authority is going to present a challenge to us today – who has authority over my life? Do I? Does someone else? Does He? Who should? Who tells me what to do? Who tells me what to think or where to go or when to do it? Do I trust anyone but myself to do that? Jesus Christ is going to begin to demonstrate his authority today in a way that blew his listeners totally out of the water. But it also left them with a choice: who has authority over my life?
When you leave this morning, you are going to be given the opportunity to answer that question for yourself and for this church as a whole. Who has authority over my life? Who has authority over this church? Do I? Do we? Let me give you a statement that I want you to really chew on: The extent to which you will grow is determined exclusively by who you give authority over your life to. Another way of saying that is this: You will never grow beyond the level of the person you give authority of your life to. If you are the ultimate authority in your life; you are limited to the amount of growth that you yourself can produce. If you give authority of your life to your boss, you are limited to the growth that he or she has. Who has authority of your life? Your growth hinges on that choice.
To find the best answer to the question, take your Bibles and turn with me to Mark, chapter 1, verses 14-28. Mark 1:14-28, which is page 836 in the pew Bibles. Mark 1:14-28. READ.
In these two “episodes,” Jesus demonstrates that he is the one with real authority in two areas and that he can be totally trusted. He has authority to be followed and he has the authority to be believed. He has such authority within him and in who he is that when he says, “Follow me,” there is no hesitation on the part of those called; they drop everything to follow. I could count on one hand the number of people in my life that I would drop everything to follow and none that I can think of today that I would do so immediately. That’s huge authority. But he will also demonstrate that he has authority to be believed. If you don’t believe what someone has to say, you sure won’t drop everything and follow him. And there are very few people that I know that I would believe everything they say. Jesus had that kind of authority.
Take a look again at what happens in verses 14-20; this is where I get the notion that he has authority to be followed. Mark, as we said each of the last two weeks, is going to be very brief; he only tells you what is most important to advance his agenda – Who is Jesus and why does it matter? Last week, we gave a brief rundown of John the Baptist and Jesus’ baptism and temptation.
Today is much the same. Time has gone by; Mark has skipped over some things to make his point. John has been arrested and Jesus heads into the northern area called Galilee, his home territory. And Jesus is preaching, specifically “proclaiming the gospel of God.” Do you remember what we said “gospel” meant? It means “good news” or to them, “Good news about the emperor.” But this good news is the good news of God. And Jesus’ message is real simple; it makes two statements and makes two demands. The two statements: the time is fulfilled – an era has ended and been completed and my presence here tells you that – and the kingdom of God is at hand – it has been coming and it’s right here at the doorstep of your lives. The two demands (and both are needed; they are like the two sides of one coin): REPENT – turn from what you are and what you have been doing; change your mind; feel remorse; let go of what you are clinging to – and BELIEVE – put your faith in the gospel, the good news; trust it. But you can’t have one without the other.
This would be like a man floating in the ocean, clinging to a piece of driftwood from his broken and sunk sailboat. A rescue boat comes by to pick him up and they toss him a floating ring on a rope. But in order to be rescued, he is going to have to let go of his driftwood in order to grab on to the life ring. But he yells, “I believe you can rescue me, but I just want to hold on to my driftwood.” To repent is to admit that what we are thinking will save us will not; to change our mind about where our fate lies. To believe is to trust, and to cling to what really will save us, what will forgive our sins and change our lives. But so many times today people will believe, but continue to cling to the drift wood of their lives. There’s no change; there’s no course correction; they will not trust in the authority of the rescuer, Jesus Christ to save. And as a result, clinging to the old and the new, they remain caught in the sea of life, kept from real rescue. Jesus says, “It’s time; with me comes the kingdom; admit that what you have held to is not enough and trust me. I’ll take care of you. I’ll change your life.” That’s a simple, yet revolutionary message.
Now it is time to put this into action. Let’s see if anyone out there is willing to take his life ring. In verse 16, he’s walking along the Sea of Galilee, near the edge of the water and sees Simon and Andrew (two brothers) out there on the sea, tossing their net into the water. They were doing what they had been trained by their father to do – fish.
Verse 17, Jesus simply says across the water, “Hey, come follow after me. Come behind me as my disciples. I’ll make you fishers of men and not just fishers of fish! Come here right now. Repent and believe; leave your driftwood behind and as I rescue you, I will change the course of your life.”
Their response? Amazing. Verse 18 uses Mark’s most common word – immediately. Immediately they abandoned their nets; they separated themselves from what they were and followed him. The sense of the words is that this was a once for all change, as repentance would be. They are making a permanent break from what their former way of life to follow this rabbi, this teacher.
