Posted by: Billy Marsh | October 10, 2008

Marveled, Astonished, and Amazed (Part III)

This is a series on my blog that I do not want to leave undone. I believe that there is a lot to be gained from such a study in promoting ourselves and one another towards a more dynamic view of Christ that is representative of how he is manifested in Scripture. In the past two posts (Part I/Part II) in this series, I touched on how the Gospel of Mark seems to be emphatically calling its readers to marvel, wonder, be astonished, or amazed at the works of Jesus. I must say, however, that we should not limit our exposure to this literary device only to Mark’s gospel account, for the rest of the fourfold Gospels also contribute to this discussion greatly, often using the same language in the same stories. Our focus for the purpose of this series will be exclusively the Gospel of Mark insofar as it seems to come forth from the text with more force, perhaps due to its brevity, than the other three.

Previously, we looked into how Jesus’ works left the people with a sense of awe and wonder. But now, we turn to a different aspect in Mark’s gospel that elicited the same responses, namely, Jesus’ teachings. Not only did things such as casting out demons, healing the deaf, and walking on the water prove to be actions that left the onlookers with eyes wide open and jaws dropping, but also his teachings were so earth-shattering that the same emotions tended to be evoked. Of course, it is easy to rouse ourselves to regain the right attitude of amazement before the Son of God as he overcomes this world through miraculous events due to their extraordinary nature, but how much more so should we labor to find Jesus’ words just as outstanding and powerful? I think that if we fail to do so, then we are missing the full thrust and importance of just exactly what Christ is saying as a result of his Incarnation and ministry on the earth.

At the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry, the people were captivated by his words. Although we are not told specifically what Jesus was saying here in the instance in Capernaum, Mark tells us in Mark 1:22, “And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes.” I can’t help but look back a few paragraphs to 1:14-15 in order to find a reference point for the content of his teaching. The “gospel of God” which Jesus was proclaiming was one of repentance and belief. However, we must not skim over the fact that he was also announcing that “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand.” But with regards to his authority, which obviously startled the audience, Jesus’ teaching carries with it a weight that most likely hasn’t been heard for centuries, notwithstanding John the Baptist.

In his classic commentary on the Gospel of Mark (thanks for humbly passing over this one Bret so I could buy it for $2), William Lane observes, ”

Jesus’ word, presented with a sovereign authority which permitted neither debate nor theoretical reflection, confronted the congregation with the absolute claim of God upon their whole person. Jesus’ teaching recalled the categorical demand of the prophets rather than scribal tradition (72).

Unlike the teaching of the scribes, Lane says the difference in authority was “in view of not merely the power to decide, but to compel decision (72).” This is all the more clear, especially with reference to how Mark begins his gospel, that is, under a very prophetic tone. I won’t go into much detail here because it isn’t necessarily related to the topic of this post, but notice how he immediately enlists the prophecy of Isaiah to set up the fulfillment of John’s ministry, and then how he quickly transitions into the beginning of Jesus’ ministry as the fulfillment of both the OT prophets and John’s preparatory service, as well as the divine affirmation of God and the Holy Spirit. Lest we forget the relationship of Jesus’ wilderness experience to prophetic ministry, he also returns proclaiming the standard prophetic message in fullness: Repent! This message coupled with his divine authority as the true Messiah and only Son of God without a doubt would have been an astonishing combination for the Jews of the first century.

But why isn’t it so for us? Are we located in a place really that far off from the ones who were standing in the presence of Jesus that day? Perhaps in some ways. But we must not forget that the relevance and significance of Jesus’ teaching, even here at the very beginning of the Gospel of Mark, is universal, not only local. The inagauration of the kingdom of God and the appearnce of the long-expected Christ has eternal ramifications for all of creation, and that includes 21st century readers. So when we read that Jesus has come, proclaiming the gospel of God with the authority of God, I pray that we will learn to devote undivided attention to his words, and come to understand the great cosmic implication that God in the flesh is standing among men, teaching.

Stay on the lookout for Part IV where I will investigate other examples of Jesus’ teaching in Mark’s gospel that produced a remarkable response from his hearers.


  1. […] Marveled, Astonished, and Amazed: Mark 1:14-15, 22 […]

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