The Authority of Jesus – Mark 1:21-34
Good morning! If you have a Bible, I invite you to turn to the Gospel according to Mark. And if you don’t have a Bible, there should be one under the row of chairs in front of you. If you can grab a Bible, we’re going to be in Mark 1, this morning.
Last Sunday, we were blessed to have Bill Jackson come and preach. If you weren’t here and missed the sermon, it is on our website, so you can go online and check it out when you have a chance.
This morning, we are continuing in our sermon series on the Gospel According to Mark, where we are looking at this portrait of Jesus as the Suffering Saviour and Conquering King.
So far, we have seen that this book, which was written by Mark, is about Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who is the good news of great joy for all people. And we were introduced to a guy by the name of John the Baptist, whose sole purpose in life was to prepare the way for Jesus and His ministry.
Right after that, we saw that Jesus is the obedient Son of God, who pleased His heavenly Father by submitting to baptism and by not submitting to the temptations of Satan in the wilderness.
And right after that, Jesus preached His first sermon, proclaiming that the kingdom of God is at hand, and that there is still time to repent and believe in the gospel—the good news that God has come to mankind.
David Platt, pastor of McLean Bible Church in Washington DC, shares this illustration: He said that he was sitting outside a Buddhist temple in Indonesia, having a conversation with a Buddhist leader and a Muslim leader in this particular community.
And he said that these men were discussing how all religions are fundamentally the same and only superficially different. One of the men said, "We may have different views about small issues, but when it comes down to essential issues, each of our religions is the same."
He listened for a while, and then they asked him what he thought. And here is what he said: "It sounds as though you both picture God (or whatever you call God) at the top of a mountain. It seems as if you believe that we are all at the bottom of the mountain, and I may take one route up the mountain, you may take another, and in the end we will all end up in the same place."
They smiled and replied, "Exactly! You understand!" Then he leaned in and said, "Now let me ask you a question. What would you think if I told you that the God at the top of the mountain actually came down to where we are? What would you think if I told you that God doesn't wait for people to find their way to him, but instead he comes to us?"
They thought for a moment and then responded, "That would be great." And he replied, "Let me introduce you to Jesus."
And church, this is exactly what Mark has been doing in these first few verses. Mark has been introducing us to the Person of Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, who has come to us, so that we might be saved from our crimes of rebellion against holy God.
And this morning, Mark continues to introduce us to this Jesus by telling us that the authority of Jesus is greater than religion and demonic forces and sickness. And my hope is that we will recognize and respond to this authority of Jesus.
If you have your Bibles opened to Mark 1, we’re going to begin in verse 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.”
Jesus has just called His first four disciples and now begins His ministry. And as is typical of Jesus, He goes into the synagogue and teaches. Now, Mark doesn’t give us the details of what Jesus said, but what we do know is that Jesus taught with a kind of authority, “not as the scribes.” There is a clear contrast here between the teaching of Jesus and the teaching of the scribes, which causes us to ask the question: How did the scribes teach?
And here is what the scribes would do: They would copy the Torah, the OT Law, but they would also copy all of the interpretations of the OT Law that previous scribes had made over the years, and they would form opinions of the OT Law based on those interpretations, and they would gather all of these opinions and interpretations together and make laws for the Jewish people to observe.
The scribes had diverged from the Scriptures so much, that what we actually see in the New Testament, around the time of Jesus, was adherence to the Torah, the OT Law, plus all of these other man-made laws that the scribes had formulated over the years.
For example, as a Jew, you didn’t just keep the Sabbath day holy, like what the Fourth Commandment says to do, but there was a list of things that you could not do on the Sabbath, because over time the scribes had added to what God had said and made laws concerning the Sabbath for the Jewish people to follow.
1. And this is where we see the authority of Jesus is greater than religion. Look at verse 22. When the people heard Jesus teaching, their initial response is one of astonishment. It says, “They were astonished at his teaching.” Why? Because Jesus wasn’t teaching some guy’s opinions of some guy’s interpretations of the OT Law. Jesus was teaching them, “as one who had authority.”
