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(Mark 1:21-45) The Final Authority

(Mark 1:21-45) The Final Authority

by Stephen Davey
Series: Sermons in Mark
Ref: Mark 1:21–45

Authority is not a concept that people care about these days. Whether it's kids and their teachers, or employees and their bosses, being under someone's authority is something we generally don't enjoy. In fact, it seems like our natural response to authority is rebellion. That's why God doesn't just change our minds when He saves us . . . He changes our nature as well.




(Mark 1:21-45)

Mark, chapter 1.  Mark, chapter 1.  We’re going to complete this chapter, as we study through the gospel, over these next few months.  I came to a point in my study, this past week, in which I almost threw up my hands and said, “What’s the use?  How in the world can we ever get all that God has given us in this presentation of the life of Christ?”  In fact, at one point, I got out the calculator and I just went to my shelves and I began totaling up the pages that dealt, specifically, with the life, the words or the works of Jesus Christ and, finally, just stopped, after about 15 minutes, and I had already totaled up more than 23,000 pages!  And we’re coming here, this morning, for a 25 minute sermon and, maybe, ten or twelve of them and we are to study the life of Christ.  And we could do this for the rest of our lives.  It’s almost a futile attempt.  And so, I am asking the Lord, in my study as I prepare what to present to you, that we might find the ingredient necessary for us to be edified, to be challenged, to be equipped as we live for Christ.  As I read and reread and reread this passage of scripture, one word seemed to come to my mind.  It’s a word that the gospel writer gives us twice.  It is the word, “authority.”  Authority.  In fact, you could underline in your Bibles, verse 22, “And they were astonished at His . . . authority”.  And then in verse 27 of chapter 1, you find the word “authority” given again.  And then I began to relate all of the incidence in this chapter to that thought and came up with something that, I believe, can be challenging to us.  That is, that Jesus Christ IS the final authority.  And here are four illustrations where He exercises that authority.

The first one is His authority as a teacher.  Look at verse 21, “And they went into Capernaum; and straightway” - or immediately - “on the sabbath day he entered into the synagogue, and taught.”  Now we need to understand that in this area or this region, this geographical area, there were probably 450 synagogues.  According to the law, they were to plant a synagogue for every ten families who were followers of God.  And so, those ten families were formed then, in a sense, a synagogue with a priest who would oversee or a ruler of the synagogue, as he was called, a minister of the synagogue.  There were no sacrifices, a synagogue was designed to be a teaching tool in that society.  The children were taught there or catechized.  The adults were taught as the worshipped on the sabbath day.  And the pulpit was basically open to whoever would be available to teach.  It was a layman’s institution.  And so, if you came into the synagogue on the sabbath and you had been studying from the law and had something to give the people, you would make that known and you would approach and then you would teach.  That’s why, when we study the life of Christ and the apostle Paul, we find them constantly teaching in the synagogue.  You didn’t have to have a reservation, you just basically showed up and taught the adults present.  So it was a great opportunity to present this kingdom promise.  The pulpits were open to Jesus Christ and He took advantage of it.

