Authority in Teaching
On the Sabbath, Jesus taught in the local synagogue. It was common practice to invite a respected visitor to speak, but Jesus wasn’t like other teachers. His style of teaching demonstrated authority.
The scribes of the day had the tendency to quote other rabbis, but Jesus made direct assertions. His teaching suggested that he was granted his authority directly from God without study.1
This astonished his listeners. The Greek word used here has the idea of something that causes one “to be filled with amazement to the point of being overwhelmed” or “to amaze, astound, overwhelm.”2
They weren’t just a little surprised. They were astonished.
Authority in Action
Jesus’s authority, however, went beyond words. He backed up his teaching with actions. Throughout the Gospel of Mark, Jesus demonstrated authority on behalf of others. In this case, he had the opportunity to show his authority right away when a man with an unclean spirit approached: “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God” (Mark 1:24).
The demon rightly realized that Jesus’s authority was the kind that triumphed over evil. His authority sought only the good of others, while the demonic world used its power to bring only chaos.
Jesus silenced evil with a rebuke: “Be silent, and come out of him!” (1:25). The unclean spirit, causing convulsions and crying out, departed from the man.
Those observing were once again amazed and a little bewildered: “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him” (1:27). Jesus became the topic of conversation throughout the whole region of Galilee. His fame came not just from his authoritative teaching but from the accompanying action. He calmed internal and external chaos instilled by the demonic world.
Sometimes it’s easy to become jaded by authority because we don’t often see it used for the good of others. Many use their power and influence to promote only themselves and even delight in taking advantage of others. It’s often most discouraging when a trusted Christian leader or mentor disappoints or betrays our trust. But Jesus shows us power doesn’t have to be corrupt. His example leads us down a better path.
Remember, Jesus didn’t wield authority for authority’s sake. Jesus teaches us that it’s not having or obtaining authority that ultimately defines us but what we do with it that matters most.
1 Williams L. Lane, "The Gospel of Mark" vol. 2 in the New International Commentary on the New Testament series (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans, 1974), 72.
2 Bock, "Mark," 188.
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