Pope Benedict XVI begins his book, Jesus of Nazareth, by discussing the messianic promise made in the Book of Deuteronomy. While speaking to the people of Israel, Moses tells them: “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people” (Deut. 18:15). By the end of the Book of Deuteronomy, this prophecy was still unfulfilled, for in the final chapter, the author of Deuteronomy states “Never since has there arisen a prophet in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face” (Deut. 34:10).
The location of this final statement is telling. The Pentateuch, which are the first five books of the Bible, was the most important part of Bible during the time of Jesus. These five books, also referred to as the Law, were the lens through which all other Old Testament scripture was interpreted. And yet, at the conclusion of the Pentateuch, in the final chapter of Deuteronomy, we see that the promise of a New Moses is unfulfilled. The Law, in other words, has yet to be fully accomplished. Who, then, is this New Moses? To answer this question, we must look at today’s gospel.
St. Mark tells us that “on the sabbath Jesus entered the synagogue and taught” (Mk 1:21). In 1st century Judaism, any man who had knowledge of the Scriptures could teach in a synagogue. The fact that Jesus taught in this fashion is therefore not exceptional. However, the content of Jesus’ teaching is exceptional. Indeed, those in the synagogue “were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority” (Mk 1:22). Jesus does not teach as a commentator of the Law, but as an authority. His words – in themselves – have power. This power is readily apparent when Jesus rebukes the unclean spirit. “Come out of [that man]…And the unclean spirit…came out” (Mk 1:26). This authority to propound on the Law and to command unclean spirits shows that Jesus is the New Moses, the prophet promised in Deuteronomy, who will know the Lord face to face. Jesus, however, is not simply a prophet, but the Holy One of God. Indeed, Jesus is God Himself. He is the one who fulfills the Law and brings all things to perfection.
Ian Mahood – St. Joseph Seminary, Edmonton, Alberta
Fot. Mitch Hodge/Unsplash.com