What sort of man is this?
The crowds had been amazed at Jesus’ authority. Whereas the scribes would teach by appealing to the authority vested in Moses, Jesus taught from His own authority.
What’s more, after coming down from the mountain, Matthew reports a string of miracles that underscore Jesus’ authority. Read all of Matthew chapter 8. He cleanses a leper, and heals many others including a paralytic (by “long-distance word power”), and Peter’s mother-in-law. He casts out demons with the word, “Go”. He commands the winds and waves. The disciples were amazed, and they marvelled, “What sort of man is this”? (8:27).
Notice how the disciples had failed to grasp Jesus’ authority and power, which earned for them the rebuke, “O you of little faith”. They didn’t get it.
Now notice the only person who did get it, and so earned divine commendation: the centurion, a Gentile! He said one thing that struck me deeply, and I paraphrase, “Jesus, only say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I too am a man under authority…” (8:8-9). We can only guess at how the centurion came to know about Jesus, but one thing is certain — He understood what it meant to have authority as well as to be under it; “Come” and “Go”, and his soldier comes and goes. So too can his superior say, “Come” and “Go”, and the centurion knows he must do as he is told.
Most of all, he understood that Jesus had authority, so much so that he thought himself unworthy to have Jesus as a guest. But then Jesus praises him for his faith and jibes at the Jews for their profound lack of faith — their failure to recognize Jesus and His authority.
This is very relevant for us today. For we live in an age where respect for authority has waned, and individualism is on the rise. We resist having someone else tell us what to do. We set ourselves up as the main authority in our lives, but in truth, we are clueless and powerless about so many things.
Yet Jesus speaks to us. And as we read the Sermon on the Mount, we don’t get a sense of someone who just says feel-good stuff.
He speaks to us authoritatively about the Father. He is the One with authority to tell us how to live as kingdom people. He is the One who on that day decides who enters the kingdom of heaven and who will be left out. Jesus possesses kingdom authority.
If we grasp Jesus’ authority, we will do as we are told. We will be wise. But if we do not acknowledge Jesus’ authority, then we will not take His word seriously. We will hear His words but not do them. We will become fools (Matthew 7:26).
Now that we have completed the series on the Sermon on the Mount, perhaps the most important question we need to ask ourselves is the same one the disciples asked: “What sort of man is this?”
Now then, what would you say?
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
All those who practice it have a good understanding
His praise endures forever.