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Jesus & Jurisdiction

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Creative Commons License photo credit: Genista

The gospels record many miracles in the life of Jesus. To us, in 2013 those all look like magic tricks don’t they? For most people today, they have a tendency to NOT believe in miracles.  If something seems impossible, we say – “it would take a miracle.” And we don’t mean, it would take God to make that happen – we mean – “It’s never going to happen.”

But you see, in the time that Jesus walked – miracles were a part of their worldview. Miracles were a part of the expected order of things, not only did people believe in miracles – they looked for them.

And according to the gospel stories, Jesus performed many miracles. He worked miracles of nature, he performed exorcisms and he healed the sick and the infirm.

And it’s funny how we can view the New Testament as the place where these amazing miracles take place. But miracles are God’s M.O. The Old Testament has no shortage of amazing wonders.

Some miracles save an entire nation of people, such as the parting of the red sea. Some miracles are personal and only for one person like when Hezekiah has his life extended when he prayed for healing.  So when Jesus begins his ministry, the people were not naysayers or doubters, they were primed and ready to believe. If you or I saw someone do a miracle, we’d be looking for the trap door, the mirror or the invisible rope, but in Jesus’ day, it was expected.

I think that’s kind of great… back then… people expected God to be visible.  They expected God to show up.

But to be fair, the people at this time also believed in other gods and they also believed in magic. The Greeks worship a pantheon of deities and there were several famous street magicians who could wow the crowds.

And Jesus did have his fair share of critics.

Celsus the philosopher said, ” It was by magic that he [Jesus] was able to do the miracles which he appeared to have done. … Christians get the power which they seem to possess by pronouncing the names of certain daemons and incantations.”

So notice that Celsus does not doubt that Jesus and the disciples performed miracles, he just doubted that they were from God.

Justin Martyr wrote, “Our Christ healed those who from birth were blind and deaf and lame. He cured them by His word, causing them to walk, to hear and to see. By restoring the dead to life, He compelled the men of that day to recognize Him. Yet when they saw these things come to pass, people said it was a display of magic art, for they even dared to say that, Jesus was a magician and a deceiver of the people.”

And you know, you might hear that same argument today. That Jesus did magic tricks, that he made people hallucinate or he knew things about medicine and alchemy nobody else knew at the time.

In fact, one of Jesus’ miracles involves this very question.

Luke 11:14-26

14 Jesus was throwing out a demon that causes muteness. When the demon was gone, the man who couldn’t speak began to talk. The crowds were amazed. 15 But some of them said, “He throws out demons with the authority of Beelzebul, the ruler of demons.” 16 Others were testing him, seeking a sign from heaven.

So notice, this crowd is skeptical, some are asking him to perform a miracle to prove his power and others claim his power comes from something called Beelzebul.

Beelzebul has become another name for our Devil, but at the time these words were spoken Beelzebul was a philistine god. in 2 Kings 1:2-3 The Samarian King, Ahazia fell through his roof and he was worried he might die and he says, “Go and consult Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron, to see if I will recover from this injury.”

Baal means “Lord” and “Zebub” means house. Basically the crowd isn’t saying Jesus’ power comes from the devil, they are saying his power comes from gentile gods. It’ almost a racial slam, his power isn’t even Hebrew.

17 Because Jesus knew what they were thinking, he said to them, “Every kingdom involved in civil war becomes a wasteland, and a house torn apart by divisions will collapse. 18 If Satan is at war with himself, how will his kingdom endure? I ask this because you say that I throw out demons by the authority of Beelzebul. 19 If I throw out demons by the authority of Beelzebul, then by whose authority do your followers throw them out? Therefore, they will be your judges. 20 But if I throw out demons by the finger of God, then God’s kingdom has already overtaken you.

Notice two things about this, ONE: there are other disciples (not followers of Jesus who exercise demons) so again, these people live in a world where they expect and see miracles and TWO:  Jesus literally says he drives out demons with the finger of God – a phrase they would know, Exodus 31:18 says that the 10 Commandments were cut by the finger of God.

When the LORD finished speaking to Moses on Mount Sinai, he gave him the two tablets of the Testimony, the tablets of stone inscribed by the finger of God.

Jesus says he cast out demons with the same appendage that gave them the law – and Jesus says, “If that’s the case, you’re already in the presence of God’s Kingdom.”

On the cop shows, you’ll always here some cop above the law try to muscle their will somewhere and then some other cop will say “Hey, you have no jurisdiction here.”

The word, jurisdiction is Latin – it breaks down as Uris (law) Discern (speak) in other words; the ability to “speak law.”

Jesus said, Luke 10:22 “All things have been committed to me by my Father.”

Jesus said, Matthew 28:18 “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”

Remember what Jesus told his critics? He commands with the “finger of God” the same finger that wrote the law, the same finger that carved the 10 Commandments.

Does Jesus have jurisdiction in the earthly realms?

Does Jesus have jurisdiction in the Heavenly realms?

Jesus’ critics basically comment that he has no jurisdiction, that his power comes from pagan demons – and Jesus retorts back, “You’ve all been looking for the day when the Messiah would come and God’s Kingdom would arrive, and you’ve missed it.”

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