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Tony's Reflection 29
I will never forget my first lesson at secondary school.
Our form master entered. The class of 30 excited 11-year-olds suddenly fell into complete silence as he slammed his textbook onto his desk. The sudden crash of book on table reverberated around the room and all eyes were fixed on him, as he glowered at us, incandescent with rage.
Mr Martin was utterly intimidating. A giant of a man, with a skinhead haircut, the tallest of us barely came up to the middle of his chest.
He raised himself to his full height of well over 6 feet and started to yell. He berated us all for our lack of respect to him as our teacher. We had failed to stand in silence, the moment he entered the room. He was going to leave the room, come in again and give us one last chance to get it right.
As he re-entered, we stood dutifully, in cowed and fearful silence. No one was going to mess with Mr Martin. He was a man with authority.
Mark's book is a biography of Jesus. In Mark's day, a biography gave you pithy short stories about the person, to show you what he or she was like.
Mark has already shown us there was something uncanny about Jesus.
Last time, we saw him simply walking up to people, telling them to drop what they were doing and follow him. What's more, those he called did just drop everything and go with him. Why would they do that? What was it about Jesus which attracted people to make such huge sacrifices to follow him?
Now Mark is going to tell us why that was. What made Jesus stand out from the crowd? He was a man with authority.
Like Mr Martin, Jesus was a "teacher with authority". Except Jesus had a very different way of showing the authority he had…
We see Jesus going into a "synagogue", which was a little church, for Jews. As he began to explain the Old Testament (part one of our Bible), there was something different about him. Something the listeners weren't used to.
Back in Jesus' day, if you were going to teach the Old Testament (which they called "Scripture") you had to know what all the experts down through the centuries had said about it. You leaned on their authority and their understanding of what Scripture meant, before you would even venture an opinion of your own. You didn’t dare use your own authority.
Jesus, though, was different.
Here was a man who simply spoke the truth. He didn't lean on the opinions of others. He didn't have to refer back to any expert. He simply had authority. He spoke and that was all there was to it.
When Jesus spoke it was arresting and powerful. He saw right into your heart. As Jesus taught, God himself was speaking and addressing your innermost questions, your deepest needs. You could feel his words cutting you apart like a knife. As he penetrated your inner world, you weren't threatened or exposed. He simply reached deep inside you and planted right in there precious seeds of God’s truth. Seeds which would grow and bear fruit.
We can still come to Jesus as our teacher today. He can still look inside our hearts and speak to us exactly the truth that we need to hear. He still brings a message direct from God to us.
How can we do this? After all, we can't go back to that synagogue Mark tells us about, to sit and listen to Jesus.
Jesus is still real and alive, even today. And if we ask him to, he will still teach us what God has to say. Through him, we can hear God speaking to us, quite literally about "life, the universe and everything".
Perhaps you open your Bible and you ask Jesus to teach you. You ask him to help you hear God speaking to you, as you read. The words on the page come to life for you as they bring God's perspective on your situation.
Maybe you are reading something written by a Christian teacher. You could be listening to a preacher.
You can't figure out what God is saying all by yourself. You just haven't got the brains to work out God! Jesus, though, brings God real, up close and personal as he teaches us. He might do that directly himself, or through other Christian teachers and preachers as they bring us God’s message.
How do we know, though, Jesus is for real? When he stood there in that synagogue, he could have been a con artist. Somebody with the gift of the gab, full of his own self-importance, with no real authority from God, at all. These words he spoke … could they really be coming to us, with God's full authority behind them?
Mark tells us Jesus gave a stunning proof of the authority he had. What did he do? We will find out, next week…