Authority in Word; Authority in Deed

And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes.” (Mark 1:22, ESV)

And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.”” (Mark 1:27, ESV)

Mark moves rapidly [as is characteristic of him] from the calling of the disciples to an encounter in the synagogue at Capernaum on the Sabbath day.  In the first scene Mark shows us Jesus at the synagogue teaching.  Mark doesn’t tell us what Jesus was teaching because that is not his purpose here.  Mark’s aim is to show us the reaction of those who heard Jesus teach.  They are “astonished” because “he taught them as one who had authority and not as the scribes.”

The scribes were experts in the Mosaic Law. Plummer in his commentary on Mark says that “Their duty was to copy, read, study, explain, and “fence round” the Law with “the tradition of the Elders” (Matt. 15:2)…Their teaching was preeminently second-hand. They simply repeated the decisions of previous Rabbis. But our Lord’s teaching was absolute and independent. His formula was not “It hath been said,” but “I say unto you.”

Jesus isn’t interested in repeating the decisions of previous rabbis or weighing in on where they were right and where they were wrong.  He teaches as if his words are the final authority.  His listeners know that this is unusual and can’t resist pointing out the difference between Jesus and those who normally teach them.  Jesus teaches with authority!

There is, in that very synagogue a man with an “unclean spirit.”  Mark doesn’t go into an explanation of how a man could have an unclean spirit, most likely because he didn’t need to, his first century readers were well aware of the fact that there was reality beyond just the physical world.

What the unclean spirit says is difficult to translate.  Some choices are:

  • Leave us alone – Lexham English Bible
  • What business do we have with each other – NASB95
  • What have we to do with You – NKJV
  • Why are you interfering with us – NLT

I think I prefer the NLT: “why are you interfering with us” (in our malicious work)?

Jesus’ response is short and sharp: “Be silent, and come out of him!”  And the unclean spirit must obey the “Holy One of God.”

Needless to say those who have just heard Jesus teach with authority are now captivated by his demonstration of authority over spiritual forces of darkness.  “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.”

Jesus teaches and acts, and orders around unclean spirits as if he has the power and authority to do just that.  The astounding thing is that he is right.  The unclean spirits must obey him and his teaching is not like the scribes.  This is what Mark wants to force us to see.  This Man is no ordinary man.

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