Jesus and His newly called disciples entered Capernaum. On the Sabbath, Jesus entered the synagogue and began to teach. The people who heard Him were astonished and overwhelmed, “For He taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes.” Although Mark does not give us the content of the teaching of Jesus, we can find examples of the differences between Jesus’ teaching and teaching of the scribes elsewhere in the Gospel. Scripture suggest that the scribe’s traditional interpretation was inadequate. Mark noted that the teachings between the two were poles apart. Jesus’ teaching was fresh, new, alive, and empowered so that it struck the people with amazement, while the scribes’ teaching, on the contrary, was repeated, long-ago learned quotations from other rabbis, petty legalistic requirements, and distinctions concerning Levitical regulation. For certain, they were ineffective, they didn’t answer the needs of the people, and their proponents didn’t live what they preached. The Lord’s teaching highlighted His divine wisdom and His deeds of power which emphasized authority.
The word for authority, exousia, is related to the verb exesti, meaning “it is free” or “it is permitted”. In other words, exousia is the “sovereign freedom” of one who acts without hindrance. This “absolute freedom” is not a privilege but liberty under God’s authority to do His will and honor Him in everything we do.
In the next section, there is a typical ‘unclean spirit possession’ story. It seems demon possession was common in those days, even inside a synagogue. Perhaps the scribes and rabbis didn’t have an answer to this problem. Jesus dealt with the problem, using His authority to cast out the unclean spirit. This should reflect the present state of our church.
We as the people of God have been given the authority to take care of issues, to resolve disputes, to heal the sick, to forgive those who offend, to restore the lost, to solve problems, and much more. This season of Epiphany, may we as His church walk in the authority that God has given us to manifest His absolute freedom, living directly under His authority. St. Augustine of Hippo remarked that “Faith is mighty, but without love it profits nothing.” May we use God’s authority to serve humanity.