Matthew draws our attention to the sovereign will of Jesus which is being exercised in all things – his deeds and every event. He stakes his claim by right: “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18).
We must deduce that there is no limit to the authority of the Lord Jesus. It is absolute and universal. All things are subject to his cosmic control. His power is unrestricted, unbounded, and beyond measure. Jesus’ title is Christ Almighty. He is constantly willing, exercising his authority, exerting his power, advancing his purpose. His will is always active. His determinations cannot be defeated. They come to ultimate fulfillment.
Matthew affords us a glimpse or two of the “I wills of Jesus” while among us on earth. These are insights into his potency and grace; his glorious condescension toward men.
At the close of chapter seven Matthew notes the dominion of Jesus. It was most obvious and impressive. “When Jesus had finished saying these things the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority and not as their teachers of the law” (vv28-29). Jesus in his so-called sermon on the mount and his address to the crowds exceeded even the authority of Moses highly revered by the people.
The words “When he came down from the mountainside” imply that Jesus uttered the speech of God that moved the people in their minds and motivated them to follow him.
An immediate incident demonstrated his divine power toward the kneeling leper. We hear the earnest request from the helpless petitioner, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean”. It is expressed in confidence and acknowledgement of Jesus’ ability, and it defers to Jesus’ prerogative to heal him or not. Mentally the invalid submits to the sceptre of the Lord. The response is reassuring. “Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man”. The hand is the servant of the will and the instrument of contact and identification. Jesus’ hand was as eloquent as his tongue in that moment of tender pity. Sometimes a touch is more expressive than the tongue. It is an act of availability and self-giving and a sign of empathy. Accompanying the touch were the words that told the leper that Jesus was in full agreement with his desire for wholeness. There was not the slightest hint of reluctance. “I am willing”. This is the marvel of this recorded encounter. Heaven’s will accords with the wish of the supplicant and that longing elicits a clear and invincible command. “Be clean”. The effect is immediate.
Jesus exhibited benevolent sovereignty in magnificent mercy.
A following occurrence emphasises the complete authority of Jesus. It is occasioned by the request of the centurion - a Gentile and a representative of an occupying force - that of the Roman Empire.
A servant of the emperor comes meekly to the One whose empire extends everywhere and forever, as shall one day be disclosed. Jesus encounters a compassionate centurion, a believing officer of an alien military. “Lord, my servant lies at home paralyzed and in terrible suffering” (v6). The Lord accedes to the soldier’s appeal with the reply, “I will go and heal him”. As well as touching the needy who are before him he is prepared to travel to where they are. This is Jesus, the Father’s apostle, ready to go wherever divine compassion would despatch him. He displays instant willingness and ready effort. In striking contrast to earthly authority Jesus’ sway over all things is humble. Yet the centurion’s recognition of the Saviour’s superior authority is designed to recall to our minds the lofty status of the Messiah.
A captain over men, who dare not disobey, has the perception to defer to the command of Jesus with amazing humbleness and unlikely faith in a stranger to the nation of Israel. “I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith” (v10).
We encounter a delineation of the proper approach to God in prayer in these two brief narratives, namely, a) The humble request: e.g. “I do not deserve to have you come under my roof “. b) The description of the divine ability: e.g. “But just say the word and my servant will be healed”. c) The affirmation of the authority of Jesus: e.g. “But just say the word, and my servant will be healed”. We are close here to the structure of the collects in the Book of Common Prayer.
Jesus is astonished at the faith of the centurion (v10). It is the kind of faith that ought to have been prevalent in Israel after all the grace and goodness God has lavished upon the chosen people.
It claims no desert. Israel was proud and privileged and presumed upon God. It receives and trusts the divine word implicitly. The ears of Israel were closed to the word. It exults in the divine power and rests in the will of God. Official Jewry resisted Jesus. These are the elements of the faith that saves.
This is the faith that constitutes the kingdom of heaven. This is the faith that admits folk to the sphere of salvation. Jesus is the ruler of this kingdom that is gradually being gathered out of this earth and united with heaven. It encompasses all points - east, west, north, south. It includes the believers of the Old Testament epoch, patriarchs, prophets, and ordinary people. It receives all those who assent to and accept the apostolic gospel preserved in the New Testament.
The Lord Jesus is the centrepoint of the kingdom drawing many to himself through the gospel. Those excluded are those who refuse this gospel and reject its King (the theme of the book of Acts which describes the ministry and outreach of the emissaries and ambassadors of Jesus).
Matthew succinctly depicts the authority, power, and reign of of the Lord Jesus. The will of Jesus impinges on every life for blessing or judgment. The will of Jesus is not excluded from any area of reality.
He is sovereign even over our wills - permitting them to rebel or disobey, or sweetly inclining them to his will of love and salvation (Article 10).
In the performance of the divine purpose the power and the hour of its operation are subject to the holy and sovereign will of the majestic and Almighty Lord Jesus. This is the strong Redeemer that we, moment by moment, trust and adore.