In this particular passage from the Gospel of Mark, we read about Jesus teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum. We hear that His teaching made such a deep impression on the people because, unlike the scribes who were the main teachers of the time, Jesus taught with authority.
In the time of Jesus, no scribe ever expressed his own opinion. They always quoted someone else; their ‘authority’. But a large part of Jesus’ ministry was teaching and He spoke with His own voice and His own ‘authority’. His teaching was fresh, direct, and had a transparency about it that let people know that He spoke from experience and truly believed what he was saying.
After working for 43 years in education, the majority of these as a teacher, I think I can claim to speak with some authority about the authority of teachers. Think back to your days at school. I am sure there are teachers you loved, teachers that challenged you and some that you just couldn’t click with. The ones I have related to were the ones who loved what they were teaching. They were passionate about the topic, knew all about it and spoke from “lived experience”. In other words, you could tell that they knew what they were talking about and believed in it. They also “walked the talk” and demonstrated their integrity by the way they conducted themselves.
That’s the experience the people of Capernaum had when they heard Jesus teach. Here was someone who knew what He was talking about; who spoke from experience and most importantly, who showed in His life what He was saying with His words.
Jesus not only spoke with ‘authority’, He spoke with authenticity. Unfortunately, for many of us today, our experience is that many of the leaders and prominent figures around us do not speak with that same authenticity. They lack credibility because we are not convinced that they truly “live what they speak.” Jesus’ authority came from His character and the fact that He backed up His words with deeds.
I was recently watching an interview where Jimmy Page was explaining how the classic song “Stairway to Heaven” was created. In that interview, Jimmy says, “The lasting quality of this music over all these years is the fact that everyone’s playing so honestly and with such conviction that it really shows.” Jimmy Page: How Stairway to Heaven was written – BBC News. To him, that explains why that particular song is still so popular today, 50 years after it was first released. His words are a good example of how something said or done with authority and authenticity can leave a great impression.
For us today, where is the authority? From where do we get our nourishment and direction? The answer is in the words and example of Jesus. But it’s not enough to listen to them. We must live them, and show our true character through our actions and deeds. In the words commonly attributed to St Francis of Assisi, “Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.”
Lawrie is reflecting on this Sunday’s Gospel Mark 1: 21-28