I am struck again with the intentionality of Jesus, but since I have recently written about that, I won’t explore it here. What also jumps out to me, though, is the twice-mentioned reference to Jesus’ “authority” (verses 22 and 27). In some way, the people perceived that Jesus had authority that other religious leaders did not.
Jesus’ authority, in contrast to those around him, was neither positional nor social. Jesus was not part of the religious leadership structure (in fact, he was one of the biggest antagonists to that structure), and he had just appeared on the cultural landscape so he did not yet have any “social weight”. So his authority had to come from somewhere (or someone) else. But from where?
The first clue we see is that even though Jesus’ authority was expressed through his teaching in the synagogue, his authority was different than the “teachers of the law”. Jesus’ unique authority was not an authority based on religious or scriptural knowledge, since that was a strength of the teachers.
The clearest indicator of the nature of Jesus’ authority occurs in verse 27 – Jesus doesn’t just have religious knowledge, he also has spiritual power. Jesus’ authority, as we will see later, came from his divinity. And the people had never seen that before. It is no surprise, then, that the verse next sentence says, “news about him spread quickly”!
Now, my mind can’t help but shift to one of my roles. I teach the scriptures in a church (and other places). Do I teach like the teachers of the law, or like Jesus? Am I even capable of teaching like Jesus? These are big questions for me!
On one hand, the New Testament book of Acts clearly shows that followers of Jesus are fully capable of teaching with and through the same authority as Jesus (through the Holy Spirit). But on the other hand, there are countless examples in my own life (and the lives of other teachers / preachers), where it seems that authority is entirely absent. Why the inconsistency?
The answer, I think, is that we live in a broken world that is in the messy midst of experiencing the the redemption that God is working out among us as we live. Our world is in flux. In other words, we live in a reality where the kingdom of God is already here, but not yet complete.
As an example, because of my own spiritual brokenness, sometimes my life and teaching seems to be amazing synchronized with what the Spirit of God is doing, but at other times I am not in sync with him. And many people can tell the difference.
So how do I stay in sync? For me, it involves big chunks of time alone with the biblical text and with God. It also involves spiritual disciplines like prayer. And it certainly involves remembering that I am completely incapable of affecting change in anyone’s life; God changes lives, not me. And I am desperately dependent upon God.
Hmm … what about you? Have you ever experienced someone teaching “with authority”? Have you ever been in sync with God and had that experience yourself?