A Commentary by John Stott
Matthew 7:28-29. Conclusion: who is this preacher?
1. Jesus’ authority as a teacher.
The crowds were astonished at his *teaching*, for he *taught* them with authority. Yes, he presented himself first and foremost as a teacher, and he amazed his listeners by the substance, the quality and the manner of his instruction. But of course there had been thousands of other teachers in Jewry and elsewhere. Many were his contemporaries. What then was so special about him?
He somehow assumed the right to teach absolute truth. He was a Jew, but his message was not Jewish. He was interpreting Moses’ law, but in such a way as to show it was God’s. What he had to say was not culturally conditioned in the sense that it was limited to a particular people (Jews) or a particular place (Palestine). Being absolute, it was universal. So he spoke as one who knew what he was talking about. ‘We speak of what we know,’ he said in another context. (Jn.3:11). He knew who would be great in God’s kingdom and who least, who was ‘blessed’ in God’s sight and who was not, which way led to life and which to destruction. With complete self-confidence he declared who would inherit the kingdom of heaven, who would inherit the earth, who would obtain mercy, see God and be fit to be called God’s children. How could he be so sure?
Commentators have searched for language adequate to describe this peculiar flavour of Jesus’ teaching. I have collected some of their attempts. They have tended to depict Jesus as either a king or a law-maker. ‘He spoke royally,’ wrote Spurgeon, ‘with royal assurance’ or with ‘sovereignty’. Gresham Machen’s expression was that ‘he claimed the right to legislate for the kingdom of God’, while James Denney combined the pictures of king and law-maker in writing both of his ‘practical sovereignty over man’s conscience, will and affections’ and of his ‘supreme moral authority, legislating without misgiving, and demanding implicit obedience’. And Calvin said the crowds were astonished ‘because a strange, indescribable and unwonted majesty drew to him the minds of men’.
His hearers naturally compared and contrasted him with the many other teachers with whom they were familiar, especially the scribes. What struck them most was that he taught them *as one who had authority* and not at all *as their scribes*. For the scribes claimed no authority of their own. They conceived their duty in terms of faithfulness to the tradition they had received. So they were antiquarians, delving into commentaries, searching for precedents, claiming the support of famous names among the rabbis. Their only authority lay in the authorities they were constantly quoting. Jesus, on the other hand, had not received a scribal education, (cf.Jn.7:15), scandalized the establishment by sweeping away the traditions of the elders, had no particular reverence for social conventions, and spoke with a freshness of his own which captivated some and infuriated others. A.B.Bruce summed up the difference by saying that the scribes spoke ‘*by* authority’, while Jesus spoke ‘*with* authority’.
Tomorrow: Matthew 7:28-29. Conclusion: who is this preacher? 1). Jesus’ authority as the teacher (continued).
The John Stott Bible Study is taken from The Message of the Sermon on the Mount. The Bible Speaks Today John Stott. Used by permission of Inter-Varsity Press UK, Nottingham. All rights reserved.