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Mark 1 21-28 b

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Today’s Message

Date:               February 12, 2006

Speaker:          Pastor Steven Thomas

Title:                Of Opinions and Authority

Text:                Mark 1:21-28

21 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. 23 Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit cried out, 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.

27 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.

Introduction:  Illustration:  E F Hutton commercial:  “When E F Hutton speaks everyone listens.”  If I may put it this way, the point that Mark is making in our text today is that Jesus has spoken and everyone should listen.

We have seen in our study of Mark that the author had a keen interest in making sure that we understand the unique identity of Jesus Christ.  He is none other than the very Son of God.  This fact has profound implications for our response to Jesus’ teaching.  Because of his identity, Jesus spoke with unique authority.  This main point—Jesus has authority—is hard to miss.  We have this statement in verse 22:  The people were amazed at his teaching because he taught them as one who had authority.”  He then gives the account of a miracle, but works to make sure that we do not miss the point of the miracle:  v. 27 “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.”

So, the authority of Jesus is clearly the central issue in our text.  It really falls open into to parts:

I.          Jesus’ authority was evident in his teaching.

Capernaum was a fishing town on the NW shore of the Sea of Galilee.  Archaeologists have uncovered the ruins of a synagogue dating from the 2nd-4th centuries.  Under the floors of those ruins lie the remains of a black basalt stone floor of an earlier synagogue—undoubtedly the floor on which Jesus frequently stood to preach.  Our text records the occasion of his first sermon in that synagogue.  The preaching was so very different that the people crowded together in the synagogue on that day were dumbstruck, astounded.  What was the cause of their amazement?  The authority of his teaching. 

A.        The opinions of men

Notice that they contrasted Jesus’ teaching with that of the usual, run of the mill teacher.  Actually, these teachers, commonly known as “scribes,” were highly respected.  The common man showed respect by:

            -giving way on the street

            -standing when they entered the room

But their preoccupation was with the written records of famous rabbis or teachers.  Their teaching amounted to lengthy discourses on the teaching of others.  “Rabbi Gamalial held this opinion but Rabbi Eleazor thought another way while Rabbi Hillel held yet a third view.  Let me explain why I think Hillel might have been right.”  And so it went. 

In the end, the interpretive opinions of men might be interesting, even helpful, they have no ultimate weight. 

B.        We follow a better approach

What we do carries more weight.  We take the word of God and begin by asking what does it say?  Our goal is to understand what God has declared in his word.  We understand that the authority of our preaching does not lie in the opinion or reputation of the interpreter—although you couldn’t prove that by the way some church members act.  Through the years, I have known men have hero worshiped preachers.  If John MacArthur said it, it must be gospel.  No, the authority of a sermon does not lie in the reputation of the messenger.  What matters is not whether the position is held by Big Mac in the West or Charles Stanley in the South or little Steve Thomas up North.  The question is this:  Is this what the Bible says—clearly and accurately.  Folks, that is our calling and should be our passion—are we making the message of the Bible known with clarity?  That is our only source of authority.  It is derivative—we borrow it from the word of God.  It is authoritative because it is from God.

Now, you need to understand that Jesus’ authority was different still. 

C.        The authority of Jesus

We have derivative authority—he rightfully possessed authority.  He did not talk about God, still less about the opinions of men about God.  He spoke from God.  His authority was direct.  And his hearers sensed it in the power of his preaching.  Mark does not record the content of Jesus’ teaching at this point.  His sole concern was with the authority of Jesus.  But we have examples of his teaching elsewhere and the authority oozes through even in the written text.

On one occasion, Jesus cited the sacred code of Law:  the Ten Commandments.  He declared:

Matthew 5:21-22

21 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.

He placed his word on the same par as the Scriptures from God.  How could he do this?  He could speak with words from God because of his unique identity.  This identity would be confirmed from a surprising source.

II.        Jesus’ authority was proven by his miracles.

Tell the story

A.        There is a widespread misconception:  What Jesus did was normative for today.

In other words, what he did we should do.  Listen.  The miracles of Jesus played an important role in the ministry of Jesus, but they are not for us perform.  Jesus walked on water and you can try it, but you’re going to get wet.  One of the saddest accounts of foolishness that comes from the misunderstanding of the miracles of Jesus was recounted on a TV program that originated here in Detroit.  There used to be a charismatic ministry in downtown that advocated that these miracles are for today.  This so-called preacher told the story of some of his well-meaning, but misguided parishioners who went into a funeral home to try to resurrect the body of a 12 year old boy.  They went so far as to get the body out of the casket and commanded it to walk.  Now even this preacher was appalled.  He said that it takes a lot of faith to raise the dead—especially after it has been embalmed!  I heard him say that with my own ears.

Listen.  The Bible indicates that the miracles of Jesus were intended to serve a specific purpose.  They are not normative for today.  They served to prove his authority.

B.        A word of caution about demons

There seem to be two extreme views about the subject of demons.  On the one hand, some are embarrassed by this reference to the supernatural.  They try to explain it away.  They suggest that this was merely an ancient misunderstanding of physiology; that it was their attempt to understand things such as epilepsy or turrets syndrome.  The problem with that interpretation is that is guts the meaning of the text.  Mark often makes a distinction between the demon possessed and the sick.  We have the accounts of demons conversing with Jesus and Jesus commanding the demons.  If there are no demons, then Jesus acted out a charade. 

One the other hand, we have another extreme:  namely people who go to seed on the subject of demons and see demons lurking behind every tree and in every unusual event.  I would suggest that this is unhealthy and unbiblical.  Contrary to the stories you hear second hand, third hand, and fourth hand from the mission fields, the Bible only describes significant, concentrated, and obvious demonic activity in two periods of time:  The first coming of Jesus and the time of the second coming of Jesus.  The explanation of this is fairly simple.  Remember that I said that miracles played this important role:  They revealed the authority of Jesus?  The unveiling of the demonic world in the presence of Jesus gave occasion for him to demonstrate his authority in the spiritual realm.  Even the spirit world must lie prostrate before him.  This is the simple purpose for the concentrated demonic activity in the NT surrounding the ministry of Jesus Christ.  Any other biblical references were seldom, occasional—and had to do with the authentication of the apostles as Jesus representatives.

Listen, if the business of the church is exorcism, then why is it never mentioned in the epistles—the very section of the NT that spells out our mission?

Paul said that Satan himself appears as an angel of light.  In other words, contrary to Hollywood depictions of evil, heads don’t spin and beds don’t shake.  In fact, if you encountered a demon, you wouldn’t even know it. 

Our business is not exorcism.  It is the gospel.  The good news of Jesus Christ is the solution to the human problem in this age.  That is Mark’s point.  Here is One who has spoke with unique authority.  In the words of Matthew, “no one has have spoken like this man.”  He spoke with authority—not prattling about the opinions of men; not expounding the word with derivative, secondary authority, but he spoke from God because of his unique authority.

What does this mean for us?

Today’s take-home truth:  Jesus has spoken and you should listen because he speaks for God.

He has spoken and you should listen:

Matthew 11:28-29

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

John 8:24

24 I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins.”

John 8:31-32

“If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

I am the way, the truth and the life . . .

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