by Jeffrey W. Hamilton
Text: John 8:12-18
I. What would you be like if you had absolute power?
A. Oh, it is fun to imagine all the things you could do if you had the power to do it, but what kind of person would you become?
B. “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.” [Lord Acton]
C. “Nearly all men can handle adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” [Abraham Lincoln]
D. By his miracles, Jesus demonstrated that he had absolute power. But he never used that power to benefit himself
1. When Satan tempted him - Matthew 4:3-4
2. Mark 10:45 - he came to serve
3. Even when facing death, he refused to prevent it - Matthew 26:51-54
4. It is not that Jesus wanted to die - Matthew 26:37-39
E. Who among us ever chose to be born? But Jesus did.
1. Jesus knew where he came from and where he was going - John 8:14; 13:3
2. He knew why he was in the world - I Timothy 1:15
F. In other words, Jesus gave everything in order to save you and I - Philippians 2:5-8
G. Jesus was totally unlike any other human being
II. Jesus was absolutely brilliant
A. Matthew 21:23-27 - Jesus turned a trap question into a trap for the questioners
B. Jesus didn’t handle situations like you and I would
1. Consider Matthew 22:15-22
2. Two opposing sects team up – the Pharisees and the Herodians
3. They try buttering up their intended target - Matthew 22:16
a. Emphasizing Jesus disregard of men gave him an opening to take a stand against the government
4. No one likes to pay taxes and for the Jews taxes paid to a conquering nation was especially painful.
a. If Jesus said taxes must be paid, it would undermine his popularity with the people and the Jewish leaders could spread word that Jesus was a supporter of the Romans.
b. If Jesus took a stand against paying taxes, they would be able to bring him before the Roman governor and charge him with sedition.
5. But Jesus stated that he knew their thoughts and motives. He knew the flattery and question was all an act - Matthew 22:18
6. Then out of nowhere, Jesus asks for a coin that is used to pay the tax
a. In producing the coin, the people showed that they accepted the coinage for value. Someone in this group was carrying coinage issued by the hated Roman Empire.
b. Jewish taxes were paid with a temple issued coin.
c. Roman taxes were paid with coinage issued by the Roman government.
7. Jesus sealed the point by asking the questioners whose image was on the coin – in other words, he is asking who issued and backed the value of the coin.
a. They answered that it was Caesar’s image.
b. Jesus then pointed out that Caesar had the right to tax what he issued, just as God had the right to tax what belonged to Him
8. The answer left both the questioners and the audience stunned as to the clarity of Jesus’ answer.
a. Instead of directly answering the yes or no question posed, Jesus answered with the foundation upon which an answer could be concluded.
C. Think for a moment what is missing. How many times have you been in a situation where you later think, “I should have said ...”?
1. Jesus never made any factual errors. He never rambled.
2. Jesus never investigates, he just knows the right answer.
3. He doesn’t learn, he sees
4. He doesn’t ponder trying to weigh the facts
D. When Jesus taught, think how much is in his stories
1. The stories of the Prodigal Son or the Good Samaritan are short, but think how much is taught
2. How many lessons have been given on them, approaching what Jesus said from different angles
III. Jesus’ authority
A. At the sermon on the mount the people were amazed - Matthew 7:28-29
1. Why? Jesus didn’t cite his sources. He spoke on his own authority.
2. He didn’t say he was right because Gamaliel or some other Jewish scholar had made a similar point earlier.
3. He tells the Jewish religious world that they got it wrong and proceeds to correct them on his own say-so.
B. “The Jewish Talmud, formed across the space of several hundred years starting around the time of Jesus’ life, gives a good example of the rabbis’ use of authority at that time. Though it varies from section to section, the first few pages are sufficient to show us what it was like. It begins, ‘What time should one recite Shema in the evenings? According to Rabbi Eliezer, from the time that Kohanim enter to partake teruma, until the end of the first [night-] watch; the [majority of] Sages say, until midnight; Rabban Gamaliel says, Until dawn.’ There alone we have two named sources, not to mention ‘the majority of the Sages.’ In the next few pages the Talmud cites at least twenty different sources as authorities.” [Tom Gilson, Too Good to be False, p.38-39]
C. Jesus cites the Scriptures to back some of his points, but he doesn’t cite scholars. He quotes traditions only to show they are wrong.
