“They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law. Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an evil* spirit cried out, “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”
“Be quiet!” said Jesus sternly. “Come out of him!” The evil spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek.
The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching—and with authority! He even gives orders to evil spirits and they obey him.” News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee.”
I don’t always respond well to authority. I don’t think I’m openly rebellious (okay, maybe sometimes), but I do have a healthy (growing) skepticism. Authority, obedience, and control are all hard for me to accept. There are times I must, but if I’m honest, it doesn’t come easy for me. Instead, I was born a learner. Ask anyone in my life… I love to learn. To explore new topics, to understand a different point of view, to discover new ways of thinking. In both formal and informal ways, I long to learn, to grow, and understand my world. Because of this, there is nothing that I love more than a good teacher. Someone to guide me, challenge me, engage me in discovery so that I can understand new things, and apply them to my life.
When Jesus commands the demon to leave, it obeys His authority. It puts on a show, but it simply obeys. Jesus commands it and the demon does it. In this instance, obedience flows from authority. Jesus had the authority to command obedience and so it was done. There is no tenderness, no love, no relationship, just authority. It’s simple, clean, and expedient.
Why doesn’t He do that in my life? You know, just tell me what to do and use His authority to make it so. He is God. He could just make me obey. Instead, he teaches. He teaches with authority, but He teaches. It is true, He had already presented the Law. The commandments and restrictions for life and holiness were already laid out there. Thou shalt not… That was authority. Fire and lightening, thunder and cloud revealing God’s greatness at Mount Zion. And the people responding in fear and awe, and they obeyed … for a little while.
Here, Jesus uses authority differently. He reveals His authority through His teaching and compassion. He uses His authority not to control the man, but to set him free. His teaching, His life, His ministry, His power all reveal His authority. Instead of using His authority to control people, He uses it to reveal Himself. The goal of Jesus’ ministry is not to control our lives but to reveal the Heart of the Father, that we might respond freely.
Authority says, “Thou shalt not kill” (Deut. 5:17)…
love says, “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matt 25:40)
Authority says, “Choose this day whom you will serve” (Joshua 25:15)…
love says, “it is God who works in you to will and to do” (Phil 2:13).
Authority says, “Keep his decrees and commands, which I am giving you today, so that it may go well with you and your children” (Deut. 4:40)…
love says, “Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:24).
In my life, teaching and learning is a lot like wrestling. I struggle to understand, to accept, to let this teaching change me, to make it my own. As my mentor and friend Toni says, “to move it from my head, to my heart.” When my kids were little, after baths and footie pajamas, damp haired toddlers would gather with their father on the living room floor. They would gang up on their dad, trying to pin him to the floor. He would toss them, roll them, and raise them high in the air… but he was always in control. This was an exercise in love and intimacy. This was not a true wrestling match, it was an act of love. He could take them down at any time. He wrestled that they might enjoy his closeness, trust his heart, and find their own strength.
As we engage with Jesus’ teaching, and His authority, it is good to remember that He is still in control. It is love that engages me to learn and grow in His love. He will wrestle with me as I struggle to make it my own, but I must remember, He could take me at any moment. Although He could command obedience, instead He offers “If you love me, keep my commands.” (John 14:15).
Reflect– What made you think as you read this?
Receive– What touched your heart?
Respond– What will you do because you read this?