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Absolutely Astonishing Authority

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Absolutely Astonishing Authority

Mark 1.16-45

Pastor Oesterwind

Review:  Last week, we looked at the words of the Lord Jesus in verse 15 of Mark chapter one:  "Repent and believe in the Gospel."  This is the message of the King announcing that His kingdom is at hand.  It is a kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.  It is the Kingdom of God ...the Kingdom of Heaven; not the Kingdom of Man ...the Kingdom of this World.  It is a Kingdom already but also a Kingdom not Yet.  The Jews were waiting for it; it was near them, but they were not aware of it.  It is the Kingdom of Messiah.  Those who enter this Kingdom must repent by turning from all of their sinful self-trust and turning to the finished work of Jesus Christ.  They must also believe by trusting in or relying upon Jesus Christ alone for their eternal life.

Transition and Scripture Reading:  Jesus demonstrates the arrival of God's Kingdom by establishing His authority in our text this morning.  Please follow as I begin reading in verse 15 of Mark chapter one...

Introduction:  So, it all begins not with a powerful miracle or sermon, but with call of four fishermen.  Jesus has the authority to call them and make them become fishers of men – the authority for calling and creating disciples.  Through it all, Discipleship is not controlling Jesus Christ, but allowing Jesus Christ to control you.

1.       Jesus has authority for calling and creating (1.16-20).

Explanation:  Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee in v. 16.  The Sea of Galilee is actually a Lake.  For perspective, another Lake, Lake Tahoe, is about 12 miles wide and 25 miles long while the Sea of Galilee is only seven miles wide and 12 miles long. That makes Lake Tahoe roughly twice the size of the Sea of Galilee. 

The early name for the Sea of Galilee was Kinnereth.  This Hebrew word means lyre or harp.  Tyndale’s Bible Dictionary states that it was named this because when viewed from the heights it resembles the shape of a lyre.  In NT times the pronunciation of Kinnereth was corrupted to Gennesaret.  Luke calls the Sea of Galilee Lake Gennesaret.

Simon and Andrew were casting a circular net into the Lake as Jesus walked along the shore.  A fishing net of this type usually measured some 20 feet in diameter.  Weights were attached to the circumference of the net.  A skilled fisherman could stand in a boat or wade in the water and heave the net forcefully outward in a circular motion.  The net would than spread along the surface of the water and sink to the bottom trapping fish underneath.  The fish were retrieved after the fisherman swam to the bottom and gathered the weights together and dragging the net to the shore; hence, the term dragnet

Fishing was a prosperous trade for Jews at the time of Christ.  The historian Josephus was able to commandeer 230 fishing vessels during the war in Galilee in AD 68.  Fish from Galilee were exported all the way to Alexandria in Egypt and Antioch in Syria.  Fishermen competed with the fishing trade along the Mediterranean coast.  They were skilled, prosperous, and ingenious men.  They had a good command of the Greek language, the principal language of the ancient world – much like English is today.

Three Aspects to the Call:

1.       Jesus called the disciples to Himself with the words “Follow Me”.  Rabbis and scribes didn’t call their protégées.  Instead, their disciples latched onto them.  He did not say, “Let’s follow God together.”  He called them to Himself by His own authority.  Also, He did not require His disciples to be learned theologians.  Everything they would need to learn and do would come directly from Jesus.  “There is only one thing the fishermen can do, and that is to respond to the commanding word of Jesus, grounded solely in the authority of his person.”[1]

2.       Jesus said that He would make these disciples become fishers of men.  The word become is operative here.  The men were embarking upon a lifetime pursuit.  It would be slow, painful, and full of misunderstanding.  These men would suffer persecution and concentrate on the things of God not self.  Jesus came to serve and give His life a ransom for many (10.45).  As the great Suffering Servant, he set the standard for His followers.

3.       Jesus called more than one.  Simon, Andrew, James, and John in the near context, but many others would join them.  These men become the seed of the Christian church founded upon the Cornerstone, Christ, and upon their apostolic doctrine.

Application:  When we read these verses, we may be tempted to think, “Wow!  Just like that!  They drop everything, give up everything and follow Jesus??”  How could it be?  Shouldn’t these shrewd businessmen have a back-up plan in case things don’t go well?  No miracles, no preaching, no casting out of demons; just an abrupt command, “Follow Me!”  Leave your nets, leave your Dad, and follow Me. 

