Knee Jerk Devotional: April 20, 2021

Luke 4:31-37


He went down to Capernaum, a village in Galilee. He was teaching the people on the Sabbath. They were surprised and impressed—his teaching was so forthright, so confident, so authoritative, not the quibbling and quoting they were used to.

In the meeting place that day there was a man demonically disturbed. He screamed, "Ho! What business do you have here with us, Jesus? Nazarene! I know what you're up to. You're the Holy One of God and you've come to destroy us!"

Jesus shut him up: "Quiet! Get out of him!" The demonic spirit threw the man down in front of them all and left. The demon didn't hurt him.

That set everyone back on their heels, whispering and wondering, "What's going on here? Someone whose words make things happen? Someone who orders demonic spirits to get out and they go?" Jesus was the talk of the town.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the exciting stuff like driving out demons that we miss the mundane but ever more powerful stuff.

Did you catch the way this story opens up? Jesus’ teaching was described like this, “his teaching was so forthright, so confident, so authoritative, not the quibbling and quoting they were used to.” This is one of those things that I think we read over and past too quickly. Can we let that sink in for a moment?

Jesus taught in a way that was so different from the religion scholars and religious elite that the people were left “surprised and impressed.”

Yesterday I was listening to a podcast and the host was talking about how so many religious folks are building their careers and cash base on the back of tribalism. You have the traditionalists and the progressives both entrenching and using the other as a foil. The hosts of podcasts, the authors of blogs, and the social media personas use this pervasive tribalism to build their platforms and to earn a living.

It appears that very little reflects the kind of teaching that Jesus was doing. This teaching that avoided “quibbling and quoting.” Peterson here is expounding on the word that is simply translated as “authority” in most English translations. He’s trying to help us see and understand what “authority” means. When someone teaches with authority they don’t need a foil. They don’t need an “other.” Their words simply stand on their own and hang there in the air and they have some sort of power about them.

As someone who uses words for a living, I can’t tell you how hard this is to do. When you embrace an enemy and use them you get more clicks, you get more shares, you get more “juice.” Why? Because you are able to tap into the tribalism that is part of our nature.

A person that I have grown to admire from a distance through his work as a podcaster is a man named, Justin Giboney. He’s an Atlanta lawyer, former college athlete, and now runs a non-profit called, The And Campaign. Something he talks about is how we need something like sports tribalism because it scratches an itch in a harmless way (I’m paraphrasing my own understanding, in a number of podcast episodes he more eloquently lays out this idea), whereas tribalism that creeps into our religion or politics is harmful.

I am really working at becoming a better listener so that when I speak I can do so in a way that is more similar to Jesus’. The older I get the more I realize that listening is arguably the key to successful communicating. I desperately want to move past “quibbling and quoting” to something more akin to forthrightness, confidence, and authority. I want to speak more like Jesus did. I want my words to do something.