31 Jesus went down to Capernaum, a city in Galilee, and was teaching them on the sabbath.
32They were astounded at his teaching, because he spoke with authority.
Speaking “with authority” is frequently and painfully misunderstood.
We tend to feel that teaching “with authority” means adopting a voice that is declarative and dogmatic. For some people authority sounds loud, aggressive, and forceful.
I do not see this kind of “authority” in Jesus. Jesus never appears arrogant in his teaching. He often asked more questions than he provided definite answers. He seldom entered into protracted argument attempting to drive home his point against his opponent. Jesus was not an answer-man.
The answer-man speaks only from his head. He provides information not wisdom, facts not inspiration, dogmas not poetry. The answer-man may be entertaining and exciting, but no one’s life has ever been transformed by an answer-man.
Real authority does not come from academic credentials, encyclopedic memory, a charismatic personality, or pounding the pulpit.
Real authority comes from honest lived experience. It comes from bearing the pain of life and opening to the beauty of God’s creation. Real authority speaks from a place of authenticity and deep surrender. It is attached to a life of integrity.
I will only approach real authority when I face my own life and acknowledge my own struggle, doubt, and turmoil. Real authority comes from having spent time in the wilderness alone with myself with nothing to rely upon but the hidden secret divine presence at the heart of my being.
I can only hope to teach with authority when I have nothing to prove. I am not trying to convince you of anything. I am simply speaking the truth as I have experienced it in my own life. I am opening to the deep currents that flow beneath the mental, intellectual constructs and debates that pre-occupy so much of what passes for religious teaching. Real authority always seeks to open to that profound place of connection and union that sees beyond the borders, boundaries, and dualities that are constantly raised by teaching that lacks authority and relies on force.
The authority of Jesus came from deep humility, honesty, and openness. This is an authority much of the world may fail to recognize; but it is the authority that, when seen, has the power to open our hearts to love.