In today’s Gospel, the people who encounter Jesus and witness his works have the following response: “All were amazed and ask on another, ‘What is this? A new teaching with authority.’” 

The people identify two elements of Christ’s person and work that surprise them: (1) They recognize that Our Lord’s teaching is new, and (2) they observe that his teaching is given with authority. Is this an accurate estimation of Christ’s teaching? Is it truly new and uniquely authoritative?

Of course, Jesus himself is one with the same God who had already revealed himself to his people through the teaching of the prophets in the Old Testament. Furthermore, the teaching of the prophets had always prefigured Christ himself. Therefore, it could perhaps be objected that Christ’s teaching is neither new nor is it uniquely authoritative. 

The novelty and authority of Christ’s teaching are both found in the radical and personal simplicity of his message. Our Lord’s teaching is new and his authority profound because Jesus himself preaches Jesus himself. Although the teaching of the Old Testament prophets—divine revelation—was always about Christ and was always given with divine authority, these two principles were separated in the past. The prophets taught about Jesus. Their teaching, however, was personally distinct from Jesus. In Christ, the message of Christ and the authority of Christ are one and the same: Christ himself. 

The Gospel message of Jesus has a living vitality that previous preaching did not possess. How so? Jesus himself is the message that Jesus preaches—and it is in the unified, personal identity of Christ the preacher and Christ the message that his teaching is most unique. Jesus himself accounts for both the novelty and the authority of his teaching. Christ is the teacher and Christ is the message—he himself is the living “Holy One of God.” 

This is why even the unclean spirits obey his words. Christ words are personally united to Christ himself. He is the speaker and he is the message. He does what he says. His words, his power, his holiness, and his life are all—personally—the same. Radical simplicity. Dynamism of life. Power of salvation. 

What does all this mean for us? The unity of Christ’s person and his words helps us understand why preaching and the sacraments are always united. Preaching is sacramental in character and orientation. Sacramental preaching is more than eloquent words about Jesus. Authentic evangelical preaching has its identity and its effectiveness in the person of Christ himself. When the priest confects the Eucharist, he does not say “this is the body of Christ” or “this is his body.” Both of these statements are true, but they are not what Christ says nor do they fully express what Christ does. In the “good news” of the Gospel that Christ communicates, what he says and what he does are the same. “This is my body… This is the cup of my blood…”

Thus, Jesus truly gives us “a new teaching with authority.” Why? In Christ’s preaching in the gospels and in the sacramental preaching at Mass, Jesus gives us nothing less than himself.