Sermon by Pastor Robert Green, 4th Sunday after Epiphany, 1/29/12, Yr. B, No. 920,
Ascension Evangelical Lutheran Church, W.E.L.S., Harrisburg, PA, based on Mark 1:21-28
Are you amazed at the teachings of Christ?
Are you amazed at the teachings of Christ like the people were who heard Jesus teaching one day in his
hometown of Capernaum as recorded for us in the Gospel reading from Mark for today? About six months after he
started his public ministry Jesus called Simon Peter, his brother Andrew, James and John into full-time ministry.
Then Mark tells us, referring to Jesus and the disciples, “They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came,
Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. 22 The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught
them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law.” One can understand this amazement for Jesus was
from Capernaum and the people knew him to be an ordinary human being, a carpenter, but now he stood before
them teaching in the synagogue.
Mark explains the astonishment went beyond simply seeing a local boy become a teacher for the amazement
arose from Jesus teaching “as one who had authority,” which the teachers teaching the people had did not do. This
authority was “his divinely given power and authority to act.” It was his authority to teach and speak the Words of
God the Father wanted taught, to teach not like a mere man, but as a prophet of God. A prophet is one who speaks
the Word of God. Sometimes a prophet would proclaim God’s Word directly from God. But a prophet is one who
simply proclaims what God has already said. Jesus came as a prophet in both ways.
Jesus tells us about his right to prophecy in John 8:25-30 (NIV) “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then
you will know that I am the one I claim to be and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has
taught me.” At other times, Jesus quoted the Old Testament proclaiming what God had already said. Jesus drove
home the point that whatever a true prophet says, it is God’s Word, in saying on the night he was betrayed, John
14:24 (NIV84) “These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.” The people
understood that Jesus as a prophet had authority to reveal the thoughts of God to man. That this was amazing is in
part because for nearly four hundred years God had been silent with no new prophet coming to speak to the people.
No wonder the teaching of Christ amazed the people for the teachers of the law taught not from divine
authority but from the self-given authority to teach the perspective of mere human understanding and thoughts
about what to believe. The teachers of the law taught what they thought should be taught, and rather than to teach
the Scripture. Their authority was simply what they claimed to have from their position in life and reasoning
ability. For the most part it seems the rabbis were more interested in teaching from the Talmud, the collection of
rabbinic writings about Jewish law, ethics, philosophy, customs and history, than to teach the Scripture. These were
thoughts, rules and ideas of men, taught not by the authority of God, but by the authority of men. Ask yourself,
“Am I amazed at the teachings of Christ” or do the thoughts of mere men capture my attention and heart far more?
This is a critical question for us for we live in a world of reason in which there are countless human augments
that appeal to human reason against believing God’s Word as absolute truth. Augments such as the evolutionary
theories of the origin of man or that mere man not God wrote the Bible and so we really do not have to listen to all
of Scripture. If such teachings of mere men amaze you, is there not a danger you will let those teachings overrule
the teachings of Christ? On the other hand, the greatest reason of man cannot compete with the Scripture, for the
Scripture is God’s Word which is absolute and true to the greatest degree. This gives us reason to be amazed at the
teaching of our Lord Christ as taught on every page in every word of Scripture.
Jesus coming as a prophet was prophesied long before by Moses in the Old Testament reading for today. Moses
said: “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen
to him. … I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him.” The church had long
trusted this to be about a great prophet to come who would also be the Messiah. The people at the time of Christ
were expecting this prophet to show up at any time. God confirmed Jesus is this prophet when God said of Jesus at
the Transfiguration, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”
What does this have to do with you, dear Christian? If we believe Jesus is the Great Prophet prophesied to
come will we not have all the more reason to listen to him and be amazed at this teachings as those not of a mere
man but of God? Will this not give us reason to listen and be amazed at all of Scripture? When was the last time
you were amazed at the teachings of Jesus because you recognized that he spoke with the authority of the God-
God encourages us to let our hearts be amazed at the teachings of Christ for there are times when it is hard to
believe all that Jesus has told you, for this finally includes all of Scripture, let alone to be amazed over his
teachings. If we believe Jesus spoke these words, with the divine authority that comes from being true God, how
can we not be greatly amazed and believe all that Jesus said directly to us or through the prophets and apostle?
