Today’s Thought: Do we view Jesus as “one having authority”?
They went to Capernaum; and when the Sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit… (Mark 1:21-23)
We learn early in life all about authority: who has it, how they wield it, and what it means to us specifically. We know the adults in our home have authority to give treats and take away screen time. Teachers in our school have authority to give an extra ten minutes of recess and take away recess altogether. Jesus revealed his authority early in his ministry. But the people struggled to understand just what his authority meant to them.
Jesus began his teaching in earnest when he arrived at Capernaum in Galilee, entering the synagogue on the Sabbath. Both the second and third gospels describe Jesus encountering a man there with an “unclean spirit,” who shouts, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.”
But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, “What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” (Mark 1:24-28).
The people have heard Jesus speak in the synagogue with authority. They also have seen Jesus wield authority over unclean spirits. But the people in the synagogue, including the disciples, don’t understand what this authority means to them specifically. Does Jesus have any authority over them? Is there any reason for them to submit to Jesus’s authority?
Their questions sound familiar, don’t they?
Of note: Did you notice that the unclean spirit was the only one who recognized Jesus’s true identity? “I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” Jesus immediately commands the spirit to be silent. In this time period, it was thought that one could gain power over a spirit if they called it by name, and some scholars think Mark included this exchange to show the spirit was unable to gain control of Jesus (even though he knew who he was). However, Jesus also commands silence of those he heals of physical ailments, such as the leper. (Jesus sent him away at once, saying to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone.” Mark 1:44-45) We’ll explore those commands of silence in more detail as we work our way through the Gospel of Mark. For now, be thinking about why Jesus might choose to exert his authority in this way.
Friday Faithful: Until the will and the affections are brought under the authority of Christ, we have not begun to understand, let alone to accept, His lordship. – Elisabeth Elliot