Friday after Trinity 18
October 8, 2021
Jesus’ Authority and Its Opponents
In chapter 1 of Mark’s Gospel, Jesus began preaching: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the Gospel.” (Mark 1:15) And the people who heard “were astonished at His teaching, because He taught as one who had authority, and not as the scribes.” (Mark 1:22) Jesus has been demonstrating the authority of His teaching by casting out demons, casting out diseases, cleansing a leper, forgiving the sins of a paralyzed man.
But in chapter 2 and the beginning of this chapter there is a shift. Jesus begins to show His authority over doctrine. He asserts His freedom even from the ceremonies prescribed in the Law of God, such as the commandment to rest on the Sabbath day: The Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath (Mark 2:28). He heals a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath day because He has authority on earth to free people from sin and the suffering it brings with it. He has not come to preach obedience to Moses, but to proclaim the Gospel of God’s grace to sinners.
This authority needs to be exercised. It can’t be restrained so that those who, knowingly or not, are serving the devil, won’t be offended--those who want to keep people in bondage, tell them that they must be saved by observing the Sabbath, or that they must be this or do that before they can be saved.
Jesus must use His authority to save. He can bear with the weak, but He can’t wait for the hardhearted to give Him their permission to save people. This is why He appoints the twelve apostles, because His authority to save people must be exercised. They are going to go out in His authority and teach the Gospel, and free people from trying to be saved by the Law.
But people oppose Jesus’ authority. Some of them mean well, but they are doing evil anyway. Jesus’ mother and brothers think He has lost His mind, so they try to stop Him from teaching.
The scribes say not that Jesus is crazy, but that He is possessed from the devil. Perhaps they were trying to do the right thing too; perhaps they were convinced that Jesus was blaspheming God. But even if they were trying to do good, they were in danger of committing the unforgiveable sin—rejecting the work of the Holy Spirit as the work of the devil. Satan doesn’t drive out Satan. The devil wants to keep his kingdom together. He only gives way when He is forced to by one with authority. When Jesus’ teaching comes with the expulsion of demons, it shows that Jesus has come with power to drive the devil out.
And even though Jesus’ mother and family wanted to protect Him, they were inadvertently opposing His authority. He has authority to bring people into God’s Kingdom by rightly teaching the Law and by proclaiming the Gospel to the repentant. Trying to stop Jesus from doing that, even with the best of intentions, is opposing His authority.
How often we in the Church doubt Jesus’ authority and lack confidence in His Word! We judge Christians and ministers by worldly standards and disregard Christ’s Word if the bearers of it seem to be of less than perfect psychological health. We doubt the Word’s ability to bring others into His kingdom. Because of our doubt in His authority we also often oppose His work.
However, Jesus calls those who do the will of God His “brother and sister and mother.” (Mark 3:35) The people who were doing the will of God were those who listened to Jesus’ word, reverently and in faith. They gathered around Him in crowds to hear it. In so doing they received His authority to save them from their sins.
Though we often rely on our own strength and wisdom and oppose Him, He continues to use His authority through the Word to declare us His brothers and co-heirs of His kingdom.
Oh what blessing to be near You
And to listen to Your voice;
Let me ever love and hear You,
Let Your Word be now my choice!
Many hardened sinners, Lord,
Flee in terror at Your Word;
But to all who feel sin’s burden
You give words of peace and pardon. Amen. (LSB 589 st. 2)