Today’s Gospel in Art: Unlike the scribes, he taught them with authority


The Patrons of the Senate, cartoon by Joseph Keppler 1889 © US Senate Archives

Source: Christian art

Gospel of January 11, 2022 – Mark 1: 21-28

Jesus and his disciples went as far as Capernaum, and as soon as the Sabbath came he went to the synagogue and began to teach. And his teaching left a deep mark on them because, unlike the scribes, he taught them with authority.

In their synagogue at that time there was a man possessed by an unclean spirit and he cried out, “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are: the Saint of God. But Jesus said curtly: “Shut up! Get out of it! And the unclean spirit threw the man into convulsions and with a loud cry came out of him. People were so amazed that they started to wonder what it all meant. ‘This is a teaching which is new,’ they said, ‘and with authority behind him: he gives orders even to unclean spirits and they obey him.’ And his reputation quickly spread everywhere, throughout the surrounding Galilean countryside.

Reflection on political cartoon

Our Gospel reading today gives us Mark’s account (still in chapter 1) of Jesus’ first public activity in the synagogue of Capernaum. And what’s the first thing Mark wants us to know? That Jesus taught with authority! And to further demonstrate it, he also describes an exorcism. Authority in itself is neither good nor bad. Authority in the wrong hands can be power for evil; authority well used can be a force for good. Each of us by our baptism has received some authority. We can abuse it or we can use it as a way to bring people closer to God and to let Jesus speak through us with authority in situations where it is needed.

We have individual authority, but also collective authority. Our political cartoon shows when the US Senate used its authority to pass the Sherman Anti-Trust Act. Approved on July 2, 1890, it was the first federal law that prohibited monopoly business practices and prescribed the rule of free competition between traders. Our cartoon was drawn by Viennese artist Joseph Keppler, who moved to New York City in the 1860s, where he established a career as a political cartoonist and founded Puck, the first successful humorous weekly in the United States.

The design, published in Puck on January 23, 1889, represents various commercial interests, such as steel, copper, iron, sugar, petroleum, etc. It shows the view of the Senate, but the “entrance of the people” is blocked. The people are not present, but the gentlemen who hold the monopolies fill the stands of the house. But soon the vote would go against them. The authority of the people would speak. Collective authority was used for good.

The Senate could vote with authority because it was the creator of laws. Jesus holds authority because He and His Father are the ultimate creators of all that we have. I have authority over the things I write here for example. These daily writings cannot be published in a book, unless I give permission to print it. In the same way that God created this world, He and his Son hold authority over everything in it …


Today’s story –
Christian art –

Keywords: Christian art, Patrick van der Vorst, Joseph Keppler

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