It’s a classic movie cliché—the teacher is gone for the day, and in walks a substitute. The substitute doesn’t have the authority or relationship with the students, so the students feel free to subvert the sub’s borrowed authority with pranks and general hilarity. Authority matters. While a substitute teacher has authority in name, he or she doesn’t have the same authority as a teacher who has earned it through relationship.
In Mark’s Gospel, we see the authority of Jesus. Mark describes Jesus’ entering the synagogue and teaching the people. He is recognized by his hearers as one with authority, not like local scribes. The type of authority Jesus has is divine. He is fully God and fully human, and his listeners recognize this authority right away.
Jesus illustrates his authority as a teacher through his actions. When a man with an unclean spirit comes to him, he names Jesus as the Holy One of God. Jesus rebukes the spirit, and it comes out of him. And again, his hearers are amazed at a “new teaching with authority.” Jesus’ healing ministry not only corroborates his authority but also validates his ministry of teaching.
When faced with the authority of Jesus, what will we do? Will we be amazed, will we fight against it, or will we worship? Will we recognize the authority of Jesus?
The idea of “authority” in western, individualistic cultures can feel stifling. We often want to fight against the limits and boundary lines of God’s good order so we can make our own way in the world. Recognizing your desire to be in control of your own life, spend some time thinking about the goodness of God’s authority. God uses authority to enlighten, to heal, to be known, and to tell us what the kingdom of God is like.
Lord God, all of creation bends to your will. Show me the places where I resist your authority and the ways I can praise you for the authority you have over your world and my heart. 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 also gracious and merciful. Paul instructs the Corinthians to place the rights of others before their own rights. A person’s conscience may allow one 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. For what are you praising God today? How have you experienced God’s steadfast love recently?
Read 1 Corinthians 8:1-13. What do you think of Paul’s statement, “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up”? Can you think of examples of this in your everyday life?
Read Mark 1:21-28. How do you react to the concept of authority? How does the authority of Jesus differ from the authority we may encounter in the world?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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