A friend told me that there are three levels of authority. Generalist Authority, Specialist Authority, and Celebrity Authority. Using doctors as examples, a Generalist doctor has an average authority and charges what average doctors charge.
A Specialist could charge you much more because they have more authority in their fields, and people trust them more for their specialty.
A Celebrity doctor, however, commands a higher authority because they are popular and much sought after. Whatever they say, people tend to believe. For example, Dr. Phil is one of the celebrity doctors. Even though he is big, everybody listens to him when he gives advice on weight loss. That’s the power of Celebrity Authority!
What type of authority do you have in your field? Your authority gives you leverage on the message you want to deliver. Everyone is born with a unique message to deliver, whether you are a parent or president. But not everyone has the same level of authority to have the most influence.
As a follower of Christ, you have an important message to deliver, and I am sure you desire the highest possible authority to be highly effective. I have discovered how to attain maximum authority even if you are not a celebrity, specialist, or generalist.
Even if you are a nobody and have no credentials, you can still harness the highest authority to deliver your message. Let me begin with another provocative parable of Zhuangzi, my favorite philosopher of the 4th century BCE.
Zhuangzi was strolling in the woods near a chestnut orchard and suddenly saw a strange bird flying above him. Despite a seven-foot wingspan and a pair of big eyes, the bird seems unable to fly high and see far. It didn’t notice the man below.
Out of curiosity, Zhuangzi took out his slingshot to hunt the bird down. Then he discovered the bird was focusing on catching a mantis on a tree branch. Then he noticed the mantis was sneaking toward a singing cicada for big fat lunch.
All of a sudden, Zhuangzi had a glimpse of awakening that upset him. He put away his slingshot and left the place quickly. Then he heard the gardener of the orchard yelling at him for trespassing. He ran home feeling miserable for several days.
His student asked, “Master, you looked unhappy for several days. What happened?” The sage told him about his experience in the orchard, describing a cicada focusing on showing off its singing voice, unaware that a mantis was about to eat it.
The mentis, on the other hand, was so fixated on its food that it failed to notice the big bird behind it. Again, the bird was so fixated on its prey, unaware that a man was hunting it down. Then he felt a chill in his spine, feeling someone must be after him.
As he left, he heard the gardener yelling at him for trespassing. He realized when he was in someone’s orchard, he must follow the orchard owner’s rules. (End of the story.)
What is Zhuangzi trying to teach here? In the context of this story, he wants us to realize that a higher authority is watching us from behind. As creatures, we fixate on the object before us and neglect the subject behind us. He had a profound realization that it kept him in deep thought for several days and transformed the way he lived his life from then on.
Zhuangzi was an esteemed sage and a celebrity authority of his time. Even the king came asking him to be the prime minister of the kingdom. Yet, his celebrity authority is nowhere near the authority of the gardener of the orchard he trespassed into.
Like an anion, this story could trigger multiple layers of enlightenment. The orchard is a metaphor for the world we live in. It belongs to the Creator of the universe, who is watching over us. All authority belongs to Him and his servants. It reminds us of the Catholic version of the Lord’s Prayer,
“Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us.” (Mt 6:12 NMV).
When you realize you are on holy ground—everywhere on this earth is part of the holy ground because it belongs to the Creator—you must be either a gardener or a trespasser. The only persons that are not trespassing are the servants of the Creator.
Jesus calls us to turn from trespassers to become gardeners. That means, as God’s servant, we have authority much higher than Celebrity Authority. We have divine authority as opposed to human authority. Jesus has set an example for us to speak, teach, and act with the highest authority.
Today, we will learn from Jesus how to deliver your message with authority and discover even the evil spirits fear you when you deploy such authority, based on this week’s scripture lesson. Let’s begin!
[Hi, in case we haven’t met yet, I am Sam Stone, the Lightkeeper—you are the light of the world, and I am the keeper! (No pun intended). It’s my calling to help you shine your brightest so that God is glorified in you and you are satisfied in God.]
The Scripture lesson for today, the fourth Sunday After Epiphany, is from the Gospel According to Mark 1:21-28. [Listen to the Word of the Lord!]
They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. 22 They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.
23 Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, 24 and he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” 25 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” 26 And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him.
27 They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, “What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” 28 At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee. (Mk 1:21–28).
[Blessed are those who delight in God’s word. Thanks be to God!]
Let’s start with the context. Jesus just recruited a bunch of disciples, promising them to make them become fishers of people. Fishing for people can be misunderstood as bait and switch, but Jesus meant teaching to recruit people into God’s kingdom—turning trespassers into gardeners. The question is, how do you fish, or how do you teach?
Immediately, Jesus showed the new disciples how to teach. Jesus took them to the synagogue in Capernaum and started teaching. What’s unique about Jesus’ teaching is his authority.
They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. (Mk 1:22).
Jesus had no credentials and was from an obscure town of Nazareth, but his authority astounded them. The word “astounded” is translated from Greek, “ἐκπλήσσω (ek-place’-so),” literally meaning “dumbfounded.” In those days, when it came to teaching the Bible, the scribes were the celebrity authority. However, people felt the scribes couldn’t hold a candle to Jesus. Later in the passage,
They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, “What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” (Mk 1:27).