We find Him, here in Capernaum, preaching in one of the synagogues, or teaching.  Notice verse 22, “And they were astonished at His doctrine; for He taught them as one that had authority, and not as the scribes.”  Luke, chapter 4, broadens this story, in his gospel account, and he tells us that Jesus Christ was preaching from Isaiah, chapter 61.  Why don’t you turn there and let’s look at the text our Lord used on that sabbath day.  Isaiah, chapter 61.  Now, the custom was, in that day, for them to read from the Old Testament or the Hebrew scriptures.  And I wanted to be authentic, this morning, so I pulled out my Hebrew Bible and dusted the thing off and opened it up . . . and in about 30 seconds, I closed it.  I thought, “No need to be authentic!  I’ll just read it from the translation we are given.”  But the Lord stood up and He opened the scroll or, literally, He was handed the scroll of Isaiah by the minister of the synagogue.  And the Lord unrolled that prophecy and, of course, you read Hebrew toward the left, we read English toward the right, but He would unscroll it toward the left and He would select His text.  Now, according to the custom, you would read anywhere from one to three verses of scripture and then one would be standing up who would then interpret it.  The language of that day was Greek and so the interpreter would  translate the Hebrew text into Greek.  But, I imagine, because the Lord knew Hebrew and Greek, being trained as a Jewish boy, He might have translated it Himself.  So He stood and He read Isaiah, chapter 61, verse 1.  And this is what it said, after He translated it, “The spirit of the Lord God is upon Me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; He hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;”.  Imagine that text!  Jesus Christ was reading  from the prophet Isaiah and He was speaking of Himself.  Whenever they read it, until He had come, they were speaking of One who was yet to come.  But He unrolled it to Isaiah, chapter 61, or that passage, and He read, “The spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach” - the gospel of the kingdom - “. . . to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim  liberty to the captives, and” - freedom - “to them that are” - in prison.  And He spoke it with authority - “and they were astonished at His doctrine”.

Now, we need to answer the question, why was He so authoritative?  Well, in that day, there were two kinds of servants.  If you were going to speak in the synagogue, you men would have two choices.  You would speak a sermon or something they called the “darsha(?).”  A “darsha(?)” was not a direct sermon, it was the Rabbi or the learned one, it was usually some kind of theological treaties and he would whisper into the ear of the man called the “amora(?),” some great theological truth.  And then the “amora(?)” would put it in popular language so that the people could understand.  It’s not surprising or should not be surprising that that was the least popular kind of sermon in that day.  But then there was the second kind and that was the most popular among the Jews.  It was called the “meamar(?),” and it was an exposition of scripture.  But now, whenever the scribes preached or the laymen preached a “meamar(?),” they always said, “It hath been said,” and they would always quote other scribes.  They would always go to some other tradition to give validity to their point.  Why was it that Jesus Christ spoke with authority?  Why were they astonished?  Because when Jesus stood up and He preached, He didn’t quote a scribe, He quoted Himself.  Jesus Christ did not refer to a tradition, He referred to His person.  Now, Luke expands that after Jesus read from Isaiah, chapter 61, He sat down, as was the custom, and He preached a brief message.  Luke, chapter 4, records that the message was this, “That which I have just read to you is speaking of Me.  I am He.”  And He didn’t quote a scribe, He didn’t go to a tradition, He simply quoted Himself.  Have you noticed, as you read through the gospels, that the Lord is constantly saying, “You have heard it said . . . but I say unto you . . . truly, truly I say unto you.”  He is the final authority.  He need not quote some other man for He is God/man.  And so they were astonished that He would assume the authority as a teacher and teach them, quoting no one but Himself.

Now, let me back up before we go any further, and let’s dig just a little deeper.  The authority that Jesus Christ had was delegated authority.  As I read this passage and saw the word authority used twice, I did what I usually do, I go to the dictionary and look at the definition.  The definition of authority is, “a delegated right or power.”  Jesus Christ came to earth to do the will of His Father.  And, by doing His Father’s will, He had all of the authority of His Father delegated to Him as He lived on earth’s plain as a man.  In fact, Jesus Christ said, “I” - did not come - “to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.”  He had authority but it was delegated authority.  Guess what He has given to you and to me?  “All authority have I given unto you to fulfill the great commission.”

Now how can you and I realize and experience this authority in our lives?  As we yield, as Christ, to the will of the Father, He then delegates to us the necessary authority to live our lives in an effective way.  Let me illustrate it this way, we have a lady, I believe in this church, who works as a school crossing guard.  And every day, or at least Monday through Friday, she puts on her uniform and she goes out to that intersection and she gets out in the middle of the road and she puts her hand up to the oncoming cars.  And she’s not paid that much!  Now, why is it that when an oncoming car sees her standing out there, and they could easily just run over her, why is it that they stop?  Because they see her uniform and they know that she has delegated authority.  In fact, when she raises her hand, she has all of Wake County behind her.  She has all of the authority of this state, as a matter of fact, behind her.  And because she has that authority, then she has the power to stop the automobiles.  The same thing is true in the life of you and me.  Upon who’s authority, upon who’s power do we present the kingdom program to this earth?  What right do we have to stand as ambassadors of God?  We have all the authority because we were delegated it by God.  We represent Him.  And, although in our flesh we’re weak, we’re puny, we’re infantile, because God is behind us, we have power, we have authority.  And they were astonished that Jesus Christ would come along and evidence such authority.

