One Having Authority
“He taught them as one having authority” (Mark 1:22). The word “authority” carries a sense of power: here, to know the Scripture, to know and understand the people listening, and to control the evil spirit in the man.
This passage begins in a rather matter-of-fact fashion. Jesus is setting up in Capernaum, a favorite gathering place of his ministry. It is the Sabbath; Jesus takes the scroll, reads it, then interprets it. Here the crowd is aroused: “How well he speaks; he gives me something to think about. Why he sounds better than the scribes when they speak; what authority he has!” Many of us have heard one who speaks with authority on one subject or another, one who holds our attention and inspires awe. These experiences help us to understand how the people of this synagogue felt about Jesus. They recognize him as a man of power.
Imagine their surprise when the man with an unclean spirit approaches Jesus. Mark’s Gospel has all spirits know and speak to Jesus. “Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are” (Mark 1:24). When Jesus calls the spirit out of the man, people ask, “Who is he that even the spirits obey him?” Here Jesus at the beginning of his ministry shows that he not only knows the Scripture and its deeper meaning, but also has the ability to cast out demons and heal and forgive sin—power indeed. People lose no time in spreading the stories of his abilities.
Today’s lesson is about power—not the power that warriors and political forces, or kings, presidents, and the like would understand. The power that Jesus held was unlike what anyone before or after him has ever shown. Gandhi came close. Jesus had the power of understanding what God expected of him, of knowing what God would do for him. We all work at attaining a small bit of this power.
Wanting to know ourselves and to find good and love as well as disappointment and indifference within. Follow the way. Jesus set us a good path, easy to see, if not to follow. Prayer, study, stewardship, hospitality are all steps to help us along the way. We are never alone. Jesus still has the power.
Martha E. Griffis, elder, Central Moravian Church, Bethlehem, PA
Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany
February 1, 2015