While there may have been prior contact with Jesus (consider the early chapters of John), the fact of the matter remains, Mark is presenting the necessity of obedience to the authority and Person of Jesus Christ.  What have we really left behind?  When we fail to obey the authority in the Person of Christ, we really are left floundering like a fish on the shore at Peter’s feet.  But note the great benefits of lining up under His authority:

·         Our determination to follow Him will lead to a full, abundant life as He reveals more of Himself every day.

·         Our determination to follow Him means we’re becoming what He desires us to be – servants within His kingdom.  A kingdom He later reveals in which the greatest are those who serve.

·         Our determination to follow Him makes us a part of the church He is building.  We follow in the sandy steps of Andrew and Peter… of James and John.  We do this together as a church; it is the one unifying factor that binds us together – our pursuit of Christ!  Our primary ministry is to draw others into the kingdom of God.  It is winning souls AND discipling souls. 

·         Our determination to follow Him means leaving behind what used to have first place in our hearts.  We don’t abandon our homes, jobs, or families necessarily; but we do abandon the idea of those things being first.  God will permit no rivals!

·         Our determination to follow Him will look different for each of us.  You may be asked for a cup of water and I my physical life.  I may yearn for what you have and pray to Jesus, “Why am I to sacrifice all while he sacrifices a cup of water?”  I can hear Him say, “If I will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?  You follow Me.” (John 21.22)

Transition:  Remember that discipleship is not controlling Jesus Christ, but allowing Jesus Christ to control you.  Jesus has the authority for calling and creating disciples.  Secondly, …

2.       Jesus has authority for astonishing and amazing (1.21-28).


·         Mark keeps the pace brisk throughout his portrait of Christ. 

o   The connective and along with the key term immediately  

o   Astonishing Person of Jesus by the amazing activity of Jesus (calling, casting out demons, healing, and traveling)

o   Verse 21 is the beginning of a day of ministry in the life of Jesus Christ.  (teaches and drives out a demon in the synagogue, heals Simon’s mother-in-law and many others after sundown, and then early the next morning prays and explains what He must do next)

·         Jesus teaches with astonishing authority unlike that of the scribes - authority established by the casting out of the demon(s) (v. 27 amazement of people)

·         Jesus had left Nazareth for Capernaum. 

o   Capernaum is located on the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee. 

o   Hebrew Kephar Nahum, meaning “Village of Nahum”

o   Good base of operations for Jesus (inhabited by Jews and Gentiles)

§  Luke 7 indicates the Jews and Romans had good relations here

§  Magnanimous gift of building a synagogue for the town by Roman centurion

§  Jews return his gracious spirit by pleading his case before Jesus, asking Him to heal his servant. 

o   Capernaum’s residents built a fourth century synagogue that was excavated by archeologists. 

§  1969, a series of trenches were cut beneath its floor revealing a basalt stone pavement which is dated back to the day of Christ. 

§  Original floor that Jesus would have most certainly walked upon (come back for pictures tonight). 

§  Jesus entered this very synagogue on the Sabbath and taught. 

o   A synagogue was not unlike our church auditorium – just a bit smaller. 

§  A gathering place just like our church is a gathering place

§  Established wherever ten or more Jewish males 13 are older are found

§  Ruler of the synagogue was usually its custodian, librarian, and perhaps schoolteacher

§  The ruler was not the main teacher in the synagogue. 

§  That duty fell to the congregation.  Men rotated the responsibility.  Jesus assumed the role on this particular day.

§  Jesus taught with authority surpassing the authority of the scribes. 

§  Scribes were experts in the Law.  Their interpretations and decisions regarding the Law became binding upon the people.  They were often deemed, “Rabbi” meaning “My great one”.  It was a term of respect for a religious teacher.  Scribes also were involved in civil law disputes as jurists.  The Sanhedrin consisted of scribes for the most part.

o   Synagogues and scribes will turn against Jesus in Mark’s account. 

§  Demons are present

§  Religious leaders are antagonistic

§  Hearts are hard, and persecution present. 

§  Of the 19 times he mentions scribes, only one of those is a positive reference. 

The scribes wielded great authority and were very learned men.  But Jesus’ authority is greater.  When Mark uses the Greek term for authority (exousia), it always relates to the authority of Jesus or authority that Jesus confers upon the apostles.  It is the supernatural authority of God.  Scribes have authority from tradition and learning; Jesus has authority from His Father in Heaven.  Recall the words of the Father, “You are my Beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased.”  (Mark 1.11)  Jesus’ teaching amazes those who sit listening in the synagogue.  The content of the teaching is not nearly important as the Teacher Himself. 

The first confirming evidence of Jesus’ authority comes when He faces the supernatural realm of evil.  This is a microcosmic struggle in the conflict between the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Satan. 

