Mark Lesson 3 (2022)
“A NEW TEACHING – AND WITH AUTHORITY!”
Key Verse: 1:27
“The people were all amazed that they asked each other, ‘What is this? A new teaching – and with authority! He even gives orders to impure spirits and they obey him.’”
In the previous passage, 1:14-20, we learned how Jesus launched his ministry in Galilee. He proclaimed the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news.” Jesus also called his first disciples, Simon, Andrew, James, and John. Today’s passage is a snapshot of his daily activities, including teaching, driving out demons, and healing many sick people. People were amazed at his teaching and said, “What is this? A new teaching – and with authority! He even gives orders to impure spirits and they obey him.” (17) We notice, however, people who were amazed at Jesus didn’t know where the authority of Jesus came from, while the demons recognized who Jesus was. Yet, Jesus didn’t allow the demons to reveal his true identity. This morning, let us think about what is so new and powerful about Jesus’ teaching.
Look at verses 20-21. “They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law.” Unlike John the Baptist, who lived as a holy man and ministered to the people in the desert, Jesus didn’t leave the towns and villages. Instead, he lived in the city.
Capernaum was a fishing town on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, presumably the hometown of Simon, Andrew, James, and John. It seems that Jesus and his first disciples spent time together somewhere in Galilee before they came back to Capernaum. And when the Sabbath came, they went to the synagogue, where Jesus began to teach. We are not told what Jesus taught on that Sabbath day and for how long. Mark simply says that when people heard his teaching, they were amazed because he taught them with absolute authority, unlike the teachers of the law.
Who were the teachers of the law? They were the experts in the Scripture, whom people admired for their superior knowledge and authority. We can imagine that anyone who spoke in the synagogue had to agree with the experts' traditional views. Otherwise, they would get in trouble. Yet, when Jesus, who was relatively a new speaker and a former carpenter, spoke, he didn’t follow the traditional way of the experts. Instead, his teaching based on the same Scripture posed different perspectives from the experts. Yet, his teaching was new, refreshing, and even liberating. It reminds us of what Jesus said in John 8:31-32, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” So when people heard Jesus’ teaching, they were amazed.
Look at verses 23-24. “Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an impure spirit cried out, ‘What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are – the Holy One of God!’” Interestingly enough, the one who immediately recognized Jesus as the Holy Son of God in the synagogue was the man possessed by an impure spirit. Jesus had not proclaimed his true identity as the Son of God. I don’t think Jesus wanted people to recognize him as the Holy Son of God right away, even though he wanted them to think about who he was through his new and powerful teachings. In other words, Jesus tried to raise a healthy and spiritual curiosity about him so that they may reach their conclusion step by step by the guidance of the Spirit of God.
Yet, the demon hindered Jesus’ attempt by exposing his identity prematurely, shouting, “I know who you are - the Holy One of God!” Did Jesus like it when the demon revealed his true identity? Not at all. In the Gospel narratives, including Mark’s Gospel, we see that Jesus left his identity as a question on purpose. Why? He wanted people to have good questions about Jesus so that they may have the maximum joy of discovering his true identity as the Son of God. Jesus didn’t want them to celebrate God’s salvation too soon before going through the necessary process. It’s time for Jesus to scatter the seed, not the time for harvest yet.
Let’s pause and think a little. Coming to know God is the greatest joy in our lives, and it’s often a life-long process. For this, we need to have a healthy and godly curiosity. We need to ask good questions about Him all our lifetime. Sometimes, we want our children or Bible students to accept Jesus as their Savior and Christ too quickly. With our good intent, we might even force them to believe when they are not ready. Yet, we must be careful because if we force them to do so, we might be killing their genuine curiosity about the Infinite God. The evil spirit confessed Jesus as the Holy One of God not because he admired and wanted to worship him. It was his threat to Jesus to leave him alone.
How did Jesus respond to the devil? Look at verses 25-26. “‘Be quiet!’ said Jesus sternly. ‘Come out of him!’ The impure spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek.” When we look carefully at how Jesus drove the evil spirit out of the man, we see he didn’t use any traditional way of exorcism of the time. When I was young, I lived in Korea. The next-door house roof caved in one summer day because the beams were rotten. Unfortunately, an old grandma was buried under the roof and died. Her son thought there were evil spirits in the house. So he invited a witch to drive evil spirits out of the house. The lady witch did many things: I saw her dancing a lot according to drum beats. Sometimes, she screamed and shouted some strange words, chanting, while they slaughtered chickens. It was so disturbing to the whole neighborhood and lasted almost a week. The son had to give the witch a large sum of money. I am not sure if her exorcism was successful or not.
