What is this? A new teaching—with authority! - Mark 1:27
The people had heard plenty of teachers before. And they had also heard from plenty of authorities. But for some reason, when Jesus spoke, they picked up on something very different about him - he spoke with a deeper level of authority. And it was not the kind of authority they'd been used to.
What they'd been used to were authorities with the power to give orders, make decisions, or enforce obedience. Roman centurions, tax collectors, the emperor - men whose authority so easily, it seemed, became corrupted by power. And there were also well educated authorities - the temple leaders and religious experts - whose authority could just as easily become corrupted power. Authority and power go hand in hand, and that's why people who are feeling powerless often resent authority so deeply. Our current political landscape today is full of people who resent or fear authority, as well as leaders who are using their power and authority for personal, rather than communal, gains.
So there's a lot of baggage in the word authority, and we need to really unpack what it was that so amazed Jesus' listeners. They saw an authority in Jesus that was obviously not the kind of authority they were used to. He didn't rub elbows with the rich and powerful. Instead, he hung out with the sinners and outcasts. He was not a studious Pharisee, but rather the son of a carpenter who asked a lot of questions at the temple and spent a lot of time in prayer. But yet, when he spoke, the felt his power - a transformative power that seemed not of this world. In fact, he could tell evil spirits to leave and they'd up and leave!
The power his listeners heard in Jesus was not the power of money or prestige or knowledge or any other earthly thing. It was the power of God. They saw in him the love that casts out all fear. They heard in his words the strength that really is strength. They perceived through his words and actions a higher authority - one that is more powerful than our any of our corruptible earthly authorities - one that can even dispel the evil that seems to permeate our society..
In a corruptible world like ours, we need to stick close to Jesus. Our own deepest authority does not come from money or influence or knowledge or any other achievement we feel we can claim as our own. True power comes from living into our God-given identities and trusting God to do the rest. Our deepest power comes - not from ourselves - but from the Christ who lives in us.
Our readings for this Sunday are HERE