Revealed In His Doctrine
The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Love of God, and the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
Mark 1:21 “And Capernaum; and immediately on the Sabbath He entered the synagogue and began to teach. 22 And they were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. 23 And just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, 24 saying, ‘What do we have to do with You, Jesus of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are– the Holy One of God!’ 25 And Jesus rebuked him, saying, ‘Be quiet, and come out of him!’ 26 And throwing him into convulsions, the unclean spirit cried out with a loud voice, and came out of him. 27 And they were all amazed, so that they debated among themselves, saying, ‘What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him.’ 28 And immediately the news about Him went out everywhere into all the surrounding district of Galilee.” (NASB)
Each one of the four Gospels has unique characteristics. The Gospel of Luke features the social outcasts and various sinners and their reception of Christ, as opposed to the self righteous religious elite. The Gospel of Matthew employs the most Old Testament quotes as evidence that Jesus is the Promised Messiah. St. John uses contrasts like Light and dark, spends more time on the deity of Christ, and gives the most detailed account of Holy Week and Christ’s Passion.
The Gospel of Mark conveys a constant sense of urgency by using the word “immediately”and its synonyms. We have three examples of that in this morning’s reading. “And immediately on the Sabbath He entered the synagogue and began to teach.” “And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit.” And again In verse 28, “And immediately the news about Him went out everywhere into all the surrounding district of Galilee.”
Another feature of Mark’s account has to do with the identity of Jesus. Human beings are always asking, “Who is this guy?” or as in this morning’s reading, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him.” As we work our way through the Gospel of Mark, we see more examples of people wondering who Jesus is.
In fact, the Gospel of Mark doesn’t tell us about any human beings who get it. People don’t seem to understand who Jesus is until after Jesus dies. Mark 15:39, “And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, ‘Truly this man was the Son of God!’” In the Gospel of Mark the centurion is the first human being to identifies Jesus as the Son of God.
On the other hand, the demons come to know exactly who Jesus is very quickly. “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.” Mark records demon after demon crying out in fear as the Son of God approaches. James 2:19 “The demons believe—and shudder!”
Then there is God the Father. He speaks at Jesus’s Baptism and Transfiguration: “This is my beloved Son.” (Mark 1:11; 9:7).
So God the Father declares Jesus to be His incarnate Son and the demons know who Jesus is. It’s human beings who seem to be confused. “Who is this man?” “What is this teaching?” “What is this Man here to do?” “By what authority does he teach and do that things He does?” These also happen to be the questions that the season of Epiphany answers.
Throughout the Season of Epiphany Jesus reveals Himself to be the Son of God, the Promised Messiah. He did so in different ways. The magi were guided by the prophecies of the Old Testament and by the star of Bethlehem.
The Father proclaimed Jesus to John at Jesus’s baptism. John bears witness to Jesus and sends his students to follow Jesus. Jesus proclaimed Himself to His disciples as He called them to follow Him. He showed Himself to be the Son of God at the wedding of Cana when He performed His first miracle, water into wine.
So this morning a demon has an epiphany. Jesus of Nazareth is the Holy One of God. But notice that happened after Jesus showed Himself to be the Son of God, the Lamb Who has come into the work to die for the sins of the world, by His doctrine. Do you hear that? Christ reveals Himself through His doctrine.
Listen again. “And immediately on the Sabbath He entered the synagogue and began to teach. And they were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.”
The people who hear Him were astonished. They are astonished by the content of what He is teaching, His demeanor, and His methodology. He is not teaching in the customary fashion. He doesn’t waste time quoting scholars of days gone by. He doesn’t offer up speculations and opinions. He doesn’t temper His words so that He woos one group, while avoiding offending another. There are no footnotes and citations. He was speaking to them as a direct address from God to man by teaching them the Gospel.
Then when the unclean spirit speaks, Jesus rebukes it. “Be quiet, and come out of him!” And the people in that synagogue, “they debated among themselves.” That means there wasn’t a consensus. They were agreed that there was something radically and noticeably different about Jesus of Nazareth. “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him.”
The doctrine that Jesus teaches is so peculiar that the people speak of Jesus’s teaching as “new.” “New” as in “completely different.” As in “We’ve never heard that before.” They were use to being taught doctrines of good works, and self-righteousness, and God’s favor by birthright. Jesus wasn’t teaching any of these things.
