Mark 1:21-28 (ESV)
21 And they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and was teaching. 22 And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes. 23 And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, 24 “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.” 25 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” 26 And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him. 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.” 28 And at once his fame spread everywhere throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee.
While in Capernaum, Jesus went into the local synagogue. The synagogue was not the same as the temple. There was only one Jewish temple where animal sacrifice took place by priests who presented offerings to God for the people. The temple was in Jerusalem, and to make sacrifice, the Jews who lived outside of Jerusalem had to travel there. The synagogue was like an assembly hall. There were synagogues, or gathering places, located throughout Israel, and Jewish men would gather there on the Sabbath for Old Testament “Bible studies.” All that was necessary to form a synagogue was ten or more Jewish men who were over the age of thirteen. The ruler of the synagogue probably invited Jesus to teach that day. When the Jews heard Jesus teach, they said his teaching was not like what they normally heard from the scribes. At the time of Jesus, the scribes were considered to be experts in the Law of God. They were so looked up to, that when they made decisions about how the Law should be practiced, people responded as if those decisions were from God. In fact, the Jews had so much respect for the scribes that they rose up when the scribes entered a room! When Mark says Jesus “taught them as one who had authority,” this would have meant a lot to the first century reader. The scribes did have authority! Jesus’ teaching had not only authority, but it also had supernatural authority.
When you read or listen to the words of Jesus, how do you respond? The one who is familiar with the New Testament can think, “Yeah, yeah… I have heard all that before. Blessed are the so-and-so.” We can yawn our way through the words of Christ as if he was a familiar voice that we’ve grown accustomed to. The Greek word used for “astonished” in verse 22 can literally be translated as “struck out of their senses.” When was the last time you were struck out of your senses by the teaching of Jesus? As we read the book of Mark, or the other Gospels, or any of the Scripture for that matter, let’s respond to it for what it is. It is God’s direct communication to us! Jesus spoke to you, and his message is recorded in the Bible. May we love the teaching of Jesus today like never before, and may we be changed as a result.