Jesus and his disciples went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, and he cried out, ‘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.’ But Jesus rebuked him, saying, ‘Be silent, and come out of him!’ And the unclean spirit, throwing him into convulsions and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, ‘What is this? A new teaching – with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.’ At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.
They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.
Those who are called to work in the teaching profession take on an enormous responsibility. Teaching is not just a matter of passing on factual knowledge, it is also about changing outlooks and helping students to share in the excitement of seeing new horizons. As we moved into the new millennium there was a change in the way teacher training was regulated. As with many other professions, trainee teachers had to meet a set of professional standards before they could qualify to work in the classroom. The first of those standards (the initial list consisted of around 120 boxes that had to be ticked) was to demonstrate a love and enthusiasm for one’s subject. Interestingly, later revisions softened that wording until it was finally dropped, now being ‘implied’ in the way other standards are phrased! In today’s reading we hear of the effectiveness of Jesus’ teaching capabilities as his ‘love and enthusiasm’ changed the way others saw the world.
Alongside the power of Jesus’ teaching we have a subtle condemnation of what had gone before: and not as the scribes. Jesus came to earth to bring a new teaching, he did not come to reinforce the old ways, the ways that had been formulated to bolster the power and authority of the religious elite. Jesus’ teaching had an authenticity which revealed the superficiality of the old ways. Jesus’ teaching was based in God’s commandment to love both the divine and our neighbours, no matter who or what those neighbours may be. Jesus’ teaching, although rooted in the ancient scriptures, was also fresh and exciting, it inspired people because it touched base with the reality of their lives.
We should not think of Jesus’ teaching as being a ‘soft option’. Jesus did not place the other-worldly rigours of first century Jewish religious life above all else, but he did still demand a level of discipline and commitment from his followers. Jesus called for repentance, for a ‘turning round’, a turning away from our old sinful and self-centred habits. Jesus called for us to share in his mission and ministry by proclaiming the Good News and bringing healing and light into the lives of others. Those who heard Jesus’ teaching were excited and inspired by this new teaching, their lives were changed.
Let us pray that we too might learn from his teaching. Let us pray that we might then rise from our metaphorical desks and go out to share the new teaching with others. Let us pray that we might, through our words and actions, help others to continue lighting the beacons of knowledge and faith as they journey through this world.
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