Now, that word, authority, is important for us to understand, because it’s not simply that Jesus was raising His voice, and getting really passionate, and calling people to say, “Amen,” to everything He was saying.
No, the word that Mark uses to describe the authority of Jesus is also used to describe the authority of God. And so, what Mark is saying here is that Jesus was teaching with the authority of God. It’s like the teaching of Jesus had the stamp of God attached to it.
And this is unique to Jesus. I can’t stand up here and teach about something pertaining to faith or morality, that is not in this book, and have it be authoritative. All I can do is teach from what I see in this book. In this way, I'm standing on the authority of Jesus in the Scriptures.
I remember a few years ago, having a conversation with a Roman Catholic apologist. He had just given a talk about the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church and why they believe them to be true. And so, I went up to him, afterwards, and asked him some questions about some of these doctrines, specifically, the doctrine of papal infallibility.
Now, if you don’t know what papal infallibility is, it’s the Roman Catholic doctrine which states that the Pope is preserved from the possibility of error when he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole Church.
And this was something that I took issue with, because it sounds like a guy can make a binding statement about something not in this book that everyone else now has to follow, which seems to be awfully similar to what we see happening here with the scribes. And I’m not saying this to rail on our Catholic brothers and sisters. I believe there are godly individuals in the Roman Catholic Church. But I just don’t see where one can have this equal authority with Jesus.
The authority of Jesus is greater than religion. You see, we are prone to want to make rules for other people to follow, aren’t we? Having children has exposed the tendency in me to make some of the most arbitrary rules that I can think of. No toys in the kitchen. Why? Because then I’ll step on them when I'm trying to get to the fridge. It doesn’t make sense, and yet, we put these rules in place, mostly for our convenience.
And what Jesus does is He decimates the religiosity of His day by teaching with God-given authority. He didn’t teach what the scribes wanted Him to teach, which is why we are going to see, throughout Mark, this opposition between Jesus and the scribes. He was confronting their framework for controlling the Jewish people.
And what this does is it makes us aware of the restrictions we put on people. “You must look like this and talk like this and act like this, and then, maybe Jesus will accept you. Once you have everything in your life, together, then you can come to Jesus and be saved.”
That’s not what we see in Scripture. We are never accepted on the basis of our works. We could never be accepted, if that’s what was required. No, we are accepted on the basis of the grace of God through faith in Jesus’ work alone. And once that happens, then God begins to iron out the rough edges, shaping us into the image of Jesus the Son.
2. And so, first, we see that the authority of Jesus is greater than religion. Secondly, we see that the authority of Jesus is greater than demonic forces.
Look at verse 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.”
Can you imagine if that happened in the middle of our church service? Like, in the middle of the preaching, this confrontation takes place?
In my fourth year of Bible College, we had a pastor come in and teach a class on ministry foundations. And this pastor told us a story about how, one time, he was preaching at this church, and a guy came into the church that he had never seen before, announcing to everyone there that he was Jesus who had returned.
And this pastor asked us what each one of us would do in that situation, but I think we were all too shocked that that would actually happen to give an answer. But here, there is a disruption in the worship service, and the authority of Jesus is about to be tested. The kingdom of God, that Jesus came proclaiming back in verse 15, is going to clash with the supernatural realm.
Praise God that there is never a time that is too inconvenient for Him to do ministry. This man with the unclean spirit comes into the gathering, and notice how the demon addresses Jesus. The demon says, “I know who you are—the Holy One of God.”
What this means is that the demons know who Jesus is before mankind does. You see, the people hear Jesus in the synagogue, and they're amazed by His teaching, but they're not declaring Him, “the Holy One of God.” And yet, here is this demon addressing Jesus as such.
So, make no mistake, Satan and his demons know who Jesus is. There is not a question in their minds, like, “Maybe Jesus is the Son of God, maybe He’s not.” No, they know who Jesus is, and they're afraid of His authority. This demon is asking Jesus what He’s come to do and if they are going to be destroyed, because they’re afraid of Jesus.