You know, the question is, how effective can I be in my life?  How effective can I be as a Christian?  How effective can I be as a father, as a husband?  In myself, absolutely zero effectiveness.  But as I yield to the authority of God, He then delegates authority to me that I might be all that I ought to be.  That’s power.  That’s authority.

Now, the realm through which we use our authority is the underworld.  In fact, it is the secret world we battle, not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, isn’t that so?  Isn’t the cause that we fight a spiritual cause?  Interesting that the next thing that happens is the exercising of His authority against the demons.  Look at verse 23, “And there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, saying, ‘Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth?  Art thou come to destroy us?  I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God.’  And Jesus rebuked him, saying, ‘Hold they peace, and come out of him.’”  Belief of demons, in this day, was not an unheard of thing.  In fact, it was very common.  I read recently where archeologists have discovered ancient cemeteries and, upon excavation, they found, of course, the remains of those who died centuries ago.  And they found a very interesting thing, the skulls of many people had had a tiny hole bored into the skull.  And through study they discovered that this hole was bored into the skull while the person was alive.  He has been trepanned, or however you pronounce that.  The belief was this, even centuries ago, that by boring a hole into the skull, you would allow the evil demon to get out, to escape.  And so, they underwent this very serious operation.  They would often wear the fragment of bone on some kind of necklace or chain around their neck as a good luck symbol.  You see, belief in the underworld, belief in the demons go all the way back.  Why?  Because demons go all the way back to the fall of Satan.  And so, when Jesus Christ exercises His authority, one of the first arenas whereby He must exercise that is in the realm of the underworld and authority over the demons.  By the third century, the church had what they called, The Order of Exorcists.  That’s a very familiar word to you and to me today, is it not?  Well, they believed so strongly in demons that they had what they called, The Order of Exorcists.  Men, who by incantation, by ritual, by formula, would drive demons from the bodies of people.

But, you notice what Jesus Christ does, there was no incantation, there was no formula, there wasn’t any symbol or any right.  He simply says, in verse 25, one Greek word translated an entire sentence in our Bibles, “Hold thy peace, and come out of him.”  Or, literally, a compound word that means, “be muzzled and get out.”  Not any ritual in that.  In fact, the Talmud, you remember hearing about the Talmud.  Back in Christ’s day, they had the Talmud and the scribes were shown how to exorcise demons.  If you took a knife, made of iron, and you tied it to a thorn bush by a braid of hair of the person who was supposedly possessed, if you did it three days in a row, saying some kind of formula, on the third day you went back and said some special formula and that would drive the demon from the person’s body.  Now that existed at the time of Christ.  So Christ doesn’t come along and say, “Hey, who’s got the knife?  Let’s cut a piece of hair off the person’s head.”  No.  He says simply, “Be muzzled and come out.”

Notice what happened, “And when the unclean spirit had torn him, and cried with a loud voice, he came out of him.  And they were all amazed, insomuch that they questioned among themselves, saying, ‘What thing is this?  What new doctrine is this?  For with authority commandeth He even the unclean spirits, and they do obey Him.’”  Not surprisingly, verse 28, “And immediately His fame spread abroad throughout all the region round about Galilee.”   Now, before we go on to the next incident whereby Jesus Christ exercises His authority, I must stop.  Is it not interesting to you, as you read this passage, that there was a man in the synagogue, note that, look at verse 23, “And there was in their synagogue a man” - demon possessed.  He’d remained undetected until the person of Christ arrived on the scene.  He was worshipping.  He was reading.  He was hearing the scriptures.  Who knows, he might have even preached the message.  You know, it lead me to believe that it is possible to sit in church and belong to Satan.  It is possible to be a member of a church and not a member of the kingdom of God.  It’s possible to come here on Sunday morning and sing, “When the roll is called up yonder, I’ll be there,” and yet, have a reservation waiting in Hell.  Wow.

