Without Precedent

May 15th, 2007 • Category: Encounters with Jesus
by Theresa Benson

Today’s scripture: Mark 1:21-28 (NRSV) (The Message)

As you read, consider: What might God be saying to me? Summarize your thoughts in a sentence or two.

My thoughts (Theresa Benson):

Back in Jesus’ day, Rabbis typically taught and resolved disputes in a way similar to how lawyers in America do things today. They would cite precedence in the Law for how something should be decided or carried out. In our legal system, it’s sometimes difficult to win a judgment when there’s no precedent, and there are volumes and volumes of cases that lawyers, legal assistants and paralegals will study, piecing together an argument: since Jones v Smith said this, and Benson v Simpson said that, this ruling should go down this way.

The idea is that rather than having lawyers and judges across the country making fickle and inconsistent rulings, all should follow precedent and extend their decisions logically from previous decisions, at which point, this new judgment now gets put on the books and can be used as precedent, too.

It’s almost like they abrogate their authority to past decisions: “Hey, things were decided this way in that case, so it’s not really me deciding this, it’s the way precedent is.”

But not Jesus.

He wasn’t claiming that “in a recent synagogue poll, four out of five rabbis thought [He] had the best message.” He was not quoting this teacher and that rabbi before Him as reasons why the people should listen to him. He wasn’t poring over the texts to resolve contradictory decisions; he was speaking from what he knew was right and good, and people could see a difference.

He was in there speaking His truth, because He and Truth are one and the same.

There is a profound simplicity and beauty to be found in messages from people who teach as Jesus taught. There’s a confidence and safety in knowing that when this person speaks, he or she is not flipping through notes, making sure to cite the right ‘backup knowledge’ in order to make things sound more profound, believable or sellable.

Take for example Gandhi’s message, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Or Mother Teresa’s, “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.”

They, too, were speaking their truth.

Thought for the day: Jesus taught in a way no rabbi before him taught — with authority — and he drew many to him. May we strive to live in a way reflective of Jesus’ style of teaching — with a greater Truth guiding our steps and our words so we, too, may confidently draw many to a life of hope and joy.

We encourage you to include a time of prayer with this reading. If you need a place to get started, consider the guidelines on the How to Pray page.

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