What was He preaching? We were told in last week’s Gospel lesson, “Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mark 1:15-16)
It was the Gospel that they hadn’t heard. The religious leaders and rabbis of the day had failed in their principle task. They taught contrary to the Word of God. When Jesus came preaching He taught with an authority unlike anyone else and what He taught was something that they people hadn’t ever heard before.
As Jesus was teaching, He was revealing. He was manifesting Himself through His Word. He was speaking the Gospel to them, the good news of God’s unmerited favor in the Christ.
Early in the first chapter of Mark we were told what Jesus was teaching and doing. He was calling people to repent and believe in the Gospel because the kingdom of God was at hand.
The teaching of the Law and Gospel was not a brand new doctrine invent by Jesus in the first chapter of Mark. It was the doctrine of the Old Testament. It is the eternal Word. It was just new to those folks who hadn’t heard it before. This is the parable of the Old and New. Matthew 13:52 “Therefore every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a head of a household, who brings out of his treasure things new and old.”
Notice what the people said after Jesus drives out the demon. “A new teaching with authority.” Not a new teacher, but a new teaching that had authority.
At first glance, we see Jesus and think, “well…of course the demons responded to Jesus. He’s almighty God!” But here in the very early part of His public ministry, the demons come to recognized who the Christ is because of His doctrine and authority. That was and is how Jesus revealed Himself to the people.
Now of course that was then and this is now. Jesus isn’t here today like He was then. But listen, if Jesus hadn’t taught and preached, there would have been no epiphanies.
The same doctrine, preaching, and teaching, the same Christ that taught His “new” doctrine in Galilee, Capernaum, Judea, Samaria, and Jerusalem taught the disciple, gave them His doctrine and authority; and directed them by virtue of the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, to write the New Testament.
That is the same doctrine that faithful Christians believe and teach. It is that same doctrine and authority that authorizes faithful stewards of the Word to carry out their God given duties as they shepherd the flocks entrusted to them. It’s by Christ’s authority that “I, as a called and ordained servant of Christ Jesus, in His stead and by His command and authority, forgive you all your sins.”
I don’t have the power to make atonement for sin—your sin, my sin, a single sin, let alone all the sins that have been comitted. Only Christ has this power; power which He displayed on His cross when He proclaimed with all authority, “It is finished!”
There is no daylight between Jesus Christ, His doctrine, His authority, His faithful obedience to the Law, death, resurrection, ascension, and Gospel.
If the people of Capernaum had put two and two together there would have been no debate. The Jesus who said “Be quiet, and come out of him!” to the evil spirit is the same One who had come preaching “Repent and believe the Gospel for the kingdom of God is at hand.”
The point of all this is that Jesus reveals Himself to be the Savior of the world in His Holy Doctrine– His Word. If it’s not His doctrine, then He isn’t there. Other doctrines and philosophies may attract more adherents, but they don’t have God’s authority to save. Preaching the Good News is the preaching of Christ’s doctrine. To preach Christ’s doctrine, is to preach Christ. That’s evangelism. That is Christian Faith 101. We see it in the instructions Jesus gives just before He ascended.
Matthew 28:19-20 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Jesus still comes with the authority of His doctrine even as His Word manifests itself in churches all over the world.It is no accident that as knowledge of and faithful to Christian doctrine, has waned in the West, so has the church.
But yet, where ever two or three are gathered in His name, that is in Jesus’s person, work, and doctrine there Jesus and His authority is found. Do you want to get to know Christ bettern, then get to know His doctrine better.
The authority of Jesus Christ comes to us even today as we hear the audible Word of God in our readings and preaching … when we feel the wet Word of God on our foreheads in Holy Baptism … as we hear the forgiving Word of God in the absolution, and as we taste the forgiveness of sins as Jesus gives us His very body and blood in the bread and wine. It is in these things, the Word and Sacraments that the power and authority of the cross applied to you. It is in these things that Christ applies the Gospel to you and brings about repentance, a contrite heart and trust in Him. It is in these means that your sins are forgiven and so they are!
The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds
in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.