In Jesus’ time, exorcism was a widespread practice, even among the Pharisees. They often screamed, uttered chanting words, and performed special ceremonies to drive out demons. But Jesus didn’t have to shout or perform special rituals. He just used his words, “Be quiet! Come out of the man!” And the impure spirit screamed, threw the man into a convulsion, and then came out of him. What an authority Jesus had!
Look at verse 27. “The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, ‘What is this? A new teaching – and with authority! He even gives orders to impure spirits and they obey him.’” The people were already amazed at Jesus’ teaching earlier because of his new perspectives (25). Now, after seeing how Jesus drove out the impure spirit from the man through his words, they were even more amazed at Jesus. They said, “What is this? A new teaching - and with authority! He even gives his orders to impure spirits and they obey him.”
Look at verse 28. “News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee.” Jesus’ spiritual power through his words not only amazed people but also raised the curiosity about him in their hearts. Who is this man?” Indeed, Jesus became a sensation among the people in Galilee. Yet, Jesus didn’t say that he was the Messiah.
Look at verses 29-31. “As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with Jeames and John to the home of Simon and Andrew. Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they immediately told Jesus about her. So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them.” Probably, Jesus and his companions went to Simon’s home, which was near to the synagogue, to have lunch. But when they got there, they found that Simon’s mother-in-law laid in bed with a high fever. We are not sure what caused the fever of Simon’s mother-in-law. We can only guess. She was probably upset with her son-in-law when he told her that he was quitting his job as a fisherman and following Jesus as his disciple instead. We can imagine how she was upset. Who would feed her big family? At first, she was mad at her son-in-law, then at Jesus, whom she might have thought negatively influenced her son-in-law. Her condition was so bad that she could not even get up. High fever could be dangerous, putting her into a coma.
What did Jesus do? Jesus went to her immediately, took her hand and helped her up. And her fever left, and she could get up and begin to wait on them, meaning she cooked delicious lunch. In those days, what Jesus did to her on the Sabbath was unusual, totally out of the norm. Traditionally, a respected rabbi would never touch a woman physically, even by hand. And it was also on the Sabbath Jesus did to her. It was out of a box experience for each of them. Simon, Andrew, James, and John were amazed by this event. They were even more curious about who Jesus was.
Look at verses 32-34. “That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. The whole town gathered at the door, and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was.” The phrase “after sunset” indicates that it was after the Sabbath was over. It means that people brought all the sick and demon-possessed to Jesus in the evening. Why did they come? They were interested in Jesus’ healing, not so much about knowing who Jesus was at this point.
Various diseases may stand for physical illnesses, while demon possession may stand for psychoses or mental illnesses. Jesus didn’t tell them to go away and return the following day because he was tired. Instead, he demonstrated God’s compassion for them by healing them all from various sicknesses and demon possession.
Jesus had come to preach the good news of God. He said in 1:15, “The time has come. The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news.” Even though Jesus demonstrated his power and authority to heal many people from various diseases and drive out demons in today’s passage, it was not primarily for this purpose that he had come. Instead, Jesus came to bring the good news of God’s kingdom and that he is God’s kingdom. Even though most people were concerned only with the immediate relief from their pain and affliction, Jesus still accepted them just as they were and provided for them healing from various diseases and mental sicknesses. Why not tell them who he was upfront? First of all, it was too early to say to them. It’s also because he wanted them to have a genuine spiritual curiosity about him so that we may come to know him on their own by the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Let me close my sermon. The world is full of troubles. We have so many challenges in our lives individually and collectively. The world is unsafe, and our future is unpredictable. Yet, the good news is that the kingdom of God is eternally now with us through our Lord Christ Jesus. Yet, the question is, “How can we experience that kingdom in us now?” Today’s passage teaches us that we need to hear God’s words new and fresh.
In today’s passage, people who heard Jesus’ teaching in the synagogue were amazed at his teaching, saying, “What is this? A new teaching – and with authority.” We read the Bible often and all the time. Yet, we must ask ourselves, “Am I hearing God’s word new, fresh and inspiring?” If not, we must know that we are in a spiritual crisis. Then why do we fail to hear God’s word fresh and new? Our minds are rigid, and our hearts hardened due to complacency. Our hearts and minds must be changed and cultivated to hear God’s voice fresh and new. And that is the core of repentance. And it’s not easy to do.
We often celebrate God’s salvation through Jesus. Good! Yet, our celebration is empty unless we learn how to repent and change. Ironically, it’s a sad reality that Christians who always talk about repentance are the ones who never seem to repent genuinely. We can know whether our faith is genuine or not through the fruit of our repentance. If we genuinely repent and have faith in God, we will be able to confess as the Psalmist did, “He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.” (Psalm 1:3) Christ Jesus is the Holy One of God who is eternal life. May the Lord help us keep our genuine spiritual curiosity, cultivate our minds and hearts, and be able to hear God’s word fresh and new, and confess, “What is this? A new teaching – and with authority!”