Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore, let us go forth to him outside the camp, bearing his reproach. For we have no continuing city here, but we seek one to come.
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The authority Jesus had which astonished the people was not a raging, overbearing authority that intimidated God's people or threatened them or impressed them with self-importance. Jesus told his disciples that they would not be allowed to rule with overbearing sternness in God's kingdom. This is how he described God's kind of authority:
"And there was also a strife among them which of them should be accounted the greatest. And he said to them, 'The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. But ye shall not be so. But he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve. For which is greater? He who sits at meat or he who serves? But I am among you as he who serves'" (Lk. 22:24-27).
When Jesus taught, we are told that what astonished the people was not so much what he said as how he said it. Notice what the verse says: "And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine. For he taught as one having authority, and not as the scribes" (Mt. 7:28-29). Carnally minded men misunderstand this statement because the world understands authority exactly as Jesus said they did in the verse above, from Luke. They would suppose that Jesus demonstrated his mighty authority by railing at the people and demanding acceptance, as some men do now. I have recently received emails from men who angrily damn and revile anyone who does not agree with their doctrines. This is not the kind of authority that Jesus demonstrated when he taught, and it is not the kind of authority that astonished the people. They would have recognized a haughty, overbearing attitude of authority if he had shown it; their rulers acted like that all the time.
To be sure, there were times when Jesus grew hot. There were times when he told certain religious leaders in Israel that they were sons of the Devil. At least once, he drove the money-changers and the animals they were selling out of the temple and overturned their money tables. And one time, he did tell the elders of Israel, "If you do not believe that I am [the Messiah], you will die in your sins", but he did not say that with pride or hatred; he said it with deep compassion and later broke down and wept with grief for their souls.
Those times of heated confrontation, however, were not the times that people were astonished with Jesus' authority. The times when they were astonished were those when he taught them. He spoke to them as one who was an authority; he did not quote Rabbi Whoever in order to prove his point. In most cases, he did not even quote the Bible to prove his point. He spoke as one who had just come from the very presence of God and who contained within himself the word of the living God. He did not seem to depend on the traditions of the elders or on the writings of respected scholars. He spoke the way Peter later would tell shepherds of God's earthly flock to speak: "as of the oracles of God".
The "oracle of God" was the Most Holy room of the temple, into which no man could go and where rested the mercy seat of God. There, within the veil, Moses communed with God with his own veil removed and received statutes for the people of God. No man is a minister of God who has not been there. No man has anything of God to minister to the saints unless he has received it from God. Not from biblical scholars. Not from famous preachers. Not from his own good ideas. Not even from the Bible. But from God. When Jesus was drawing near to the hour of his departing, he did not say that he would have a book written that would guide us into all truth. He said that he would send us the holy Ghost, and that the holy Ghost would guide us into all truth.
I love the Bible. I know it very well. It was my only book for many years. I have taught it to others, in schools, in churches, in my home and in the home of others. But if I had never heard from God directly, I would never have been able to understand it so that I could teach it rightly.
Jesus spoke only what he heard from the Father, not merely what he read in the Scriptures. He did only what the Father directed him by the Spirit to do. This is what amazed the people. Jesus had a source of knowledge of which they knew nothing. They knew the Scriptures. They knew the manner of scribes and rabbis, who read the Scriptures to their audiences and then elaborated on them, using the writings of other rabbis to lend support for their interpretations of the Scriptures. That was the kind of food the people were used to being fed each Sabbath. But this man Jesus spoke without dependence upon the rabbis or their writings or, as I said, even on the Scriptures that existed then.
"If any man speak", wrote Peter, "let it be as of the oracles of God." May God raise up such men for His people! What a refreshing it is to hear the living word of the Lord instead of eating dried-up manna. I remember walking across the campus of the Christian seminary I attended in the 1970's when the lord showed me a vision of what all such religion was. He showed me a vision of a mighty, gigantic, and intimidating image of a man that reached to the clouds. I was so small in comparison! So small! I can remember looking up at its face, and it was so high that I had to look almost straight up in order to see it. But the image was made of straw.
Then I understood. In our classes, we could not speak "as of the oracles God", unless we wanted a low grade on our work. In all our papers and exams we were expected to have done the research necessary to be able to quote the leading Christian scholars from different parts of the earth, to be able with winning logic to prove every point by building upon their words and ideas. This was Christianity, an imposing house of straw that one tiny spark of fire from God would bring to nothing and will bring to nothing because it is of nothing. It is man building upon man, and we - man - are not great enough to sustain one another. We MUST hear from God. To hear from Him is our only hope.
Jesus heard from God. His authority struck the people because he was not a part of the straw man. His authority to speak came not from his reasoned argument but from the God of all truth, and the people of God were not accustomed to hearing anyone speak from that source. Nor are they accustomed to such now.