Posted by: Billy Marsh | July 30, 2008

Marveled, Astonished, and Amazed

Is complacency the same thing as familiarity? That’s the question I’ve been asking myself with respect to a few different subjects such as my personal walk with the Lord and my encounters with the Scriptures. I wouldn’t limit, though, the implications of answering this question to those two major objects. Even friends and family can be taken for granted without knowing it. As I’ve mentioned in other posts recently, I’ve been reading and re-reading the Gospels lately, taking each on its own, trying to discern the authors’ distinct voices. It seems that lately the Gospels, though I’m well-acquainted with them, have been somewhat muddied in my mind into one big fourfold witness where I have lazily ceased from trying to hear the individual testimonies on their own terms. What motivated me the most to challenge my familiarity with the Gospels was being able to teach John’s Gospel at Redeemer Church for a Sunday School class, where I was forced to engage in singularity the Gospel of John’s particular contribution to the testimony of Jesus Christ. After being deeply moved and transformed by that experience, I’m excited to see how the Lord will use my time in the other three accounts to draw me nearer to himself and make me more like his Son, Jesus Christ.

Once again I ask, “Is complacency the same thing as familiarity?” The reason I ask is because I’m not sure if my relationship with Christ over the past few months is best described as complacent, definitely not to the point of apathy. However, though I believe that I have been walking closely with the Lord, it seems that maybe a little bit of the spark in my attitude towards him has diminished. It is almost as if I’ve become too “familiar” with his identity and his deeds, if that’s even possible. And my study of the Gospel of Mark helped to point this out.

Although all four of the Gospels appear to be fairly balanced in this regard, Mark’s account just seemed to come across slightly more explicit in terms of recording the responses of those observing first hand Jesus’ teachings and works. Maybe this was because his Gospel is shorter than the others, and therefore, these recollections seemed to be more frequent. Nonetheless, I was impressed more so by Mark’s portrayal of the awe-struck bystanders than Matthew, Luke, or John. What I realized not long after my venture into his account of Jesus’ life and ministry, was that I wasn’t responding to Christ’s words and acts in the same manner as those standing in his midst. For example, take Mk 1:27, “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.'” Casting out an unclean spirit, who also testifies to Jesus’ identity as the Holy One of God (Mk 1:23-26), ought to be something that is, in essence, amazing right? Yet I was immediately aware that I was struggling even to keep my attention centered on the story; feeling amazed by the Holy One of God working his first miracle in Mark’s Gospel was not even an issue. I knew at this point I should be alarmed by my over-familiarity with who Christ is and the mighty acts he does.

In Mark’s Gospel story, I noticed a consistent attitude of shock and awe in those who were present, seeing and hearing all that Jesus did and said. After looking over most of these occurences in Mark, three causes can be summaried as to being responsible for eliciting these extreme reactions to Jesus, the Incarnate Son of God. First, people were completely taken back by his works. Evidently, in first-century Israel, casting out unclean spirits with authority was not all that common. We’ve already noted Mk 1:27, and how the people were amazed by Christ’s power over evil spirits, but another example comes not long afterwards when Jesus tells the paralytic to “pick up your bed, and go home“, not to mention the fact that earlier he had already bewildered the scribes when he pronounced that the man’s sins were forgiven. The Scripture says, “. . . they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, ‘We never saw anything like this (Mk 2:12b) !'”

Are we amazed when we see Christ tell a paralyzed man that his sins are forgiven? Better yet, are we amazed that the Son of Man has the authority and mercy to do such things? But take it a step farther. Mark says that they all were amazed and “glorified God“. When we read such a passage, can you say that you are counted in the number who stand amazed in the presence of the Son of God who forgives sins and commands a lame man to walk simply by the power of his word, and in turn, glorifies God? Have we become so familiar with the record of Christ’s works that we have lost the awareness of the fact that he was doing things no one else could do? We must not lose the wonder. He is a mighty Savior, and we must never forget just exactly how magnificent were the deeds he was performing when as the Incarnation, the world was a captive audience to God in flesh.

I will take up the rest of this post in a “Part II“. I’ve written enough for one post so far, and still have much more to share.


  1. […] Marveled, Astonished, and Amazed: Mark 1:23-27; 2:12 […]

  2. We once discussed a similar topic at my local church. Take Noah’s Ark for instance. You would have to work very hard to find a Christian who does not know that story. It seems that anymore people have said “I know all there is to know about Noah’s Ark; I don’t need to here it again”. And if someone says that, it has become less real to them. They begin to take it for granted and lose sight of the morals that can be learned from it. In this case, they lose sight of the reality and wonder of the miracles Jesus performed and the messages he preached.

    This is good stuff-keep it up.

  3. One thing we tend to lose is the significance of Jesus’ works as witnesses to his divine identity. In John 10 especially, Jesus exhorts his opponents to believe his works, even if they don’t believe his words, because the things that he does are those actions that only God can do. In other words, if you accept the works of Christ, you have no other choice than to acknowledge that he is God in the flesh.

  4. Indeed, you are very correct. Jesus said also that “I am in the Father and the Father is in me.” I like how C.S. Lewis puts it (as you have mentioned in your latest post), that you cannot believe He is a great moral teacher and at the same time not believe Him to be the Son of God, because one falsely claiming to be God must be either a madman or a Devil (or both), and thus cannot be a great moral teacher.

    Sorry, I put “here” in my last comment instead of “hear”. That was a typo-forgive my carelessness.

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