“What is this? A new teaching with authority.” The people in the synagogue were amazed by what they heard.
What did they mean by “a new teaching with authority” and “not as the scribes”?
You can read any decision of a court, any argument by a lawyer, any encyclical of a pope, or any document of a church council and they are full of quotations or references to something another court decided or another pope or council said. That was how the scribes taught, calling upon past interpretations and insights of respected and famous rabbis.
But Jesus was different. He relied on the truth of what he was teaching based on his own reflection, his own arguments. Remember the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew’s Gospel, how many times he said quoting a commandment or a tradition: “You have heard said”, and continuing, “but I say to you ….” That’s authoritative teaching.
Jesus could talk the talk. But they were only words that could amaze, surprise, and entertain But Jesus’ authority went further. “He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.” Now the people in the synagogue were really astonished, dumbfounded, and dazed. With a simple command, “Come out of him”, he freed a man who was under their control, not relying on incantations; long, wordy prayers; or crying out to Yahweh. That’s real authority.
So many times we read the Gospels as another story along the lines of a Harry Potter novel or Sci-fi, not recognizing they speak truth witnessed by real people in real time in a real place. It isn’t made up. It’s real. We oftentimes don’t appreciate the power of Christ’s words and actions, the hope they called forth, the wonder they inspire. Have we become so blasé, so jaded, so sophisticated that we don’t get how marvelous they are and how awesome Jesus is?
Listen to some of his words again:
• “Stop judging, that you may not be judged.” (Mt. 7:1)
• “Take care what you hear. The measure with which you measure will be measured out to you, and still more will be given to you.” (Mk. 4:23-24)
• “But to you who hear I say, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. – Be merciful just as your Father is merciful.” (Lk.6:27-28, 36)
• “I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.” (Jn. 13:15)
If we follow these words and all the others, we can cast out the evil spirit that says: “That’s just the way it is.” NO! This is a better way.
4th Sunday in Ordinary Time, B18