Jesus and his disciples went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority - Mark 1:21
Jesus taught as one having authority. Do you learn from him as if he has authority?
Last week I wrote about repentance. "Turn" is the first step in the Way of Love, the practices for a Jesus-centered life we follow in the Episcopal Church. "Turn" is the first step on the journey of faith but it is also a daily step for each of us who follow him. Every day we must choose to turn to him as a flower turns to the light of the sun.
But why is "Learn" the next step in the Way of Love? What is the connection between Turn and Learn?
"Learn" has a certain connotation in American culture. Likely when we think of learn we think of our time in school. We think of the way we learned from our teachers. We think of the way we learned from college professors, and just maybe, from Sunday School teachers or clergy.
Mark's Gospel seems to distinguish the way Jesus taught from all these other kinds of teachers. Mark's Gospel characterizes Jesus' teaching as having authority. Think about it for a moment: what kind of authority did your teachers have over you? They had discipline authority, certainly. How often did you choose to give them authority over you, as in authority over your life, choices, morality? I bet you didn't. They had authority over you because you really didn't have a lot of choice in the matter. You were in school and they were in charge! You may have gotten closer with a college professor if you went to college, or maybe with a mentor in your life, someone you chose to give authority over you.
The connection between Turn and Learn in the Way of Love is that when we Turn to follow Jesus we must also give him authority over our lives. This is at the heart of learning from him. We must ask ourselves: do we really look to his teaching as one who has authority over our lives? When you make small every day decisions or big life choices, do you consider Jesus' authority over you, what he would have you do? Do you learn from him as if he has authority over your life? George MacDonald asked it this way: have you done one single thing today because our Master commanded it?
"Learn" in the Way of Love as a spiritual practice is so much bigger than how we typically understand education. This is not just learning material, but teaching ourselves to love God with all our mind. We must open ourselves to being formed into his way, we must give him authority over us to make us who God wants us to be, to make us like him.
So how do we do that? Here's three steps to learning from Jesus.
Start your day by asking: how can I follow Jesus today? We've all learned from a young age that how we begin our day determines the whole day ahead. If we begin our day by asking how we can follow Jesus today, it will help set our priorities in light of his commands to us.
Do one thing because Jesus commands it. This might sound simple. It's only one thing, after all! But Jesus' commands to us are anything but simple, commands like "be anxious for nothing," "do not worry," "love your enemy," "forgive those who persecute you," "take up your cross and follow." Thinking every day how to put one single teaching of Jesus into practice will begin forming you into a follower of his way.
Read his teachings! How can you know what he commands if you aren't familiarizing yourself with his teachings? Do you really know what Jesus teaches? Most of us receive his teaching through other mediums, through preaching, reading articles like this one, movies, and popular culture. Old Bibles used to mark his words in red letters. Pick a Bible and read the red letters of Jesus, whether your Bible color codes them or not! Need a place to start? Matthew chapter 5 begins a version of the Sermon on the Mount and contains many of Jesus' teachings. Begin there and it'll give you a lifetime of teachings to put into practice.
Perhaps the last question is: why? Why learn from Jesus as if he has authority. The first answer that comes to my mind is that Jesus isn't asking for you to give him authority over you. He taught as one who had authority first, and he did so because he did have authority. Christians believe that Jesus is the logos, the very wisdom and word, the logic of Creation itself. The Eternal Son of God is inviting us into a way of living more wonderful than we could ever imagine. His way is the way of fullness of life, life that never, ever ends. His way springs up like water, like a well of life for us to drink up that will refresh us and leave us more satisfied than anything else could. Why would we not follow his way?
So what are the pitfalls in learning from Jesus as one who has authority? Where do you struggle? Please leave your thoughts in the comments below. I want to hear from you!