Teaching With Authority
“He taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes.” This description of Jesus’ teaching today in the Gospel may be a strange one for us to hear. What does it mean for Christ to teach with authority, and why does that astonish the crowds listening to Him as He preaches? What is the difference between the Lord and the scribes and elders that so captivates the people of Capernaum this Sunday? The short answer is that while the scribes would have taught primarily by interpretation, explaining different passages of the Torah, or even famous and accepted opinions on passages of the Torah, Christ taught from His own soul, according to His relationship with the Father. He, like Moses, spoke from His conversations with the God of Israel, rather than on another text.
While in our world, it is common for people to give their own opinions on religious matters, to make decisions and speak to others based on the results of their own personal thinking, this would have been absolutely unacceptable in the ancient world. The only way one was permitted to speak of or teach about God was by permission from God Himself, demonstrated through miracles, or by offering clarity on the already accepted revelation of God. Moses could be the lawgiver of Israel because God spoke to Him directly, and confirmed everything by signs and wonders. The scribes and elders could teach the law of Moses, but they could never give the law as Moses had done. Thus when Christ teaches on His own authority, claiming to speak the word of God to the crowds, it is, at the very least, shocking, or, at the worst, blasphemous and offensive to His listeners. By casting out demons, not only does He free people enslaved to evil, but He demonstrates who He is, that He really does come from the Father, and He is not sent by the evil one as a fraud.
Christ teaches as He does because He is the second person of the Blessed Trinity, the Eternal Word of the Father, and the perfect expression of everything that the Father is. He can teach as He does because He is Truth itself. He has authority to say how things really are because He is the one through whom each and every one of them was made. Thus, everything He tells us is not only true, but the very source of truth, and every teaching of His that comes down to us through the Church is more reliable than the sun or the seasons.
So how do we respond to Christ’s teaching? Do we venerate what He tells us? Do we trust it with our whole hearts? Are we glad to have heard it, and proud to pass it on to others? Do we let Christ’s truth correct us? Do we ask Him to form us according to the way in which He first desired to make us? Do we ask Him to cast the demons out of our lives, along with all evil, anything that might keep us from fully accepting truth’s teaching? If we open our souls in humility to the true authority of Christ, we have nothing to fear. His only desire is our good, and all we will ever lose is the security of our pride. This week, especially as Lent draws near, we should offer our hearts in humility before Christ Jesus once again, asking that our hearts be converted to the vision of the one who sees all, and who alone loves us perfectly.