And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me….”
if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him (Romans 10.9-12).
Why does Jesus make such a big deal about his authority?
This is the obvious premise of the Great Commission. It is the foundation of our mandate to be missional. But I suspect that for many of us it doesn’t make a great deal of sense that authority can be the basis of good news. Authority and “lordship” is associated with a multitude of commands that must be obeyed. “Lord” almost ha the connotations in our mind of a “master” in a system of slavery.
But we’re forgetting what different kinds of relationships involve authority. Yes, authority can be wielded by a political tyrant or an abusive prison guard. But without authority we could not have a loving father, a caring mother, or an interesting and exciting schoolteacher. We can occasionally meet people who, due to horrible circumstances and sins growing up, have a problem referring to God as Father—though for many of us that is not an issue. We associate a father with love and protection and guidance. Without real authority, a father could only be a shadow of himself. His authority is part of what makes him a father and enables him to care for and protect his son or daughter.
We need to apply this to kings and lords, because Jesus is both (First Timothy 6.15; Revelation 17.14; 19.16).
The problem is that as post-enlightenment Westerners, it is natural for us to think of kings as belonging to the same class as slave-master. Our democratic heritage means we react emotionally to the title “king” in a way similar to the way abused children might react to the title of “father.” But in the Biblical world, a king is more like a parent who has authority in order to protect and provide for those to whom they are bound. We get a hint of this attitude in Isaiah’s prophecy that the nations will eventually care for Israel. “Kings shall be your foster fathers, and their queens your nursing mothers” (49.23).
In the Bible, true kings risk their lives for their people (First Samuel 17). They feed them (Genesis 41.46-57; Second Samuel 6.19). They belong to them (Second Samuel 19.43). The idea that kings only give orders is a modern myth. They protect their people.
And that is why it is precisely Jesus’ universal lordship that provides salvation for all who entrust themselves to him. “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him.” Thus, Jesus’ chain or reasoning, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…”
Notice, by the way, that affirming the resurrection is tied to the confession that Jesus is Lord, according to the Apostle Paul. Jesus’ statement that “all authority” had been given to him was based on the meaning of his resurrection. As Peter preached later, in the second chapter of Acts, “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified” (v. 36). As the one who has conquered death for us, Jesus is now the king of the universe. Because he is the king of all, all people can call upon him to deliver them from all evil, including death itself.
Far from being a tyrant or bully, Jesus as Lord is our liberator—the rescuer of everyone who places their hope in him.
Lord Jesus Christ, King and elder brother, I thank you that you have rescued me from sin and death through your own death and your triumphant resurrection. May you always move me to welcome your leadership and protection in my life. In your name I pray, Amen.