1. Try doing that on a graduate school paper. I guarantee it would be rejected.
D. Note in Matthew 5:11-12 that this is not your standard position. Persecution is a blessing?
1. But let me call your attention to “on my account” in Matthew 5:11
2. The prophets of old were persecuted because of the message they carried from God
3. But Jesus is saying his followers would be persecuted on his account
4. Jesus just equated himself to God!
E. The prophets often would say, “Thus says the Lord,” to indicate that they were not speaking their own words, but God’s words.
1. Jesus cites the Law with “It is written,” but he doesn’t use “Thus says the Lord” which would indicate that his words were not his own.
2. Instead, after quoting a tradition, Jesus would say, “But I say to you.” He appealed to his own authority
F. In Matthew 12:6-8
1. Jesus claims to be greater than the temple
2. He claims to be Lord of the Sabbath
3. But he doesn’t prove these seemingly outrageous claims. He just moves on.
G. In Luke 4:31-36, Jesus casts out a demon on his own say-so.
H. In Mark 2:1-12, Jesus proves he has authority to forgive sins
I. Jesus made a claim that would be ridiculous for any man to make - John 8:12
1. The Pharisees objected, essentially saying “You can’t prove your point on your own say-so.” - John 8:13
2. But Jesus said even on his own say-so, what he said is still true - John 8:14
3. Still, Jesus goes further: He says so and my Father says so - John 8:18
4. The Pharisees want Jesus’ father to testify - John 8:19
5. Jesus’ answer was, if you truly knew me, you would know his Father
J. When the priests and scribes demanded that Jesus tell them what authority he had to do these things - Luke 20:1-2
1. Notice that they believed they had the authority to demand the source of Jesus’ authority
2. But when they refused to answer Jesus’ question, Jesus said he didn’t have to tell them his source of authority - Luke 20:8
3. Jesus didn’t need the permission of the Jewish leaders. Essentially he was claiming an authority greater than theirs
IV. Jesus’ Leadership
A. Imagine a group considering hiring a new executive. One candidate comes up, but there are some problems:
1. The guy has never learned from experience
2. He has never admitted to making a mistake
3. His skills have never improved
4. He rarely gives a straight answer to a question
5. If you have an opinion different from his, well, you’re wrong
6. He expects you to do it his way, no exceptions
7. He only befriends people who do what he commands
B. Doesn’t sound promising, but this is just how Jesus was, and billions of people follow him
C. What great world leader hasn’t made mistakes, especially early on
1. But Jesus was sinless - Hebrews 4:15
2. You can’t improve on perfection
D. Jesus’ righteousness meant there is no other way but his
1. I am the way - John 14:6
2. Which is why you have to do as he says - John 15:21,24
3. God is one so the things taught by Jesus are the things taught by God the Father
E. How did Jesus gain followers?
1. He loved and served like no other - Mark 10:45
2. In view of the fact that he was God in the flesh, consider how gentle Jesus was - Matthew 12:18-21
3. Jesus as something to offer that we all need - Matthew 11:27-30
F. But gentleness should not be confused with uncertainty or a lack of authority
V. Jesus Changed the World
A. But he didn’t do it by seeking popularity
1. His own family thought he was crazy - Mark 3:21
2. But Jesus considered his followers to be his true family - Matthew 12:46-50
3. The community he grew up in rejected him - Luke 4:28-30
4. He broke customs - Mark 7:5-8
5. He talked to those who others would ignore - John 4:7-10
6. He rejected people who followed him for the wrong reasons - John 6:26-27
a. Jesus goes on to teach a difficult lesson, which caused people to leave - John 6:66
b. In fact, Jesus said most people won’t make it - Matthew 7:13-14
B. Is this the way to start a world-changing movement? Not by men’s standards.
1. But Jesus knew that a tiny beginning would grow - Matthew 13:32
2. Jesus did it for the joy of the future - Hebrews 12:2-3
VI. Frequently you hear the accusation that the Bible is just a myth
A. But the central character of this supposed myth, Jesus, is unlike any myth in the world
B. I’ve read stories where the author makes the mistake of giving his hero too much power. The result is boring.
C. Think of all the comic book heroes out there and each has character flaws that they wrestle with. Why? Because it generates sympathy with the character and adds interest to the story.
D. Yet the Bible tells us of a perfect man with ultimate power and complete confidence – a story unlike any other because this is just not the way men write stories
E. It is the number one seller in the world because it isn’t a story. It is real.
Based on “Too Good to be False” by Tom Gilson