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The Authority of Jesus

January 28, 2024|The Authority of Jesus|Mark 1:21-28

JD Cutler

Click here for the sermon audio

The last couple of weeks we have been talking about Jesus’ revelation of himself as king in the kingdom of God, this week we see a different but complementary office that Jesus holds. The doctrine of the threefold office of Christ as presented in Scripture was first described in writing by Eusebuis and more fully developed by the reformer John Calvin. It states that Jesus holds three supreme offices concurrently, he is The Prophet, The Priest, and The King of God, fulfilling all three offices perfectly. 

Question 28 of ‘A Baptist Catechism’ is: How does Christ perform the office of a prophet?
Answer: Christ performs the office of a prophet, in revealing to us, by his Word and Spirit, the will of God for our salvation.

It is to this sometimes neglected office that we turn our attention to this morning. 

So far in Mark we have seen John the Baptist preparing the way for Jesus, we have seen the baptism of Jesus where Jesus both identifies with sinful humanity and is identified by the triune witness to be the son of God. We then saw Jesus beginning to establish his kingdom through the preaching of the gospel and through calling men to himself as disciples, men who will later be called to be Apostles, the foundation of his church. 

Having begun proclaiming the gospel and calling men to himself, we pick up now with what one pastor calls ‘a day in the life of Jesus.’

From verse 21-39 we have roughly 24 hours described for us. This Sunday we will try and cover through verse 28 and next Sunday the remaining verses through 39. 

Mark 1:21-22 (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. 

Let us get our bearings on the setting and then move to the substance.

Sabbath- in verse 21 there is nothing unusual about the setting so far. As a devout Jewish man, going to the Synagogue on the Sabbath was normative for Jesus, so much so that Luke makes specific reference to it when he says in Luke 4:16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day,

While certainly not the emphasis of our text, it is a reminder that even for the Son of God, habitual and regular participation in the public expression of worship was important. As Pastor Alistair Begg points out, Jesus’ decision to go into the Synagogue that Sabbath was a volitional not an emotionally driven decision. That is to say, it was a deliberate decision that he made, not an emotional one. 

How many of us get this backwards! As Sunday approaches we do an inventory on whether we feel like going to church. 

Or we weigh our other desires against our desire to go to church and thus whether we simply do not feel like it or we decide that there is greater desire to do something else, we do not come into this place to gather with our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. 

But let us acknowledge that, even if we are resistant to accept it, at least for the model left by us from Jesus Christ, attending the place of worship was habitual and regular in so much that it could be said that it was his custom. 

But let us acknowledge that, even if we are resistant to accept it, at least for the model left by us from Jesus Christ, attending the place of worship was habitual and regular in so much that it could be said that it was his custom. 

Synagogue- and so we find Jesus in this particular synagogue on the sabbath. The synagogue, outside of the temple itself, was a central part of their religion. Existing in every town or village where there were, from my understanding, 3 or more Jewish families, these synagogues were where these Jewish families met on the Sabbath.

It was here that the Psalms were sung, the scriptures were read, and the teachings of scriptures were expounded by the synagogue leaders, usually elders in the community. But they also have opportunities for other Jewish men to teach, so we find Jesus not only attending and participating, but leading in the teaching of God’s word. 

Teaching- The word here is an imperfect verb tense to highlight for us that he kept on teaching. Teaching in the synagogue involved one or more readings from the Hebrew scriptures and then someone would teach concerning what had been read. We will see this modeled for us in a complementary scripture this morning to our main text. 

None of this is abnormal in the day and life of a Jewish man, but on this day, the gathered congregation note that there is something unique about this Jesus of Nazareth and his teaching. 

That something different is the word I want to focus on this morning, authority. 

Jesus’ authority is both revealed and recognized in this synagogue on this day. My prayer is that in the same way this morning his authority would be clearly declared and fully recognized by us here this morning. There are three areas where we see this truth in our text, the first is…

 In His Teaching

This is what verse 22 tells us. 

22 And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes. 

Astonished- struck with amazement

For- because, what was amazing about his teaching?

he taught them as one who had authority, Not as the Scribes- experts in the Hebrew Scriptures (what we know as the Old Testament) 

Think about it for a minute, week in and week out these gathered Jewish men and women heard the word of God read and taught by the elders, by the scribes, by the Pharisees, words that they themselves had learned as children, and yet on this day, as Jesus began to teach, something inside them perked up causing them to lean in and listen closely. 