But do we not all have to say that often if not most of the time we are not particularly amazed at the teachings
of Jesus? When this is the case should we not ask ourselves “Why does Christ’s Word no longer amaze me?”
Might it be that we have become so used to hearing his teachings, especially those detailing his love and
forgiveness, that they no longer move us? This is a call to repent of the growing indifference to the teachings of
Chris. A test to see if this has happen is to ask yourself, “What is the most important thing each day in your life? Is
it money, work, family, friends?” If you continue to be amazed at the teachings of Christ, will not his teachings
demand a central role in your thoughts each day? Would you not want to proclaim his teachings to everyone
God wanted the people then and there to trust in Jesus’ teachings as divine and so Jesus demonstrated his
divine power in a very remarkable way. Mark then tells us that, “Just then a man in their synagogue who was
possessed by an evil spirit cried out, saying, 24 “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!” 25 “Be quiet!” said Jesus sternly. “Come out of him!”
26 The evil spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek.” Jesus did something most mortals
would fear to do, to rebuke an evil spirit. Not only did Jesus rebuke him and demand silence, he ordered the spirit
to leave the man and he did. This demonstration of Jesus’ power offers proof to us of his divinity and thus gives us
all the more reason to listen carefully to and be amazed at all he says!
One might wonder why Jesus rebuked the evil spirits since they were proclaiming the truth about him, that he
was “The Holy One of God.” The questions “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to
destroy us” were not so much asking Jesus’ intent as they were challenging his authority or power to do anything
with them. The questions mock our Christ. Jesus rebuked them for daring to challenge his authority. At the same
time notice how Jesus would give no credence to the testimony of evil spirits. Would it make the least bit of since
for Jesus to drive the evil spirit out but allow him to remain and speak just because he got it right that Jesus is the
Holy One?? Would that not give the appearance to others that the spirit had something worth listening to? The fact
that evil spirit got it right about Jesus being the Holy One might lead some to think that he was a good teacher and
so why not listen whatever he had to say. What foolishness would that be!
But would that not be like you or me giving the least bit of credence to a false teacher? If a false teacher gains
credence by getting something right about God, the end result is a false credence that gives reason to listen to false
ideas and teachings. Remember the best lie or untruth states an element of truth. Rather than give the least bit of
credence to a false teacher, should we not, like Jesus, order them to be silent among us? If we are amazed at the
teachings of Christ so that we want to hear more, will be not be shocked and determine to silence the false teacher
Mark then tells us, “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 evil spirits and they obey him.” 28 News about him spread
quickly over the whole region of Galilee.” Notice the response of those who were amazed at Jesus was to report the
news about him quickly over the whole region of Galilee. Would it not be like you and me being so amazed and
greatly astonished over the teachings of Jesus that through us the news about him spread quickly over the whole
region of Harrisburg, or at least over our neighborhood, place of employment or recreation?
We can understand why the news spread quickly about Jesus. The people could not help talking about what
they had seen and heard. Had you been part of that crowd would you have been the cause of the news about him
spreading quickly? Those brothers and sisters spread the news about Jesus quickly, because they were amazed at
his teaching with authority. Again, ask yourself, “Am I you amazed at the teachings of Christ, like the people were
that day in Capernaum?
Dear believer, God wants you to know that is quite alright to let your hearts be amazed and then to share the
good news that Jesus has taught you. That is the good news about the amazing grace of God that he sent his Son in
fulfillment of Scripture to save you from your sins. If you let your heart be amazed about what Jesus taught and
what he did, how could you not spread the news about him quickly. If you are reluctant to share your faith, the
problem may not be shyness but a lack of amazement!
Only you can answer the question, “Are you amazed at the teachings of Christ?” Be amazed for his teachings
are the very words of God about the Good News of salvation, words that astonish the sin stricken heart. May we
always be amazed at the powerful Gospel of our God so much so that we are always eager, willing and able to
share it with all others. To God be all glory, amen!