Notice the next incident whereby Jesus Christ exercised His authority.  Verse 29, “And forthwith” - immediately, there is Mark again, he’s always in a hurry - “when they were come out of the synagogue, they entered into the house of Simon” - Peter - “and Andrew, with James and John.  But Simon’s wife’s mother lay sick of a fever,” - Simon’s mother-in-law was sick.  Luke, the doctor, adds a perceptive statement.  He says that she was sick with a violent fever.  He knew the symptoms and it could be fatal.  Jesus Christ is about to exercise His authority, not only as a teacher, not only over the underworld, but now over sickness.  You remember that this is one of the first days of His ministry and He will give us two illustrations whereby He heals.  First of all, Simon’s mother-in-law.  And then secondly, later, a leper.  It says in verse 30, “But Simon’s wife’s mother lay sick of a fever, and . . . they tell Him of her.  And He came and took her by the hand, and lifted her up; and immediately the fever left her, and she ministered unto them.”  I’m not going to belabor this passage of scripture but I want to give you just two simple thoughts.  One was, she was healed of the fever and she rose up, evidently with all the strength of a person who is healthy, and then she, in turn, served.  What a picture.  She had been in the clutches of death and Jesus Christ had given her NEW LIFE and she turned right around and served Him.  Should that not be seen in the lives of you and me?  Held in the clutches of sin in the arms of Satan, belonging to him as children of Satan apart from Christ (John 8:44), and He gives us life!  We should then, in turn, turn that life into service for the person of Jesus Christ and His kingdom program.

One more thought, before we go on, and that thought is, I think, a powerful one about the ministry of Jesus Christ.  And I love this.  Jesus Christ did not need an audience to exercise His power.  He didn’t need a crowd.  It could be in the cottage, with just a few people.  Or, it could be in mass, with thousands of people watching.  That was incidental to Jesus Christ.  He fulfilled this commission by God, whether it was in front of many or few.  I wonder, my friend, do we serve Jesus Christ that way?  With everyone watching, with everyone saying, “Oh, you’re doing great, keep going.”  Or, can we serve Him when no one else seems to notice?  What a test.  A test that Jesus Christ passed.

Then, secondly, if you’ll look down to verse 40, He heals a leper.  “And there came a leper to Him, beseeching Him, and kneeling down to Him, and saying unto Him, ‘If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.’  And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth His hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, ‘I will; be thou clean.’”  The lives of lepers, ladies and gentlemen, were tragic lives.  I have a book, in my library, called, Where Is God When It Hurts?  Phillip Yancy writes and he quotes Dr. Paul Brand, who spent his life working in leper colonies.  Fascinating book that you ought to buy and read sometime.  Paul Brand gave his life to the lepers.  We often think of leprosy as being a very contagious disease and yet, it is not.  There are many kinds of leprosy.  At least three that I found in my studies.  The one that this man had was probably the advanced stage.  You often read, in the Bible, of a leper being white.  Do you remember Miriam, whenever she rebelled against Moses, was turned white as snow?  That leprosy began as small scales on the flesh.  But they would grow and soon the person would be covered with white scales so that he would be considered or she would be considered white as snow.  That leprosy was so advanced that they were soon ostracized from society.  In fact, in the middle ages, the church would have a burial service for one with leprosy.  The priest would walk into the sanctuary, holding a crucifix and wearing a stole.  Behind him would come the leper, dressed in black.  And he would follow the priest up to the altar and the priest would read over him the burial rights.  He was living and yet, he was considered dead.  And so they would cut in a little slat into the wall of the church, it was called the “leper’s squint.”  And the lepers, from outside, would peer in and worship from a distance.  The New Testament was no less compassionate.  In fact, the leper’s had to wear a mask, at least up to the top of their nose.  They would have to say, “Unclean, unclean,” as they walked about.  And to touch a leper meant defilement.  If they were married, they were automatically divorced when the priest said that they indeed had leprosy.  They could not worship, as we can worship, or as his believers in God could worship.  They were ostracized.  They were lonely people.  There was no hope.  We find this leper coming to Jesus Christ.  One, who the scribe said had upon him the finger of God, of judgment.  And notice what happens, he indeed does have the finger of God upon him.  Because, “Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth His hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, ‘I will; be thou clean.’”  An incurable disease, and he’s made whole.

