Authority is literally the right and power someone has to exercise control over a certain group of people. This necessarily comes from his position. When a person or an institution has the right and power to enforce an order which demands obedience from a certain number of people, they are said to possess the authority to do so.The authority of Jesus is shown in today’s readings.
When an authority speaks, his words are always binding and demand nothing but obedience. In this first public appearance, Jesus astounds the synagogue congregation by the way He teaches and how He shows supremacy over the demonic world, thereby revealing His authority over the physical and the spiritual.
The question we then have to ask ourselves is “do we recognise that Jesus still has authority? Can we be able to take His words as something that is binding? Do we essentially recognise that the words He speaks carry great power?
The three things that played out today especially in the first reading and the gospel are; the teaching authority of Jesus, the healing authority and the authority to free and save souls from bondage.
The Prefiguration and Prophecy.
In the first reading, we see Moses telling the people that the Lord will send to them a prophet like Him. This prophet has to come from the people and among the people. He should be one with them.
(i) The Reason.
In this reading, we can see that Moses refers to what happened at the mountain. At the Mountain Sinai, the people heard the voice of God and became terrified. The mountain blazed with great fire, lightning and thunder (Deuteronomy. 4:11-12, 36; 5:23).
The people became so afraid of hearing God’s voice after this experience. They asked that Moses should speak to God on their behalf, hence their mediator. (Exodus 20:18-19).
So as Moses is nearing the end of His life, He promises the people that God is going to send a prophet to be His successor.
(ii) Who then is this Prophet?
After the death of Moses, no known prophet existed at the time, all that came were referred to as judges. They served as leaders leading the people to the promised land.
The prophet that Moses was referring was a prophetic language referring to one who is to be a lawgiver, representative of God on earth, and a mediator between the people and God. This is no other person than Jesus Christ.
The words He is going to speak possesses divine authority and not human authority. This is why in the gospel, Jesus shows He is the perfect fulfillment of the prophecy of Moses. He teaches them like one who is the author of the words.
Therefore, as Moses is the mediator of the Old Covenant (Exodus 24), Jesus is the mediator of the New Covenant (Hebrew 9:15).
The Authority of Jesus at Capernaum.
When Jesus teaches at the synagogue on the sabbath day at Capernaum, His hearers were highly astonished at His teaching. They were astonished because this is quite different from what it used to be. This is because, He teaches them like one with authority.
The use of the word “like” indicates that the people are yet to understand Him. They see Him as one who comes to attend their synagogue service, hence they noticed a very sharp difference between what Jesus teaches and that of every other teacher who comes to the service.
A Little Understanding.
1. In those days, the leaders of the synagogue appoint teachers or choose someone who can read and comment on the readings. Sometimes they would host a teacher like a scribe or Pharisee who can as well teach them.
It was said that the scribes taught with second hand information. Their teachings are more of saying, “you know it is written here or this rabbi said this”. But Jesus teaches like one with firsthand authority. In the gospels, Jesus always says “ you have heard that it was said, but today I say to you”.
In essence, Jesus speaks as the true author of the words, speaking from the original stuff.
2. In the time of Jesus, there is this belief that demons are very powerful and could do anything to inflict trouble and suffering.
It is very hard to see anyone who could drive out these demonic spirits from people. The Jews use natural healing methods to relieve someone of demonic possessions. But Jesus simply gives order and the demon would obey.
The people find this to be astonishing. There and then they witnessed that the power of the words that Jesus speaks does not only change us but has great power over every spiritual force. Everything seen and unseen is subject to Him.
Like these people who are yet to comprehend His power, we are yet to come to terms with the changing, saving, and healing power that comes from Jesus.
When Jesus speaks everything obeys but when He talks to us, we hear and refuse to obey and yet we come back to blame God for our misfortunes in life. Obedience to God is simply for our own good but man bluntly says no to Him. We do as we like and refuse to submit under His authority.
