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Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time B

January 31, 2021

Mark 1: 21 - 28

By Rev. John Tran

“All were amazed and asked one another, ‘What is this? A new teaching with authority. He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.”

All the people in the synagogue were in agreement; that is a hard thing to accomplish! And what was it that made them reach this conclusion?

It does not seem that is was mainly the control of unclean spirits. The gospels tell us that even before this people were astonished at Jesus teaching because he taught with authority and not like the scribes. Certainly the scribes taught with some authority, but it was authority received form others; they always quoted ancient authority to make the point. Jesus, however, taught with what seemed to be his own authority.

Like the people in that synagogue, there are so many voices in our world today that call our to us to go other ways than those which lead to Jesus and his Father. In our confusion we fail to listen correctly to his words, even thought those words are gifts to us. These other ways make our words and actions to fail to reflect one another. They confuse us and even cause us to doubt our faith in the power of Jesus. We become like some of his audience who in the face of the cross, forgot that he taught with authority and could even command the unclean spirits.

When we read this gospel, we see that Jesus always teaches with consistency. He does not say one thing now and another thing later. There is really no division between his words and his actions. He is totally consistent and congruent. Jesus lived what he taught, and whatever he said and did was a reflection of his love. It is no wonder that his listeners were amazed. Jesus’ authority came from his unfailing reflection of his Father’s love and from the harmony that existed between his words and actions. These are compelling reasons to draw from our hearts the confidence to follow him in faith.

Suppose that you’re sitting at a traffic light, in the middle lane, waiting for the light to change. On your left is a Dodge Viper, with about a zillion horsepower, just waiting to streak away like a shot. That is power! On your right is the biggest, shiniest eighteen-wheeler you ever saw, with chromium exhaust pipes and a cab that looks two stories tall, and it is rumbling like a thousand snarling lions, waiting for the light to change. That’s power! But just before the light begins to change, you see a State Policeman, in shiny boots and spit-and-polish uniform. His car is parked across the way. He is evidently filling in for the school crossing guard. He walks to the center of the street and holds up his hand. All the traffic comes to a stop. You wait. The Viper waits. The eighteen-wheeler waits. And a tiny little girl with a backpack walks kitty-corner across the busy intersection. The rumbling engines may have power. But he has the authority! Just like the drivers in the outside and inside lanes, the Scribes could make a lot of noise and show off a lot with their pretentious knowledge, arguing from sunrise to sunset on obscure points of law. But only Jesus had both power and authority that was recognized by demons, and also the power and authority to command their instant, unquestioning obedience. Here is the point: the Scribes never yielded to the wisdom and truth of Jesus Christ. Now it is your turn: will you recognize, trust and yield to the authority of Jesus, or will you follow your own opinions?

If we are Jesus’ followers, today we remember that his authority came from the connection between his words and his actions. They were consistent with one another. The more we try to make our words and actions consistent with his, the more the many voices of our world will fade. When Jesus spoke, people recognized that this was the real thing. How do we sound today? We can have his authority if we conform our words and actions to Jesus and his Father, and make them our own. Think of the impact that would have, not only on the people around us, but as the Christians of the world. That would make a difference beyond all telling.

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