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For Bible Study Nerds

In exposition of Matthew 7:28-29, George Buttrick has commented, “People listened to Jesus, and then said: ‘That is what I have always known deep down, even though I have no words to say it.’” This, Buttrick explains, is something of what Matthew means when he says that Christ “taught as one who had authority” (verse 29).

Of course, that’s true and (as Buttrick also points out) starkly contrasts Jesus’ teaching style with that of the scribes or teachers of the law. They rarely came up with new teachings, instead devoting themselves almost exclusively to repeating theologies of precedent, basing all their teachings on some other respected rabbi’s previous ideas. Still, with this brief statement in 7:28-29, Matthew seems to be doing more than simply saying people were impressed by Jesus teaching. Looking at this gospel as a whole it becomes clear that Matthew intended this to be a bridge between the conclusion of Christ’s Sermon on the Mount and a thesis statement for Matthew’s upcoming argument-by-example that Jesus held all the authority of God in human flesh.

From this point on in Matthew’s narrative, the gospel writer presents overwhelming evidence, time and again, of Jesus’ heavenly authority expressed in human affairs. Consider chapter 8 alone and you’ll see:

  • Christ demonstrates divine authority over a devastating sickness (leprosy) that humanity cannot tame (8:1-4).
  • Christ demonstrates omnipresent authority over time and distance, and over Gentile inclusion in the Jewish Kingdom of God (8:5-13).
  • Christ demonstrates a Creator’s full authority and ownership over the human body, healing Peter’s mother, driving demons out of human bodies, and healing the sick (8:14-17).
  • Christ demonstrates relational authority and divine priority over the life choices of a would-be follower (8:18-22).
  • Christ demonstrates full authority over nature, deflating a storm with just a command (8:23-27).
  • Christ demonstrates absolute, kingly authority over the spiritual realm by subduing and exiling an army of demons (8:28-34).

Thus when Matthew makes the comment that Christ “taught as one who had authority,” the gospel writer puts forth a claim of deity about Jesus—and he’ll support that claim with subsequent testimony intended to prove to his readers that Jesus is indeed the all-powerful,  incarnate Son of God.

 

Works Cited:

[IB7, 335-336]

 

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