The church is obsessed with the words of Jesus. We have His words in red letters in our Bibles to make them stand out against the black letters. We have books that contain only the words spoken by Jesus. The absurdity of these practices aside, what the church needs is not easier access to the words of Jesus, but a greater humility to hear and receive His words. The words of Jesus are not suggestions. They are not opinions. They are not wishful hopes. They are not guidelines. They are authoritative. They are powerful. And they are life-giving.
And he went down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee. And he was teaching them on the Sabbath, and they were astonished at his teaching, for his word possessed authority. And in the synagogue there was a man who had the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out with a loud voice, “Ha! What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent and come out of him!” And when the demon had thrown him down in their midst, he came out of him, having done him no harm. And they were all amazed and said to one another, “What is this word? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out!” Luke 4.31-36
“What is this word?” The profundity of this question cannot be overstated. Luke helps us feel the weight of the answer not only in this account but also in the accounts that follow by demonstrating that Jesus holds authority and power over everything. His word is authoritative and powerful. He does not speak authoritatively but weakly like a cowardly king. Nor does He speak powerfully but ineffectually like an intimidating anarchist. His command is absolutely authoritative—it must be obeyed—and it is supremely powerful—it should be obeyed. What His word commands comes to pass. Absolutely. Without question.
In the account above, Jesus’ word holds sway over the demons that held sway over the man they possessed. In Luke 4.39, Jesus’ word breaks the fever of Simon’s mother-in-law. In Luke 5.5, at the word of Jesus the will of Simon is constrained to let down his fishing net once again into the sea even though he has “toiled all night and took nothing!” In Luke 5.13, a man’s leprosy is undone in a moment at His word. In Luke 5.20, the word of Jesus irrevocably extends pardon and forgiveness of sin. In Luke 5.28, Jesus’ word “follow me” compels Levi to leave everything behind and rise and follow Jesus. In Luke 7.14, the word of Jesus loosens the chains of death and resurrects a widow’s son to life. In Luke 8.24, a storm calms in obedience to the word of Jesus. Even in this very brief survey, we see the scope of the authority and power of Jesus’ word extending from nature to the will of man, from sickness and disease to the forgiveness of sin. What is the word? It is the very word of God—the authoritative, powerful and life-giving word.
Just as in the beginning, God created by means of His Word, the Word incarnate now speaks life into His broken and fractured creation. In the beginning, God spoke, and it came to pass. The light did not pause to consider if it should come into existence. God did not ask the land if it would like to appear. God did not give Adam an option of being animated with life. God spoke, and it was so. So too, Jesus speaks, and it comes to pass because He is Himself the very Word of God. And as the Word of God, the word of Jesus is not only authoritative and powerful, it is life-giving. The Word was the agent of creation in the beginning and is the agent of re-creation even now and in the eschatological future. Therefore, Jesus’ word is restorative, mending and healing God’s world that sin has corrupted and decayed. It rebukes the darkness of sin and ushers in the light of God’s kingdom. Thus, earlier in Luke 4, Jesus reads from the Isaiah scroll,
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Notice the verbal communicative emphasis of Jesus’ mission—to proclaim. Jesus’ word of authority and power will bring to pass that which it proclaims, and it proclaims the good news of restoration and renewal. The captivates will ultimately be set free. The blind will finally recover their sight. The oppressed will absolutely obtain liberty. Restoration will come to pass because the word of Jesus has been spoken. This word will water the barren and desolate places and bring an oasis of life because this word is the very word of God. This is why the scribes and Pharisees are perplexed and enraged at the word of Jesus in Luke 5.21. No man can utter such a word as this. No man holds such authority and power. No man can issue life.
But Jesus is no mere man. He is the eternal and infinite Word of God incarnate, and the word He speaks is the very word of the only true God who is enthroned in the heavens in resplendent glory, who has no beginning and will have no end, who upholds and sustains every aspect of creation and who is the righteous and just judge of all the earth. There is an infinite weight and glory to the word of Jesus. So perhaps more than cute catch phrases to collect in a book like stamps or stick on a coffee mug as morning inspiration, the church would do well to humble ourselves under the awesome weight of the word of Jesus. His word does not wish to be obeyed. It does not ask permission. It is the word of the Almighty King of the cosmos. It is authoritative and powerful to bring to pass what it commands—that the Kingdom of life come on earth as it is in heaven.