There are several key attributes of Jesus that the church at the time of the Reformation had muted: Jesus’ authority, divinity, and humanity. Uniquely, those same attributes are often muted in many churches today, as well as in our hearts.
So, today, a reflection on Jesus’ authority:
While the church became more powerful and structured, the authority of Jesus became more watered down. A lineage and litany of saints, popes, and priests (and their associated teachings) began to clash with the authority of Jesus. By Martin Luther’s time, the authority of Jesus was no longer enough. You needed authority of others to validate God and connect you with God. Furthermore, people were taught that Jesus could no longer be approached directly; nor was He the only one eligible to speak to God on our behalf.
In short, these teachings contradicted Scripture (John 3:1-21, John 14, Matthew 11:25-30, Matthew 28:16-20) and were re-creations of the old laws that Jesus had brought to completion through His death and resurrection (Matthew 5:17-20; Luke 24:36-49).
In today’s society, we have even more competing authorities than Luther’s time. From mass media to social media and from politicians to pop icons, the authorities over of us seem to keep expanding. These authorities desire to have control of our decisions and shape our priorities. We though, as Christ-followers, are meant to lean on one ultimate authority. Only Jesus has the authority to speak to God for us, the authority to rebuke and affirm us, and the authority to accept and forgive us.
After Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, Matthew writes, “And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority…” (Matthew 7:28-29). When we reflect on Jesus and listen to Him, we too should be astonished by His authority.