There was something in his teaching that was missing from theirs. It is often like that, isn’t it? We do not know what we are missing until we experience it. If you would have asked any of them in previous weeks, how synagogue worship had gone, they would have likely answered in the same way many of us do when asked how church was. It was good, I thought Rabbi Rob did a great job today, or Sam the Scribe really stepped on our toes today, right?

But on this day, they realized that they had never heard any of their rabbis, any of their scribes, or any of their religious leaders or elders teach in a way that was rooted in personal authority.  

From what I understand scribes and Pharisees would often refer to the teachings of other scribes and Pharisees in their teaching. The more respected the Rabbi quoted, the more authority the teaching possessed. It was teaching rooted in the tradition of man, passed down from teacher to disciple to disciple, etc… But two things are noticeably absent from Jesus teaching included in the New Testament. He does not quote other Rabbis or refer to their teachings, neither does he say ‘thus says the Lord’ as the prophets of Old did. He simply speaks and teaches as one who possess within himself the authority to do so. 

Now, while we do not have recorded here what exactly Jesus taught that day, by examining his other times of teaching in synagogues, we can pretty well assume if not what it might have included, certainly his style or method of teaching.

Let’s take for instance his first recorded synagogue experience in his home town of Nazareth. Luke places this experience prior to the one we are reading about today in Mark. 

Luke 4:16-22 (ESV) 16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. 17 And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” 20 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” 22 And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth.

He read the scripture, rolled it up, as to say that is all we need to hear, handed it back to the attendant and then took a position of teaching by sitting down. Everyone was obviously shocked, possibly by the brevity of reading, possibly in the authoritative way he handed the scroll back, or that he had read it and was now going to teach about it, we do not know, but we know that every eye was fixed on him. With that, Luke tells us that this was not a normative practice. All eyes on him, what is he going to say?

‘This scripture’ he says, absolutely and unapologetically, ‘is about me and it is being fulfilled right now.’  

In this case, their amazement quickly becomes anger because in his teaching he highlighted that God’s prophets and their dealing with people did not always fall favorably on the Jews but came to the gentiles through the work of Elijah and Elisha. He was basically telling them that while he had come to fulfill all that Isaiah prophesied about him, the promise would not be fulfilled to all who were Jewish, but rather who God sent him to. They become angry and try to put him to death, or at least seriously injure him. 

This coming into a new place, entering the synagogue and teaching in a way that causes amazement because of his authority, is described for us as how Jesus moved from place to place. In Mark, we find these words. Mark 1:39 (ESV) And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons. But it wasn’t just in the synagogues that his teaching displayed authority. 

Moving outside of the synagogue, we can get an idea of the stark contrast between the way the scribes taught and the way Jesus taught. In the sermon on the mount, listen to how he begins. 

Matthew 5:3 (ESV) 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

And so he begins first with a list of blessings without reference to specific scriptures, without reference to Rabbinical teaching, simply and plainly declaring the way things are. 

Then he moves into one of the greatest displays of authority when he says, Matthew 5:21-22 (ESV) 21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you

What is Jesus quoting here? Exodus 20:13 the six commandment (ESV) 13 “You shall not murder.

Don’t miss what he does here. 

He says you know the commandment, you shall not murder, your teachers and scribes say that therefore whoever murders will be liable to judgment, but I say to you…

What does he say? (ESV) that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. 

They declare to you the letter of the law, I declare to you the Spirit of the law. Think about this, Jesus is not different in the method that he teaches, he is radically different from their scribes in what he teaches. He repeats this six times in this sermon on the mount with various commands. 

Furthermore, he goes on to declare, authoritatively, what the Father does and does not reward, as well as who will and will not be let into the kingdom of Heaven. Matthew finishes the sermon with this commentary about it. Matthew 7:28-29 (ESV) 28 And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, 29 for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.


Jesus speaks as though his words are on level ground with the scriptures. 

