One summer I vacationed on the beach. On this particular day, we were walking along a boardwalk right off the beach in hot, one hundred degree weather and came upon a beach side restaurant.
Before we could get in, I noticed a young surfer. He had long hair, sunglasses, bronze body. He was still wet from catching the latest wave and walked into the store.
I said, “Hello” to him.
He responded by saying hello the way all surfers say hello.
The surfer entered the restaurant.
“What are you doing?” said the owner.
“Duuuuude,” the surfer replied, “Be chill, man. I’m just looking for some grub.”
“Can’t you read?”
The manager pointed at a sign, “No shirt. No Shoes. No service.”
The surfer sat down outside.
He reached into his bag.
He pulled out a shirt and some sandal.
He put on the shirt and the sandals.
The owner let him inside.
But when the surfer was received his order, immediately he went outside.
He sat down.
He took off his shoes.
He took off his shirt.
The manager saw.
And simply shook his head.
He was outside.
The manager had no authority outside.
His authority had limits.
Most authorities have limits.
The limits may be geographical.
They may be political.
They may be financial.
Should we expect limits to Jesus’ authority?
Today, we’ll dig deeper into the limits of Jesus’ authority. Before we begin, a prayer: O Lord, strengthen us by the truth. Your Word is the truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see; open our ears to hear what you want us to hear; and open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
Today’s lesson skips ahead in the book of Mark to chapter 9. First, some background…
Mark chapter nine occurs about two years after Jesus first calls his disciples to follow him, drives out the synagogue demons, and heals Peter’s mother-in-law. That means the disciples have seen Jesus display a wide range of authority in that time period.
In chapter 2, he shows his authority over the body and causes a paralyzed man to walk.
In chapter 3, he shows his authority over flesh-eating illness and heals a man with a shriveled hand.
In chapter 4, he shows his authority over the weather and commands a storm to stop storming.
In chapter 5, he shows his authority over death by raising a little girl to life.
In chapter 6, he shows his authority over matter and feeds 5000+ people with five loaves of bread and two fish.
In chapter 7, he shows his doubly shows his authority commanding both deafness and muteness to leave the same man at the same time.
This leads to chapter 8. In it, Jesus asks his disciples a question. He wants to know what the people have been saying about his authority. Most think he is a powerful prophet. Some even think he’s prophet come back to life.
But it isn’t until Peter answers, that Jesus nods in agreement:
Peter said, “You are the Messiah.” (Mark 8:29)
Messiah is a Hebrew word that means “the Anointed One.”
The Old Testament is filled with prophecies about the Anointed One.
Peter is saying that Jesus is that Anointed One who has all authority.
Jesus also thinks it’s time for his disciples to know the truth about why he is on earth. He tells them about how he would eventually go to Jerusalem, be betrayed, be falsely accused, be convicted, be crucified, and be killed on the cross for their sins.
Peter had just told Jesus that he was the Messiah.
The one with all authority.
Peter’s response to this one with all the authority?
Yell at him.
Jesus, this is a stupid plan!
You don’t know what you’re talking about.
I’ve got a better plan. My plan involves us making a bunch of money, buying mansions on neighboring lots and playing Xbox against each other till our kids grow old and beat us.
Also in my plan Jesus…
You don’t die.
Look at Jesus’ response to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” (Mark 8:33)
You just said I was the ultimate authority. Why are you acting like YOU are?
II. The Mountain
After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John with him and led them up a high mountain where they were all alone.… (9:2)
I wonder how those six days went for Peter.
Maybe he kept a low profile.
Always tried to keep his distance from Jesus.
When he was looking at Jesus and Jesus turned to look at him, Jesus would turn his head quickly.
“Don’t make eye contact.”
Now Peter was part of a select group of three disciples that were heading up a mountain alone with Jesus.
Please don’t talk to me. Please don’t talk to me. Please don’t talk to me about the incident.
Maybe if I speak first, I can set the subject of discussion and we’ll never circle back to the rebuke.
“This sure is a nice mountain.
I really love it.
Eventually they get to the top.
They unload some gear.
James wipes his brow.
John gets out a granola bar.
Peter takes a deep breath.
Maybe he should just broach the subject head on.
Get on Jesus’ good side.
But as Peter turned to speak with Jesus.
For starters, Jesus’ clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. (v.3) To Peter, this was strange. They lived in a desert environment. Most people’s robes started out white, but at the end of a few days they became a permanent light brown. Stained by the desert storms.
