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    Mar 09, 2016

    Class 1: Jesus' Authority and Divinity

    Series: Explaining Christianity

    Category: Core Seminars, Jesus Christ, Life of Christ, Miracles of Christ, Person of Christ, The Deity of Christ, God the Son



    • Q: What do you think of when you hear the word “Christianity?”  What do you believe crosses the minds of your officemates and neighbors when they hear this word?

      • Among the most common perceptions held by young non-Christians about American Christianity were that it is judgmental (87%), hypocritical (85%), old-fashioned (78%) and too involved in politics (75%)
      • Christianity is NOT a philosophical system like Buddhism; a code of morals like Islam; or a set of rituals as some professedly Christian churches present themselves. 
      • Christianity, as the name implies, has Jesus Christ at its core.  Therefore, any thoughtful and thorough study of Christianity must begin with the person of Jesus Christ.
    • Q: So how do we learn about Jesus? 
      • Options
        • Library and search under “Jesus;” however, the sheer volume of texts would be overwhelming.
        • Christian bookstore, but even there the options may be burdensome, and in both cases, at best, you’re getting the interpretation of someone who is writing thousands of years after His death. 
        • That does not mean all of these works are worthless, but any good historian will tell you that if you want to faithfully learn about a historic figure, you must go to the original sources.
        • Great Roman historians writing in the later first century. 
        • Aristocratic Jewish historians who also wrote during roughly the same period. 
        • Ancient texts that mention Jesus and the early Christians.
      • But none of these men witnessed or had access to those who witnessed Jesus firsthand.  A better approach would be to read what the eyewitnesses had to say about Jesus.  Surely they would have the most insight and detail into his life and ministry.  To do this we turn to the four biographies we have of his life and ministry: the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.  This study focuses on the second gospel in your Bible, the Gospel of Mark.

    o   We have chosen Mark because it was the first written gospel, and it is the most concise. 

    o   Mark was a companion of the Apostle Peter, who was one of Jesus’ original 12 disciples and a significant leader in the early Christian church. 

    o   The book’s contents are based primarily on Peter’s teachings and eyewitness accounts of Jesus’ life.

    • Course Overview (Back of the Handout)
      • Note: Though we are conducting this study at a Baptist church, this study is not the “Baptist” version of Christianity. Over the next six weeks, we are going to study the very basics of what it means to be a Christian according to what is taught in the Bible.
      • 1: This week we’re going to consider the person of Jesus Christ and his identity.
      • 2: Death on the cross, why he died and what that death accomplished.
      • 3: The resurrection of Christ.
      • 4: What it means to be a Christian - Christ’s claim that a right relationship with God is NOT something that we can accomplish, but is found only by grace through faith in Him.
      • 5: What it means to repent of sin and turn to Christ.
      • 6: Consider what it means to have faith and to trust in Christ.
    • Biblical Background and Context
      • At this point in history God had spoken through prophets such as Moses and Isaiah and through great miracles such as the flood and the exodus.
      • For the last 400 years God had been silent.  The people still had his Word in the Old Testament which was the writings of the law already given and the prophets who had already spoken, but no new revelation had been given for 400 years.
      • God’s chosen people, Israel, were waiting for the Messiah to come. 
      • Most believed the Messiah would be a political king who would come to rescue the Jews from the Romans, who were currently in power over the Jewish nation.  Most ignored the Messianic passages in the Old Testament that talked about a suffering servant.
      • So with 400 years of silence and a people anxiously awaiting a Messiah, Jesus comes on the scene. 


