The Good Samaritan by Ferdinand Hodler

They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law. (Mark 1:21,21) 

I wonder when the people in that Jewish synagogue began to perk up their ears during Jesus' teaching. What made them feel like there was a true authority in their midst? Was there a conviction to what he was saying, a willingness to commit that they didn't see in their own own teachers? Even so, there are many people who speak with authority (our current political campaigning gives us easy examples) without really knowing what they're talking about, or able to deliver what their "gospel" preaches.

We're not told in Mark what Jesus is teaching about. Luke tells us that Jesus had used this text from Isaiah in an earlier synagogue visit:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because
He anointed me to preaching the gospel to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives,
and recovery of sight to the blind.
To set free those who are oppressed.

Jesus did not hesitate to identify himself and his mission. But right away, his authority was challenged. A man with an evil spirit calls out to heckle the young rabbi. "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." 

Jesus is unfazed. He rebukes the spirit and orders him to leave the man. Freedom. For the oppressed. At this the congregation is even more amazed.

The other gospel writers tell us that before Jesus began his ministry, he spent some time in the desert, where he was tempted by the devil. The first temptation was to prove his authority. If he really was the Son of Man, the mocking voice dared, surely he could turn those stones into bread. But Jesus didn't have to prove who he was to anyone. Even as a young child he knew what he was about, and as he grew he leaned even more fully into the implications of being the true Son of God, anointed by the Spirit of God to do the work of God.

It makes me wonder about those of us who follow the Christ. Are we equally confident in our own calling, what it means to be a child of Almighty God? Do we believe in the same empowering Spirit of love? If so, do we still feel like we have to prove something to someone? Or like Jesus, are we moving with conviction, using the authority that has been given us to fulfill our own missions, whatever they may be?

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