Tag Archives: Astonishment

The Sermon, part 29: Beyond Amazed

Read Matthew 7:28-29

But if you refuse to serve the LORD, then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live? But as for me and my family, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24:15 NLT)

emotions-different-facesHere we are at the tail end of the great Sermon on the Mount and it says that the people were “amazed” at Jesus, for he taught with “real authority”. The text also throws in an added slight against the scribes, who evidently didn’t teach with “real” authority. Before we get into the amazement the people were experiencing, it is important to understand what is meant by Jesus teaching with “real authority”

The Greek word used here for “authority” is ἐξουσία (pronounced ex-oo-see’-ah) and it can mean one who has privilege, one who has the capacity, one who is competent, one who demonstrates mastery, one who has command (such as a magistrate, a superhuman, or a sovereign ruler), as well as one who has the power to delegate influence, authority, jurisdiction, liberty, right, and strength. I believe that the author here intends a little bit of all of these meanings when writing of Jesus’ authority.

In other words, Jesus taught as one who was given the privilege from God to teach. He taught as one who had the capacity and competency to teach, expound and expand upon the Torah. He demonstrated that he was a master, and that he was in command of the stuff he was teaching. Not only that, he was in a place to make his teachings divine commands. In Christ, God’s sovereignty resided and Jesus’ teachings displayed that sovereignty.

So, when the author writes that Jesus taught with the kind of authority that the Scribes and religious leaders didn’t have, it’s kind of a “no duh” moment. Of course, the author is purposefully slighting the leaders who opposed Jesus as a literary device that all the more shows the gap between where God was calling the people (as seen through Jesus) and where the current leaders where taiking the people.

With that said, the author was doing more than that as well. He is also showing that Jesus taught with the full and sovereign authority of God, as opposed that was passed down from Moses to the priests throughout the generations. Even if the leadership was in line with Jesus’ teachings, and there’s evidence in Scripture that some of them were, none of them could teach with the kind of authority that Jesus taught with, because none of them were God’s divine Son.

What’s more important, though, is the fact that the author wrote that the people were amazed at Jesus’ teachings. We often read this as, people were excited, or were in awe, or were totally elated by Jesus’ teachings; however, those words do not do justice to what the author is trying to convey here. The word “amazed” can also be translated as stunned, aghast, shocked, flabbergasted, dumbfounded, and struck with astonishment.

The people could not believe what they had just witnessed and were standing there with their mouths agape, wondering what they had just heard. Some were, no doubt, aghast or horrified by what they just witnessed. Some were dumbfounded and left wondering what had just happened, Others were flabbergasted and/or bewildered by Jesus’ teachings.

In all senses of the word “amazed”, people were not quite sure what to do with this Jesus. Some wanted to kill him, others wanted to hail him king. Others still wanted to follow him, and others were just confused as to what it all meant. Regardless, all were left completely paralyzed in this moment of “amazement.” The question for us, now that we’ve reached the end of this great sermon, is this: are you amazed? Are you struck with astonishment at what he has taught? Did it invoke anger and outrage? Did it invoke confusion and bewilderment? Did it invoke a desire to dive deeper into Christ’s teachigngs?

Perhaps it did all of the above. The key for us, as surely as it was key for the crowd following the sermon, is that we need to move beyond amazement into action. There comes a point when the astonishment wears off and we are left with a simple but monumental choice: how will we respond to Christ’s authority. Will we accept it, or will we reject it. Will we choose to follow it, or will we seek to undermine and destroy it. The time is long overdue that we make the choice before us. Paralysis and dumbfounded amazement is not God’s plan for us. Choose this day, and all days, whom you are going to serve.

“Hate is not the opposite of love; apathy is.” – Rollo May

Lord, move me beyond amazement, paralysis, and apathy to a life that LOVES and MOVES IN LOVE. Amen.