Now, the fascinating thing is verse 44, let’s start there.  “And saith unto him,” - Jesus says - “See thou say nothing to any man; but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer for thy cleansing those things which Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them.”  That is, if a leper were supposedly cleansed, somehow, he brought two birds.  They would kill one bird and they would shed his blood in a little basin.  They would take another bird, they would dip him in the blood of the deceased bird and they would let that living bird go free.  And that was the picture that the leper had been cleansed and he made sacrifice.  Now, Jesus Christ says, “Go to the priest and fulfill what Moses commanded.”  You understand, we’re still under Mosaic law here, up until the time of Christ’s death.  But now he says in verse 45, “But he went out, and began to publish it much, and to blaze abroad the matter, insomuch that Jesus could no more openly enter into the city”.  Jesus said, “Look, I’m not ready to openly declare that I’m the Messiah.  I’m not ready to openly declare all that I’ve come to do.  And if you go out and spread it abroad, why the masses are going to come to me and all the leper colonies will empty.”  And He said, “It will hinder Me from going into the synagogue.”  And so He asked the man not to say anything but go to the priest.  Not a chance.  The man hit the streets shouting.  He said, “He blazed it abroad.”  Boy, you know, this is a picture to me and to you of challenge.  Here’s a man told to keep quiet and he blazes it abroad.  And you and I have been commanded to blaze it abroad and we keep quiet.  He had been commanded to be quiet, not to shed the news yet.  We’ve been told to share the news and we’re quiet, we’re still.  I wonder, if we had been a leper or sick with a serious fever or one of these individuals whom Jesus Christ touched, could you keep us quiet?  Oh, but yet, my friend, we forget that we have been touched by the grace of God.  Can we keep quiet?  Can we do anything less than shed abroad the news that Jesus Christ has made a difference?  He’s given us life and something to live for.

Now, with the thought of authority being the theme throughout the remainder of this passage, I want to dig a little deeper and go back to verses 35 through 39 and give you three principles as to the source of Jesus Christ’s authority and the authority of Jesus Christ for you and for me.  They are the same, my friends.  The first thing I would like you to jot into your notes is that Jesus Christ was diligent with His devotion.  He was diligent with His devotion.  Look at verse 35, “And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.”  Now, let’s back up just a moment.  He must have gone to bed at 10-o-clock at night or at least 9:00 for Him to get up at dawn, before the sun is up, and pray.  You have to understand that the day before He rises early was probably the busiest day in the recorded life of Jesus Christ.  Why, the whole town had been at Peter’s door and Jesus Christ had healed time and time and time again.  We’re only given two instances here.  He had preached in the synagogue.  He might have preached in several on that sabbath day.  And as soon as three stars appeared in the sky, which was the law’s way of saying the sabbath has ended,  all of the people of the town brought the sick to Him.  He must have been tired, worn out as a man.  And yet, He rises early the next morning to go and  pray.  This man was diligent in His devotion.  That was the source of His authority.

