Note to the Reader – I encourage you to invest additional time reading the Book of Luke in conjunction with this article.
The Power and Authority of Jesus (Yeshua)
Power. Authority. Combined together, they are probably the one thing that we all would like to have; at least the power to control our own little area of the world. How many employees would like to have the power and authority to speak in clear terms what they think of management? But does the same go for the reverse? Most, if not all of us, have seen power demonstrated for good and for evil and have seen authority properly used as well as misused. If there is one thing in life that becomes discouraging, it is the one who has power and authority and then misuses their position, no matter their personal reason(s).
Interestingly enough, there is no area of life that does not have some degree of power conjoined with authority, someone always has lesser/greater influence than another. Even while driving, we have to admit that other drivers, at times, have superior authority (especially at stop signs and yield signs). Perhaps it is this dynamic that results in confusion and frustration – after all, in America, we are all equal. Like it or hate it, there will always be those who have greater authority than we.
Power and Authority
In the King James Version of the Gospel of Luke, one Greek word is translated three different ways: power, authority and jurisdiction.1 It is translated as power/powers seven times2 as authority seven times3 and jurisdiction one time.4 No matter the English word, each instance seems to carry a sense of “the power to determine, adjudicate, or otherwise settle issues or disputes.”5 Of the fifteen or so passages, there are about three that we want to briefly examine the manner in which the Greek word is used in reference to Jesus. It is this power of ability that is of interest.
There is teaching that informs us; then there is teaching that not only informs us but also wows us. It is this latter type of teaching that the synagogue in Capernaum heard.
“And [Jesus] came down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and taught them on the sabbath days. And they were astonished at his doctrine: for his word was with power.”6 [emp. rah]
While the setting for religious teaching has changed to some decree since those days in Capernaum, we still know what it is like to hear a spiritual teacher carry himself not just with a sense of confidence, but also with the skill and the ability to communicate profound spiritual insight. This type of spiritual teacher captivates and keeps our attention. While in so doing, he may be covering a spiritual teaching that is ages old, but discusses it and applies it in such a powerful way that hearers are moved and motivated.
Various Biblical teachers may cover the same Biblical material, but not all teachers are the same. Jehovah has blessed some teachers with powerful capabilities. The power of clarity, the power of delivery, with power of material mastery to provide the power of spirituality to words on a page. Jesus (Yeshua) was/is this type of teacher.
While powerful teachers wow us, powerful teachers can also frustrate us. Consider for example an exchange between Jesus and the chief priests, scribes and elders at the Temple complex:
And it came to pass, that on one of those days, as he taught the people in the temple, and preached the gospel, the chief priests and the scribes came upon him with the elders, And spake unto him, saying, Tell us, by what authority doest thou these things? or who is he that gave thee this authority?
And he answered and said unto them, I will also ask you one thing; and answer me: The baptism of John, was it from heaven, or of men?
And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say, Why then believed ye him not? But and if we say, Of men; all the people will stone us: for they be persuaded that John was a prophet. And they answered, that they could not tell whence it was.
And Jesus said unto them, Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things.7 [emp. rah]
It is true that they are challenging his reasons, but they are also challenging his “right to control”8 Temple affairs. The chief priests, scribes, and elders are confronting Jesus about his removal of business people from the Temple and his teaching at the Temple.9 While much has been written about this specific event, and believers accept that Jesus had been given his authority from Jehovah, we have to admit that it seems evident that the establishment becomes frustrated when a non-official person, a non-establishment ordained person, (a regular Joe, if you will), takes authority into his own hands to affect things. Their response to Jesus truly was a “How dare you?” and “Who do you think you are?”
As people, we are encouraged by those who have the power to influence and we are captivated by those who “buck the system”. Jesus is a powerful and challenging teacher. His teachings and his life were/are so profound that he has affected the flow of human history unlike anyone before. As believers, may we be just as amazed at his teachings today as those who first heard. And as believers, may we be fully convinced of the authority by which he taught.
1. “KJV translation of Greek.” Exousia; Strong’s Number G1849; King James Concordance, e-Sword, Version 8.0.5; January 9, 2009.
2. “Greek word: exousia.” Translated as power: Luke 4.6, 32; 5.24; 10.19; 12.5; 22.53; translated as powers Luke 12.11; KJV.
3. “Greek word: exousia.” Translated as authority: Luke 4.36; 7.8; 9.1; 19.17; 20.2, 8, 20; KJV.
4. “Greek word: exousia.” Translated as jurisdiction: Luke 23.7; KJV.
5. “authority.” Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1). Random House, Inc. 09 Jan. 2009. dictionary.com http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/authority.
6. “Teaching with power.” Luke 4.32, KJV.
7. “By what authority?” Luke 20.1-8, KJV.
8. “Right to control.” See Endnote 5.
9. “Removal and Teaching.” Luke 19.45-48, KJV.