“He spoke with authority, not like the scribes and Pharisees.”
Like the scribes and Pharisees, we acquire authority by trial and error. We accumulate knowledge through study, and the more our knowledge and experience grows, the greater authority we can claim in a certain area.
“Evidence based” scientific knowledge also works this way. Larger and larger sets of data are obtained and evaluated in order to arrive at more and more comprehensive conclusions. But the process of gathering data and refining our observations never comes to an end, it never reaches a definitive conclusion.
Artificial Intelligence basically functions the same way. Massive amounts of data are sifted and sorted and put together in more or less convincing ways. But by its very design, we can’t discover where any specific piece of data was drawn from, and it is never clear whether there is a good intention, bad intention or no intention at all behind the way that data is put together.
These are all human kinds of authority.
Jesus’ authority is utterly different.
His perfect knowledge and love of the Father is the source of all his words and actions. He does not use trial and error to test whether or not the Father is a loving and saving God. Jesus knows the Father’s perfect love and fully shares the Divine power to save.
He is the Word through whom all things came to be (John 1:3). He holds all things together in himself (Colossians 1:17). He is above every authority and power, and fills all things in every way (Ephesians 1:22).
The crowd in today’s Gospel passage marvel at Jesus’ authority – God’s saving power manifested in him. Through Baptism, Jesus gives us a share in this same authority. He brings us to share in his own relationship with the Father, and sends us with authority of divine love to the very ends of the world.
“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, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)
Jesus’ authority was seen when his saving power was displayed. Like lamps set on a stand, he wants his power and authority to be seen in us. “By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35) This is the greatest power and authority given to us, the truest and surest sign of God’s life within and among us. This is the “new teaching, with authority,” and in Christ, this authority has been entrusted also to us.