Responding to Authority


Mark 1:21   They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. 22 They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.


Jesus moved from Nazareth to Capernaum where he engaged in much of his ministry activity. As we begin this first chapter of Mark we are taken in rapid succession through a series of events that identify the life of Christ. This includes calling Peter to ministry, and then this scene where he teaches in the synagogue in Capernaum. Peter responds immediately to the call of Christ while the religious leaders do not.

Many small communities had synagogues which were used throughout the week as schools in which the Jewish boys of the community studied. If a community did not have a permanent rabbi then the synagogue would ask a visiting rabbi to teach on the Sabbath. Jesus was one of these visiting rabbis who taught on a regular basis. To add authority to their teaching the rabbi would often quote other well-known and well-respected teachers. When Jesus taught they were all amazed for he didn’t quote any famous rabbis, but simply spoke with his own authority. Peter responded to that authority and his life was transformed. The message went from his head to his heart. Sadly, this wasn’t the case with the religious leaders. They recognized the authority and listened, but didn’t give space for the word to soften their hearts and provide for real change.

The idea of challenging authority has been around for a long time. If not challenging authority, we may be questioning authority! When Jesus got up to preach, people questioned his authority. Who was this man and why was he teaching? They had never experienced his kind of authority and they were not sure how to respond. Jesus’ authority came partnered with holy love. He spoke truth in a desire to draw all of humanity back into a holy relationship with God. His words were powerful and produced a holy longing in the heats of many — but not all. There were those who wanted to refute his authority.


We are tempted to refute all kinds of authority and I believe that has created a challenge for us as followers of Jesus Christ. A lack of trust in humans and systems has produced a rather cynical world that doesn’t know what to do with authority. Maybe we question — what is REAL authority?  Real authority comes from authenticity. Jesus was so authentic that he didn’t need any outside sources to speak to his authenticity — or authority. He was the source — or author — of the truth!

In this first chapter of Mark we meet Peter, the people in the synagogue and then a man who is healed from an unclean spirit. All of these people encounter the authority of Christ and all respond in a different way. Peter submits to the authority of Christ and is transformed. Those in the synagogue recognize the authority but do nothing. The unclean spirit fears the authority and therefore flees. We have our choice as to how we will respond to the authority of Christ but only by submitting to his authority can we experience the life-transformation that we see in Peter.

Yes, that level of life transformation is possible today! Submitting to the authority of Christ in our lives leads us into a relationship with our holy God that we cannot begin to imagine. The blusterous Peter — the one who denies Christ — becomes the great preacher when filled with the Holy Spirit. Only because he responded to the authority of Christ did this occur. We will never be changed if we simply find ourselves enjoying the teaching of Christ but not submitting to his authority in our lives. We must let go of the controls and let Jesus do and accomplish all that he wants in and through us. This is how we respond to the true authority.


Lord, thank you for your word of truth.  Amen.
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