Written by Sr. Rosemary Finnegan, O.P.
If a student walked into a classroom of his peers and announced ‘there’s no class today’, the students would wonder and probably question him. But if the teacher walked into the room and announced ‘no class’, he would probably be stampeded by the students rushing to leave. The difference in responses is that the teacher had authority and the student did not.
Our gospel tells us today that when Jesus spoke words, “he taught them as one having authority” and “the people were spellbound and amazed.” There was something about Jesus that made Him stand out from anyone else. People would go without food - travel long distances - just to hear Him.
This word “amazed” is translated in various Bibles as ‘astonished’ and ‘astounded’. In the Greek, the word “amazed” is a word formed from two other Greek words. One of these words carries the idea of being made flat; the other has the idea of pounding something. So literally, the image created from the original tells us, “the people were POUNDED FLAT.”
That sounds rather strange to us, but probably no stranger than some of the idioms in our own language. I’m sure someone from another culture would have a hard time understanding what we mean by “That just blew me away” or “That really floored me”.
The point is, as Jesus initiated his public teaching and ministry, he was having a dramatic effect on his listeners.
And he not only spoke with authority, he also acted with power. We just heard about the man in their synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit and cried out, "What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are-the Holy One of God!"
What a scene that must have been. "Be quiet!" said Jesus sternly. "Come out of him!" The evil spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek.’
The listeners are amazed. Jesus becomes their teacher and healer. His reputation begins to spread, but ironically, the more the people are amazed, the more the authorities become hostile to Jesus. Eventually, Jesus pays the ultimate price and those who first followed because they were amazed, abandoned him when he hung on the cross.
If we are to be his followers, it’s not enough just to be amazed. To follow the “amazing one”, the one with authority, we must also go the way he goes…and that ultimately means we must deny themselves, take up our cross, and follow.