“We answer to a higher authority.” This was a slogan used by Hebrew National to promote its brand of certified kosher hot dogs. The slogan was first used in 1965, and the intent of the slogan was to point to the fact that Hebrew National, as a kosher meat producer, answered to a higher authority than federal regulations. Of course, the authority they spoke of is God. In 1997, this Hebrew National ad campaign was referred to by the New York Times as not just the longest-running, but also the most well-known ad campaign ever.
Today, on our second full day in the Holy Land, our church group visited several sites of importance in the life of Jesus. We started with the Mount of the Beatitudes, the mountain on which Jesus gave His most extensive teaching, which we now call the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1-7:27). We took a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee, where Jesus calmed a storm (Mark 4:35-41) and even walked on water (John 6:16-21). We visited the town of Capernaum, where Jesus healed a paralytic man who had been lowered by his friends through the roof of Peter’s house (Luke 5:17-26). And we saw the recently discovered ruins of a first-century synagogue where Jesus likely had taught. As I reflected on these things, a thought occurred to me. Jesus’ teachings and His miracles point to one thing – the authority of Jesus.
When the crowds of people heard Jesus speak, when they heard the things that He was teaching, they were amazed. Why? Because they realized that He spoke not like any of the Pharisees, not like a scribe, and not even like any other rabbi or teacher. Jesus spoke as someone who had authority (Matthew 7:29; Mark 1:22; Luke 4:32). When Jesus calmed the storm, His disciples were amazed and wondered who this man was who had such authority over the wind and water that He could just tell them to be still and they obeyed (Luke 8:24). And when Jesus healed the paralyzed man, the crowd that witnessed this healing were filled with awe that God had given Jesus such authority (Matthew 9:8).
The authority by which Jesus taught, by which he healed, and by which he performed other miraculous signs amazed many people. Yet there were some who questioned Jesus’ authority. When Jesus was in Jerusalem, teaching in the temple courts, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to Him and challenged His authority, asking Him by what authority He did these things and who gave Him that authority. Jesus responded that He would answer their questions if they answered His question. He then asked them if the baptism of John came from heaven or from man. They discussed Jesus’ question and reasoned that, if they said from heaven, Jesus would ask why they didn’t believe John. But if they said from man, they knew that the crowd would become angry as they believed John was a prophet. And so, realizing that either answer would cause trouble for them, they answered that they did not know. Jesus then refused to answer their questions about His authority (Matthew 21:23-27).
The authority by which Jesus taught, healed, and performed miracles was a “higher authority.” In Matthew 28:18, after His resurrection from the dead, Jesus was very clear about His authority. He told His disciples that all authority both in heaven and on earth had been given to Him. That authority comes from God. Jesus is the Son of God, one with the Father, and as such has been given the authority over all. Jesus gave His disciples authority to heal, to drive out impure spirits (Matthew 10:1), and to teach the things that He had taught (Matthew 28:19-20). And just as He gave the disciples that authority, Jesus also gives it to us, as His followers.