Like the scribes Jesus knew the scriptures well. Unlike the scribes, He wasn’t repeating from memory what been drilled into Him by rote. Jesus wasn’t saying Ancient Rabbi 1 interpreted the passage this way, and Ancient Rabbi 2 had a different interpretation, and that the Hillel school preferred Rabbi1 and that the Sadducees preferred Rabbi 2, and the Pharisees were still on the fence as to their preferred interpretation.
That kind of thing has its place in faithfully handing down to the present the collective wisdom and insights of the past.
When Jesus read from the scriptures it was something living, beautiful and fascinating. Mostly when the scribes read from the scriptures it was with the precision of dissecting a much-revered dead animal.
When Jesus sat down to teach from the scripture passage He had just read out loud, He spoke about how God’s love, mercy and wisdom were revealed in that scripture passage. And as Jesus spoke hearts were touched by the power of God’s love.
As a learned Dominican priest once preached, authority is growth power. When authority is activated properly, people have the stability and the security necessary to try the risks that lead to growth. When that doesn’t happen people live in siege and survival mode.
When Jesus taught, hearts started growing in love for God and growing in true knowledge of God. When that happens, hearts and lives change because the desire for more of God gets activated in them, and that desire motivates the changes in life that we recognise as repentance.
Who doesn’t want hearts and minds turning back to God?
The evil one.
Whenever truth gets spoken in love, there is a counter-attack, and it is immediate. Have you ever noticed that the first comment on a well-written opinion piece, especially on religious and pro-life topics, is both nasty and negative? I have. It is actually a kind of badge of honour or extra proof of the truths expounded in the opinion piece. No one bothers to denigrate a less well-written opinion piece.
The evil one has noticed the modus operandi of Jesus, and actively seeks to derail it. Jesus wants relationship not celebrity. The evil one shouts that Jesus is the Holy One of God, something that Jesus wants people to work out for themselves and at their own pace. Immediately Jesus shows He has the power to shut evil down, and to release people from its grip.
What lessons can we take home from this?
That God can stop evil in a moment, with a word, at any time He chooses.
That God does choose when and how to confront evil and dispatch it for maximum impact.
Be prepared for counter-attacks if you are taking ground for God’s kingdom, and take them as signs that you are on the right path and not as cause for discouragement.
So let us renew our trust in Him. Amen.