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When I Fight Authority

Mark 1:21–28 ESV

And they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and was teaching. And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes. And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are’the Holy One of God.” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him. And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” And at once his fame spread everywhere throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee.

Consider This

The authority of Jesus is my authority through the gift of the Holy Spirit. Authority is a very interesting concept. First, there are the authorities, which typically means the police, as in, “When I fight authority, authority always wins.” Then there are people who we refer to as an authority on a ­particular subject—a respected expert. Then we have leaders who are considered authoritarian, which means they manage to wield a lot of power despite not having any real authority. They tend to be feared more than respected. How about the idea of authorization, which typically refers to a grant or limitation of power, as in, “I’m not authorized to do that.” None of this gets at what is meant in today’s text where it says, And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes.

The teachers of the law were recognized authorities who operated within a certain bandwidth of religious authorization. They could be considered an authority on all matters pertaining to Scripture and its application to life. They more or less earned their authority by their legal righteousness. Jesus saw right through them. He referred to them as ­hypocrites’they maintained the appearance of righteousness but inside they were corrupt.

This cuts to the heart of the nature of Jesus’ authority. It was unlike theirs in that his authority proceeded from the endless depths of his authenticity. True authority is the fruit of real authenticity. This is why true authority can always be trusted. The hallmark of true authority is humility. This is what it means to be a real Christian.

Let me cut to the bottom line. Authority cannot be earned. The more a person tries to earn authority the more they prove they do not possess it. In fact, authority is not something you possess. Authority is who you become, and the only way there is the path of authenticity. Here’s where I will get controversial. The only way to true authenticity is through the only truly authentic One—Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah. He is the image of the invisible God, the one in whose image we were created and through whom we are becoming new creations.

Jesus doesn’t have authority, nor is he “an” authority, nor is he “the” authority. He is Authority Incarnate—Word made Flesh—very God of very God. And he gives authority to those who will give themselves to him.

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matt. 28:18–20)

The authority of Jesus becomes the authority of his followers through the authenticity of their fellowship in the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit authenticates the sons and daughters of God by making them truly human; which is to say, the humble image-bearers of the Son of God.

Will you dare to make this claim? “The authority of Jesus is my authority through the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Now claim it aloud. “The authority of Jesus is my authority through the gift of the Holy Spirit.” One more time: “The authority of Jesus is my authority through the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

It’s a humbling reality, isn’t it?

The Prayer

Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.

The Questions

Think of and describe a person in your past or present who carries the humble authority of Jesus. What is it about them?