“A new teaching with authority.”
Indeed, Jesus comes with a new teaching—with authority—authority enough to drive out unclean spirits. This proclamation begs the question: What did those around Jesus experience as new. In fact, they were aware of other authority figures in the past that demonstrated great power. We need only think of Moses and the prophets. But what is certainly new here is that the people believed it was God’s authority in Moses and others that accomplished God’s almighty power. What is new in Jesus (and what they can’t seem to put their finger on) is that Jesus’ authority is his own; and when they finally figure this out, the majority will decide he should be crucified for making such a claim for “he blasphemes!”
Today, do you and I give it to God? Give it to Jesus? To the Holy Spirit? the authority of God, that is. Remember what Jesus says to Pilot, when Pilot claims to have the authority to put him to death? “Pilot, you would have no authority unless it were given to you from above.” Young and old, you and I claim all sorts of authority, don’t we? An older brother or sister naturally feels some authority over younger brothers and sisters. And it escalates from there.
What it means to recognize that all authority emanates from God means that true authority in the hands of human beings magnifies the Lord in all ways. We respect authority when it rings true, when it earns our confidence because of its redeeming qualities, and when it works for justice, human dignity, and an abiding peace. Those that would brainwash and impose a perverted authority on others in order to feed a sick or otherwise diseased ego, or perhaps to claim a divine right to force conversion of others by threat of violence, must be exposed for the great danger to abiding peace and justice that they are.
Jesus warned us from the beginning, didn’t he, that “There are those who will claim to come in my name, but do not follow them.” To be assured that our own authority is in communion with God’s authority is first of all to be possessed in humility, and then, for the Christian, to walk with Jesus and grow in his discipleship. This goes for older brother or sister, mom or day, teacher or student monitor, pastor, deacon, or lay leader, President or King, or a child taking care of its pet. It requires as St. Paul says today, “adherence to the Lord without distraction.” Or in the words of a wise spiritual director, “FOCUS, FOCUS, FOCUS!”