All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me - Letters to the Prison
From the series Letters to the Prison
Greetings! Last week, Jesus claimed that his perfectly accurate teaching was directly from God:
- “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me.” -John 7:16b
He has more to say about this teaching:
- If anyone's will is to do God's will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority. 18 The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood. -John 7:17-18
This is quite the mind-bending thing Jesus says here. We mentioned the choice people listening to Jesus must make: Given the perfect accuracy of Jesus’ teaching and his obvious lack of human training, when Jesus claims that his teaching is from God, people must either acknowledge the truth of that claim or flatly deny Jesus altogether. If they deny that Jesus is sent from God, then, in their minds, he is merely human and is falsely “seeking his own glory” and “speaking on his own authority” and should therefore be ignored or silenced.
On the other hand, since Jesus is clearly claiming to have been sent by God, according to God’s will, from heaven, to teach the truth of God (“my teaching is not mine, but his who sent me”), then it would also be God’s will for people to listen to Jesus and recognize his teaching as having come from God. Therefore, “if anyone’s will is to do God’s will,” they will recognize God’s authority in Jesus’ teaching. This option, by the way, is the only way to explain how Jesus’ teaching can be so profoundly accurate. Given this evidence, what Jesus says about his teaching must be true. So, the people denying Jesus’ teaching at this moment also deny the obvious evidence before them.
But here’s where Jesus’ words get really interesting: When Jesus speaks of God’s authority and glory, we get a mind-blowing view of the amazing relationship between God the Father and Jesus the Son.
Consider what Jesus says near the end of Matthew’s gospel:
- And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” -Matthew 28:18
Yet Jesus submits himself to the authority of God and His Word. On the subject of glory, we see a similar pattern. Later in or study, we’ll see Jesus say this:
- “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. 32 If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once. -John 13:31b-32
- …this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. -John 14:13b
And yet, in the Old Testament, God is very clear about his exclusive right to authority and glory:
- “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” -Psalm 46:10
- I am the Lord; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols. -Isaiah 42:8
Jesus has already asserted that his teaching is from God, and the evidence of the profound wisdom of that teaching cannot be refuted. Further, when speaking of authority and glory, Jesus clearly submits himself to God’s authority and everything he does is for God’s glory. Yet God, in turn, glorifies Jesus and gives all authority to him even as he himself claims exclusive rights to all authority and glory.
How can all that possibly be logically consistent and true? How can Jesus and God say these things? Only because of the mind-blowing relationship they have with one another in the trinity. God the Father, God the Holy Spirit, and God the Son (Jesus) are one, yet distinct. They wield supreme authority over all things always in perfect unison and each is equally deserving of all glory and all praise. Yet, they operate in relation to one another. Jesus the Son perfectly submits to the will of God the Father while God the Father grants all authority and glory to the Son. It is a perfect and perfectly beautiful, eternal relationship that we cannot fully apprehend with our finite little brains. But we see enough of it in Scripture to be awestruck and inspired to praise and worship our Great God and Savior! Amen! Hallelujah!
Going back to the conversation at the Feast of Tabernacles, Jesus is about to ask a really tough question. In verse 18, he asserts that “the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood.” So, Jesus is true and does not lie. He keeps God’s law as given through Moses. But his listeners do not keep the law. No human does. And Jesus knows it. He knows the hearts of all men. Look what he says:
- Has not Moses given you the law? Yet none of you keeps the law. Why do you seek to kill me?” -John 7:19
- Jesus calls them out for their unlawful and murderous intention, and look how they respond:
- The crowd answered, “You have a demon! Who is seeking to kill you?” -John 7:20
Lie… Deny… Accuse the victim of being “crazy…” or “possessed…” Isn’t this how we often react ourselves when we’re confronted with our own sinful intentions? We tend to do this very thing rather than admit we have sinned. Why? Because it’s more comfortable to self-righteously deny that we’ve injured someone else with our behavior… or that, if we did injure them, they deserved it somehow. Jesus is about to say something profound about this. We’ll look at it next week! Until then, consider carefully how you yourselves react to such things. We love you!