Summary: Jesus possesses great wisdom and authority regarding the Word, and He also possesses authority over all creation, humanity, and Satan himself. We face nothing our Lord cannot handle. His power and authority are unmatched and unlimited.
Authority in the Synagogue
Mark 1: 21-28
As we continue moving through the Gospel of Mark, bear in mind that he is writing primarily to a Roman audience, seeking to portray Jesus as the Servant of Men. It is a dialogue that moves rapidly from one event to the next. The fast pace, with which Mark wrote, skipped over several accounts and details that were recorded in Matthew and Luke. It is believed that the timeframe between Verse 13, following Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness, and Verse 14, dealing with the imprisonment of John, is about a year. It is also believed that Jesus’ popular Sermon on the Mount was delivered between Verses 20 and 21. This time period included Jesus’ ministry in Nazareth, calling other disciples and being rejected of His own people. It doesn’t appear that Mark sought to minimize those accounts, but for whatever reason, he chose not to include them in his Gospel.
Our text picks up after a period of time following the call of Andrew, Peter, James, and John. Jesus is found within the synagogue at Capernaum, teaching the Word. Capernaum served as a home-base for Jesus’ ministry. As He taught and ministered among the people that day, it quickly became evident that Jesus was no ordinary man. He spoke with authority and exercised power that captured the attention of those present within the synagogue. As we look in on that day of teaching, I want to examine the details of this encounter as we consider: Authority in the Synagogue.
I. His Authority in the Scriptures (21-22) – These verses reveal the authority with which Jesus spoke as He expounded upon the Scriptures in the synagogue. Notice:
A. His Passion (21) – And they went into Capernaum; and straightway on the sabbath day he entered into the synagogue, and taught. We do know that some time has passed since the last details we have, but Mark reveals that when they came into Capernaum, Jesus immediately went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day. Now, some may argue that any good Jewish man would have been found in the synagogue on the Sabbath, but I am convinced this reveals the passion Jesus had for the Word and the house of God. We know, according to John’s Gospel, that Jesus was the Word incarnate. He is the Living Word. Jesus is immediately found in the synagogue, teaching the Word, going about His Father’s business.
The example of Jesus ought to generate a hunger within the believer to study the Word of God and be found at the house of God. It isn’t a burden, but a privilege. Our relationship with Christ alone should compel us to seek His Word and fellowship with His people at His house.
B. Their Perception (22a) – And they were astonished at his doctrine: for he taught them as one that had authority, and not as the scribes. As Jesus rose to teach, those present immediately noticed this man was unique. He wasn’t like the others; He spoke with authority, having an intimate knowledge of doctrine. They were literally astonished – being struck with amazement and wonder. His teaching was not what they expected, but it certainly made an impact on those who heard Him!
C. His Persuasion (22b) – And they were astonished at his doctrine: for he taught them as one that had authority, and not as the scribes. Mark declared that Jesus taught differently than other men. He was not as the scribes, but one who taught with authority. His words and teaching were not centered on the teachings of other scribes or surrounded with Jewish law and tradition. He had not come to appeal to their human interest. He came to speak the Word in truth and power. His words resonated with the crowd without the approval of others or references to the teachings of other mortals. He delivered a message unlike any they had heard before.
While it is impossible for mere mortals to possess the wisdom of Christ, these principles apply today. Those who teach and preach the Word should allow the Scripture to speak for itself. It doesn’t need to be propped up by the opinions of men. It doesn’t need our personal preferences interjected into it. We are not asked to manipulate the Scripture in order to appeal to modern society. We must be faithful to deliver the text as it is written, allowing the Word to speak!
II. His Authority over the Spirits (23-26) – As Jesus taught in the synagogue, he encountered a man with an unclean spirit. Mark revealed the authority Jesus possessed over the spirits. Notice:
A. The Resistance (23) – And there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out. In the audience that day was man with an unclean spirit. As Jesus was teaching the Word with power and authority, the spirit within the man caused him to cry out during Jesus’ teaching. The spirit was uncomfortable in the presence of Jesus and sought to resist His teaching. The multitude was astonished at Jesus’ teaching and the devil always seeks to hinder the reception of truth, even if Jesus Himself was teaching. (This same resistance remains today. We can expect the enemy to put forth an effort to hinder the truth of God’s Word from being proclaimed and received.)