The word authority can mean different things based on several factors. If you are young, you might think of a teacher or parent as an authority. You may hold high regard for the government; government officials serve as authorities. Others may consider authority in the abstract—anything to which they adhere, including laws and commands. As Christians, we believe God and God’s word—written or living—is our highest authority. Today’s reading emphasizes Jesus’ authority.
Jesus enters the synagogue on the sabbath and begins teaching. Mark does not mention the content of Jesus’ teaching; instead he emphasizes who teaches and how he teaches.
The first dialogue in the passage highlights who teaches that day—Jesus of Nazareth, the Holy One of God. The unclean spirit recognizes that Jesus’ authority stems from God. Jesus rebukes the spirit, which leaves the man, albeit violently. Then, the people recognize how Jesus teaches—with authority. They do not yet recognize Jesus as the Son of God; they simply acknowledge his authority. Its source puzzles them, and they begin to ask, “What is this?”
Jesus’ divine authority portrayed in this scene, along with the questions the people in the synagogue raise, prompt us to consider the sources of authority in our own lives. Who has authority in my life? Is it the living Word of God, Jesus Christ? Do I look to the Bible for guidance or to the latest New York Times self-help best seller? God grants authority to the written word of the Bible and the living Word of Jesus Christ. We look to both for authoritative and trustworthy guidance.
God, I give you full authority over my life. Lead me, guide me. Be the Lord of my life, this day and every day. Amen.
This week’s readings center on God’s authority. In Deuteronomy God promises to raise up a prophet to guide the people, and God warns the people not to listen to voices that do not speak for God. The psalmist overflows with praise for God’s great works. God is powerful and awesome, yet gracious and merciful also. Paul instructs the Corinthians to place the rights of others before their own rights. A person’s conscience may allow him or her to exercise freedom in Christ; however, with this freedom comes responsibility. We must surrender our own rights, if necessary, for the good of others. In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus shows his power over the forces of darkness: even the unclean spirits recognize and obey him.
• Read Deuteronomy 18:15-20. To whom or to what setting do you turn when you yearn to hear God’s voice?
• Read Psalm 111. How willing are to you to immerse yourself in life? in your worship setting? What causes you to simply dip your toe in? What would help you make a fuller commitment?
• Read 1 Corinthians 8:1-13. When have you been conscious of another’s limitation in some area and intentionally chosen to avoid a certain behavior?
• Read Mark 1:21-28. Jesus calls James and John from their fishing nets. He takes them as they are exactly where they are. Where have you sensed a call from God? How did that call change your vocation or avocation?
Respond by posting a prayer.