In the first reading, God tells Moses of the future prophet, He is going to raise. The Lord says to Moses “ I will put my words into His mouth and He shall tell them all that I command Him”.
This indicates that the words we hear are not ours but that of God, and of course demands our attention and obedience. But today we can obey our earthly masters and those we serve but relegate God to the background. We can even go to any extent to acquire wealth, but cannot travel a single mile to be close to God.
In the first reading, the Lord made it clear that they owe Him nothing but obedience to this prophet he is going to send and must listen to Him. So, anyone who refuses to listen must be ready to render an account. In essence, obedience to the words of this prophet and refusal to it will be the standards of our judgment on the last day.
So, what God demands from the people is nothing but obedience and undivided attention to Him as Paul speaks in the second reading.
1. Despite that Jesus has supreme authority over everything, He did not for one day use it against humans, even to those who persecuted Him.
In Luke 9: 53-54 when the Samaritans rejected Him, His apostles asked him to call down fire from heaven and consume them, Jesus rebuked them for thinking such.
In Luke 22:5-51, when Peter cut off the ear of those who come to arrest Jesus, instead of praising what Peter did as someone who wants to defend Him, rather Jesus warned Him and proceeded to heal the ear of the servant of the High priest. But mere humans whose authority is nothing but earthly, who knows that whatever they have must surely come to an end one day use their authorities to intimidate, suffer and unleash mayhem on the people they serve.
Today, instead of using our positions to promote peace, we promote divisions, suppress the truths and exercise power as if we are the owners of the world.
In different places today we will find tyrannical leaders, in our families, villages, towns, states and the country, even in different schools, offices and positions. The question we will ask ourselves is “what would Jesus could has done with the position given to me?
2. The authority of Jesus was used to save, teach, guide and direct people, expel demons and make people free. In essence, his authority is to save man and free Him from the kingdom of darkness. Can we also use our authorities in the same manner free people from suffering and intimidation.
3.We are authorities in our different fields of endeavour. Whatever we have comes from God. God said in the first reading, “I will appoint”. Therefore, it is God who appoints.
Wherever we are, cannot be possible if not by the grace of God. God puts you there for a reason best known to Him. Hence, do we use our positions to save or to destroy?
In many countries today, when leaders find themselves in certain positions, they see it as an opportunity to kill and eliminate their enemies. Some who find themselves as leaders use it as an opportunity to turn the truth against the innocent.
Our positions are meant to save and give people freedom from physical and spiritual bondage and not a source of intimidation.
4. In the gospel, immediately the demon encountered Jesus, it began to shout. In essence, it could not withstand the power that comes from His presence. If demons cannot withstand the power and presence of Jesus, then we need Jesus in our everyday life.
To walk with Him is to walk in power against every spiritual and demonic power. Allow Jesus also to speak over your life condition.
There are many sins we commit today and we do not really know how we began it and how to end it. A sincere relationship with the Lord and a decision not to lose this relationship will go a long way to save us.
6. Do you remember that the man possessed by an evil spirit was in the church. He was even praising Jesus and calling Him the Son of God.
Many of us today use the church to camouflage. We hide under the garment of coming to the church daily, but at home, we are the problem why people are under bondage.
Like the evil spirit was calling Jesus son of God, praising Him, we also dance, shout and pray as if a fire will rain down from heaven. Some mimic and show people how they can speak in tongues but behind our hearts is evil and wickedness.
At church, we become holy but at home, we create divisions, quarrels, and vehemently cause mayhem. The demon submitted to Jesus’ authority. Therefore, let us also submit under God’s authority when we hear God talks to us through His word. His word cannot but change and save us.
As Jesus liberated the man possessed today, let our presence liberate and help people rather than killing and enslaving them.
May we be a consolation to the suffering and the depressed. May the words we speak change, inspire and encourage rather than cause trouble or bring problems to people. Therefore, let us submit ourselves entirely to the Lord.
May His words continually abide with us. May His grace remain with you this week. Amen