Matthew 7:28-29 (NIV) 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.
The followers of Jesus had heard a lot of teaching from their rabbis, and from the teachers at the temple. But they had never before heard teaching like this! The rabbis and other Jewish teachers had studied the Scriptures for years, and had read and debated piles of commentaries. Their sermons were filled with quotes from the most prominent rabbis throughout the ages, demonstrating not only ancient truths from the Scriptures, but their own knowledge of those authorities.
Jesus on the other hand, didn’t quote a single rabbi or teacher in this whole message (except to point out a couple of common false teachings). Instead, He spoke from His own authority. He may not have had the high credentials that some of the Jewish leaders had, but His teachings were fresh, insightful, and authoritative in a way that they had never experienced before.
The people could see that Jesus wasn’t just reciting back to them what He had studied somewhere. They felt like when He spoke about heavenly things, He was talking in a way that demonstrated first-hand knowledge of God Himself. And they were right; Jesus’ knowledge was first-hand. As He shared with Nicodemus, “I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven–the Son of Man.” (John 3:11-13 NIV)
Because Jesus’ knowledge of God was first-hand, His teaching should be studied intently by everyone who claims to follow Him. Many today know far more about what Paul taught than about what Jesus Himself said, and read and study the epistles far more than the gospels. But we need to remember that Jesus is the primary source of truth for His people, both then and now, because He is the only one with direct, first-hand knowledge of God the Father, and of His kingdom.
Father, I am more and more amazed when I read the words of Jesus at how relevant they are to where I am at any given moment. I thank You for all of the Scriptures, and the guidance that they give. But most especially, I thank You for the gospels, and for the very words of Jesus captured in them by faithful witnesses. Amen.