Matthew 28:18-20 (NIV)
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Our Verse of the Day contains the last words Jesus spoke as recorded in the Gospel of Matthew; and I sometimes wonder if these words preceded those recorded for us in the Book of Acts. Somehow, I see these parting words of Jesus as a continuous narrative before His ascension into heaven. Indeed, His commandment to proclaim and share the Gospel so that others might come to faith (Cf. Romans 10:17) is quite clear:
Matthew 28:16-20 (NKJV)
16 Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had appointed for them. 17 When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Acts 1:6-9 (NIV)
6 Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. 8 But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” 9 Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.
Jesus said ALL authority had been given to Him by the Father … both in heaven and on earth! And why is this important for us to understand? Because there is no higher authority in all of creation than the authority bestowed by the God Himself. As Jesus declared, “I and My Father are one.” (Cf. John 10:30) This, too, signifies His sovereignty over all creation. I think this is why the people who encountered Jesus during His life on earth perceived His authority when He spoke and taught. (Cf. Matthew 7:29; Mark 1:22; Luke 4:32). With authority, Jesus commanded unclean spirits to leave those oppressed and afflicted by them … and they obeyed Him. (Cf. Mark 1:27; Luke 4:36)
Now we know that His authority was challenged and doubted by the religious leaders. Jesus was confronted and questioned by the chief priests and elders asking, “By what authority are you doing these things? And who gave you this authority?” (Cf. Matthew 21:23; Mark 11:27-28; Luke 20:1-2) And can read further along in these accounts how Jesus refused to give them a response because of their unbelief. But Jesus does reveal the source of His authority in other settings recorded in the Gospel of John, and I will share a few of those to emphasize this point:
John 12:48-49 (NKJV)
48 He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him—the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day. 49 For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak.
John 14:9-11 (NKJV)
9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works. 11 Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves.
John 17:1-3 (NKJV)
1 Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You, 2 as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.
When Jesus was questioned about His identity but refused to give an answer, Pontius Pilate asserted that he had the authority to crucify Him. But Jesus responded that Pilate could have no authority except that it had been given to him by God. (Cf. John 19:7-11) His assertion is true for us as well. We have no authority except what we are granted. To think otherwise is quite misguided. And this is what amazes me: Almighty God delegated His authority to His Son, Jesus; and Jesus has delegated His authority to US … to those He called to abide in Him … to those He ordained to be members of His Body … to those He appointed to work together with one accord in the Holy Spirit to go and make disciples of all the nations of people, tongues, and tribes!
Luke 9:1-2 (NKJV)
1Then Jesus called His twelve disciples together and gave them power and authority over all demons, and to cure diseases. 2 He sent them to preach the Kingdom of God and to heal the sick.
Luke 10:1-9; 17-20 (NKJV)
1 After these things the Lord appointed seventy-two others also, and sent them two by two before His face into every city and place where He Himself was about to go. 2 Then He said to them, “The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore, pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. 3 Go your way; behold, I send you out as lambs among wolves. 4 Carry neither money bag, knapsack, nor sandals; and greet no one along the road. 5 But whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ 6 And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest on it; if not, it will return to you. 7 And remain in the same house, eating and drinking such things as they give, for the laborer is worthy of his wages. Do not go from house to house. 8 Whatever city you enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you. 9 And heal the sick there, and say to them, ‘The Kingdom of God has come near to you.’
17 Then the seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.” 18 And He said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you. 20 Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice because your names are written in heaven.”
Wow! The One who has been given ALL authority has delegated authority to us … His Church! And who among the Church is exercising the authority we have been given by our Lord Jesus? Who is proclaiming the Kingdom of God is at hand? Who is healing the sick? Who is casting out demons? Who is exercising power over the enemy in these latter days? These are questions each of us as believers should ask of ourselves? When Jesus sent disciples out into the field He told them, “The harvest if plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field.” (Cf. Luke 10:2) And I believe He is asking us in this generation: “Who among you is willing to go out into the harvest field? Who is sharing the Gospel and healing the sick and taking authority over demonic spirits?” Jesus has given us authority! The question is whether we are going to exercise the authority we have been given … or are we going to stand on the fence and watch as the harvest field is plowed under into darkness?
Indeed, the Church needs to be awakened and exhorted! The harvest in our generation is our responsibility … and Christ Jesus has given us power and authority to carry out our duties! So, I pray we will be moved in our spirits to begin exercising the spiritual authority we have received. For we were created in Christ Jesus to do good works which the Father prepared in advance for us to do. (Cf. Ephesians 2:10) God has not asked us to say or do anything that He has not equipped us to do through His Word or empowered us to do by His Spirit! Yes, as the Lord spoke to Joshua, so I believe He is speaking to us in our generation: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Cf. Joshua 1:9) My friends, it is time for us to return to the fields the Father has sent us to harvest; and I pray we will be obedient….