President Harry Truman had a sign on his desk that read, “The buck stops here.” This slogan served as a reminder to the president that being in authority meant that he must answer for the things done on his watch. Others might be able to “pass the buck” and avoid responsibility. He could not.
All human leaders possess authority, but it is derived authority—part of a stewardship that has been entrusted to them by those who have appointed or elected them and ultimately by God. Jesus exercised an even greater authority. His authority was innate rather than derived.
In Mark 2:1–3:19, Mark describes how Jesus demonstrated His authority through action. He proved that He had the authority to forgive the sins of a paralytic man by healing him. This miracle complemented Christ’s declaration of forgiveness and was intended to show the skeptical religious leaders that “the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” (v. 10).
Jesus also demonstrated His authority by ignoring the traditions of the religious leaders. He compared their traditions to old wineskins and old garments (vv. 21–22). Their old system of man-made rules was unsuitable for Christ’s message of new life.
The Savior’s authority was so great that it extended even to the Sabbath. The Pharisees objected to Jesus healing on the Sabbath. They believed that such a practice violated God’s law. In reality, their restrictions actually distorted God’s intent for the Sabbath. The law’s command to rest on the seventh day was meant to be a blessing for God’s people rather than a burden. As Jesus put it, “the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (v. 27). Because He was God incarnate—both fully man and fully God—Jesus was both Lord of the Sabbath and its beneficiary. As our representative, sent by God to fulfill the Law in its entirety, He could not violate Sabbath. Jesus observed it according to its true intent. As the divine Son of God, Jesus had the authority to define what was a legitimate or an illegitimate way to keep the Sabbath.
The Pharisees tried to build a hedge around God’s law by adding their own rules and regulations. Even worse, they usurped God’s authority by trying to compel others to live by their code.
Can you think of at least one unwritten rule that you try to get others to live by? Has there been a time when you conformed to someone else’s standard, simply because they expected you to do so? Ask God to help you evaluate whether these rules measure up to the standard of grace revealed in the gospel.