by Robby Higginbottom
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.
We have an authority problem. Have you noticed? When we look around, we see people refusing to submit to all kinds of authority: government, doctors, teachers, coaches, parents, and the list could go on and on. Our authority problem runs deeper than our distaste for particular people. In our sin, we reject God’s authority and assert our own, which makes it difficult to embrace anyone else’s. Sin sets in motion a rebellion that seems impossible to interrupt. We try to be kings and queens of our own domain, but there are moments when we feel the tension. We tap the brake when we see a police car, even when we’re not speeding. We feel uncomfortable when we see a player yelling at his coach, even when we’re not playing. We laugh when the 3-year-old says, “You’re not in charge.” We laugh because he’s right. In the ultimate sense, we’re not in charge, and our refusal to accept that explains most of our problems.
Almost everyone in the synagogue on that Sabbath day had an authority problem, too. The religious leaders thought they were in charge of the people. The people thought they were in charge of their own lives. And the unclean spirit thought he was in charge of this poor man. But then Jesus “entered the synagogue and was teaching” (Mark 1:21). It didn’t take long for the people to notice that there was something different about this Man, “for He taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes” (Mark 1:22). They probably didn’t know it, but they weren’t just listening to a word from the Bible; they were listening to the Word Himself. They weren’t just hearing from an expert in the law; they were hearing from the One who came to fulfill it. Because of His authority, Jesus demanded a response. No one could remain neutral. The religious leaders would have to accept His authority or seek to destroy Him. The people would have to trust Him or reject Him. And the unclean spirit would have to come out of the man, for who can resist His will?
We all have an authority problem. Have we brought it to Jesus? Have we seen the folly of rejecting all authority but our own? Have we seen the sweetness of submitting to the Lord of lords and King of kings? We’re often impressed with ourselves. Has the Spirit impressed us with a vision of who Jesus is? Have we seen that the One who claims to have all authority in heaven and earth (Matthew 28:18) is the same One who laid down His life to redeem us? When was the last time we asked in wonder, “Who is this?” In this tumultuous moment in history, may we rest in the astonishing authority of Jesus Christ.