Secondly, jot into your notes, He was consistent with His priority.  He was consistent with His priority.  Look at verse 36, “Simon and they that were with Him followed after Him.”  The word, “followed,” could be translated, “they tracked Him down.”  “Hey, where did Jesus go?  We’ve got all these people around looking for Him.”  And He’s out there praying but Simon and the rest come and they track Him down.  “And when they had found him, they said unto him, ‘All men seek for thee.’”  And, I bet, they were out of breath and excited, “What are you doing alone here praying?  We’ve got the whole town looking for you.”  “And He said unto them, ‘Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also; for therefore came I forth.’”  Now, wait a second, isn’t that cruel?  Isn’t that insensitive of Jesus Christ to have the ability to heal and yet, leave sick people in this town?  Isn’t it insensitive and cruel of Him to walk away from a city where there are people begging to see Him?  Why could He do it?  Because, ladies and gentlemen, He did not come to planet earth to heal.  He came and healed so that He might prove that He was the Son of God.  For He was attested to you - “by miracles and wonders and signs” - the apostle writes.  You see, His priority was in presenting the kingdom to the world.  And He was preaching the gospel of this kingdom.  And so, this was not the priority, healing was not the priority.  Man alive, Jesus Christ could have opened a shop and hung out a shingle and charged a few denarii for everybody who was sick.  You know, just touch them.  No need for a pharmacy in Capernaum.  Wouldn’t that be fantastic?  Why didn’t He do it?  He didn’t come to earth to heal.  He had his priorities in line.  He says, “I came to preach.  That’s why I came into the world.  Yes, all men seek Me but all men have not heard Me.  And there are people in that town . . . and people in that town . . . and people in this town . . . and people in the town over there . . . Yes, I’ll heal a few to prove I am supernatural in origin but I will preach to them, ‘Come ye after Me.  Join My kingdom program.’”  That was His mission.

You know one of the greatest problems, ladies and gentlemen, in your life and in my life?  It is the inability to determine priorities.  I submit that that’s one of the battlegrounds that you must face.  With all of the different hats that you have to wear, what’s priority?  A man recently told me that a survey was given, and men, many career men were asked the question, “What comes first?” or “What is important to you?”  In fact, that was the question, “What is important to you?”  And they all kind of settled back and thought, you know, maybe scratched their chin, and they said, “Well, let’s see, my job and my wife and my kids.”  “My job, my wife, my kids.”  What comes first in your life?  Now, of course, they didn’t know the Lord.  So God couldn’t even be in the picture.  But, if you know God through Jesus Christ, He is first.  And then your wife, if you are married.  Children, if you have children.  And THEN, the job, which is a means to an end.  It is merely putting the bread on the table and the clothing on your back that you might, like Jesus Christ, preach the gospel of the kingdom.  Where are your priorities this morning?

Thirdly, as we close, number three, He was urgent with His mission.  He was urgent with His mission.  Number one, He was diligent with His devotion.  That was His prayer life.  He was consistent with His priorities.  That was the life of His priority.  And then, thirdly, He was urgent with His mission.  I think that’s His public life.  Jesus Christ lived with a sense of urgency.  I cannot imagine what went through His mind as He saw all of those people as He ministered to them.  But I was given just a little bit more of daylight as I studied, this past week, and discovered that synagogues that were built in that day, by law, were supposed to face west.  And those that were seated faced west.  Those that spoke faced east, the city of Jerusalem.  Every time Jesus Christ got up and spoke, He faced Jerusalem.  You know, the prophet said that He “set” - His - “face like a flint” - toward Jerusalem.  That was the city where He would die.  That was the city where He would be crucified.  And every time He got up to speak, He could look out that open doorway and see the city where He would die for men.  And yet, He was never distracted.  He was urgent in His mission.

My friend, the authority of Jesus Christ has been seen as a teacher over the demonic world, over sickness.  The authority that Jesus Christ has, and had then, can be yours today if you submit to the will of the Father.  If you, like Him, will be diligent in privacy, consistency in aligning the priorities according to this book.  This is the authority, the written word of Jesus Christ.  And have in your body a sense of urgency that you are here for more than a paycheck.  You are here for more than the house you live in.  You are here to present the kingdom of Jesus Christ.  And oh, that we could grab on to that sense of urgency, what a difference our town would be.  I think we, like they, would literally turn this city upside-down for Jesus Christ.  Is He the authority in your life?  Is He the authority in mine?  Jesus Christ is, and demands to be, the final authority.                                                          

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