Roger's Postings

Friday, January 27, 2012

Mark 1:21-28.             Under whose Authority??                              29/1/12

 (21)  They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. {22} The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law. {23} Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit cried out, {24} "What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are--the Holy One of God!" {25} "Be quiet!" said Jesus sternly. "Come out of him!" {26} The evil spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek. {27} The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, "What is this? A new teaching--and with authority! He even gives orders to evil spirits and they obey him." {28} News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee.

 Here today we have some advice that is desperately important for us as we go through life. At a time when we are faced with all kinds of issues, difficulties and troubles, so often we are uncertain as to who and what is the authority that we should be listening to and following. In an age where we have so much information, and so many guru’s, and yes, dare I say it, charlatans; who and what should we be looking to? Where are we to get the power we need in order to bring about the good we need in our lives? Well, here in this reading we are pointed to that which is a real authority: the only real authority.

 The only trouble is, it seems, that we want to always be looking for something new; something different; something more exciting: something that is popular; something that places me in the centre of it all. And again and again we see this happening in our own lives and around about us. We look to ourselves and what makes us feel good to determine what is right or wrong. We look to the almighty dollar and the things that it will buy us, to give security and happiness. Science and higher education is what will give us the answers we need to good health, a long life and what really makes the world tick.

 And even in the church we look to knowledge alone and not also to wisdom; we look to the culture around us to determine how we are to understand and interpret Scripture and church practice; we look to ourselves and our feelings to guide us in what is right or wrong. We listen to the ‘liberal authorities’ to guide us in our understanding of the truth. And our worship is first and foremost seen too often to be about us serving and worshipping God, instead of God serving us. And the list goes on.

 But with all of these things, if these are a first priority; and our authority that we look to; we do and will continue to find, that when the chips are down we will be left hanging ‘high and dry’. All these ‘lesser’ authorities will let us down when they are held up as ‘the’ authority. Time and time again we see this happen, and yet we always seem to think that somehow we are cleverer now than in previous times. We are smarter now, or whatever, and so we will not make the same mistake again. But again, if we are truly honest with ourselves, we will see that this is just not the case. Every authority, but one, will prove to be nothing but a disaster when they are looked to as the ‘be all and end all’.

Now of course, the devil and the forces of our culture, will keep telling us to try harder or to look again, to the ‘latest and greatest’ for our answers. We will hear that we need to change; change our psychotherapist or financial guru; change the government; switch religions; read the latest how to book; change our environmental policy; and many others: Each claiming to be the new and great authority that we need in order to go on.

 Saddest of all, is that we do little else but follow blandly along.

 But it is here again today that we are reminded of the one who truly has all authority, in heaven and on earth. Here in Jesus and his Word we have one who has proven his authority above all else. In both word and deed he has shown himself to have an authority which is way above all other authorities. Right here at the beginning of his ministry here on earth he shows quite clearly where true authority lies.

 First and foremost he enters into the heart of the worship life of his people and there proclaims God’s Word in all of its truth and purity. He simply and clearly spoke the Word as it is in the Scriptures without compromise. Here was the Word of God that humanity needs to hear if it is to attain peace with God and the security, hope and joy that it yearns for; along with so much more.

 Now we know from elsewhere in the Gospels that his core message was; ‘Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand.’ In other words; turn away from seeking your meaning and purpose in yourself and what you do, or in anything else other than God alone. Turn away from that human-centred thinking, to God himself and the forgiveness, life and salvation that he has to offer. In other words, Jesus got right down to the heart of the matter, and preached and taught what humanity needed to hear, not what it wanted to hear. That meant preaching the Law to the point where everyone knew quite clearly that they were not and could not measure up to the perfection that God expected from us all. Only when we despair of any hope within ourselves does he then reach out with his word of forgiveness and the assurance of eternal life. His death on the cross taking the punishment that we deserve, so that we might again be acceptable to God.

 Here we are told that, the people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law. He did not say that the Scriptures could mean this or it could mean that. Nor did he pander to the whims of the people hoping that he might be successful. He strongly but firmly said what had to be said, knowing that this was what we need to hear. God’s Word is God’s Word; and it is this which he calls us to listen to and heed. Jesus and his Word is the true authority that we need in order to go forward in life.

 Along with the authority of his teaching, we then find he also has the power to do what no human being can ever do. Here Jesus then takes up his authority even over the evil spirits that had possessed a man. The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, "What is this? A new teaching--and with authority! He even gives orders to evil spirits and they obey him. At another time we hear how even the winds and the waves obey him. He performed miracle after miracle. This Jesus has the authority to do that which is absolutely impossible to us human beings. There is nothing he cannot do. If it is for our good and for the good of his kingdom he will do it.

 There then we have one who has true and lasting authority. In word and in deed he has the real authority that is needed in life by each and every one of us. His word is true and lasting. His deeds are beyond comprehension.

That being the case, what are we going to do from here on? No doubt many will continue to look to the ‘authorities’ that the world around us look to. Many in the church even, will look to that which panders to their feelings and emotions; that can give us the easy steps to living with purpose; or how to pray so that we get results; and yes even those who promise to give us miracles and prophecies.

 At the same time we all will continue to look to ourselves as our own authorities. Far too often we will fall back into doing what we want to do; thinking we know best. We will be our own judge of what we will think and do; and we will continue to reap the sad rewards that go along with that thinking.

However surely as we are reminded here that Jesus and his Word is the real authority in life, we too will more and more look to him as the one who is all important for us. Since his Word is the real authority for us we will accept it as such, and so look to it and follow what it says; trusting that when it points us to the cross we know that we are forgiven and that life and salvation is now ours; guaranteed. Then we will go on to listen and obey what he has to say to us in all other aspects of life as well.

 Remember, as the real authority, the Lord Jesus has promised us we can have security, peace, hope and contentment even in the midst of troubles and hardship; in sickness we are well and whole; in captivity we are free; and in death we have life. All this and more is ours, even if we cannot see it, because Jesus is the one with the power and the authority to ensure that it is ours. Nothing now then in all creation can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. To him be all glory and honour, now and always. AMEN.

 Pastor Roger Atze
Glandore/Underdale Lutheran Parish



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