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Jesus Taught With The Right Kind Authority, The Kind That Delivered People

One of the things that set Jesus apart from the beginning of his Ministry was the authority with which he taught:

And they were astonished at his teaching: for he taught them as having authority, and not as the scribes. [Mark 1:22]

This verse sets up a simple comparison between the teaching of Jesus and that of the scribes. We can learn a lot about the scribes by looking at other sections of Scripture. The first citation concerning the nature of the scribes is in the Old Testament and it is a negative one:

How do ye say, We are wise, and the law of Jehovah is with us? But, behold, the false pen of the scribes hath wrought falsely. [Jer 8:8]

Now of course we know that to base our education on something in the Scriptures on just one verse is foolish, nevertheless, this opening bit of information about the scribes does not bode well for their reputation.

In looking through the Gospels we note that there are numerous times when the Pharisees and the scribes acted in concert to challenge and question Jesus. Examples are:

Then there come to Jesus from Jerusalem Pharisees and scribes, saying,
Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread.
And he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? [Matt 15:1-3]

But there were certain of the scribes sitting there, and reasoning in their hearts,
Why doth this man thus speak? he blasphemeth: who can forgive sins but one, even God?
And straightway Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they so reasoned within themselves, saith unto them, Why reason ye these things in your hearts? [Mar 2:6]

There are also a number of references in the Gospels where it is noted that the scribes operated  with others like the priests and elders, who like the Pharisees were also in opposition to Jesus. For example:

From that time began Jesus to show unto his disciples, that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and the third day be raised up. [Matt 16:21]

But it is from Jesus’ own words that we get some direct insight into the nature of the scribes, and how they handled the Scriptures. Look at this scathing indictment of the scribes in Jesus’ words:

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he is become so, ye make him twofold more a son of hell than yourselves. Woe unto you, ye blind guides, that say, Whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the temple, he is a debtor. Ye fools and blind: for which is greater, the gold, or the temple that hath sanctified the gold? And, Whosoever shall swear by the altar, it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gift that is upon it, he is a debtor. Ye blind: for which is greater, the gift, or the altar that sanctifieth the gift? He therefore that sweareth by the altar, sweareth by it, and by all things thereon. And he that sweareth by the temple, sweareth by it, and by him that dwelleth therein. And he that sweareth by the heaven, sweareth by the throne of God, and by him that sitteth thereon. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye tithe mint and anise and cummin, and have left undone the weightier matters of the law, justice, and mercy, and faith: but these ye ought to have done, and not to have left the other undone. Ye blind guides, that strain out the gnat, and swallow the camel! Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye cleanse the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full from extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first the inside of the cup and of the platter, that the outside thereof may become clean also. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which outwardly appear beautiful, but inwardly are full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but inwardly ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye build the sepulchres of the prophets, and garnish the tombs of the righteous, and say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we should not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. Wherefore ye witness to yourselves, that ye are sons of them that slew the prophets. Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. Ye serpents, ye offspring of vipers, how shall ye escape the judgment of hell? Therefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: some of them shall ye kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city: that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of Abel the righteous unto the blood of Zachariah son of Barachiah, whom ye slew between the sanctuary and the altar. Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, that killeth the prophets, and stoneth them that are sent unto her! how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.
(Matthew 23:15-39)

From this we see that the way that these scribes taught was not to deliver the people but the to line their own pockets with gold.  Look at the way the scribes prioritized gold as of extreme importance.  The same thing applies to the gifts on the altar;  the scribes valued the income to the temple as opposed to valuing the sacrifice to God made by the people.  Look at the way they taught made themselves look good and everyone else sinners. They were more interested in form and substance; they polished the gold, they dotted their “i”s  and crossed their “t”s. But inside they were rotten. Jesus says they were full of extortion and excess. They were the ones behind the killing of the prophets and the righteous in Israel.  The scribes were hypocrites, “whited sepulchers”  (whited tombs filled with rotting bones).  For their lack of love and devotion to selfishness, and the way they led others to do the same, their end is destruction.

In the comparison that we see between the teaching of Jesus and that of the scribes, it’s not that the scribes don’t teach with authority, but that the authority they exercised oppressed the people and led others to do the same, whereas the authority that Jesus exercised delivered people.  Jesus specifically says that it is things like justice, and mercy, and faith that are missing. At the same the scribes were concerned with getting all the legal things right; the right tithe, the cleaning of the plate and the platter.  But those things are really insignificant compared with justice, mercy, and faith.

The kind of authority that Jesus taught with as talked about in verse 22 is illustrated in verses 23 through 28:

And straightway there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, saying, What have we to do with thee, Jesus thou Nazarene? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God. And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace, and come out of him. And the unclean spirit, tearing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. And they were all amazed, insomuch that they questioned among themselves, saying, What is this? a new teaching! with authority he commandeth even the unclean spirits, and they obey him. And the report of him went out straightway everywhere into all the region of Galilee round about.
(Mark 1:23-28)

In these verses it talks about the authority that Jesus taught with. He had the authority to command the unclean spirits and they obeyed him. He delivered people spiritually. He healed them.   And because of the tremendous power and authority with which he taught his fame grew.

Jesus is our model.  It’s not about wearing the right clothes, going to the right services, paying the proper tithe, although looking nice, fellowshipping with others and giving to the Lord are important.  The most important things are loving others, and acting with justice and mercy.  Jesus led the way here.

© copyright 2010 Mark W Smith, All rights reserved.

August 25th, 2010 Posted by | Jesus' Teaching and Miracles | no comments

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