“Let us alone!  What have we to do with You, Jesus of Nazareth?  Did You come to destroy us?  I know who You are – the Holy One of God!”  (1.24)  These are the words of an unclean spirit.  A demon or demons contaminated with evil, polluted with corruption.  The demon or demons and Jesus have nothing in common as observed by this demon in the man at the synagogue. 

Notice the demon calls Jesus the Holy One of God.  They know the truth when others do not yet understand.  Jesus subdues the demon with two simple commands.  All are amazed or astounded.  What happens this day in the synagogue will spread like wildfire throughout Galilee.  Jesus’ authority has redeemed this man from the demonic presence within him.  We can’t lose sight of this.

Application:  Preaching takes the authority of God’s Word and confronts the souls of men.  When preaching is directed at the evil of this world and the evil ones of this world, they don’t like to be disturbed. 

Recently two men were shot to death by a man they had witnessed to.  City officials shut down a Bible study among the elderly in Texas.  Behind all of this is the prince of darkness.  I am thankful that unbelieving people are not as debased and immoral as they could possibly be.  Not all are demon-possessed; but all are under the sway of the devil.  The great challenge by all this evil must be met head-on with the authority of God’s Word. 

Be quiet!  Come out of him!  Those are words of hope for a possessed man.  Sometimes we see people as past hope, hard, and impenetrable when it comes to spiritual truth.  They give the appearance of being the captain of their fate.  “Bloodied, unbowed, unbroken, condemned” states one writer (PTW, 43).  But the authority of Christ tells us there is hope for the worst among us.  Jesus can change you with a word this morning …Be quiet!  Come out of him!

Transition:  Discipleship is not controlling Jesus Christ, but allowing Jesus Christ to control you.  Jesus has the authority for calling and creating disciples, for astonishing and amazing with His power, and third…

3.       Jesus has authority for the one and for the many (1.29-34).

Peter’s House

Explanation:  You will see in the slide show tonight a house that is a stone’s throw from the synagogue in Capernaum.  It is identified as the house of Peter.  The house is part of a large complex with doors and windows that open to an interior court rather than outward to the street.  One accesses the court by a gateway from the street.  The courtyard formed a communal center for those living in the dwellings around it. 

Devotional graffiti is written in Greek, Latin, Syriac, and Aramaic.  It is scratched into the plaster walls.  It is very likely that this is the preserved residence of Peter. 

Peter’s Mother-in-Law

Explanation:  Peter’s mother-in-law has a fever.  It has been derived from Luke’s use of the term that it was a great or high fever (4.38).  Jesus stood over her in Luke’s account and rebuked the fever, and it left her (4.39).  This has led many to believe that the fever was actually a demon.   

Mark emphasizes the healing work of Jesus.  No spells or incantations necessary!  Jesus went over to her and helped her up.  His authoritative touch and compassion restored her.  She responds by serving.  No needed recovery time.  She just serves.  This is a proper response for one who has been given hope.

Application:  Simon and Andrew leave their nets.  James and John leave their dad.  But they haven’t left them in the sense of abandoning them.  They just have new priorities.  They are seeking first the kingdom of God.  They drop everything to follow Him.  Where are our priorities?  Are they with people like this woman who had great needs that only Jesus can meet?  We can’t cast out demons or heal the sick; we can, however, show compassion and minister the power of God’s Word!

Peter’s Doorstep

Explanation:  The compassion Jesus had for one woman was extended to all who came to Him from Capernaum.  They literally gathered on Peter’s doorstep.  It doesn’t start until the sun sets because that’s when the Sabbath ends.  The fact that the whole city gathers at the door shows the desperate strait people are in.  Jesus is compassionate and heals many as in the sense of the number being great.  He didn’t leave anyone out.

Remember that the demons were cast out.  The people ask, “What is this?” in v. 27.  The demons give the answer, “You are the Holy One of God!” in v. 24.  Jesus does not allow the demons to speak.  Why?  3 Reasons:

1.       Intervention of Rome 

2.       Misunderstanding of the Jews 

3.       His Hour is Yet to Come – authority that will not be forced prematurely 

Transition:  Discipleship is not controlling Jesus Christ, but allowing Jesus Christ to control you.  Jesus has the authority for calling and creating disciples, for astonishing and amazing with His power, and for the one and for the many.  Fourth,…

4.       Jesus has authority for praying and preaching (1.35-39).


Mark records the prayer of Jesus three times in his Gospel (1.35; after the feeding of the 5,000 in 6.46; in the Garden of Gethsemane in 14.32-39).  All of the recorded prayers take place in darkness (late night/early morning).  Jesus sought prayer with the Father before His preaching in the synagogues throughout all Galilee and before casting out demons (1.39).

