The word “authority” is used twice in today's Gospel. Both times the word authority is applied to Jesus. In both cases, astonishment or surprise is evoked by the fact that Jesus teaches with authority. Why is there this surprise, and what does it mean for Jesus to teach with authority?
In the culture that surrounds us, every person believes himself to be his own authority. In effect, this wide-spread belief means that no real authority exists. In our society there is a great need for clarity about the meaning and purpose of authority.
At its most literal level, the word “authority” comes from the word “author”. The author of a novel can create worlds of his own design from his imagination. Laws of physics need not apply. Strange creatures can exist, and fantastic events are commonplace. Great authors have the authority to create worlds and races of creatures, and to confer life on and take life from individuals. However, this is merely a fictional form of authority. In reality, there is only one Author of creation.
Jesus, as God from God and Light from Light, is this divine Author. Through His divinity He has authority. He exercises this authority throughout the three years of His public ministry for various persons, and for all mankind on Calvary. However, in the face of His exercise of divine authority, astonishment arises for varied reasons.
Most cannot believe that a mere man could exercise divine authority. Jesus, of course, was not merely a man, even though He was fully so. In our own lives, we should not be astonished by the authority or power of Jesus. We should root our daily lives in His desire to grant us His grace.