In Luke 54.31-44 Jesus goes throughout Galilee preaching, healing, and casting out demons. Throughout the three narratives in this section, one particular characteristic of Jesus' ministry rises to the top: his word has authority. The sermon at Riverview this past week explored what it means that Jesus' word had authority (listen to the sermon here). In short, this means that the words Jesus uses in his ministry demonstrate that he is a man of unusual, other-worldly power. Jesus had authority in knowledge and wisdom, over evil, and over the effects of sin - and he still does.
You see, not only were these things true when Jesus was alive and ministering in Israel, but they are still true today: Jesus' word still has authority in wisdom and knowledge, his word still has authority over evil, and his word still has authority over the effects of sin in this world. And believers are able to tap into that power, if you will, and can use their own words with a similar kind of authority.
But first, we have to understand what makes a word authoritative. Think of a baseball game: only one person on the field gets to make authoritative statements - the umpire. He alone can speak words that carry weight. And what does he say? "Safe!" "Out! "Strike!" "Ball!" If an umpire calls a runner out it doesn't matter if the runner disagrees and says "No, safe!" in retaliation. Only the words of the umpire carry any weight of authority because of the position the umpire is in. He is in charge.
The same is true with our words. There is nothing special about the words in particular, but the weight of authority they carry depends on the person uttering them. In this sense, my words do not carry as much weight as the president's, nor do my children's words carry as much weight as mine. And when it comes to the ultimate authority of the spoken word, nobody's words carry as much authoritative weight as God's. His words carry the most authority because of who he is - the supreme sovereign of the universe.
It is in this sense that the Bible is the most authoritative set of words in existence. Not because there is anything special about the words themselves, but because there is something about the one who has spoken the words - God himself. It is also in this sense that we as human beings are able to use words authoritatively when we read, understand, and speak the word of God, and it is also in this sense that we can experience and be ministers of the power and authority of God's word in a similar way that Jesus was.
First, when Jesus spoke to the crowds in Israel, his words demonstrated that he had authority over all knowledge and wisdom (see Luke 4.31-32). When Jesus taught, nobody demanded he present them with a bibliography; no one made him cite his sources; no one could (successfully) challenge his truth claims. Why not? Because he possessed authority over all knowledge and wisdom. He didn't cite any sources, because because he was the source of the sources. When we have questions, or when we want to encourage others, the best way to do it is by using the authoritative word of God. We tap into God's authority over all knowledge and wisdom when we use his word to address any and all matters and questions that arise.
Second, God's word has power over evil (see Luke 4.33-36 and 41). We tap into that power when we trust it and obey it. This is exactly how Jesus experienced the power of God's word while he was in the wilderness being tempted by Satan. God's word had the power to help him overcome temptation and the devil, and Jesus accessed this power by believing it and acting on it. Likewise, we can use the authority of God's word to overcome evil and temptation in our lives by believing and obeying what God has said. Moreover, we can be ministers of this power and authority by speaking the truth of God's word to those who are battling evil in their lives. When people around us are struggling in sin and evil, the best thing we can do for them is to tell them what God has said and encourage them to believe it and do what it says. His word has power, and if they will trust and obey it, they will gain victory over evil.
Finally, Jesus' word had authority over the effects of sin (see Luke 4.38-39), and it still does. All illness and suffering in this world are indirect results of the fall into sin. Since the Garden of Eden, mankind has been suffering under the weight of living in a world that has been damaged by sin. Therefore, people get sick; people get injured; people are heartbroken and depressed; people die. None of this would happen if the world were not a sinful, fallen place. But Jesus' word has authority over the sin that causes these things, and we tap into that power when we remember his word in the Bible that reveals this truth. Jesus suffered the ultimate effects of living in a sinful, fallen world: he took the sin of all who would believe upon himself and died as a result. But he has power over the effects of sin - even the most vile effect - death itself. And he demonstrated this power when he rose from death after three days. When we trust in the word of God that says that Jesus has authority over the effects of sin, and that he will have the final word when it comes to sin, we tap into his power over sin's effects, and we gain victory over it - no matter what we're going through at the time. In this sense, those who are ill, suffering, depressed, in mourning, etc., must remember the truth of the promise of God's victory over sin. While this will not cause the pain and suffering to stop, we can take courage that our circumstances - and the broken world that caused them - will not have the final word.
In Luke 4.43 Jesus says that he needs to go and use his authoritative words all throughout the region so that people can experience the power and authority of his word. This is a call for us to do likewise - to bring the authoritative word of God with us wherever we go. Think about it: how could you be a minister of the authoritative word of God in the lives of others? Do you know someone who is struggling with a certain sin? Study the Bible with them, and encourage them to tap into God's authority over evil by believing and obeying his authoritative word. Do you know someone who is suffering from the effects of living in a sinful, fallen world? Consider visiting them and reminding them from the Bible that God has authority over the effects of sin - even the effects that they are experiencing in their illness or suffering. Remind them that God's word says that God wins.
Jesus spoke with power and authority, and we access that power and authority when we know, understand, believe, and obey the word of God.