When Jesus got to the top of the mountain, his clothing became instantly spotless.
But this wasn’t the only thing strange.
His face shone like sun (Mt. 17:2)
Peter couldn’t even look directly at Jesus.
It was so bright.
Something Peter had experienced.
Looking up too high into the sky while navigating his boat.
Or the reflection of the sun on the lake.
But this wasn’t coming from the lake.
Or the sky.
It wasn’t even coming from the sun.
But the Son.
And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus. (v.4)
Which doesn’t sound that strange.
Until you realize that these guys were prophets.
Both of them had left the earth hundreds of years before this moment.
Whatever they talked about,
Peter was in awe.
What kind of authority was this?
Instant removal of all dirt molecules?
Human skin that illuminates like the sun?
The ability to summon dead prophets back to life?
Jesus’ authority is LIMITLESS.
He isn’t limited by size.
He isn’t limited by space.
He isn’t limited by life.
He isn’t limited by death.
His power is above and beyond and far and wife and high and below.
It’s like the breadsticks at Olive Garden. They bring out a basket of breadsticks. You eat them up. Then, they bring out another basket of breadsticks. You eat them up again. They bring another basket and another and another and another. It’s an unlimited amount of breadsticks you can eat without increasing your total bill!
Although, I kinda think it is limited.
Cause eventually they run out.
Or they close.
But not Jesus.
He doesn’t run out.
He doesn’t close.
His authority is unlimited.
III. The Source
Peter was pumped.
Seeing all these miracles occur…
Before his face…
He felt confident.
He felt excited.
He felt good.
And a little scared.
Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (v.5)
Just then a cloud descended on the mountain.
Totally normal. Clouds do that.
The cloud began to encircle Peter.
Not unheard of. It was the top of a mountain.
But what the cloud did next?
Was something Peter had never experienced before…
A voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” (v.7)
This seemed familiar.
Peter had a quick flashback to synagogue as a child.
Listening to Rabbi Hezekiah tell the story of the people of Israel in the wilderness.
God appeared to them at night and led them by a pillar of fire.
And during the day…
What was it?
God appeared to them in a…
God appeared in a cloud!
Peter dropped to the ground.
This was God.
The All-Powerful God.
Jesus was given UNLIMITED authority by HIS UNLIMITED Father God.
Consider how unlimited Jesus’ Dad’s authority is!
This is the authority that spoke matter into existence.
The authority that told mountains to jut out of the ground.
The authority that told stars, millions of light years apart, to appear in the sky.
This is the authority that created life.
This is the authority that created authority.
This is the authority with the authority to give eternal life.
This is God the Father.
And with his words he is giving authority to Jesus.
Your Savior Jesus.
IV. What Now?
This gives us a few very important What Now points.
(1) Don’t Put Limits on Jesus’ Authority
This is exactly what Peter did prior to the Transfiguration.
He identified Jesus as all powerful Messiah.
Then, immediately questioned his authority.
Essentially, Peter told Jesus, “You don’t have authority to make me feel sad. So…no, you can’t die.”
Thank Jesus, that Jesus didn’t listen.
But I think this happens way to often with Christians.
“It’s my body. God doesn’t have authority over it.”
“God, get out of my finances…and for that matter get out of my bedroom. You have no authority there!”
“God, it’s my life. Thanks for the ideas.... But I’m the authority over my life.”
I guess what I’m saying is that Jesus have authority over all things!
Yet so often, we, believers, refuse to recognize that authority.
In our hearts.
That’s a problem. Because if you are the authority over your life?
You have to face the all-powerful, sin hating, speak to you from a cloud, God…
Don’t put limits on Jesus’ authority.
(2) Listen to Him
If you have to, picture yourself surrounded by a cloud and a booming voice from within speaking that truth!
Listen to Jesus!
He is the limitless authority.
He is the one without boundaries.
He is the one who can do anything.
By the way…
That’s exactly what he did.
His authority is not limited to the physical.
His authority crosses into the spiritual.
He has authority over sin…and lived perfectly.
He has authority over shame…and died in your place.
He has authority over death…and rose triumphantly for you.
He has authority to bring you into eternal life.
Listen to him.
Because if you remember last week, the one who has all that LIMITLESS authority is the One who cares so deeply for you.
And he wants to bring you into the limitless joys of heaven.
Listen to him.