“Jesus, the Ultimate Authority” (Mark 1:21-28)

Who will have the “authority” at the Super Bowl this weekend? (As you read this we know the winner, but who had the authority?)  Who has the authority in the classroom – especially with a substitute teacher?  Who has the authority in the family, especially when the 2-year-old demands – “I do it!” (translated – I want to be in charge!). What about the authority between husband and wife?  And who has the “authority” in our government – President Obama (Democrat) or House Speaker, John Boehner, and the Republican majority Congress?

Recently, (January 20) President Obama delivered his State of the Union address. There was much fanfare and media coverage. It was interrupted many times by applause. With much authority the president spoke, but nothing really changed. In many ways, it was more of a pep talk than anything else.

How interesting to compare and contrast this with today’s Gospel reading from Mark 1, as Jesus speaks in the synagogue. The audience was much smaller. No television. No fanfare. Interrupted, yes, but not by applause… And it was much more than a pep talk.

God’s Word from Mark 1, records for us: “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.” (v.21-22)

The teachers of the law in Jesus’ day were like the attorneys-at-law in our day.  They did not establish the law, but stated opinions and backed it up by quoting others whose authority had already been established. But Jesus’ “teaching” was DIFFERENT! “He taught them as One who had authority.”  Numerous times the Gospel writers record Jesus saying:

  • “You have heard that is was said …do not murder…But I say to you that anyone who is angry with his brother is a murderer…”
  • “You have heard that is was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart…”
  • “You have heard that it was said, “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy, but I say to you: Love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you…” (Matthew 5:21-22, 27, 38, 43)

Jesus spoke with AUTHORITY because He IS the “AUTHOR”, the Word of God incarnate.

In a worldly sense, Jesus did not have any power at all. He was not a worldly king or priest; He was not even a scribe or Pharisee. His authority was hidden – true God, humbling Himself as true Man.

And so it is today. Jesus’ authority is hidden in the humble preaching and teaching of pastors and Christians, moms and dads. Millions of people push away the Bible, talk about Christ in a disrespectful way. They treat God’s Word as a mere “pep talk” with no authority over their life; their attitude is “I will do as I please.”

God has strong words for those who do not listen to His Word.  In the Old Testament reading – Deuteronomy 18 – after the promise: “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to Him.” (v.15) and then the warning: (v.19) “If anyone does not listen to My words that the prophet speaks in My name, I Myself will call him to account.” God is talking about punishment – eternal separation from God / punishment in hell!

But there is good news: the “prophet like Moses” – Jesus – was sent by the Father “not to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” (John 3:17) Listen and be blessed by the authority of Jesus and His Word!

There was an interruption (not applause): “a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit cried out, ‘What do You want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are – the Holy One of God!’ ‘Be quiet!’ said Jesus sternly. ‘Come out of him!’ The evil spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek. The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, ‘What is this? A new teaching – and with authority! He even gives orders to evil spirits and they obey Him.’” (Mark 1:23-27)

What disrespect of the demons to demand of Jesus: “What do You want with us?” (as if the demons could “demand their rights,” saying in effect that Jesus had no right to interfere with what they were doing!)  The same is true today. When God’s Word is so clear about “no longer conforming to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:2); and “Live by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” (Galatians 5:16) What a rejection of Jesus’ authority to live our lives in selfish, self-serving, worldly ways, contrary to God’s clear Word!

The evil spirit said: “I know who You are – the Holy One of God!”  Does knowledge give authority? In today’s second reading, God’s Word warns us: “knowledge puffs up” (1 Corinthians 8:1). Note the warning from God’s Word: “The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know.  But the man who loves God is known by God.” (1 Corinthians 8:2-3)

HERE is the Good News – “being KNOWN BY GOD” and therefore loving God and His Word!  Note how this is so much more than merely being “amazed at Jesus teaching and His power over demons.” Being known by God is the gift of faith – ours because of Jesus’ authority of Word and deeds. Again today, through Jesus’ AUTHORITY of “His teaching,” life, death and resurrection we are “known by God:”

– Because of His authority: Jesus renews us daily in the blessings of our baptism;
– He “removes the power of sin” through His forgiveness in Confession and Absolution;
– He “creates a new heart” through His Word in liturgy and hymns; the readings and sermon;
– and especially, as He gives us His true body and true blood in the Lord’s Supper!

He does not give these for “knowledge that puffs up, but (for) love (that) builds up… the man who loves God is known by God.” (1 Corinthians 8:2-3)

“Being known by God / loving God,” He blesses us as we daily read, hear and live according to His Word and we actively seek to DO His will. All through of the Authority of Jesus and His Word in us!

Pastor Myers

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