Sometimes people are tempted to give emphasis to the red-letters in their bibles over the rest. Are you familiar with the red-letters? Most of you are. In many Bible translations the words of Christ are in red, but do not misunderstand like many of those outside the church do when they say, ‘well Jesus never said anything about this or that, because it is not in the red letters of the bible.’ Friend, Jesus’ testimony in the red-letter portions was not only to the trustworthiness of the scriptures, but that they in fact bear witness about him. Do not miss the importance of this!

In Jesus’ own ministry, he explained how all of scripture testify of him.

Two disciples on the road to Emmaus after his resurrection. Luke 24:27 (ESV) 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

In the upper room with his disciples, he reminds them not only that this is what he has been teaching, he enables them to understand it through his power. 

Luke 24:44-45 (ESV) 44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures,

Then at Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was poured out, Peter stood up and preached about what was happening and why it was happening, by referring to the prophet Joel and two different Psalms, 16 and 110.

John rightly and beautifully calls Jesus the Word of God in the beginning of his gospel. The living word that we read about in the written word. The Scriptures of the Old Testament prophecy and speak of Jesus, the scriptures of the New Testament are either about him, about life in him, or about the future culmination of his kingdom. Therefore, from beginning to end, this Bible, both old and new testaments or covenants are about and find their fulfillment in Jesus Christ. 

No wonder when he taught, it was not like the scribes, because he possessed authority, not perceived authority as though it was not genuine, not bestowed authority from his hearers, but innate authority by his very nature. 

But when he spoke it was God speaking, not only because of his divinity, but because of his subordination to the father. In John we find Jesus making this statement John 12:49-50 (ESV) 49 For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. 50 And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.”

Being equal to the Father in terms of his divine nature, he is subordinate to the father in his role in redemption. 

He was not merely a mediator between God and man, he was God with us, he was the very word of God. 

This is why he spoke with authority in interpreting scripture and expounding the commands of it. I will make this last contrast between Jesus and the Scribes, and then we have to move on.

He was not merely a mediator between God and man, he was God with us, he was the very word of God. 

The teaching of the scribes and Pharisees went beyond the scriptures, in order to keep people from violating it by the letter of the law. Additional commands- The commandment was Exodus 20:8-10 (ESV) 8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. So instead of recognizing the gift of rest from their labors, the religious leaders dictated and still do what minute thing was considered work. So that today, Jews that hold the Sabbath cannot push an elevator button, or turn on an oven, although they may use an automatic elevator, or a timer that turns the oven on as long as they set it before the sabbath.


Jesus’ teaching went behind the scriptures, not to keep people from violating the letter of the law but that they might understand the spirit of the law. For instance, he reminds them that he is Lord of the Sabbath and people honoring God may prepare food for themselves and may help others in desperate need without violating the commandment. 

What a radical difference between Jesus and the Scribes, and that difference was in his authority, both revealed and recognized in his teaching. But in this instance, that day in the synagogue, it was not just in his teaching that his authority was displayed, it was also…

In His Power

Let’s pick up in verse 23 of our text this morning. 

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.” 

During his teaching, a man, who was demon possessed, cried out. 

The word used here is unclean spirit. Which is just about the most literal translation of the Greek as you can get. The greek uses two words, one ‘not’ and the other ‘cleansed’. 

What do the authors mean by this unclean spirit, and is it a leap to assume it was demonic. Not at all. 

In Luke we find the words being used synonymously. Luke 9:42-43 (ESV) 42 While he was coming, the demon threw him to the ground and convulsed him. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit and healed the boy, and gave him back to his father. 43 And all were astonished at the majesty of God.

Why scripture chooses to use this terminology instead of demonic in places, I do not know, but it does paint a clear picture for us of the opposing natures between what is from God and what is not. 

God is pure and holy and perfect, there is no shadow or stain in himself. We could say that he is perfectly clean. By contrast, these evil spirits are against God, and therefore are unclean. 

This truth is certainly on display in the demon's own words, I know who you are, the Holy One of God. 

The author of Hebrews says it this way, Hebrews 7:26 (ESV) 26 For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens.

The Holy One of God, The Holiness of God, here, says the demon, stands one who is pure, morally blameless, ceremonially clean, wholly consecrated of God. These two are in absolute opposition to one another and it immediately shows. 

Hold your place there and turn with me to the synoptic account in the gospel of Luke where we find two small but important details that Mark either summarizes or does not include that help us fully understand what happens here. 

