When the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority… (Mark 1:21-22)
Have you ever attempted to speak as one with authority in your home town? Every pastor has at some point, and generally, you’re still considered “little Suzie” who used to love the swing set. You’re “just too precious” in your big grown up job. Jesus was correct in his assertion that a prophet has no credibility in their home town.
Though he is not in Nazareth for our passage this coming weekend, Jesus is still in Galilee. He is still in his “home state,” as it were. So it should come as little surprise that the people there are astounded at his capability and command. He may be a comfortably aged man for his era, but Jesus is still a bit young to have such strong opinions.
Now, the gospel of Mark does not state the teachings or opinions that he shares in this story. So technically, we cannot be sure of what he said. However, throughout all four gospels, we have learned the types of things that the Christ taught in synagogues and beyond.
He taught that God is here. He taught the faith of the ancestors reimagined. It is no longer about perfectly pious actions and right words. Now it is about the whole self being devoted to God’s purposes – body, speech, mind, and heart.
Jesus-centered Christianity does not invite us into a system of moral platitudes, but instead into a new way of being. It is an ethic for living and it is quite simple: love. Love God by allowing God to transform your whole self. Love others by seeking fullness of life, justice, and peace for all people. Love yourself, because you were made by God too, and without self-care you will be of use to no one.
All that we do, all that we think, all that we say should be measured along love’s scale. This is not permissive, but it is empowering. We are called to speak and stand against anything or anyone that will cause others harm. We are called to dive deeper into our understanding of what it means that every other person on this planet is made in the image of God. We are called to acts of kindness and deeds of mercy in every moment of our lives.
It is a tall order. And yet, God goes with us, before us and behind us, and Jesus has already shown us the way.