Submitting to the Authority of Jesus Christ in My Life
We talk about following Jesus and we use the phrase “Savior and Lord.” We talk about this as Baptists as if it were a two-step process. First, Jesus saves me and then I submit to Him as my leader for eternity. We talk about this submission as if it were a process. In some ways, it is a process. It is a process of growth. At the same time, a Christian has to learn to submit to Jesus in every area of their lives as they grow.
In these verses, we see three ARENAS in which Jesus shows authority that He has in my life. As I describe these arenas, perhaps there will be an arena in your life that you have not yet realized that you need to submit to Jesus.
Directly following the glorious experience of hearing the voice of His Father, the Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness. Why? Not to do Him in, but to show Him off. Jon Courson notes how with the following illustration:
Suppose you go to the local Jeep dealer and say, “I’m thinking about buying a Jeep.” After opening the door of his latest model, a salesman would say, “Hop in”—and proceed to drive you to some rough terrain, where he would shift into four-wheel drive and take you off-road—flying over hills, splashing through rivers. Why? Not to damage the car, but to show you what it can do.
So, too, in driving Jesus to the wilderness, the Father was saying, “Watch My Son. No matter what Satan throws at Him, He will come through beautifully.” And the same thing is true of you and me. You see, only what the Father allows can come into our lives. Therefore, when temptations, trials, difficulties, wilderness experiences, hard times come our way, it is because the Father has allowed them in order to silence Satan’s accusation that you only serve God in easy times and to show you off to a doubting world.1
THE AUTHORITY OF JESUS OVER THREE SPIRITUAL ARENAS IN LIFE
The authority of Jesus in the arena of temptation (Mark 1:12-13)
“Immediately the Spirit drove him into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and the angels were serving him.” (Mark 1:12–13, CSB)
Even before Internet pornography, rampant materialism, and online gambling, there was temptation. Even Jesus faced it, and in studying His example, we can learn a lot about being victors.
DEALING WITH TEMPTATION2
1. Temptation can come to us immediately.
Two truths reminds us of the immediate nature of temptation. (1) Living a life that pleases God does not exempt us from temptation. No sooner had God said, “You are My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased,” than we read, “Immediately the Spirit drove Him into the wilderness.” (2) Being led by the Spirit doesn’t exempt us from temptation. None of us are exempt. As long as we’re in this body of flesh, we’re going to struggle. The good news is that if we allow the Spirit to lead us, He will empower us to overcome temptation.
“I say then, walk by the Spirit and you will certainly not carry out the desire of the flesh.” (Galatians 5:16, CSB)
2. Temptation is initiated by Satan.
The word tempted has two ideas: An attraction toward sin, and a test or trial. In this case, it was temptation toward sin. Suppose you were given the assignment to expose someone to the temptations of Satan in their most potent form. Where would you take that person? Las Vegas? Hollywood? In the ancient world, the place would have been the city of Corinth, a pagan place full of sensuality and materialism. But the devil took Christ to the desert—no people, no buildings, no activity. Why? To remind us that temptation is not so much outward “stuff,” but first and foremost an inward struggle.
“For from within, out of people’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immoralities, thefts, murders,” (Mark 7:21, CSB)
“No one undergoing a trial should say, “I am being tempted by God,” since God is not tempted by evil, and he himself doesn’t tempt anyone.” (James 1:13, CSB)
My problem with temptation is not the attractive stuff around me; it is a heart problem. My problem is my own evil desire.
3. I am strengthened by God’s servants
Jesus was led by the Spirit and tempted by Satan, but He was not abandoned by God. Perhaps the angels did for Jesus what they had done for Elijah, bringing him bread and water. Somehow they took care of Him. We may wonder if God really cares about our struggles. Yes, He cares and He provides all the assistance we need to be victors over temptation, trials, and troubles.
In this brief snapshot of the temptation of Jesus, we see that He encountered temptation by Satan. Yet, Jesus overcame temptation.