Luke 4:31-37 (ESV) 31 And he went down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee. And he was teaching them on the Sabbath, 32 and they were astonished at his teaching, for his word possessed authority. 33 And in the synagogue there was a man who had the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out with a loud voice, 34 “Ha! 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.” 35 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent and come out of him!” And when the demon had thrown him down in their midst, he came out of him, having done him no harm. 36 And they were all amazed and said to one another, “What is this word? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out!” 37 And reports about him went out into every place in the surrounding region.

These accounts are almost identical except for the latter part of verse 33, the first word in 34 and the last few words of verse 35. In total Luke includes 10 words that are important to us this morning. Mark says he cried out, Luke describes it as a loud cry and gives us a word that gives us more information about this interruption. 

To cry out- to raise a cry from the depth of the throat. Mark tells us simply that he cried out, but Luke tells us the sound he made was actually a cry of intention. 

In the ESV in Luke the word is Ha! And this is the only place it is used. In the KJV it is added in Mark’s account even though it is not in the Greek here, as it is in Luke. 

This singular use is described as an interjection expression of indignation, that is a scream of wonder mixed with fear. At its heart is the idea, as it is translated in some translations, let us alone!

It is a scream, a cry that says, I do not want anything to do with you, your teaching, or your authority Jesus, and for many today it is an expression that is well known to them. At the very mention of Jesus, this is the guttural reaction, I don’t want anything to do with him!

Demon possessed or not, this is the cry of the heart enslaved to sin. 

If you haven’t already, turn back with me to Mark. Where we pick up after this initial response. 

The demon goes on, speaking for the man, who seems to have lost complete sense of self or self-control, he is totally enslaved by this spirit. 

24 “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?- Lit What to us and to You (an ancient idiom)

We have nothing to do with one another. 

Have you come to destroy us?- abolish, to put out of the way entirely, put an end to.

In the New Testament, you find demons alluding to this destruction again and again. Jesus’ appearance set in motion the redemptive ministry of the Father that ends with the utter destruction and putting away of sin and the devil. This is described for us in the book of Revelation. They understood what the reality of his arrival meant for them as well as who Jesus was and the authority he commanded.   

I know who you are—the Holy One of God.” At this point, the demon knows who Jesus is better than the crowds or even his own few disciples do. The kingdom of light has come to invade the darkness, and so in this dramatic encounter we see the authority of Jesus pushing back the darkness of evil. But notice that mere intellectual assent, or even right doctrine is not the same as experiencing freedom in Christ, for this confession is absolutely, theologically, and doctrinally sound.

What does Jesus do in this moment when confronted by this demon?

25 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” 

Jesus rebuked- sharply admonish, censure severely

He issues two commands.

“Be silent, is an imperative,(from the word muzzle- be muzzled, metaphor- stop your mouth

come out of him!”- come out-imperative ‘two words-come out’ from him

I love this, a better translation of be silent is ‘be muzzled’ and ‘come out of there’

Or in southern vernacular, ‘shut up and get’

And on the authority of his voice alone, it does. 26 And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him. Yes, he cries out, but can say nothing else and yes, he convulses him, but he comes out of him. Here is where again we look to Luke for an important distinction. Even though it was dramatic, even though he convulsed the man, he came out as Luke says, having done him no harm. By his voice alone with a single command, this demonic spirit unequivocally obeys the words of Jesus. 

And the crowd is amazed. This word is a little different from their amazement at his teaching authority, here the word carries with it a sense of awe and fear. They don’t know what to think. 

And why not? If we assume that this man’s presence here in this synagogue is not unique on this particular day then either they had dealt with his outbursts before and were unable to do anything about it or this is a unique instance and they have just never seen anything like it. 

We are left to our own imagination on which it is, but as a thought experiment, largely influenced by a sermon Spurgeon gave on this scripture, let’s assume this man was a regular attender to the synagogue. That he was led there that morning by the spirit who was controlling him. For what purpose, we do not know. To disrupt the teaching, to make a scene during the service, or maybe to keep up appearances, that those around him may leave him be. 

Do not think for a minute that the devil will not hide in religious gatherings. Many sins are left unconfronted, many areas of lives unevaluated because they are under the cover of religion. We think, well it cannot be that bad with them, they are in church from time to time. Surely, what I have heard or caught glimpses of is not as bad as all that, because I see them in church. 