They felt Jesus was a breath of fresh air—a new teaching with authority; even the unclean spirits obeyed him. The unclean spirits were not supposed to be in the synagogue. It was a holy ground. It revealed the state of the religion in those days. The scribes were not teaching with authority. Even the unclean spirits obey him.
Traditionally, this passage is interpreted as Christology. Jesus’ teaching with authority reveals his divinity as the Son of God. Based on the context, we must go beyond such a fundamental interpretation. Jesus was not here to show off his authority. He was training the disciples. He is also here to recruit us to share his authority. As he said in the Great Commission,
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” (Mt 28:18–19).
The phrase “Go therefore” implies transferring his authority to you to make disciples. What are disciples? They are students, learners, and pupils—the objects of teaching. To baptize them is to turn them from trespassers into gardeners so they belong to God’s vineyard, the holy ground, the kingdom of God. The rest of the Great Commission says,
“and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Mt 28:20).
Our job is to teach; as we do, Jesus promises to be with us always because when we teach, we channel his authority in heaven and on earth with us. Having this authority is essential before you do anything because Jesus said,
“I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.” (Jn 15:5).
That is a humble pill to swallow because most people out there think they can do everything apart from him. To do anything without him is a formula for stress. To rely on his authority is freedom from stress and anxiety.
Now, we see two phenomena of teaching with the highest authority. I’ll call it the highest authority because it’s way above human authority. The first phenomenon is that people listen to you. You don’t have to be a generalist, specialist, or celebrity; you can be nothing, but people listen to you if you rely on the divine authority given to you.
The second phenomenon is that the unclean spirits recognize you even when ordinary people don’t.
Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, and he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” (Mk 1:23-24).
The supernatural beings recognized the supernatural authority of Jesus Christ. They thought Jesus came to drain the swamp. They called him the Holy One of God to expose him and get him into trouble because the Roman authority instructed the religious authority to arrest anyone who claimed to be the Messiah. Jesus wasn’t ready to reveal his divinity as yet.
But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. (Mk 1:25-26).
You might ask, this is about Jesus’ divinity. How does it relate to our authority? That is just the beginning of Jesus’ development of his disciples. Later, we see the disciples wield the same power after receiving the training. For example, Luke wrote,
The seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!” (Lk 10:17).
Jesus sent seventy disciples in pairs to towns and villages to heal and teach. They returned joyously after witnessing the submission of demons when they taught in Jesus’ name.
He said to them, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning.” (Lk 10:18).
The word “Satan” originated from a Hebrew verb meaning “to entice, to oppose, to be adversarial.” Satan has a name, Lucifer, a fallen angel who rebelled against God. An angel rebelling against God is like a gardener turning into a trespasser. Now, the disciples are turning the trespassers into gardeners, meaning the opposing power is failing—falling from heaven like a flash of lightning. Then Jesus said,
“See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you.” (Lk 10:19).
Notice, “I have given you authority.” That’s the authority we function with to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy. Snakes and scorpions are metaphors for deceptions and destructions of the evil force. Jesus concluded,
“Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (Lk 10:20).
Jesus wants us to get our minds straight. Just as Jesus didn’t come on earth to show off his power, we are not to dwell in our success. There is something much more precious than success—our name written in heaven.
Metaphorically, Jesus is saying we are to rejoice because we are no longer trespassers but gardeners and servants of God. Heaven is oneness, as I mentioned in my message last week. When your name is written in heaven, you are one with God and with the owners of those names.
Here’s how last week’s message prepares you to handle the divine authority. Last week, I discussed how anxiety comes from duality—the knowledge of good and evil—the forbidden fruit Adman and Eve ate in the Garden of Eden. The antidote is duality oneness with God and people.
When we rejoice at seeing the spirits submit to us, we enter the duality mode—winners and losers, success and failure, them and us. Our mind must never leave the oneness mode. In the kingdom of God, there is no God and us, no you and me, because we are all one. In the kingdom of God, everyone is a winner.
Now, let’s deploy the divine authority with the oneness mindset. Can there be times when we cannot deploy this authority? Yes. There were instances in the Bible where the disciples could not cast out certain demons. Jesus cast it out for them, and Mark said,
When he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” He said to them, “This kind can come out only through prayer and fasting.” (Mk 9:28–29).
Prayer and fasting are vital spiritual disciplines to maintain oneness with God and others. Without oneness, we become individual islands. Our individual human authority is limited to generalist, specialist, and celebrity authority. Only in oneness can we deploy divine authority.
In summary, we are called to become fishers of people, gardeners in God’s vineyard, and messengers of God’s kingdom. The only way we can accomplish this calling is through the divine authority.
Don’t be fixated on what’s before you, but be conscious of who’s behind you. Like our Lord, Jesus Christ, let’s teach with divine authority, and he will be with you to the end of the age!
That’s it for today. I hope you find this message illuminating as much as I enjoy receiving it from the Head Office. Until we meet again, keep your light shining brighter and broader, and harvest the fruit of profound freedom, purpose, and happiness.