Occasionally when public figures speak, we refuse to take them seriously because they convey the impression that they are not sincere and are merely voicing the party line. The term ’credibility gap’ is one way of expressing our suspicion that there is no depth to their fine words. The most fundamental criticism we can make of any person is to say that they are not one of their word. Every age has its true and false prophets. In today’s gospel we are told that Christ spoke with authority and conviction; he was nailed to the cross. His preaching had a great impact on all open-minded people who were listening. Its effects were staggering because he spoke from the heart and was fired with enthusiasm for the truth. As a leader Jesus had no political pull, or military clout, and yet people were spellbound and challenged to the core of their being by the compelling power of what he was saying.
The crowds weren’t captivated by him just because he was a gifted preacher who told them what they wanted to hear. When he spoke, everyone detected a ring of truth in his every word. They sensed that somehow or other he was different; this was the word of God. We do not have to know the gospel by heart to realise that Jesus speaks on every aspect of human life. He does not offer what he has to say as a personal opinion, or a studied conclusion, but as rooted in reality and truth. Jesus makes it clear that he is the sole voice of God in the world, speaking the final word from God the Father. He emphasises that what he says is the standard expected of us and the test we must pass if we are to reach heaven.
In a rebellious age, the whole notion of talking about authority seems quaintly out of fashion. Thinking about authority can send shivers up our spines as we recall how badly we have been treated by parents, teachers, and those we are working with. Jesus uses his authority to call forth the best in each one of us and to draw each person towards God. That is why the words of Jesus are so precious, they are about how to be saved and should be heeded. They provide us with the answers to proper living. The real reason for authority in the church is to keep the Lord’s word alive in the world and to keep us reminded of what he speaks to us, because we are prone to laziness, to the lowering of our ideals and the watering down of the commandments.
The word of God will always challenge us to the depths of our being. Today it is asking us how honest and authentic we really are as we face the problems of living the Christian message amid a questioning world. If we follow it and live it, we are speaking with authority in our own right and pointing people to God.