4th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
Psalm 95:1-2, 6-7, 7-9
1 Corinthians 7:32-35
January 28, 2018
As Jesus began to teach for the first time following his baptism we hear that, “The people were astonished as his teaching for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes.”
First, we should realize that the scribes did have some authority. As the scribes, they held positions that came with some authority in the same way that I have some authority as pastor. We have government officials who are elected or appointed who have authority by the nature of their election or appointment. Unless one works alone, normally, wherever we work, somebody holds a position that puts them in charge. The same is true in school for the staff and students. Even in families with young children, the parents are supposed to be in charge.
The scribes also had an implied authority that came from the fact that they could read and most of the people in those days couldn’t. If they said they read something in scripture or ancient writing, those who couldn’t read were not in a position to argue.
While the scribes had authority by position and their ability to read, it seems that authority didn’t seem to be worth much. On the other hand, Jesus is immediately recognized as “one having authority.”
Besides holding a “position”, what qualities do we look for in a person to say they speak with authority?
On a surface level, it might begin with how much we agree with what they say. For example, our “respect” for government officials can be significantly influenced by how much they agree with us. However, we shouldn’t really use this as a criteria for authority because it assumes we are always right and have all the information to make the right decision.
Other criteria might include their background in the field and how what they say matches up with available information. In the church, this would mean does what the person is speaking match with what’s in the Bible and/or the teaching of the church over time or does it seem brand new? Jesus himself says (Matthew 5:17) that he comes not to abolish the law but to fulfill it.
Another criteria for people we have heard before is to see if what they have said before prove true? This criteria would definitely be something to check into before investing with a new stock broker. If their predictions about which stocks and funds will go up in value have always been wrong, then we should NOT place future investments based on what they say.
Looking at Jesus today, we can see the fulfillment of his own words in his passion when he suffered for us.
Still other criteria might include is the person consistent in what they say. If they speak to different crowds, do they change what they are saying to make the people happy?
How about do they practice what they preach? Do they speak with confidence, like they believe it themselves?
Jesus would have spoken with confidence but as to seeing his words fulfilled as a basis of authority, the people were recognizing his authority before he had said much. We see the power of God at work through Jesus as he drives out the unclean spirit but they recognized his authority before he drove out that unclean spirit.
What did they see in Jesus that led to their astonishment at his teaching” as “one having authority?”
Certainly, Jesus would have spoken with confidence from his unity with the Father and the Holy Spirit. He would have also spoken with compassion, peace, and justice.
Do we not embrace authority that shows compassion for us? At times like the feeding of the 5,000, we hear how Jesus was moved with pity for the people?
And peace? While what Jesus says at times upsets people, Jesus never spoke to rile people up. Remember when Jesus appeared to his disciples after his death, his first words were “Peace be with you.” Jesus brings us the peace that comes with true faith.
Truth (including consistency with scripture), compassion, and peace are among what Jesus offers us. He offers a renewed sense of justice that comes with the forgiveness of sins that makes salvation possible for us. These qualities of Jesus lead us to place our trust in him.
As pastor, I try to follow Jesus’ example in the way he leads. How about you? Do you show compassion, peace, and justice to others based on God’s teachings? Or do you use a position of authority to get what you want?
Let us all use whatever authority we have as parents, bosses, teachers, or government position to help people know that they are loved and to help them become who Christ calls them to be.