Limited Authority

The beach has fences to protect the fragile dunes from careless footsteps. laura-patrick-FMW4Wc-r9y8-unsplashSometimes temporary fences are installed there to protect nesting shore birds.

Photo by Meral Avdanlı on Unsplash


Big, old houses have fences to keep uninvited visitors away.



Photo by David Clode on Unsplash


Walls in Africa are built to protect village folk from lions.



Fences and walls protect something from someone or something else.

I do believe I saw a protective fence in Luke 9 this morning that I hadn’t noticed before!

Sent Out in Authority

The chapter begins telling us about Jesus sending out the twelve disciples after giving them power and authority. Don’t those two words seems to be redundant? Not quite. “Power” was given to achieve success by applying Christ’s inherent abilities given to them with the assignment. “Authority” was a delegated authorization given in a specific, designated jurisdiction. The power was the how, and the authority was the sphere of influence.

So what were the power and authority given for?

“One day Jesus called together his twelve disciples and gave them power and authority to cast out all demons and to heal all diseases (verse 1 NLT).

They were given power and authority to free the captives! That reminds me of what Jesus read in the synagogue in Nazareth earlier, quoting Isaiah 61:

“The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is upon me, for the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed” (Isaiah 61:1).

Jesus had been given authority to release captives, and now He bestowed that same authority on his twelve disciples. He did not give them authority that day over Creation itself to calm storms, curse fig trees, or walk on water. He “gave them power and authority to cast out all demons and to heal all diseases.”

But what about verse 5? Didn’t that give them additional judicial authority?

“And if a town refuses to welcome you, shake its dust from your feet as you leave to show that you have abandoned those people to their fate.”

Matthew records Christ’s words this way:

If any household or town refuses to welcome you or listen to your message, shake its dust from your feet as you leave. I tell you the truth, the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah will be better off than such a town on the judgment day (Matthew 10:14-15).

Unauthorized Access Denied

Compare these instructions with something that happened a little while later in Luke 9.

“As the time drew near for him to ascend to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. He sent messengers ahead to a Samaritan village to prepare for his arrival. But the people of the village did not welcome Jesus because he was on his way to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51-53).

Peter has declared that Jesus is the Messiah sent from God (verse 20); and Peter, James and John have witnessed the transfiguration and heard God’s voice say, “This is my Son, my Chosen One. Listen to him” (verses 28-36). Obviously this Jesus guy is pretty high on the authority hierarchy! Everyone should show him the proper respect!

If they could respond to their own rejection by towns by abandoning them to their fate, surely rejecting Jesus, their Master, called for a more serious response!

“When James and John saw this, they said to Jesus, ‘Lord, should we call down fire from heaven to burn them up?’ But Jesus turned and rebuked them” (Luke 9:54-55).

Why would He do that? I’m sure it seemed like an obvious question for James and John. How dare those Samaritans treat Christ that way!! They should pay for their disrespect!!

First of all, Matthew tells us that they had only been given power and authority to go to the people of Israel with the Good News. Samaria was out of their jurisdiction (Matthew 10:5-6).

Secondly, they had been given power and authority to release captives, not destroy lives. The final fate of souls was not in their hands.  Christ holds that authority, and He had not given them that level clearance.

“The Father judges no one. Instead, he has given the Son absolute authority to judge, so that everyone will honor the Son, just as they honor the Father” (John 5:22-23).

Our Authority

As children of God and followers of Christ, we have been given power and authority. But we must be careful to not trespass where we don’t belong! We are not called to condemn anyone, but to share the love, mercy, grace and peace of Christ with the world.

If we are rejected in his name, we are not to retaliate in anger, but to rejoice in hope!

“What blessings await you when people hate you and exclude you and mock you and curse you as evil because you follow the Son of Man. When that happens, be happy! Yes, leap for joy! For a great reward awaits you in heaven” (Luke 6:22-23).

As long as a person has breath, there is room for a change of heart. God knows so much more than we do!  He’s put a fence in place marking a boundary we are not to cross, and we have not been given authority in this arena. Let’s not judge too hastily without knowing all of the details of their case, which we will never understand completely! The domain of the heart is out of the realm of our authority.

My friends, don’t mess with the fence!

Photo by Laura Patrick on Unsplash





2 thoughts on “Limited Authority”

  1. Pingback: Authority – Living Threads

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