Mark 1:21-28 NIVUK
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 impure 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 impure 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 impure spirits and they obey him.’ News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee.
In the first century, the areas under the influence of the Jerusalem Temple were subject to a great many authority figures. The Romans and the various Herods aside, there were a huge number of different religious movements. The two most popular were the Sadducees and the Pharisees. The Sadducees were comprised of wealthy traditionalists. We learn from scripture that they didn’t believe in the promised resurrection; this may have been because they had no use of such a thing – they had, to use one of Yeshua’s phrases, already received their reward in full. The Pharisees, in contrast, were a movement that began among the lower classes, dedicated to making the lofty and intimidating laws and mitzvot of Moses more accessible to the average person. They did this by building on the laws. For example: Scripture tells us not to work on the Sabbath, but what does ‘work’ mean, and when does Sabbath start and finish? The Pharisees, in their attempt to make the laws easier to follow, created more and more until the people who followed their teachings were overwhelmed. When the very powerful Pharisaic family of Annanias was placed into the position of High Priest by the Romans, then Pharisaic thought and practice became the norm, hence why Yeshua butted heads with them so frequently; they were the religious authority of their day.
Authority is a strange thing. The Sadducees exercised theirs to make themselves comfortable, and the Pharisees used theirs to impose laws and regulations. Ordinary people suffered under these. Yeshua used His to introduce people to a Person – the Person of God, who longs to be close to His people and to be known by them.
What religious authority do we have in our world today? Catholics have the Pope, Anglicans have Archbishops, Methodists have the Connexion. In the absence of physical representations of our God, idols and icons, there is a tendency to worship the Bible – which is Holy and precious, but serves the same purpose that Yeshua served in His ministry: to point us to the Father.
The authority we need in our lives is an authority which Yeshua gave to us – the authority to speak out against evil and falsehood, to change lives and set people free.
Here’s a quote from C S Lewis: ‘Man does not have a soul. He is a soul. He has a body.’
Our authority is demonstrated by Yeshua, given by the Spirit, informed by the Bible, for the glory of the Father, and it doesn’t come from reading about God or listening to clever people talk about Him; it comes from knowing Him, and from loving Him.
Do you exercise your authority? Did you know that evil things would run from you in fear? Perhaps God wants to remind you of that – you are His, and He is yours.
Loving Father God,
Thank You that You know us intimately,
That You want us to know You in the same way,
And that You have made us heirs along with Messiah Yeshua.
Thank You that we have not been left powerless,
But that Your Holy Spirit, Who brought the universe into existence,
Dwells within us in all Her strength and majesty.
Please help us to recognise the power that You seek to wield through us,
And enable us to use Your authority in us to make Your Kingdom come,
Your will be done,
And Your love be known to the ends of the earth.
Madeleine Reed – Helen Kim Memorial Scholar
Photo – Mohammed Nohassi on Unsplash