Friend, the devil will allow all manners of religious displays as long as the man is left alone. 

Spurgeon goes on to highlight how little power religious worship is apart from the power of Christ. He says. 

…how sad it was that the influences of religious worship had altogether failed to rescue this man from his thraldom! They sang in the synagogue, but they could not sing the evil spirit out of him; they read the lessons of the day in the synagogue, but they could not read the foul spirit out of him; they gave addresses from passages of Scripture, but they could not address the unclean spirit out of him; no doubt some of the godly prayed for him, but they could not pray the devil out of him. Nothing can cast out Satan but the word of Jesus himself… 

The true light overcomes the darkness. This we see in our text and this we know to be true. 

This is why we do not try to proclaim the wisdom of men from the pulpit, this is why we dare not lead in mere emotionally driven music, this is why elements of worship alone are insufficient and this is why we must at every turn and in every way proclaim the name of Jesus. For it is in the person and work of Jesus only where sufficient power to not only drive out evil spirits but create new life in men and women. 

We must sing about his glorious truth, we must proclaim him from every passage of scripture, we must follow him in our lives, and we must tell others about the glorious truth of his redeeming power. Which brings us to our last area where his authority is seen… 

In His Uniqueness

Picking up back in verse 27. 

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.

In response to this display of Jesus’ authority in his teaching and in this miraculous display of power, they say, what is this new teaching that carries such authority that even the unclean spirits obey him?

The bible says those in attendance began debating among themselves. The topic, this new teaching presented in Jesus. Why was it new, or unprecedented? Because it was with and full of authority. Then they went out and spread the word far and wide.

What I find particularly interesting in the writer’s choice of words to describe the results of this day in the synagogue. He says his fame spread, using the same word for spread as he uses to describe the demon coming out of the man. Whether I am seeing too much in his word usage or not, it is interesting to think about how as unable as this spirit was to resist Jesus, he had to come out of the man, so too it was impossible for these witnesses to not go out into the areas and spread the news concerning the one who had come with authority. It was his uniqueness that caused such a stir in the area. 

As a matter of fact, when you get down to it, it is the uniqueness of Christ that has drawn us together this morning. 

We who have experienced his authority now delight in it, we adore it, we celebrate it. 

He alone is the only begotten son of God, he is The High Priest, he is the Great Prophet, and he is the Everlasting King. There is no one like him and there will never be anyone like him. Amen?

In this encounter the thing that is not unique is the man controlled by evil forces. This is the story of every man and woman apart from Christ. While they may not be demonically controlled, the Bible says they are slaves to sin and wickedness. They may partake in religious services, they may do good things according to the world, but this story is closer to their reality than they or the world would like to admit. But…

Although we cannot sing wickedness out of men, although we cannot read it out of them, although we cannot teach it out of them, we have a savior that can invade the darkness and bring light and life. If this story shows us anything, it is that there is no one too far gone to be cleansed by the savior. 

This morning we have looked part of a day in the life of our savior as he began his earthly ministry. What we see is he is the Great Prophet that has come to speak God’s word into the world with authority, who came to banish the darkness, to defeat sin, death, and the grave. 

This scene serves as a microcosm of the kingdom Jesus came to establish, one where men and women are freed from the power of sin, set free from the bondage of evil, by the power of his word and the presence of the Spirit. 

There is an old hymn that came to mind in my studies, you are no doubt familiar with it, it says. 

Would you be free from your burden of sin

There's power in the blood power in the blood

Would you o'er evil a victory win

There's wonderful power in the blood

The reason there is power in the blood is because we are singing about the blood of Jesus Christ. By his blood, he atoned for sin, he fulfilled all righteousness, and accomplished the father’s will that those he calls may come to him for forgiveness of and freedom from sin.

 I still believe that Jesus has the power to set men and women free. 

Perhaps there are some of you today that have been searching for this power in their life. You have tried religion, and yet you remain unchanged, you have tried all that the world has to offer, but you remain unchanged. Could it be this morning that Christ has made himself known to you as the one with the authority to proclaim your sins forgiven and your life changed?

Is today your encounter with the authority of Jesus, as it were, in the synagogue. 

I pray that it is. 

Let us pray. 

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