But Jesus isn’t done. In verse 19, with Peter and Andrew in tow, he sees two more brothers fishing, James and John. They’re in their boat, mending their nets and IMMEDIATELY Jesus calls out to them, summons them with a loud voice across the water, “Come here and follow me!” Their response? Just like Peter and Andrew, they are done with their fishing for fish; they left their father and the other hired servants in the boat and they follow Jesus; they went after him.
Now, many of you have heard this story many, many times. Has it ever bothered you that they just dump everything and go? Has it bothered you that James and John would leave their father to do all the work? Wouldn’t Zebedee have been mad, “Where are those crazy boys going off to this time? Man, I can never get a decent day’s work out of those two.”
And haven’t you always heard how poor fishermen are and how Jesus just rescued these poor illiterate fishermen from their boring lives and made something with them? Well, we might have been wrong. And this will then get to Jesus’ authority. Here are a few things that we know. First, each boy and girl in the region of Galilee went to school. The boys studied the Torah (the first 5 books of the Bible), committing them to memory (yes, that’s right – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy were memorized – by the age of 12!) Girls studied the Psalms, Proverbs and Deuteronomy. By age 12, if the boys knew the Torah by heart, they went to the next level. Girls’ educations were finished and shortly after, they got married. From ages 12-15, boys would continue their education, memorizing the rest of the OT (yes, that’s right) as well as learning a trade (like fishing or carpentry, as Jesus did). By age 15, if they had completed their memorization of the OT, they would look for a rabbi with s’mikhah. That word is s’mikhah; say it with me – shmeekah! That’s the Hebrew word for authority or ordination. So if you were 15, you go up to this rabbi and ask if you can be his disciple. He would test you with every question he could think of and if he thought you had what it takes, he would say, “Yes, you may be my disciple. Follow me.” And for the next 15 years, you would leave your family, your trade and everything and be with this rabbi. If he chewed w/ his mouth open, you did too. If he bent down to pick up a blade of grass, you did too. If he slept on his right side, you slept on your right side. The goal was not just mental education but to be just like your rabbi. After all, he had s’mikhah – authority. You would give your right arm to be like him.
Pastor Luke and I saw a bit of that on Tuesday. You heard that Mr. Flynn, teacher and wrestling coach, died on Tuesday. Pastor Luke and I were called to the school to be with the other grief counselors and we were brought into the room where the wrestlers were gathered. Now these wrestlers, as we listened to their stories of Mr. Flynn, were like disciples; what he did, they did; what he said, they said; they admired him and in some sense wanted to be like him. He wasn’t just a teacher, he had s’mikhah and they were glad to follow him.
Now, back to our story. Jesus walks along the beach and sees 4 young men, students as well as fishermen, likely between the ages of 12-15 or maybe up to 17. And rather than running to him and saying, “Rabbi, may we please, please, please, be your disciples,” Jesus calls them! This is huge! When James and John’s father watches this, he isn’t furious, he is amazed! The boys go off with Jesus and he runs home to his wife and tries to play it real calm. “Hi, Honey.” “Oh, hi; how are you and what are you doing home so soon?” “Honey, the boys are gone,” with a grin breaking out on his face. “Well, I can see that; of course they’re gone. They’re fishing like you’re supposed to be doing.” “No, sweet pea; they’re GONE!” She turns to him and says, “What are you talking about?” Now he can’t contain it any longer! “The boys…this rabbi came along…you know how hard they’ve been studying…well, he asks THEM if they’ll be his disciples. And he asked Peter and Andrew too! It’s amazing!” And Zebedee and his wife start doing a little dance around the kitchen. Why? Because this rabbi thought their boys had what it takes to be a rabbi too! This is a day of celebration not anger! Their boys have what it takes b/c a rabbi has come and taken them under his wing. If they work and study real hard, they may one day have s’mikhah too!
Do you see this? Now jump ahead in time. Three years later, Jesus is having his last meal with his disciples before being arrested and among the many things he tells them that night is this (do you remember it?): “…all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I CHOSE YOU and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit.” (John 15:15-16)
That’s authority. These very young men, boys, saw the authority of a man they wanted to be like and they left everything in a moment to follow him. Jesus had the authority to be followed and obeyed. They would risk their lives for this rabbi with s’mikhah; they would do everything this rabbi with s’mikhah did. They left everything for him for one reason; they had a chance to be just like their rabbi. If you walked up to Peter later that day that Jesus called them and asked him the question I asked you – who oneHoneHone has authority over your life, Peter? – His answer as fast as you could say the question was, “That’s easy; Jesus does. I gave up authority over my life this afternoon and I’m not looking back.”