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15, CSB)
Jesus didn’t succumb to Satan’s tricks. He stood against them and overcame them. Because of his sin, the first Adam lost the dominion over nature given to him.
“God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. Rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and every creature that crawls on the earth.”” (Genesis 1:28, CSB)
Contrast this with the Last Adam, Jesus Christ, to whom dominion is returned as evidenced by the wild beasts that surrounded Him in the wilderness—a sneak preview of the coming kingdom wherein the wolf shall lie down by the lamb.
“The wolf will dwell with the lamb, and the leopard will lie down with the goat. The calf, the young lion, and the fattened calf will be together, and a child will lead them.” (Isaiah 11:6, CSB)
Where Adam failed in the garden, Jesus came through in the desert.3
The authority of Jesus in the arena of sharing the Gospel (Mark 1:14-22)
“After John was arrested, Jesus went to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”” (Mark 1:14–15, CSB)
Dallas Willard, in his book The Divine Conspiracy, recalls the following story:
As a child I lived in an area of southern Missouri where electricity was available only in the form of lightning. We had more of that than we could use. But in my senior year of high school, the REA (Rural Electrification Administration) extended its lines into the area where we lived, and electrical power became available to households and farms.
When those lines came by our farm, a very different way of living presented itself. Our relationships to fundamental aspects of life—daylight and dark, hot and cold, clean and dirty, work and leisure, preparing food and preserving it—could then be vastly changed for the better. But we still had to believe in the electricity—and take the practical steps involved in relying on it.
You may think the comparison rather crude, and in some respects it is. But it will help us to understand Jesus’ basic message about the kingdom of heaven if we pause to reflect on those farmers who, in effect, heard the message “Repent, for electricity is at hand.” Repent, or turn from their kerosene lamps and lanterns, their iceboxes and cellars, their scrub-boards and rug beaters, their woman-powered sewing machines and their radios with dry-cell batteries.
The power that could make their lives far better was right there near them where, by making relatively simple arrangements, they could utilize it. Strangely, a few did not accept it. They did not enter the kingdom of electricity. Some just didn’t want to change. Others could not afford it, or so they thought.
To be sure, that kingdom has been here as long as we humans have been here, and longer. But it has been available to us through simple confidence in Jesus, the Anointed, only from the time he became a public figure.4
That simple confidence in Jesus and His message is another arena in which you and I as Christians, we must trust. Like the first disciples, we are asked to change from takers to givers, from self-centered people who look out for “number one” to servants who reach out for God. A major aspect of Mark’s theology centers on the theme of discipleship, and we will be coming back to it again and again.5Jim Elliot was only twenty-five years old when he went to Ecuador to bring the gospel to the Waodani tribe, a group that had never had any contact with the outside world. He and his companions made contact with the Waodani, but on January 8, 1956, Jim Elliot and four other missionaries were brutally killed by members of the tribe. They were willing to sacrifice everything for Jesus, even their own lives. Elliot once wrote, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”6 When we really know Jesus and the power of the gospel, we are willing to sacrifice everything to be his faithful witnesses in the world. How much are you willing to sacrifice for Jesus?
Notice that in both cases, when Jesus calls people out to be witnesses, to share the Gospel, there is an immediacy to it.
““Follow me,” Jesus told them, “and I will make you fish for people.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. Going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat putting their nets in order. Immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.” (Mark 1:17–20, CSB)
Jesus calls His people to follow Him. He says that He will make them “fish for people.” in other words, He will teach them how to share the Gospel. In both cases in Mark, there is an immediate response. The discipleship process is long, but the decision to follow Jesus is immediate.
