Do you ever struggle with confidence? I know I do at times, and I’m sure you do, as well. We all have moments where we doubt what we’re going to do in the future, feel insecure about how we’re perceived by others, or allow worry and anxiety to take control of our lives when it seems that our world is spinning out of control.
If you skim through the book of Mark, you’ll have a fairly accurate idea of Jesus’ personality: concise, witty, humble, wise, and calm. But if you’re paying close attention, you’ll likely notice the calmly authoritative manner in which the Lord carries himself. His rebukes are direct and flawlessly delivered (e.g. Mark 2:27-28). His orders are strict and non-negotiable (e.g. the frequent commands to silence). His teachings are clear and spiritually sound (e.g. 3:28-29). Every miracle he performs inspires awe (e.g. 4:41). And his sense of timing – knowing when something will happen, knowing when to go and leave somewhere, knowing when to speak and remain silent – is impeccable.
This quiet authority permeates the entire Gospel of Mark, so much so that Mark makes note of it in the opening chapter: “And they [the people of Capernaum] were amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, ‘What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him’” (1:27).
Far from the image perpetrated in popular culture of a confused Jesus struggling with his identity (e.g. “The Last Temptation of Christ”, among other works), the Jesus in the book of Mark has no questions about his authority. After working as a carpenter for a few decades, he leaves home and knows the precise moment at which to begin his ministry. At this point, he proclaims, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe the gospel” (1:15).
He chooses his disciples without hesitation (Mark 1:16-20, 2:13-14, 3:13-19). On three separate occasions, he confidently predicts his arrest, torture, death, and resurrection (8:31, 9:30-31, 10:33-34). He has complete control over his schedule (3:13), correctly exposits the Law of Moses and vehemently criticizes rabbinic oral tradition (2:23-28, 7:1-23, 8:14-21, 10:2-12), makes it clear that he knows that he is the Messiah (8:27-30), and does not fear sending out his disciples to work miracles (6:7-12). His speech radiates with power (e.g. he uniquely prefaces all statements with “Truly, I say to you…”), and he very quickly confronts any external challenges to his authority (11:27-33). Without ever usurping power, he orchestrates events and words to accomplish his purposes. Even the demons recognize his sovereignty and are terrified of it (5:7).
This display of divine exousia (“authority” in Greek) is certainly impressive, but I’m sure some of you reading may be tempted to think, “How does this apply to me? After all, I’m just an ordinary person, not the Son of God! What authority do I have to carry myself with?”
I would argue that if we are to strive to be like Jesus in every way (Philippians 3:10-11), we ought to mirror his authority, as well. Are we divine? Of course not, and we should never pretend to be. But can we firmly speak truth and conduct ourselves in a way that wins the respect of others? Certainly.
This is not putting on an act. It involves living with confidence that you are doing the right thing. And where does this kind of confidence come from? One need only look at Jesus’ life and ministry to see.
Jesus didn’t just start his ministry cavalierly. He spent his entire life learning the Scriptures and growing in favor with God and man (Luke 2:39-52). Before beginning his ministry, he fasted in the wilderness for forty days and endured temptation from Satan (Mark 1:14). He spent all night praying on a mountain before selecting his disciples (Luke 6:12). And before his death, he was in communion with his Father (Mark 14:32-42). Indeed, Jesus had confidence because he knew the will of God.
And knowing the will of God, he followed it. He did not sit around dreaming idealistically. Rather, he worked, walked, taught, healed, and prayed, sometimes to the point of exhaustion (Mark 4:38). He wasted no time in striving to accomplish his divinely-ordained mission.
How often do we spend time seeking the will of God in prayer and reading of the Bible? Are we making sure to pursue his desires every day, or are we only praying when our lives are filled with turmoil? And are we aware of what he wants but too lazy or comfortable to rise up in faith and accomplish it?
Beloved friends, if we know the will of God and live it out faithfully, we will radiate true authority far surpassing mere imitations of worldly power. And through this, we will become more like our Savior while carrying out his Great Commission on the Earth.