Teach with Authority
This week we posed a simple question to our students: what makes someone ‘authoritative’ when they teach? After we got past explaining what ‘authoritative’ means, the group came up with a few key characteristics of someone who speaks and teaches with authority:
- The teacher knows the material they are teaching.
- The teacher believes the things they say.
- The teacher stays focused on the main message and is not distracted with stories.
When we think of Jesus’ teachings, He truly was the supreme authority in everything He said. Just think about who Jesus is. As God, He is omniscient meaning He is ‘all knowing’. Someone who is ‘all knowing’ would certainly speak with authority since they fully understand the material they are teaching, they believe what they say, and they are not distracted by unimportant tangents. Jesus spoke with the ultimate authority which mesmerized those around him.
Then they went into Capernaum, and right away He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath and began to teach. They were astonished at His teaching because, unlike the scribes, He was teaching them as one having authority. (Mark 1:21-22, NLT)
Again, speaking with authority comes from focus, belief, and knowledge. Jesus contained all three of those things more than any learned teacher or scribe. Therefore, when Jesus taught, he taught in a way that commanded attention. As followers of Christ, we can take great comfort in knowing that when we teach, we teach with our knowledge of the truth and belief in something bigger than any other force on earth. If we truly believe, we too can teach with great authority.
Teach Truth Beyond the Norm
Another important facet of teaching with authority is speaking truth even if it challenges the social norm. There are facets of our faith that are inherently at odds with the mantras of society. Take, for example, the current political climate. The societal norm is to have very poignant opinions and to scream them at the top of your lungs. Even relatively shy individuals are getting caught up in the social media storm of rallying against one candidate or the other and berating the supporters of the side you oppose. It should go without saying that this is not necessarily ‘Christ like’ behavior’. Do we seriously think Jesus would want us spending our time dividing ourselves along political battle lines? Is this really something worthy of our efforts?
Followers and casual eavesdroppers faced similar societal differences with Christ.
As he was starting on his way, a man ran up, kneeled down in front of him and asked, “Good rabbi, what should I do to obtain eternal life?” Yeshua (Jesus) said to him, “Why are you calling me good? No one is good except God! You know the mitzvot (law) — ‘Don’t murder, don’t commit adultery, don’t steal, don’t give false testimony, don’t defraud, honor your father and mother, . . .’” “Rabbi,” he said, “I have kept all these since I was a boy.” Yeshua, looking at him, felt love for him and said to him, “You’re missing one thing. Go, sell whatever you own, give to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven. Then come, follow me!” Shocked by this word, he went away sad; because he was a wealthy man.
Yeshua looked around and said to his talmidim (followers), “How hard it is going to be for people with wealth to enter the Kingdom of God!” The talmidim were astounded at these words; but Yeshua said to them again, “My friends, how hard it is to enter the Kingdom of God! It’s easier for a camel to pass through a needle’s eye than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God.” (Mark 10:17-25, CJB)
One thing that we have to keep in mind when reading the Bible is that Jewish culture was very different from ours, especially in how we viewed being ‘holy’. Good Jews believed that strict adherence to the law made one ‘good’ or ‘holy’ and that the soul would be sanctified through following the mitzvot God gave His people in the Torah. The rich young ruler met these criteria perfectly. He donated the prerequisite amount of money to the temple, he followed the law, and he had loved his neighbors. What else Jesus expect from the rich, young ruler? Jesus’ response pointed to a truth deeper than social norms and that truth is that holiness is about the heart.
This story often gets torn into different directions depending on what message the presenter wants to project. Sometimes the story of the young ruler is told to talk about the evils of materialism or idolizing possessions over God. In reality, taking the entire story as a whole and in proper context, we see that Jesus requires a pure heart with intentions focused on ‘the main thing’ which is the glory of God’s kingdom. If we follow all the rules in the world, attend church regularly, and say all the right ‘churchy’ things, that is not sufficient to truly live in the truth and others will know it when we try to share the good news of Jesus Christ with them. We will not be speaking with authority.
We should carefully examine both our lives and our hearts to determine what truly drives us and whether our hearts lead us towards being able to teach with authority or whether we’ll sound like little more than white noise in a society that does not truly understand Christ.