They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. – Mark 1:22 (NRSVUE)
We are only 21 verses into the fast-paced Gospel of Mark when Jesus pops into a synagogue and teaches. The response he receives from the gathered congregation captivates me, because it leaves so much room for interpretation.
First, they are astounded, and let me admit I have nuanced that word in my reading over the years to mean they are impressed—but a better way of saying it is they are struck, as in, his words hit as if he has struck a blow. He shocks them!
Then we read that the people think he teaches as one having “authority,” the translation of a word that in the original Greek can be interpreted as influence, or power over others, but can also mean the liberty of doing as one pleases. He stirs them up!
Last, they compare him to the scribes, the people they most often hear teaching, who do not embody the freedom and energy Jesus is bringing into the room.
Breaking it down this way, I hear the passage differently than before. Once I thought, “Wow, Jesus impressed them more than others did! They hear that he is the real thing!” Now I wonder, “Is the Gospel actually telling us that he stunned them by showing up in his full power and teaching something they need to hear but wish they hadn’t?”
I’ve considered before which voices sound authoritative to me and to the church, hoping to pay attention to them. But today I ask: What voice will stun me out of my comfort zone? What voice will stun you?
Astounding God, speak to us with voices that shake us out of complacency and stir us up into new understandings. Amen.