Astonishing Authority

One year ago today, there were more news stories coming out about this strange new coronavirus that originated in a large Chinese city that I hadn’t even heard of – Wuhan. On 25 Jan the first 4 cases were reported in Australia. By 30 Jan the virus had spread to 20 countries. First cases were still one or two days away in Italy and Iran. The Diamond Princess was on its fateful voyage but the patient who had tested positive wouldn’t know that until tomorrow. The disease still didn’t have an official name and borders were still open.

All of this began to change in February and March. Fast forward some weeks and the reality of the disease impacting upon our daily life began to be felt. Our government declared it a national pandemic on 27 Feb. WHO did the same a couple of weeks later in March.

What is interesting is remembering what it felt like during that period. Our government did a decent job of keeping us all safe.

One of the questions that was deeply questioned during this time was – who are you listening to?

Posts by various people on social media began to go viral and suddenly we were experiencing shortages of essential supplies. Enter the Ballad of the Dunny Roll. There were also posts circulating indicating that it was all a hoax, or strange home remedies were offered involving gargling various substances with hot water to protect yourself. During this period, I was very grateful to be living in Australia and in greater Sydney.

Authority is a problem for us – yet it is central to the biblical message.

There is nothing new in this. The only time that Israel voted together was when they decided it was a good idea to make the golden calf, or to leave the wilderness and return to the fleshpots of Egypt.

The only time that the Apostles acted unanimously was when “they all abandoned Jesus and fled.”

God’s redemptive word speaks against the noise of the human stampede that almost always is heading in the wrong direction. Remember, that something is legal doesn’t make it right!

Today in the gospel, we are told that the crowd in the synagogue in Kaph Nahum were amazed and astonished by the teaching of Jesus – because unlike the scribes that they were used to – he taught with authority. He didn’t need to quote from someone else (as Rabbi so and so says, or as we read in prophet X or Y) to prove what he wanted to say.

Authority can be broken down into “Author’s Right”. Which makes sense, since in the case of Jesus he was in constant communion through prayer with the Father, the creator of all things. He is also, as the demon declares, the Holy One of God. The next time that we hear someone make a similar declaration in Mark’s Gospel is at the Cross, when it is a human, but a foreigner – the Roman Centurion – who declares in looking at the dead body of Jesus, that he is surely a Son of God.

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Sunday 04, Year B. Mark 1:21-28

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