    Jesus’ Authority

    • We are going to spend the rest of the class reading a few passages from the Bible.  I'm going to ask for volunteers to help read the passages.  As we read, be thinking through what the text teaches us about areas that are under Jesus' authority.  After most of the passages, I'll ask you for your thoughts on this question.
    • Please open your Bible to the book of Mark (page XX).
    • I’ll Read Jesus’ Authority – READ Mark 1:1
      • Q: What does the term “gospel” mean in this passage?
        • Gospel means “good news”, so in other words, Mark is introducing us to “[the good news] about Jesus Christ the Son of God.”
        • Mark is clear from the outset that the life and ministry of Jesus is wonderful news for us, indeed, he considers it to be the best news the world will ever hear.
      • The passage uses the term “Son of God,” for which there are a couple implications:
        • First, straightforward: the Bible teaches that Jesus is God
        • Also, in the ancient near east the phrase would have been used as a title of kingship and authority.
        • What we will see today, however, is that Jesus did not claim to be just an ordinary king, who ruled over a country, but that he wielded a unique authority– the authority of God His father, and so He came to earth as the rightful King over all creation.
    • READ Mark 1:21-28 (Teacher, Evil Spirits)
      • Q: What does this passage teach us about what Jesus has authority over?
      • Jesus’ Authority as a Teacher
        • From this passage we see that Christ’s authority is reflected in His teaching. The people are clearly surprised at the style of Jesus’ teaching.  Verse 22 reads, “The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law.”
        • In those days it was common for Jewish rabbis and teachers to read from scrolls of the Old Testament, and then quote the works of previous scholars as an explanation of the text.
        • Instead of quoting other Jewish rabbis and teachers, he often began teaching by saying, “I say to you…” or “I tell you the Truth…” implying that He had individual authority, and He considered Himself to be the sourceof that authority. 
        • He revealed a depth of knowledge and insight that left his hearers “amazed” wondering who he was, and where he received such clear knowledge and authority.  The logical question: if this authority didn’t come from the experts, from the religious elite, then where did it come from and how are we going to respond to this teaching?
      • Jesus’ Authority over Evil Spirits
        • In addition to his powerful teaching, Jesus often displayed his authority by performing miracles.  In this case, he drives a demon out of a possessed man.
        • A brief note on miracles
          • The gospels record various accounts of the miraculous.  However, Jesus Christ wasn’t fundamentally a miracle worker.  Miracles will lead one to wonder, but they do not necessarily lead to belief.  Jesus came with a distinct message to preach.  The primary function of the miracles was to validate the authority of this message.  They were also meant to reveal the divine character of Jesus as the Son of God, and to teach others about the miraculous authority he possessed as the Son of God – and in this example His authority existed even over demonic realms.
        • Notice the response of the evil spirit.  Look at verse 24, “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth?  Have you come to destroy us?  I know who you are – the Holy One of God!” Notice that the evil spirit recognizes Jesus by name, and accurately refers to Him as “the Holy One of God.”  Isn’t it striking that the people Jesus came to preach to did not recognize Him and were at this point blind to his true identity; however, evil spirits knew exactly who he was and feared his mere presence.
        • Why? Why such a reaction from the demons? Because Jesus is not merely a teacher. He is the “Holy One of God”. These demonic spirits, who clearly exhibited power over people, recognized their powerlessness before Jesus. They understood He had the authority to judge and destroy them.
    • READ Mark 2:1-12 (Forgive, Sickness)
      • Q:What does this passage teach us about what Jesus has authority over?
      • Jesus’ Authority to Forgive Sins
        • In this passage Jesus claims to be able to forgive sins. This is remarkable for Him to say as he does in verse 5, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
        • To understand what Jesus is saying and claiming in this passage we need to understand what sin is. Mark’s original audience knew what sin was from an early age. But in today’s culture the word is only used sparingly and usually misunderstood.
        • Sin defined: Q: So what exactly is sin? The Bible and Jesus mention sin extensively and claim that it is a serious problem.
          • Simply put, sin is an attitude of rebellion against God in thought, word or deed.  It involves a failure to conform to and a breaking of the moral law of God. We don’t do the things we should do and we do the things we ought not to do. We do what we want, rather than what God wants.
        • Comparing our Sin to God’s Holiness and not other’s deeds (Rom 3:23)
          • Sin is not simply a failure to live up to your potential, but it is a deeply personal violation and assault against God’s Holiness and the perfect purity of His moral law. The Bible says the LORD is holy and that He requires His people to be Holy like Him. But, if we are honest with ourselves we know we all fall short of this. Of course, as sinful human beings we are all masters at making excuses for ourselves. We may say, “I’m no worse than my neighbors, in fact a great deal better, I don’t lie, I don’t swear, I don’t cheat on my wife. If I can’t enter the kingdom of heaven then who can? But the fact is, when we stop comparing ourselves to others, and start comparing ourselves to God, we are all sinners.
        • God Hates and Punishes Sin
