When Jesus began his public ministry, those he met were struck by his amazing authority. This, I would suggest, is a pretty secure fact about the historical Jesus. It is mentioned twice in this reading, first in relation to his teaching in the synagogue, then in relation to his power over evil spirits. What is less clear to me is exactly what this amazing authority looked like in practice because the gospels don’t go into much detail. But then it can be, when we meet a remarkable human being, that we are struck by how they are possessed of something special even though we find it hard to put our finger on exactly what it is. My hunch is that, in Jesus’ presence, people felt a strong sense of the immediacy of God’s presence and purpose.
Authority is not something we are terribly keen on in today’s world. We tend to be very suspicious of it – often with good reason. We need to rediscover what true authority looks like.
So here’s my starting point from this reading: can we get a sense of what this amazing authority of Jesus feels like for us? And how can we reimagine our world with that amazing authority at work?
21 Jesus and his disciples came to the town of Capernaum, and on the next Sabbath Jesus went to the synagogue and began to teach. 22 The people who heard him were amazed at the way he taught, for he wasn’t like the teachers of the Law; instead, he taught with authority.
23 Just then a man with an evil spirit in him came into the synagogue and screamed, 24 “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Are you here to destroy us? I know who you are —you are God’s holy messenger!” 25 Jesus ordered the spirit, “Be quiet, and come out of the man!”
26 The evil spirit shook the man hard, gave a loud scream, and came out of him. 27 The people were all so amazed that they started saying to one another, “What is this? Is it some kind of new teaching? This man has authority to give orders to the evil spirits, and they obey him!”
28 And so the news about Jesus spread quickly everywhere in the province of Galilee.