I think the prayer was refreshment for Jesus.  I think He greatly desired the time He had alone with the Father.  I believe the Father strengthened and prepared Him as He prayed.  His ministry came from His relationship with the Father. 

Simon and the others searched for Jesus in the sense of the way one would hunt.  The wording is intrusive.  He unintentionally tries to keep Jesus from fulfilling the purposes of the Father.  Discipleship is not controlling God, but allowing God to control you.


“Everyone is looking for You.”  They look for Him because they want to control Him!  They don’t really desire to submit to His authority.  People still ‘seek’ Jesus to control him.  It is not always wise men who still seek Jesus; sometimes fools do.  Why are they fools?  Because they want to control Him.  In so doing, they oppose that which will change them.  Jesus came to preach.  This is the stated purpose in v. 39.


·         Jesus never confessed sin in prayer.  Instead, He prayed for the sinners with which He would identify. 

·         As a man, Jesus lived a life of dependence upon God.  He said that He could do nothing by Himself (John 5.19).  Do you think He would like us to recognize this same truth?

·         We need to pray alone with God.  It’s just that simple.  We must not allow people to control us, but rather, it is God who must control us.  And when we pray, we don’t seek to control God to get what we want; we desire God control us to get what He wants.

Transition:  Discipleship is not controlling Jesus Christ, but allowing Jesus Christ to control you.  Jesus has the authority for calling and creating disciples, for astonishing and amazing with His power, for the one and for the many, and for praying and preaching.  Finally,…

5.       Jesus has authority for compassion and cleansing (1.40-45). 

This passage is a small example of Jesus’ greater ministry in the synagogues and next towns throughout all Galilee.  Leprosy caused great fear.  It is a skin disease difficult to diagnose and heal.  This led to a careful but difficult precaution in Leviticus 13:  45 “Now the leper on whom the sore is, his clothes shall be torn and his head bare; and he shall cover his mustache, and cry, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ 46 He shall be unclean. All the days he has the sore he shall be unclean. He is unclean, and he shall dwell alone; his dwelling shall be outside the camp.”

Other illnesses needed to be healed, but leprosy was something that needed cleansing in the mind of a Jew.  A leper that approaches a Jew in the way that unfolds in our text was unheard of.  The leper risks everything and takes a bold step.  Notice the wording, the leper implored, knelt, and spoke.  He doesn’t question Jesus’ ability; only His willingness to help him.  This is very touching. 

Jesus responds with compassion and does something, again, unheard of.  He touches the leper and speaks.  He is willing.  The command is simple:  Be cleansed.  Perhaps mingled with his compassion is a hint of anger at the misery the leper experienced.  An older manuscript reads that Jesus was filled with anger rather than compassion.  If that’s the case, leprosy was cleansed by the holy wrath of God!

Jesus sent the man away at once with careful instruction.  He wasn’t to say anything to anyone for the aforementioned reasons.  He was to follow the Law as prescribed in Leviticus 14.  The leper was to show himself to the priest, be pronounced clean, and offer sacrifices.  It’s important to note here that the priests can pronounce people clean, but only Jesus can make them clean (BCBC, 52).  This would be a testimony to the priests without a doubt.  It would also be a testimony against them.

Verse 45 tells us the man broke the command of Jesus.  He proclaimed it freely and spread the matter.  Because of this, Jesus could no longer openly enter the city.  He had to say outside in deserted places.  Jesus trades places with the leper.  There’s a hint of Markan irony in this.  Jesus stays in the deserted places and the leper enters society again.  He is truly numbered with the transgressors.

If we would just believe, the leprosy of sin would fall away.  Jesus is not willing that any of you remain unclean, but that all of you leave here clean.  The blood of Christ cleanses us from all sin!  This is why I can even stand before you and preach this morning!  I know He is willing.  He can make you clean!  Just believe Him!

Conclusion:  Discipleship is not controlling God, but allowing God to control you.  The authority of Jesus is calls and creates disciples; it astonishes and amazes with its teaching; it is authority for the one and the many.  The authority of Jesus still flows through prayer and preaching as it beckons the filthy to come for compassionate cleansing!  But we must always remember that it is Jesus’ authority; we cannot control Him; He must control us!

Hymn:  All Hail the Power (42)


[1] Edwards, J. R. (2002). The Gospel according to Mark. The Pillar New Testament commentary (50). Grand Rapids, Mich; Leicester, England: Eerdmans; Apollos.

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