1And after getting into a boat he crossed the sea and came to his own town.
2And just then some people were carrying a paralyzed man lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven." 3Then some of the scribes said to themselves, "This man is blaspheming." 4But Jesus, perceiving their thoughts, said, "Why do you think evil in your hearts?5For which is easier, to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Stand up and walk'? 6But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins" - he then said to the paralytic - "Stand up, take your bed and go to your home." 7And he stood up and went to his home. 8When the crowds saw it, they were filled with awe, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to human beings.
Although the crowds attributed "authority" to "human beings," the context shows that they were really marveling at the authority of one human being, Jesus of Nazareth.
What is this authority? The Greek is ἐξουσία, exousia. The meaning of this particular term is exactly the same as our English 'authority'. What does this word mean? "The power or right to give orders, make decisions, and enforce obedience." Usually in the NT, 'authority' is coupled with 'power' (δύναμις, dunamis). A definition for 'power' -- "the ability to do something or act in a particular way, especially as a faculty or quality." The definitions for authority and power can be overlapping but they are distinct concepts when they occur together in many places in the Bible. So, think of 'authority' as a legal idea (the "right" to do something) and think of 'power' as "ability." Together, they describe what Jesus has over sickness, demons, and sin. Jesus has power and authority over these things.
These things are not just ordinary things like tables, chairs, and kittens. Sickness, demons [recall yesterday's text], and sin are features of our fallen world and these three things are the enemies of human life and creation. In heaven, you won't see these things. In the Kingdom of God, which anticipates heaven, these three things come under attack by the power and authority of Jesus.
That is why the crowds "were filled with awe." Why they "glorified God." The very things that no human could possibly overcome, especially sin, were overcome by Jesus. He forgave sin and that was that! Jesus did not need to appeal to a higher authority to see whether he had the legitimate right to forgive sins. He just did! Why? Because there's no authority higher than Jesus, the Son of God.
It is true that the crowds did not grasp all of Jesus' true authority since they did not grasp all of Jesus' true identity. Nevertheless, they were responding correctly to the actions of Jesus who made the paralytic well and who forgave the paralytic's sins. For such actions, it is awe inspiring and worthy of praising God, which the crowds expressed.
For us who love and follow Jesus, it is still a wondrous thing now and then to be reminded about the authority of Jesus. And the authority He gives us to use his name to see the sick made well, to see the demonized set free, and to see the sinner forgiven of his sins. What a marvelous thing to behold!
Let's pray: Lord Jesus, we adore you today for who you are and the power and authority that you have. We thank you that you reign as the Lord of Lords and the King of Kings. We confess there is no greater authority than you, O Son of God. We also thank you that by your name people are set free from sickness, sin, and demons. We ask that we would know this power and authority in a deeper way, that such power and authority are for our benefit and for the benefit of people who are hurting and lost. In your name, amen.