God’s Word for You
Mark 1:21-22 Amazing teaching
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Saturday, July 17, 2021
Jesus Drives Out a Demon
21 Then they went into Capernaum. On the next Sabbath day, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. 22 They were amazed at his teaching, because he was teaching them as one who has authority and not as the experts in the law.
While we think that synagogues began to appear during the exile of Jews in Babylon, it is possible that the earlier exile of the northern tribes also generated synagogue-style meetings. At first these were services held in houses so that Jews could hear the Scriptures and pray together. They were a long way from the temple, and especially after the temple was destroyed, they became the primary means of worship and Bible study. The custom continued after the exiles returned and even after the temple was rebuilt. In any town where there were at least ten Jewish men a synagogue could be convened. The natural question, what if there weren’t ten men, is answered by Acts 16:13, where there was no synagogue in Philippi but some women gathered by the river for prayer.
Synagogues invited traveling rabbis to come and preach. Sometimes, there might be none at all and the synagogue ‘ruler’ (administrator) or another elder of the town would read the lessons and prayers. Other times, two or three rabbis might all preach. On this occasion, Jesus Christ himself came to preach. They were amazed by his teaching. The word for “amazed” in this case is ekplessomai (ἐκλήσσομαι), and in the passive: “they were overcome with amazement.” Why? Because he didn’t teach like the usual rabbis and scribes. He taught with authority. Many (perhaps most) of the teachers in Jesus’ time and in later times in the synagogues would repeat the teachings of earlier rabbis. It was even a hallmark of the Jewish Talmud to present opposing viewpoints of various rabbis on topic after topic, so that the reader or hearer is left perplexed: Whom should I believe? One says one thing, and another says another thing, and the man who just told me those things won’t say which one he believes. But Jesus! Jesus was different. Jesus did not argue or quibble about whether or not there was a resurrection; Jesus said clearly, “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25). Jesus summarized the whole law with a simple practical sentence: “Do to others what you would have them do to you” (Matthew 7:12), which doesn’t leave us wondering what we should do. It tells us. “Be merciful,” he said, “just as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36). Not only does that tell me what to do, but it preaches the gospel of God’s mercy to me and helps me to remember it at all times.
One of my dear uncles (all my uncles are dear to me) was among other things a high school English teacher. He taught his students to look for their own meaning in things such as poetry, novels, and short stories. But he becomes enraged when he hears anyone doing those things with the Word of God. The Holy Scriptures are not a matter of opinion, or of getting what we can from them. The Inspired Word is God’s own communication for us, to teach us, to create faith in our hearts, and to sustain that faith, to lead us to repentance, and to guide us toward works of faith and thanksgiving. The Bible is not a document for me to say, “This is what it means to me.” It is a matter of knowing: “This is what the Bible means. Period.” This is the confidence we have in the preaching of Jesus and the written message of the Old and New Testaments. God, in his love, gave you the clear message of the forgiveness of sins in Christ. Forgiveness through Christ is the basis of our faith and of everything we teach and do. Take comfort in it; be amazed by it. People you talk to will be amazed, too.
Pastor Timothy Smith