Signposts: Daily Devotions

Friday, March 4

When the Sabbath came, Jesus entered the synagogue and taught. They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.
—Mark 1:21b-22

In 1st century Palestine, scribes were respected, knowledgeable interpreters of the Law, and in synagogues they had a good deal of authority. So when Mark says that the people were astounded because Jesus spoke with authority and "not as the scribes," he is making quite a statement.

But Mark is not so much putting down the scribes as he is explaining how Jesus spoke with absolute sureness and command. Most particularly in this gospel, the word authority is used when speaking of Jesus. "Who is this who speaks with such authority?" the people ask themselves.

What is authority and what does it mean to have it? I used to think it had to do with authoritarianism, but recently I read a better definition: it means to author your life and thus to speak and act out of conviction.

Some people "in authority" don't come across as very "authentic," do they? Jesus, who had no educational, political or social "authority," spoke with such strength and conviction that crowds of people flocked to be around him. Eventually, his authority becomes such a threat to those "in" authority that Jesus is arrested and sentenced to death.

Who has taught you with authority? I think, gratefully, of teachers I had and clergy members I have known and/or worked with. I think of my wonderful grandmother who was barely five feet tall and was the most authentic person in my young life. Then I ask myself, "Who are the people I respect and listen to now?" Perhaps it is time to reassess the "authority figures" in my life.

Give us wisdom and clarity, O God, when we give authority to people. Help us to live with integrity and to live authentically. Amen.

These Signposts originally appeared on explorefaith in 2006.