Having authority

July 25, 2014

Dear brothers and sisters,

This morning the good news is found in Mark 1:21-22.

Then they came to Capernaum, and on the sabbath he entered the synagogue and taught. The people were astonished at this teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes.

Those to whom Jesus spoke were so impressed by his authority that Mark emphasizes it in verse 27: “What is this? A new teaching with authority.” What does it mean to teach with authority? Marcus Borg in Jesus explains, “Behind the Greek word for ‘authority’ lies the Jewish term for the power of God, Gevurah. Jesus spoke from the mouth of the Gevurah, that is, from the mouth of the Spirit.”

The Jews were accustomed to hearing the scribes teach in the synagogue. They were the scholars, the experts in the scriptures and the laws that had been developed to ensure that people obeyed God’s commands. They cited the scriptures and teachings of the great rabbis, but apparently never spoke from their inner authority. They drew their authority from the outside, from the written word of the Hebrew scriptures and rabbinic teachings. So, the religion they espoused was legalistic, judgmental, threatening; it didn’t come from their heart, from their own knowing of God, from their own personal experience of the love of God.

Along came Jesus who is the word of God, the beloved of God, the Son of God. He taught with confidence because he knew he was loved by God and he knew every word of the scriptures, the word of God his Father. Even as a young boy he had astonished people by his knowledge of the scriptures. His authority was both internal and external; it was personal. He had listened to his Father all his life in reading the scriptures and in his prayer. Everything he thought and said and did was founded upon his certain belief in God’s love for him. That’s what was so impressive to his listeners.

They didn’t know God in a personal way; they had no idea that they could have a relationship with God. They feared God; that’s what they had been taught to do. No wonder they were so attracted to Jesus and strained to hear every word, to lap up his message of a loving, compassionate, forgiving God. The crowds grew larger and larger as this good news spread from village to village. People were ravenous to hear the good news proclaimed with such authority that sprang from an intimate knowledge of God.

I’ve had the same experience as these Jews. I’ve listened raptly to clerics and lay people who speak with this kind of authority, from the mouth of God. They speak with their own authority that arises from their clear and certain knowledge of God’s love for them and for me. It’s like a drug; I want them to go on and on. I just can’t get enough of the good news, the fact of God’s unending love, mercy, and generosity.



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