Mark is full of urgency. Things happen immediately. Jesus walks beside the Sea of Galilee and people leave their nets to become disciples. One theme of Mark’s Gospel is a readiness to follow Jesus. This opening story perfectly illustrates what is expected in response to the good news.7
In his book Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer explains the nature of this gracious call from Jesus:
“It comes to us as a gracious call to follow Jesus; it comes as a forgiving word to the fearful spirit and the broken heart. Grace is costly, because it forces people under the yoke of following Jesus Christ; it is grace when Jesus says, “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.””8
The authority of Jesus in the arena of spirit world (Mark 1:23-28)
The authority of Jesus gives me power in the spirit world. Yet, many times, these come in the form of interruptions.
A minister once observed that sometimes “interruptions are the ministry.” In the book, Before Burnout, the authors point out that Mark’s Gospel provides many examples of Jesus handling interruptions well. After he healed a man with an unclean spirit (Mark 1:21–26), Jesus was suddenly interrupted by an entire city who demanded his attention (1:33). He was then interrupted in the midst of his teaching by four men carrying a paralyzed man (2:1–5). Later Jesus was pursued and interrupted by a large multitude (3:7–9). At one point, after being interrupted by Jairus, Christ was almost immediately interrupted again by a woman with a long-term illness. The Savior compassionately handled all of those interruptions well.9
The way Jesus handled these interruptions gives us a clue to the authority of Jesus over the spirit world. In Mark, the authority of Jesus comes up often. His spiritual authority is challenged, questioned, and then proven throughout the Gospel of Mark.
1. The demonic spirit recognized Jesus’ authority.
“Just then a man with an unclean spirit was in their synagogue. He cried out, “What do you have to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”” (Mark 1:23–24, CSB)
2. The scribes and leaders speak with no authority.
“They went into Capernaum, and right away he entered the synagogue on the Sabbath and began to teach. They were astonished at his teaching because he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not like the scribes.” (Mark 1:21–22, CSB)
Yet, Jesus’ authority will continually be questioned, even He will express it in various ways.
For example, Larry Hurtado notes10:
Jesus is shown (a) exhibiting authority in his teaching, (b) exercising authority over the demons, (c) demonstrating his authority to forgive sins, (d) taking authority over the temple and its administration, and (e) conferring authority upon his apostles to expand his attack upon demonic power.
3. The authority of Jesus over the spirit world will amaze people.
“They were all amazed, and so they began to ask each other: “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” At once the news about him spread throughout the entire vicinity of Galilee.” (Mark 1:27–28, CSB)
At the same time, this authority forces us to make a choice. Will we just enjoy the show that Jesus presents? Or will we submit to His authority that He displays?
Are you going to be like the people who are amazed? Or will you be like the demon who knew he had to submit? Which reaction will you have to Jesus’ authority in your life?
1 Jon Courson, Jon Courson’s Application Commentary (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2003), 224.
2 Robert J. Morgan, Nelson’s Annual Preacher’s Sourcebook, 2002 Edition. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2001), 288–289.
3 Jon Courson, Jon Courson’s Application Commentary (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2003), 225.
4 Craig Brian Larson and Phyllis Ten Elshof, 1001 Illustrations That Connect (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 2008), 73–74. Originally from Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy (Harper, 1997).
5 Grant R. Osborne, Mark, ed. Mark L. Strauss and John H. Walton, Teach the Text Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2014), 27.
6 Quoted in Elisabeth Elliot, The Shadow of the Almighty: The Life and Testament of Jim Elliot (1958; reprint, Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2008), 11. The quote comes from a journal entry by Jim Elliot on October 28, 1949. The journal page can be viewed on the website of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College, http://www2.wheaton.edu/bgc/archives/faq/20.htm. Found in: Grant R. Osborne, Mark, ed. Mark L. Strauss and John H. Walton, Teach the Text Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2014).
7 Phillip McFadyen, Open Door on Mark: His Gospel Explored (London: Triangle, 1997), 4.
8 Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Discipleship, ed. Martin Kuske et al., trans. Barbara Green and Reinhard Krauss, vol. 4, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2003), 45.
9 Robert J. Morgan, Nelson’s Complete Book of Stories, Illustrations, and Quotes, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000), 474.