But all that the demons have is an intellectual belief in Jesus. The demons believe and know that Jesus is the Christ. They believe that He will one day judge the world and cast them down to endless torment in hell. They believe who Jesus is, but that’s as far as they go. They will not submit to His authority.
And that’s potentially how far some of us go, as well. We might believe that there is a God. We might even believe that Jesus was a real person who walked this earth. And yet, we won’t submit to His authority, because that’s going to mean some reordering of our priorities.
And all of a sudden, Jesus becomes this cultural identity marker for us, where we will identify as a Christian until it’s inconvenient for us. We will identify as a follower of Jesus until we have to give the sin in our lives over to Him.
And if that’s where some of us are at, then all we have is an intellectual faith in Jesus. And Scripture is clear that this will not save us. We might believe that Jesus is the Holy One of God, but so do the demons. Have we submitted to the authority of Jesus? Because if we haven’t, then we’re still dead in our sins.
Church, we must not only know about Jesus, but actually know Jesus and love Jesus and rejoice in Jesus. Like, do we love Jesus? Do we desire to know Him?
Look at how authoritative Jesus is. It’s not like Jesus is going around picking fights with the demons; they’re coming to Him. In one occasion in the Gospels, the demons ask Jesus to cast them into the pigs, nearby. Jesus will cast them out, but what they’re concerned about is where He is going to send them.
Here, Jesus tells the unruly demon, “Be silent, and come out of him!” It’s not like the demon is thinking, “Should I come out of the man, or should I not?” The demon has no control over that. What Jesus commands the demon to do, the demon has no choice, based on the divine authority of Jesus, to obey.
And look at the response of the people in the synagogue, in verses 27-28. “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.”
Earlier, they saw that Jesus has authority greater than religion, but now they see that He has authority greater than the demonic forces. And fame of Jesus is beginning to spread, everywhere, so much so, that when Jesus goes back to His hometown, they start asking Him for the signs that He did here in Capernaum.
But notice that they still don’t declare Jesus, “the Holy One of God.” How heartbreaking is that? Nothing has changed their view of Jesus, other than that they are even more amazed at Jesus’ authority over the demonic forces.
3. And this brings us to the third way in which our text indicates that the authority of Jesus is greater, and that is, the authority of Jesus is greater than sickness.
Look at verse 29. “And immediately he left the synagogue and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30 Now Simon's mother-in-law lay ill with a fever, and immediately they told him about her. 31 And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her, and she began to serve them. 32 That evening at sundown they brought to him all who were sick or oppressed by demons. 33 And the whole city was gathered together at the door. 34 And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. And he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.”
After this incident in the synagogue, Jesus takes His disciples, and they go to Peter’s house. And while they’re at Peter’s house, they discover that Peter’s mother-in-law was ill with a fever.
And after what they had just witnessed in the synagogue, they tell this to Jesus, because surely He should be able to cure Peter’s mother-in-law of her fever, which Jesus does.
And while this miracle isn’t necessarily as impressive as some of the other things that Mark records Jesus doing, it reveals to us that Jesus has authority over sickness. There truly is nothing over which Jesus does not ultimately and finally preside. It’s what causes people from all over to start bringing their sick and their demon-possessed to Jesus.
And you would think that this is the perfect exposure for Jesus to have, since He has just started out in His ministry. He is going to want to get people spreading the word about Him. But He doesn’t do that. Instead, Jesus does not “permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.”
Jesus wants them to keep quiet about Him. This seems backwards to how we think Jesus should be going about His ministry. But it’s because Jesus wants those who follow Him, to do so, because of who He is, not because of what He can do for them.
One commentator writes, “That which truly changes the human heart and ultimately compels one to recognize and follow Jesus can never come from coercion or a display of miraculous power. Jesus will have no allegiance exacted by amazement and astonishment. The faith of his disciples must be evoked through humility and ultimately through suffering. If one will not receive Jesus in this form, one will not receive Jesus in all his power and majesty.”
