True Authority

What was it about Jesus of Nazareth that captivated the people who saw him? What was so different about him, compared to scribes and prophets of the past?

Amazed and Astonished

Today’s Gospel reading invites us to ponder what people experienced in his presence when they saw him teaching in the synagogue or later casting out demons. We are told that the people were “astonished,” for he taught “as one having authority, and not as the scribes.” Later, after the demons have been cast out, the people look upon him with amazement, asking themselves, “What is this thing, a new kind of teaching?”

I remember first reading the Gospel of Mark many years ago in college, long before my conversion, and experiencing the same sense of dumbstruck wonder. Who is this Jesus of Nazareth? I asked myself then. He was nothing like the meek and mild Jesus I had seen depicted in the media. There was something startlingly powerful and real about him here in the pages of the Gospel. He spoke with a distinctive power and truth that could only be called authority. Unlike the priests or scribes of his time, he did not draw upon predecessors when elucidating Scripture, and he did not call upon any power greater than himself when casting out the demons. Rather, he himself seemed to be the source of wisdom. He himself was the origin of divine power, able to command the demons with his own word. In the same way that an author speaks a story into being, so too Jesus’ words transform the reality around him.

Source and Authority

Where else in history do we encounter one like him? In the presence of Jesus, we see one who is the very ground of truth, the very source of what he speaks and does.

When he encounters the man possessed by demons, they recognize him immediately as the “holy one of God,” and in so naming him, attempt to bind up his power. Yet Jesus has none of it; he does not operate at their level, but from far above them. As he commands the demons to leave, the man’s body convulses for some time before he is healed. Why? Quite simply, the convulsions reflect the struggle between the disobedience of the demons and the sovereignty of Jesus. For all their attempt to take hold of the man’s soul, ultimately, they must yield to Jesus’ absolute command: “Come out of him!”

Perhaps this is the word which best expresses that distinctive quality of Jesus’ presence: absolute. All other teachers and prophets are necessarily relative, ascribing to something greater than themselves. Yet all meaning, truth, and power appear to rest in Jesus himself. As he says in Revelations, “I am the alpha and the omega,” the beginning and the end. It was the sense of this strange and sublime authority that drew people irresistibly into his presence.

Jesus the Author of Life

As we reflect upon today’s reading, I invite you to enter into this same spirit of awe. Allow yourself to share in the astonishment of the people as they witnessed his power over the demons, his manner of teaching with divine authority. Consider that when we look upon him or listen to his words, we are in the presence of the Absolute. In him, we begin to see the origin of all things. We are like characters entering upon the presence of their own author; for only the Author of life could speak with such authority.

[Readings: Heb 2:5-12; Mk 1:21-28]

Radhika Sharda, MD

Radhika Sharda is a practicing physician and a convert to the Catholic faith from a Hindu background. She has written a book of essays on literature, Savour, which may be found on Amazon. She lives in Raleigh, NC, with her three young boys.


  1. Jerry DEMELO Jr on January 10, 2023 at 12:28 pm

    “In the same way that an author speaks a story into being, so too Jesus’ words transform the reality around him.” A great echo to Genesis. Let the be light, and there was light. Thank You once again for blessing us

  2. Joanne Huestis-Dalrymple on January 10, 2023 at 6:10 am

    Love this! A priest once told me people should never use the word absolute unless speaking about God. This reflection made me think of that.

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