The people were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes.
But, should they have been astonished? NO! Unless they had forgotten God’s promise recorded in the Book of Deuteronomy (18:18): I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their kinsmen, and will put my words into his mouth; he shall tell them all that I command him.
Come to think of it, those who witnessed the scene described by Mark (1:21-28) could be partially excused in their amazement, because the level of authority and teaching power displayed by Jesus was so overwhelmingly unprecedented and unmatched. However, if we are amazed at Jesus’ power over the forces of darkness and at the authority of his teachings, we should feel thoroughly embarrassed because we should know that the Father went far beyond simply putting His words into His Son Jesus’ mouth, He sent him among us as His Word!
And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)
Thus, Jesus was not parroting and repeating what the scribes found in the Law; he spoke a totally new message of Light and Life. (John 1:3) For this reason, any trace of amazement before Jesus’ words and actions should be replaced, in our minds and hearts, by full appreciation of his message of Light and Life and by enduring, sweeping and full-throated thanksgiving.
Our full appreciation must stem from the realization that what Mark reports is much more than simple deliverance from a demonic possession. What astounded the bystanders was such a display of power that forced them to wonder: What is this? A new teaching with authority. He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.” (Mark 1:27)
We, adopted children of God in the blood of the Son Jesus, must go much further in our appreciation of the event. We should know that here we have a most forceful, direct, divine intervention to reclaim for the Father of Light and Life a child of His who had been snatched away by the forces of darkness and death.
If we notice that our appreciation for the fulfillment of the Father’s promise recorded in the Book of Deuteronomy (18:15-20) is tepid, we might want to explore the recesses of our hearts to see the degree of sway that other fashionable and alluring “authorities” present in the world might have on us. And, if we have allowed the forces of evil, that are roaming in this world and that have such a firm grip on so many people, to influence our choices we should remember that Jesus has claimed us for the Father in the Sacraments of Baptism and Reconciliation:
You belong to God, children, and you have conquered them (evil spirits), for the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. (1 John 4:4)
Our appreciation of Jesus’ authoritative and most powerful display of Life and Light should be so clearly evident to us that we would not even spend a single minute giving some thought to any other teaching authority. Some “authorities” out there are rather vague: like fleeting fads, short-lived trends and subcultures. Other “authorities” to whom some submit are: peer pressure, status symbols, political correctness, so-called experts’ opinion and, with increasing frequency, fear of being shamed and “cancelled” by leftist bullies.
Ultimately, our appreciation of Jesus’ new teaching with authority must be solidly based on his Word:
For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, “Abba, Father!” (Romans 8:15)
For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control. (2 Timothy 1:7)
If we feel even partially enslaved by the forces of darkness and death; if we find traces of cowardice affecting our choices, we should receive our Lord in Holy Communion as a powerful reminder that we, the Father’s adopted children, are meant, one day, to sit around His Table in heaven, for all eternity.
Then, at home, we should create a desert of silence and inner quietness. In it we should ask our older brother Jesus to further identify those forces that still hold us captives to fear and cowardice and then, to exercise his full authority and command those unclean spirits to leave us because we choose to belong wholeheartedly and forever to the Father’s Family. Then, our appreciation of the unparalleled power of Jesus’ teaching authority must extend beyond the deliverance that we feel individually and become a spontaneous chorus of communal thanksgiving.
This is what each Eucharistic celebration should truly be. Whenever we assemble to do Eucharist, we mustn’t forget that we are a portion of God’s Family that has been reclaimed from the forces of darkness and death by the power of Jesus’ Word and by his blood.
As a community of faith, we should not repeat the mistake of our Hebrew ancestors in the desert. Time after time, rather than heeding the voice of the Lord, they hardened their hearts and regretted having being freed from the slavery of Egypt. Rather, with hearts brimming over with gratitude, we should vow that, with the help of the Holy Spirit, we will keep our hearts totally opened to the voice of the Lord so that he may fill them with his Light and Life.