So here we go. Jesus seems to have finally gotten going. This is the Jesus we tend to imagine- going from town to town (up and down the dial), doing all kinds of crazy things. There’s one problem though. In 4:23, as Jesus is challenging the people in the synagogue he says, “And you will say, ‘Do here also in your hometown the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.'” This seems to indicate that he already did things in Capernaum, but here things are happening in Capernaum after that incident. Was he referring to what he will do? Were there multiple incidents? Or is this one of those strange inconsistencies that do sometimes make their way into the Scriptures? Limited research leaves me unclear. I think when these things happen in the Bible it’s important to note them and to recognize that something seems to be missing, but not let it distract from the overarching narrative and point. And that point here is Jesus’ authority.
4:32 says “They were astounded at his teaching, because he spoke with authority.” When someone spoke in the synagogues in those days, they often cited all kinds of other authorities to support their point. This is why we sometimes hear the question in the Scriptures, “by what [or whose] authority does he say [or do] these things?” That question is not rhetorical. It’s demands an answer. We do the same today, especially in academia. But Jesus doesn’t do that. He comes to his own conclusions and he does so in a way that carries its own authority. He doesn’t need a source, because he is the source. His words, which we could say are the very word of God, come with the power of the Spirit and as that air is breathed in and those words are heard, there is no questioning it for the people. This is why, I think, he gets so much push-back from religious authorities. It’s not just that they disagree with him. It’s that he speaks with authority. When someone who has no authority whatsoever disagrees with you, it doesn’t matter. It’s when the do have some kind authority that we tend to push back. But he not only speaks with authority, he works with authority. He is faced with a person with an “unclean spirit” here, and without any harm, and with relative ease he casts out evil. The people say, “with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and out they come!” (4:36). Jesus is not just here to teach truth about Kingdom of God living. He’s not a professor to lead us down a path of “right theology”. He’s here to cast out that which is evil in the world. That’s good news.
As Jesus steps into his ministry, Luke wants us to know that he has authority. It is not authority that comes from a title, a degree, a position, a library collection, a bishop, a vote, a board, or a level of status; it is an authority that comes from being “filled with the Spirit” and “born of the Spirit”. We live in a world today that is obsessed with the former. And those things are not necessarily bad- they have a time and place. But there is something else that I think we know but have a hard time living in to because it’s not quantifiable, and that is the authority that comes from being filled with the Spirit. It’s that cliche definition of “I don’t know how to define it [because you can’t],but I know it when I see it”. Jesus had that kind of authority. That is the authority from which he will do everything from here on out. From calling disciples to healing little girls to telling parables to forgiving his accusers, Jesus will both speak and act with real authority.