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Friday, May 11, 2007

Astonishing Teaching

The total number of titles for Jesus in the NT is well over 40.[1] The title Teacher is the most frequent occurrence (45 times). The Aramaic title of Rabbi is used 14 times.

Jesus criticized errant teachers who did not know the Scriptures or the power of God (Mark 12.24). A particular scribe heard the exchange, recognized the ability of Jesus, and questioned Him as to which command was preeminent in the Law of God. Jesus’ answer provoked the commendation of the scribe. Mark 12.34 states, “Now when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, He said to him, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’ But after that no one dared question Him.”

Jesus entered the synagogue in Capernaum and taught (Mark 1.21ff.). Hearers were astonished at the teaching of our Lord “for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes” (1.22). All were amazed at the authority He wielded over demons (1.27). His fame spread rapidly among the masses.

Jesus entered a synagogue on another occasion (Mark 3.1-6) and healed a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath. The Pharisees and Herodians were so incensed at his popularity with the people that they began to plot His death after this incident (v. 6).

His teaching astonished many in the synagogue at Nazareth (Mark 6.1-6). Jesus became an offense among His own people. He could do no mighty works in this place because of their wholesale rejection of the Master (see v. 5). Jesus “marveled because of their unbelief. Then He went about the villages in a circuit, teaching” (v. 6).

The fact that Jesus gathered disciples to Himself may be distinguished from other rabbis who were actually chosen by their disciples. Jesus debated with the scribes effectively, settled legal disputes, and supported His teaching with Scripture. He was the Word who effectively used the Word!

We live in a day when many are using pragmatic methods of ministry to woo the masses. They struggle with keeping the masses because what you win them with, you must keep them with. Entertainment, intellectual debate over foolish things, and ambiance seem to be the driving flavors of the month in churches today.

Our desire at Heritage has been to stick with the Word of God. The only authority that man has on earth is “Thus saith the Lord!” May God keep us ever faithful to that which still astonishes men and women today. God forbid that He should say of us, “I marvel at their unbelief!”

[1] This study finds its basis in Robert H. Stein’s excellent work, The Method and Message of Jesus’ Teachings, Revised Edition. Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 1994.