In ancient times, the leaders of the Jews often laid heavy burdens on people’s shoulders and refuse to even lift a finger to help them. This is, in fact, one of the harshest criticisms Jesus directs toward those very leaders. For example, Scribes and Pharisees had parsed the original Ten Commandments and created 613 “laws,” and then demanded that all of them be strictly observed. Roman leaders acted in a similar way by exacting unreasonable and burdensome taxes on the people and they were unrelenting when it came to collecting those taxes.
Meanwhile, in the midst of all the “wayward” leadership inflicted on the people of Jesus’ day, He taught us how to love our neighbors as ourselves, how to treat people with honor and respect, and how to resist the temptation to keep finding fault with others. When St. Mark reports that the people were convinced that Jesus “taught with authority, unlike their Scribes,” He is saying that central to Jesus’ teaching is kindness and gentleness, patience, and joy. As we follow Jesus’ lead, we find that He is shaping us into a “new people” who are more and more like Him. That’s the path of all discipleship, the path of freedom and love! Let’s praise Him that He has taught us in a new way and with authority.