“Astounded at his teaching”

Who says so?
I’m sure you’ve heard that before.  Remember on the playground, maybe, when you were a child?  It’s usually followed by “gonna make me?”
Authority exercised by might: the power of physical force to make something go the way you say it should.  Except it’s not from the play ground, is it?  It’s everywhere.  Every news cycle is full of it. Look at North Korea and the US.  Or North Korea and anybody, really.  (Although there’s that whole Olympics deal with South Korea now, so maybe there’s hope.)  Or, to be fair, the US and anybody.  In fact, there seems to be more than a few nations who operate on the “who’s gonna make me” principle.  Most militaries are on alert and they just moved the Doomsday Clock up to two minutes to midnight.  Thank you, authority exercised by might.
Who says so?
Society says so.  We elect, appoint or otherwise engage people in leadership positions and give them a title.  With that title goes authority.  Sometimes we even put that in the name – The Port Authority, for example – or it’s what we call those who enforce the rules we, as a society, set down, “the authorities.”  We always try to elect, appoint or approve the best people whom we have fully researched and confirmed.  We call this “being qualified” to be in a position of authority.
Wait.  That’s a little too optimistic. We should.  But lately, many people seem to think completely unqualified is okay.  Or maybe they just have a different idea of what “qualified” means.  Let’s not go down that rabbit hole, I think you get the point about society giving authority by a title or position.
Who say so?
Expertise says so.  Years of education, research and experience.  That’s what “qualifies” us to be in those positions of leadership.  Of course, we are who we are, as a person, and all that expertise doesn’t make us be thoughtful or unselfish in how we wield it.
Who says so?
According to the Gospel of Mark, “who says so?” was not the first thing that people in the synagogue thought when they heard Jesus speak to them.  “…And when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught.  They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes” (Mark 1:21-22).  There’s no indication that these people knew Jesus, he didn’t seem to have any education, he had no title and he certainly had no army.  And he didn’t teach like the “scribes,” temple officials who were the keepers and interpreters of the law.  So what was this authority that so astounded the people?
It would be easy to answer “who says so?” with, simply, Jesus.  But I believe Jesus showed them something we can share with each other, too: the sincerity of Jesus teaching.  Jesus taught a love that was genuine in its justice, compassion and care.  It was without hypocrisy or pretense.  It was true.  And, just as important as the truth of his teaching, was the sincerity with which he lived it.
According to Mark, the very next thing Jesus does – action follows his words – is to heal a man possessed by a demon spirit.  He teaches what may make us whole, and then helps someone to become whole.
Who says so?  The one who, like Jesus, lives the sincerity of what they teach.

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