Authority and power are words that we are uncomfortable with, especially given the ways that in the church and wider society too often authority has been abused. Yet is central to the biblical message. Authority is a translation of the Greek word exousia, which means the rightful, actual and unimpeded power to act, or to possess, control, use or dispose of something or someone. We can see in the English word authority the roots of author’s rights, which is so different from the contrary system of democracy which is based on the rights of the many. So St Paul indicates that the potter has authority (exousia) over the clay. Perhaps the LNP in Queensland is regretting other abuses of authority in State and Federal politics after the dramatic election results there yesterday?
The church should remember that when the people of God tried to act by way of popular vote, things didn’t go so well. For example, when Moses was delayed on the mountain, the people voted to either return to slavery in Egypt or to make a golden calf. The only time that it is reported that the apostles acted unanimously was during the passion of Jesus, when they all forsook him and fled. By contrast, God’s redemptive word of authority calls us to order – and to life.
It is interesting what each of the Gospels highlights as the first act in the public ministry of Jesus. Matthew highlights the teaching role of Jesus by giving him the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7. Luke reminds us of the solidarity that Jesus has with the poor and oppressed, when he returns to Nazareth in Luke 4 and reads from Isaiah 61. John has Jesus transforming ordinary water into the new life-giving and spirit-filled encounter at the wedding in Cana in John 2. It is surely significant that Mark highlights that the way that Jesus demonstrated his authority was in confronting the powers of evil with the man possessed by an evil spirit in the synagogue in Capernaum. To which the people respond with what becomes their standard response: to be amazed, afraid or in awe – more than forty occurrences in Mark’s gospel.
Recorded at St Paul’s, Camden, 10am – re-recorded on 02.02.15
Sunday 04, Year B. Mark 1:21-28.