Authority and Power

Jesus went down to Capernaum, a town of Galilee.
He taught them on the sabbath,
and they were astonished at his teaching
because he spoke with authority.
In the synagogue there was a man with the spirit of an unclean demon,
and he cried out in a loud voice,
“What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?
Have you come to destroy us?
I know who you are–the Holy One of God!”
Jesus rebuked him and said, “Be quiet! Come out of him!”
Then the demon threw the man down in front of them
and came out of him without doing him any harm.
They were all amazed and said to one another,
“What is there about his word?
For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits,
and they come out.”
And news of him spread everywhere in the surrounding region.
(Luke 4:31-37)

Scripture Study

4:31 Capernaum: The headquarters of Jesus’ Galilean ministry (Mt 4:13; Mk 2:1). The town lies on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee and thrived on its fishing industry.

4:34 What have you to do with us?: This verse may seek to show that Jesus did not work miracles to help his family and friends, as in the apocryphal gospels.

Have you come to destroy us?: the question reflects the current belief that before the day of the Lord control over humanity would be wrested from the evil spirits, evil destroyed, and God’s authority over humanity reestablished. The synoptic gospel tradition presents Jesus carrying out this task.

4:36 with authority and power: Many popular exorcists during NT times recited long incantations and used odorous roots to expel demons (Wis 7:20; Mt 12:27; Acts 19:13). Jesus, however, merely speaks a word and the spirits depart. Exorcism played a pivotal role in his campaign against Satan’s kingdom (4:41; 8:28–29; 9:42; 11:14–20) (CCC 550).

Scripture Reflection

Friends, in today’s Gospel Jesus teaches in the synagogue at Capernaum. One of the things that he comes to do is to teach, for at the root of our troubles and our suffering is a powerful clouding of the mind. What is it like to be in the same room with Jesus? “The people were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes.”

“Astonished” is a pretty strong word. But we have to understand the tenor of the time. When a Jewish rabbi would speak, he would reference his teacher—another rabbi—who in turn had learned from another rabbi and he by another and so on. Finally, appeal would be made, implicitly or otherwise, to Moses, who had received the word and commandments of God on Mt. Sinai.

What makes Jesus’ teaching so striking—apart from the content, which is striking enough—is his manner of teaching. He doesn’t appeal to Rabbi “so and so” and finally back to Moses. He teaches on his own authority. The Greek word here is instructive (exousia), meaning “from his own being”. He moves through his public life, Chesterton said, like a lightning bolt.

– Bishop Robert Barron

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.