It is rare in Mark’s Gospel for Jesus to be called ‘Lord’ – a title of authority. Yet, on almost every page of his Gospel Mark raises the issue of Jesus’ authority and affirms by various means that his authority is absolute.
The first explicit mention of the term ‘authority’ comes in 1:22. Mark explains that the astonishment of the Capernaum crowd at Jesus’ teaching arises from his ‘authority’. In some way this distinguishes his teaching from that of the local scribes and sets him apart. Exactly what it was about Jesus’ teaching that identified this quality as unique is not explained here. However, as the narrative develops we can probably affirm that it was the prophetic note, his ability to interpret the First Covenant, the call to follow him, his claim to be "Son of God" and to speak for God, and his conflicts with the religious leaders. When Jesus taught, people heard the voice of God as never before.
Jesus expresses his authority through his actions. Immediately after Mark’s editorial comment (1:22), Jesus is challenged by a man "an an unclean spirit" (vs.23). Presumably the demon is reacting to Jesus’ teaching. He senses a serious threat to his work and accuses Jesus of planning "to destroy us" (vs. 24), fearing Jesus’ special position as "the Holy One of God". With a word Jesus commands the demon to release the man and to the surprise of the crowd, the demon obeys! Right before their eyes convulsions contort the man and his screams fill the synagogue, followed by human normalcy. The buzz among the crowd grows as they debate what kind of authority Jesus must have to compel the obedience of demons. They had never seen a spiritual battle resolved like this!
Throughout Mark’s Gospel Jesus demonstrates his authority both through his teaching and his actions. Many challenge his authority – religious leaders, Peter, demons, Herod, Satan – but in every case Jesus’ authority proves stronger, weightier, and more powerful.
How does Jesus’ authority intersect with our lives today? Does he still have power to drive away demons? Do his teachings fill us with astonishment because of their authority? Are we drawn to follow him because he speaks for God? Do we resist, claiming that our authority is greater or wiser or more effective? Does our astonishment at his authority cause us to spread the word to others about his ability to control evil and give us God’s truth?
In Jesus’ last great sermon in Mark (13:31) he announces that his "words shall never pass away". We today need his authority to bring peace and order into our lives. Thank God that He decided to show us so clearly His authority and allow us to benefit from its powerful blessing.
- read Mark 4:1-20 and place yourself within the various responses to Jesus’ authority. Does anything need to change in your response to Jesus’ authority today?
- determine one specific way in which you will conduct your life under Jesus’ authority today.