May 29, 2016
Text: I Kings 8:22-23; 41-43
Under AuthorityTomorrow is Memorial Day. It marks the official start of summer. People will have the day offfrom work and many will get together with friends and family and grill out and have fun hangingout together. And although there is certainly nothing wrong with doing those things- what Iremember about Memorial Day as growing up as a child was going with my parents every yearto the cemetery to “decorate” the graves of loved ones with flowers. It was a solemn act ofremembering and honoring them.When we honor and recognize heroes for what they have done, we say we “decorate” them. As anation, Memorial Day was set aside to remember and honor those who have served our country.In cities and towns all over the country, there will be parades and flags flown and names slowlyread out loud of the brave men and women who have given the ultimate sacrifice in service ofour nation.In the readings this morning there is a common thread that runs through it- the thread of God’sauthority and man’s place and response to it. In the beginning, God created all things-and theyare in submission to their creator- and that includes mankind. God also delegated his authority-giving Adam and Eve dominion over the garden. There was perfect order and perfect fellowship.But God also gave us a free will to choose whether we live under God’s authority or not. It didn’ttake long before Adam and Eve chose to be their own authority- and fellowship was broken.Since then, the road of history has been littered with brokenness ever since. For there can be noreal peace, and no real truth apart from God and His authority. We need to repent as a nation andas individuals- and return to living under God’s authority. PrayThe gospel this morning recounts a normal day in the life of Jesus on earth. A day in Jesus lifehere on earth could never “normal” in the sense that we think of normal. After all, it was God’sown son people met and talked with and changed as a result. That particular day, Jesus had justentered Capernaum when he was met by Jewish elders with a message sent from a man whosename we are not told- only that he was a high ranking soldier in the Roman army- a centurion incharge of 100 men.A close slave of his had become ill and close to death and he had sent word to Jesus asking himto come heal him. But as they got close to the house, the centurion again sent word to Jesussaying: “I am not worthy to have you come under my roof- but if you would – only speak theword, and my servant will be healed.”
With that statement- he was showing honor and respect for Jesus’ authority. Being a soldier, heunderstood authority and the importance of the chain of command explaining: “I am a man underauthority.” In a sense, to come under the roof of someone’s house is to come under the authorityof the person who owns the house- and he could not ask Jesus to do that. He was making it clearthat he was under the authority of Jesus.His submission to the authority of Jesus was a sign that he trusted Jesus- that he trusted Jesus andwas willing to put his hopes and prayers in Jesus’ hands. As a result, the bible says that Jesus wasamazed at his faith saying- not even in Israel have I found such faith.”Jesus was different from other teachers- he taught as one with authority. I think of when I was atschool at Iowa State. Many times, the text books we used for a class were written by theprofessor teaching the class. And many times, the professor teaching was not only an authority atISU, but was also a respected authority on the subject around the world.The chief priests and scribes were the appointed authorities of the day. They were the educated-the elite-the chosen ones- but they weren’t “the” authority. Theirs was only the authority of man-but in Jesus they sensed the very authority of God- and they felt threatened by Jesus. And so theyasked Jesus by what authority he was doing these things and who gave him the authorityanyway?Authority begins and ends with God. True authority cannot be taken or claimed on your own- itcan only be given and received- and like any gift- it can either be used for God’s glory or it canbe abused and used for our own glory. To be given authority is to act as the representative of theone giving it to you- and being a representative, you have been given the same power to use intheir best interest.Consider a policeman directing traffic in a busy metropolitan intersection. He puts up his handand cars stop. With one sweeping gesture of his hand, traffic obeys his command. Ever wonderwhy? What gives him the power to command and people obey? Is it because he has the strengthto make them? We know why-it is because he is wearing a badge- a symbol not his own authorityand power, but the power and backing of the whole police force and law system and courts.When the apostle Paul wrote to the Galatians, he began by making it clear that there is only onetrue gospel- and that he had not been sent by any human authority, but had been sent by JesusChrist Himself as his representative.Paul takes no time in voicing his astonishment that they have so quickly wandered from thattruth, willing to listen and be persuaded by others to re-write God’s word as if they were theauthor. God’s word is unchanging. No matter how persuasive the argument-there is only oneauthor- one authority- and it is not us.We can- and should study the scripture- pour over it, discuss it- have opinions of what it means-pray over it- but we dare not change it. When we study the scripture-we are to put ourselvesunder it’s authority and pray that the Holy Spirit would give us understanding- and when we dothat, it will change us.
The gospel is a gift from God and can be only understood through knowing Jesus as Lord ofLord’s and king of kings. Paul’s message sounds like it could have been written for us today. Thetruth is, he is- for the message of the gospel is timeless. The truth of God’s word never changes.The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and faith can only grow to it’s full potentialwhen planted in the fertile soil of God’s authority.Through God’s ordained order of authority- recognizing God as Lord, there is fellowship and aplace for faith and trust in God to grow. But living under God’s authority is also a place ofprotection and guidance.The 23rd Psalm is a perfect example. Sheep on their own put themselves in danger and starvation.Only when they submit to the Good Shepherd’s leading and care are they able to lie down ingreen pastures and find still waters and be led through the dark valleys and come out the otherside protected and safe.We don’t lay flowers on Jesus’ grave to honor Him. Jesus is alive! We honor Him through livingan obedient life that gives God glory. May we hear his call to come follow- and may we obey.One day soon, Jesus is coming back in all His glory-and every knee that once only bowed to selfwill bow to Him- and every tongue that once only confessed lies will confess that Jesus is Lord.Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus! Amen.