You see we wrestle with authority in our culture. We hold on to it; we don’t want to give it away; we don’t trust anyone – not the government and often the church - and we keep our own authority. And when we do, there is no way we are repenting and believing in him if we keep that attitude. I said this earlier: The extent to which you will grow is determined exclusively by who you give authority over your life to. How about you and me? Have you given him authority over your life? Are you still making decisions in your own interest or are you trying to find out what your rabbi does and thinks?
But something else happens immediately after that that only reinforces Jesus’ authority, his s’mikhah. Remember that we said there were two things: authority to be followed? Jesus just showed us that. But we also said: authority to be believed. It’s one thing to say, “I’ll go,” but another to believe in what they say.
Look at verse 21: They head into the city of Capernaum, a city on the NW side of the Sea of Galilee; a Roman outpost in this Jewish area; a city of 1000-1500 people on one of the main highways of its day, the Via Maria, connecting the north and south. With his new disciples in tow, they enter Capernaum and immediately enter the synagogue. Since Jesus was a rabbi of the highest kind, the local synagogue master-of-ceremonies would yield the teaching time to Jesus, which he gladly accepts. Mark tells us NOTHING about what he said; that isn’t his point. But notice in verse 22 what the people think of his teaching – “they were astonished at his teaching.” One writer said they were “thunderstruck.” They are sitting there with their jaws open; they’ve never heard anything like this before; maybe in the mega church of Jerusalem they had rabbis like this, but not in our town.
Now look at WHY they were astonished in verse 22b: for he taught them as one who had AUTHORITY and not as the scribes.” You see, he had s’mikhah! He had authority in what he said. Their scribes didn’t. The scribes knew the law, but when they got up to teach, their authority came from other rabbis; in fact they couldn’t do their own teaching. They would read a passage of scripture and they talked about the differences between the Levitical regulations and the legalistic requirements of the law. They’d say something like this: “On today’s passage, rabbi Hillel says that this means…on the other hand, Gamaliel says this… but there’s rabbi Ebenezer who thinks this.” They never had the authority to say what their opinion was. And so their sermons were boring, boring boring. They would be as if I brought the owner’s manual to my new garage door opener which I bought a month ago. “Now if you connect this wire to the red post and the white wire to the white post, the light should come on. If it does not, you may not have connected the wires properly.”
So Jesus gets in there and he teaches. And a rabbi with s’mikhah would often say, “You have heard it said, but I say to you…” And the people were blown away!
Now look what happens. His teaching isn’t just amazing; we’re going to find out where his authority really lies; is he just a great teacher or can he put his money where his mouth is? Look at verse 23: “And IMMEDAITELY there was IN THEIR SYNAGOGUE a man with an unclean spirit.” He’s demon –possessed and he’s been listening to this rabbi with authority and the demon is feeling very, very threatened and he screams from the depth of his throat, “What have you to do with us? You have no business here Jesus of Nazareth!” You see, he knows who he is! “Have you come to destroy us?” or better, “You have come to destroy us! I know who you are; you’re not just Jesus of Nazareth, famous rabbi; you are the HOLY ONE OF GOD!” Whoa! Now I don’t know about you, but if this happened here at Bethel, you’d be out the doors so fast; you wouldn’t have heard Jesus’ reply! Either that or you’d be so stunned that you wouldn’t move!
But look at Jesus’ authority in verse 25: Jesus rebukes him (and not with a quiet voice, I imagine!): “Be silent; shut up! Come out of him – NOW!” Now if Jesus is a hoax, he’s about to be discovered b/c there is no middle ground here. The spirit, who had taken over this man’s body, convulsed, his body was this big spasm of contractions and he is screaming and he comes out of him. Wham! And all of a sudden it is over.
Now look at what the people thought in verse 27: And they were all AMAZED! Before they were astonished; here they are amazed; they are terrified; their pulses are racing and they are not only wondering about this man but they are absolutely amazed and terrified about the authority of the rabbi who has come to visit that day. And there starts to be this buzz in church; they are asking each other questions: “Who is this? He has a new teaching WITH AUTHORITY! He can command demons and they OBEY him!”
And at once – immediately – the word about this rabbi with s’mikhah spreads everywhere through the empire. And we all go, “Whew! What was that anyway?” Friends that was authority that can change a life when it is not only followed but believed. If the demons will obey the king of kings and lord of lords, will you? If Jesus Christ can do that in a person like this man, what do you think he can do with you? I want to be with a person like that. I’ll do anything a person like that wants me to; he can have authority over my life. One writer by the name of Kent Hughes said of those who truly follow Christ: “Their sermons are like thunder because their lives are like lightning!” Man, that’s the kind of life I would like to have. But it comes down to authority and who we’ll trust with the authority of our lives.
