The Book of Matthew

Monday: He Spoke with Authority

Matthew 7:28-29 In this week’s lessons, we conclude our study of the Sermon on the Mount by focusing on Jesus’ authority, seen in both His words and works.
Christ’s Person

Everyone knows the difference between a person who speaks out of a vast and accurate knowledge of his subject and one who merely repeats what he has heard from others. The one is the voice of authority; the other is the voice of a parrot. The first is the sound of the fountain bubbling forth freshly from the ground; the second is the empty sound of the cistern.

There are times in history when there are none to speak with authority. And when that happens there will always be some who, although they have no authority, nevertheless assume it. This was true in Christ’s day. For there had been four hundred years in which the Jews were without a prophet and during which, as a result, the scribes had emerged as apparent authorities because of their rote knowledge of the Scriptures. They were the official students and recognized expositors of the law, and it was their duty to memorize the law together with all of the various opinions about it given by the most learned rabbis of the past. They were then to pass this knowledge on to the benefit of their contemporaries.

The Jews who heard Jesus of Nazareth give the Sermon on the Mount had long been familiar with these interim authorities. But when they heard Jesus for the first time, they were at once impressed with the infinite distance that lay between His method of speaking and the method of the scribes. Jesus spoke with authority, while the scribes spoke from the authorities. Or, as one commentator says, “The scribes spoke by authority, resting all they said on traditions of what had been said before. Jesus spoke with authority, out of his own soul, with direct intuition of truth; and, therefore, to the answering soul of his hearers.”1

No doubt this fact made a strong and lasting impression. For Matthew, who records the Sermon, ends his account by drawing attention to it. He writes. “And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine; for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes” (Matt. 7:28- 29).

It is surely very significant that when Jesus had finished speaking, the thing that seems most to have been impressed upon His hearers was His authority rather than the content of the Sermon itself. There have been times in the past in my own studies of the Scriptures when I would have thought that this was not good. But I am not sure that I feel quite that way anymore. To be sure, to have come to the fullness of faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord would have been a far better reaction on the part of His hearers than the type of amazement that is recorded here. But certainly no one then was at the point where such a profession of faith was possible, not even the disciples. And it was far more important at this stage of Christ’s ministry that their attention should be riveted to the preacher of the Sermon itself. He is the narrow gate at the end of the narrow way they were to follow. He is the rock upon which they were now to begin to build.

1Alexander Balmain Bruce, The Expositor’s Greek Testament IThe Synoptic Gospels, ed. W. Robertson Nicoll (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1967), 136.

Study Questions
  1. Describe the difference between the authority of the scribes and the authority of Jesus.
  2. When Jesus concluded His Sermon, what seems to have impressed His hearers the most? Why was this important?

Reflection: How is authority viewed today? What determines whether or not someone is regarded as an authority?

For Further Study: Download for free and listen to Philip Ryken’s message, “All Authority and Power.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)

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