          • Okay so we’re all sinners. But why does Christianity consider sin such a serious problem? Sin is a problem because the Bible is clear that God both hates and punishes all sin. At the beginning of the Bible in Genesis 2 we read how the LORD said, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden, but you must not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.” Adam, and his wife Eve, disregarded God’s command and the LORD justly punished them by death as he said he would.  Our loving, caring and just God hates and punishes sin because he is “good” and that which opposes Him is inherently “evil.”
          • On the one hand, this should give us comfort. As a society, we need justice, don’t we?  We want people who violate the law to be punished.  How much more should God uphold justice!  Consider murder. If God was indifferent, if he did not punish murder, we would clearly not say he is a loving, fair and just God.
          • Yet at the same time, God’s hatred and punishment of sin is terrible for us—because we’ve sinned!  If God by his very holy nature can have no fellowship with sin, then he can have no fellowship with us either.
        • So sin is an attitude of rebellion against God in thought, word or deed.  It involves a failure to conform to and a transgression of the moral law of God.  And sin is something we are all guilty of.
        • Turning back to our passage, in verse 6 and 7, how did the Jewish leaders respond to Jesus’ claim to forgive sins? The religious leaders of the day rightly saw this “forgiveness” as a claim to be equal with God, for only God had the authority to forgive sin.  So by saying that He has that same authority, Jesus is in effect saying that He is God. Not surprisingly, they want some sort of proof.
      • Jesus’ Authority over Sickness
        • What proof does he offer?  He miraculously heals the paralytic!  He recognizes that the people don’t fully understand or believe in his authority to forgive sin (v.10), so He proves it by a miracle.  The miracle serves as a means to validate His earlier claim that he does indeed have the authority and power to forgive sin.
        • How does the miracle do that? Well, we can’t see sins being forgiven, but we can see if the paralytic gets up from his mat. Jesus uses this miracle to demonstrate that God the Father has given Him power.  Establishing this, paves the way for people to believe that God has also given Jesus the power to forgive sins. The point is, if Jesus can do the one, he can do the other.
        • The Bible records 43 of Jesus’ healing miracles over the sick, blind, lame, and lepers. These miracles authenticate his message and unique authority.
        • But it’s not just that he heals; it’s how he heals.  Jesus says in verse 11, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” Jesus simply speaks and it is accomplished.  Amazing!  Our words alone can’t do anything.  Yet, His word is effectual.  This power reminds us of God’s power.  In Genesis 1 we read that, “God said, ‘Let there be light,’” and there was light.  “God said, ‘Let us make man in our image,’” and it was done.
        • Jesus shows us our greatest need
          • As we think about these paired demonstrations of authority over sickness and sin, it’s interesting to notice Jesus’ first response to the paralytic.  When the paralytic is lowered down, the desire is that he will be physically healed.  The man and his friends or family understand this to be his most pressing need.  Yet upon seeing his faith, Jesus doesn’t heal him physically, butspirituallyby claiming that his sins are forgiven.  In effect, Jesus is saying that there is something more important than your physical health, and that’s your need for forgiveness.
    • READ Mark 4:35-41 (Nature)
      • Q: What does this passage teach us about what Jesus has authority over?
        • After teaching in Capernaum (where Jesus drove the evil spirit from the possessed man), he and his disciples are caught in a terrible storm while crossing the Sea of Galilee.  The disciples, fearing for their lives, wake Jesus in a panic and accuse him of not caring if they all drown.  Jesus then calms the storm by his mere word, and rebukes his disciples for having no faith.  Terrified and amazed, the disciples ask in 4:41, “Who is this” Even the wind and waves obey him!” The Old Testament is full of accounts of God controlling nature, but never a human being. And so it’s little wonder the disciples respond as they do.
    • READ 5:21-24, 35-43 (Death)
      • In chapter 5 we see Jesus also has dominion over death.  We read of Jairus, a synagogue ruler, coming to Jesus to heal his sick daughter.  While speaking to Jesus, he is told that his daughter has died.  Ignoring the news, Jesus tells Jairus in verse 36, “don’t be afraid, just believe.”  He then enters the room and restores the girl back to life.  Everyone knows the girl is dead, and yet just by speaking a word, he restores her to life.
      • Q: What does this passage teach us about Jesus’ authority?
    • RECAP: So this is the picture our study has painted thus far… Jesus has come into God’s creation with the full authority of God as God’s Son, the King of the world.  There is no part of the creation – animate, inanimate, human or spiritual – over which Jesus doesn’t have authority.  And as God in human form, he also forgives sins.  However, there’s one more area of Jesus’ authority we need to consider.
    • READ Mark 1:16-20 (People)
      • Q:What does this passage teach us about what Jesus has authority over?
      • In these verses we see that Jesus commanded men to follow him.  Note how they obeyed.  Without delay, they came to him, even leaving jobs and family.  If you sit and think about it for a moment, this is truly a remarkable verse. In a world without unemployment insurance or social security, the call to leave their nets and follow him had some radical implications.
      • As the Son of God, Jesus makes this same claim over your life and mine.  He calls ordinary people like us to come and follow Him.  He calls people to submit to His authority and follow His commands. We need to recognize that submitting to Jesus’ authority isn’t simply acknowledging him as the Son of God.  After all, even the evil spirits did that. Jesus doesn’t just want us to just acknowledge Him, but to follow and obey Him and his teaching.