What Jesus is doing by teaching them and by casting out demons and by healing their sick is not to show them that He has power, but rather, to show them that He is God. Everyone loves Jesus when He’s healing people and casting out demons, but when He begins challenging their moral framework, you begin to see really quickly who has truly received Jesus.
Don’t miss this. Jesus is not some genie in the sky that we call upon when we are in distress or when we want something. Jesus is God in the flesh, who came down to where we are, that we might be saved through Him.
You see, Jesus isn’t just restoring the physical in these verses. Yes, people from all over are being healed of their diseases and freed from their demonic oppression, and Jesus continues to heal and restore physical bodies, today. But Jesus is also, in these verses, restoring the relationship between broken people and their Creator.
Look in verse 31. After Jesus takes the hand of Peter’s mother-in-law, and the fever leaves her, it says that “she began to serve them.” So, follow this, not only did Jesus cure this woman of her fever, He also enabled her to live for Him.
This points us to the mission of Jesus. In John 10:10, Jesus says, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” He’s not talking about the good life of a spouse and kids and a dog and a well-paying job and a nice house and a car or two cars and good health and rings on your fingers and clothes on your back. He’s not talking about that. He’s talking about abundant life in Him.
You and I live in a sin-sick world, where we naturally live in rebellion against God and His Law. But Jesus came to give us a new heart and a right spirit that sets us free from our bondage to sin and death, so that if we confess that Jesus is Lord and believe that God raised Him from the dead, we will be saved.
This is the good news of Jesus Christ, not that everything is going to go well for us when we put our trust in Jesus, but that He is strength for the weak, hope for the hopeless, peace for the anxious, and certainty for the doubting.
The same gracious hand which first touched and healed our broken hearts will strengthen and uphold us. Though sometimes cast down, we will not be cast away. Why? Because of the surpassing authority of Jesus Christ.
I love what the apostle Paul writes, in Colossians 1:18. He writes that Jesus “is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.”
The authority of Jesus is matchless. There is no earthly authority that comes close to the authority of Jesus Christ. Donald Trump, Justin Trudeau, Kim Jong-un, and Vladimir Putin, together, cannot match the authority of Jesus Christ.
Dutch theologian and politician, Abraham Kuyper, said it well when he said that “there is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, ‘Mine!’"
All of Creation comes under the authority of Jesus. And that’s why the question we need to ask ourselves is not, “Who has the authority over my life—me or Jesus?”, because Jesus has unparalleled authority over all things, including us. No, the question really is, “Do I recognize the authority of Jesus over my life?”
I believe that is what this woman did when she was healed of her fever. She knew at that moment that she was in the presence of the great Physician, who could not only heal her sin-riddled body, but also her sin-riddled heart.
And it’s why she responds in worship to Jesus. You see, it’s not just that we recognize the authority of Jesus over our lives, it’s whether or not we will respond by bending our knee and confessing with our mouth that Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
“Do I recognize the authority of Jesus over my life?” Yes and amen. But then, “What is my response to the authority of Jesus?” Will I continue to try and put myself on the throne of my life, doing what I want to do, or will I respond by giving myself over to the service and worship of my Saviour and my King?
The reality is that we can come to the Sunday morning Church Service, we can go to Bible Studies, and Men’s Breakfasts, and Prayer Meetings, and we can read our Bibles and pray, and we can go out and do what we want to do and continue to live in our sin and disobey Jesus. Unless we recognize and respond to the authority of Jesus over our lives, we will see little to no evidence of our sins forgiven and our hearts changed.
So, I’m asking us, if we have never responded to the good news of Jesus Christ, will we do so today? There is healing for our souls in the Person of Jesus Christ. He came for me and for you to restore us to God. Will we today recognize and respond to the authority of King Jesus? Will today be the day that we bow our knee and confess with our mouth that Jesus is, indeed, Lord? Let’s pray…