How do you feel when the opportunity comes up to share about Jesus? We feel nervous don’t we? We feel a frisson of fear. Our society tells us loudly and clearly that there are no absolute truths and to claim that there is, is offensive. That all religions are the same, all spirituality equally valid, all paths up the same mountain. And we absorb that message; that we have no right to claim truth. It’s seen in how we talk about what we believe, or what we’ve found true for us, rather than proclaim the gospel as absolutely truth.
Liverpool police recently paid for a big sign that proclaimed ‘Being offensive is an offence.’ The message is clear isn’t it don’t say anything offensive. Don’t challenge anyone. Don’t make claims about truth for all. Keep your beliefs private, keep Jesus to yourself, you have no right to do otherwise.
We’re not the first to feel like that. Jesus has just been crucified for his claims and teaching. The Sanhedrin made it clear that Jesus is offensive and they won’t tolerate his claims on pain of death. The disciples are very aware of that.
But there’s a second reason the disciples, like us, may feel they have no right to go anywhere and talk to anyone about Jesus. They have doubted, denied and deserted. They’re failures. They have no right in themselves to tell anyone. No track record to give weight to what they say. Don’t we sometimes feel like that too?
Jesus doesn’t jump straight to the task does he? He begins “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” The resurrection proves who Jesus is once and for all. It proclaims loudly and clearly that he is Messiah, Saviour and Lord. Turn to Daniel 7, where we see the Son of Man, Jesus favourite title for himself, approach God’s throne room and be led into his presence. What happens when he’s there? “He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshipped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pas away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.”
Do you see who Jesus is? Do you see his authority? It‘s absolute. Total! He is absolutely sovereign over every nation and people group for all time. Over every king, prime minister, president, CEO, mayor, and self proclaimed supreme ruler. Do we believe that? Jesus is king of kings and Lord of lords, his kingdom is eternal and over all and his authority is eternal and over all.
And what does Jesus do with that authority, “therefore go…”, he commissions his disciples. Jesus doesn’t hoard authority but gives it to the 11, and then to the church. The disciples have all the authority they could ever need – it doesn’t depend on their track record of faithfulness but on Jesus absolute authority. It doesn’t depend on the government or changes in the law; Jesus speaks with eternal authority and gives his people the right.
We see the effect of that in Acts 4. When Peter and John are arrested for healing the lame man in Jesus name and preaching to the people full of the Spirit they say to the Sanhedrin (12) “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” When they’re told and commanded not to speak or teach in Jesus name, they respond: (19-20) “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! As for us we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”
Do you see what they’re saying to the very council that had Jesus killed, that so terrified them a few short weeks before? They’re saying; ‘There is a higher authority, he gives us every right.’
In Acts 5 when they’re arrested again and brought before the high priest and Sanhedrin and charged with failing to stop teaching about Jesus, the Apostles reply “We must obey God rather than human beings!” (29)
Do you hear that truth? We mustn’t be cowed by a society that tells us we’ve no right because it says so! And we mustn’t listen to the voice of Satan whispering in our ears telling us we’ve no right because of our past failures. The Apostles all failed and Jesus forgives and gives them his authority to go. And the Apostles stand and proclaim Jesus as Saviour because God says so.
That authority doesn’t exempt them and us from opposition. It’s not a promise that we won’t be persecuted for speaking for Jesus. But it is an authority from the highest power in the universe. We have every right to talk about Jesus because we’re forgiven by grace by the King of kings.
But what is it that Jesus gives us authority to do? Because I think this is often the second thing we get wrong, we’ll look at that tomorrow.