One more time: The extent to which you will grow is determined exclusively by who you give authority over your life to. We just cannot grow to what God intends if we continue to hold on to our own authority for our lives – we can and must give it to Christ.
So here’s what that might look like in real life. You have a relationship with Jesus Christ – you have repented and you have believed him with your life. You have given him authority over your life; you have given him the keys to the car, so to speak; you are allowing him to be in charge. That’s a huge decision, not one to be made lightly. Now that is one thing to say and another to actually do. That means that we wake up each morning and most of us have an agenda, a list of things that we want to do or accomplish that day. When we give him authority, we are saying, “Father, I have this and this in mind today, but if you have other plans, I’ll change mine because I know you must have something better in mind.”
So that’s one stage and we must begin there. But here’s where it gets real interesting. In the book of Romans, Paul writes, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. (Why?) For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” (Romans 13:1) Notice that there are no exceptions to this directive. If God has asked us to submit to various authority figures over us, we do so because 1) we have given authority over our lives to him and 2) any authority over us has gotten their authority from God.
So think about the different things in the New Testament that God has asked us to submit ourselves to. Children, you are to obey your parents. That is a submission. But you do because you know that they got their authority from God and that they will be asked by God one day how they treated you with their authority.
God asks wives to submit to their husbands, a very non-politically correct notion these days. And you do so because your husbands get their authority from God and one day every husband will be held accountable before God for how they loved their wives.
God asked slaves to submit to their masters, which we stretch to say employees submit to their employers. Why? Because you have given your authority to God and your God will hold your employers accountable one day for how they managed you. And if you are a business owner or boss, your day of accountability is coming, so love on your employees b/c they have given their authority to you.
We submit to our government, which sometimes we love and sometimes we loathe. Why? Because we have given our authority to God and one day our leaders will stand accountable before God for how they led the people.
But here’s a tricky one today too. We submit to the leaders in our churches, specifically our elders. Hebrews 13:17 says, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account.” (Heb. 13:17). I think the day is coming when you should walk up to one of the elders and say, “Dave, God has placed you in charge of this church, along with the pastors and the other 5 elders. Lead us. If you say “go” we’ll go; if you say “no,” we’ll say no. We have given authority of our lives to Jesus Christ and he has given you the authority under him to lead this church. Now tell us where we’re going.” After Dave gets up off the floor with his heart attack, he’ll say, “Brother, here’s where God seems be leading…”
Folks, can you imagine how your lives and our church would change if at each level we give our authority to Christ and then to those he has put in place over us, to look after our best interests? It takes all the pressure off of you. And it says, “Father, this may not make sense, but I’m going to trust you and as a result, I’m going to take a step of faith and trust my boss, my husband, my parents, my government, my elders. They have to answer to you and I will gladly answer to them. Teach me to repent and believe so heartily in you that I will be filled with peace and each of these in authority will have joy as they serve you.” Imagine a life and a church like that?
But to get there changes will be made. But where I began is where you and I will begin today: who has authority over my life? If I do, then it is time to repent and trust. It is time to follow and believe. As we close today, maybe you need a few minutes to talk to the Lord about the condition of your heart. Maybe you have never given your life to the Lord; you can today. Maybe you have believed but never repented, changed your life course. You can today. Maybe your problem is authority figures; well you too have a choice today. Trust is your issue. This church can be a shining beacon to the Lake Region, but only as we give our authority away – first and foremost to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and second, to those God has put in authority over us. You have a choice and taking it gives you a chance to change the world. Will you take it? Let’s pray.
“Who Has Authority Over My Life?”
Mark 1:14-28 Pastor Bruce Dick – BEFC
Pt. 3 of “Who is Jesus and Why it Matters?” March 25, 2007
The extent to which you will grow is determined exclusively by who you give authority over your life to.
Ø Jesus Christ has authority to be ____________ (Mark 1:14-20)
o Two statements: (v. 15)
o Two demands: (v. 15b)
o Calling of the four disciples (vv. 16-20)
§ “s’mikhah” = _________________
“…all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I CHOSE YOU and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit.” (John 15:15-16)
Ø Jesus Christ has authority to be ____________ (Mark 1:21-28)
o Jesus’ teaching authority (vv. 21-22)
o Jesus’ exercise of authority (vv. 23-28)
Ø Who has authority over my life? _______________
o What are the implications of that in my day-to-day life?
The extent to which you will grow is determined exclusively by who you give authority over your life to.