    We should ask ourselves, will we follow Jesus, or not?



    • Jesus has great authorityas a teacher, and over sickness, over nature, over evil spirits, and over death.  He has authority to forgive sins, and He has authority over people like you and me.  He is the supreme master in God’s world.
    • He claims to be divine.  He is the Son of God, and professes divinity as God’s unique Son.  His divinity is validated by the miraculous acts he performs.
    • Just like the four men we considered in our last passage, we have a response to make.  We must make a decision about who He is, and if we will follow Him.
    • So what are you going to do with this Jesus?
      • Many times when you ask someone who is Jesus? Their answer is… He was a good teacher, or he is an example we should follow and emulate. C.S. Lewis explains why this is the one thing we must not say: “I am trying to prevent anyone from saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Jesus: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make the choice: Either this man was and is the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come up with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
      • We can ignore Jesus, by simply not thinking it out, but that doesn’t make him and his claims go away. We can claim he never existed, despite the fact that we have more historical evidence for the existence of Christ than the vast majority of figures from antiquity. Or as C.S. Lewis pointed out, we can reject Him as a liar, or dismiss Him as a lunatic. Or we can accept and serve Him as Lord.  Those are our five options to the question.  Or, more simply put, will we follow Jesus or not? How we answer this question is the fundamental question behind Christianity.
      • So if we think of Christianity as a three-legged stool, we’ve covered the first foundational concept.  The first pillar.  Draw.  Jesus, the Son of God.


    Homework - Read Mark 1-5



    John Stott, Basic Christianity, Chapter 2, “The Claims of Christ”

    John Stott, Basic Christianity, Chapter 3, “The Character of Christ”

    Josh McDowell, More Than A Carpenter, Chapter 1, “What Makes Jesus so Different?”