Mark 1:27-28 Commentary | Astonishing Authority, Fame vs. Faith

Mark Commentary

Text & Translation

27 καὶ ἐθαμβήθησαν ἅπαντες ὥστε συζητεῖν πρὸς ἑαυτοὺς λέγοντας, Τί ἐστιν τοῦτο; διδαχὴ καινὴd κατʼ ἐξουσίανe καὶ8 τοῖς πνεύμασιν τοῖς ἀκαθάρτοις ἐπιτάσσει, καὶ ὑπακούουσιν αὐτῷ. 28 καὶ ἐξῆλθεν ἡ ἀκοὴ αὐτοῦ εὐθὺς πανταχοῦ εἰς ὅλην τὴν περίχωρον τῆς Γαλιλαίας.1

And they were all astonished. So they were disputing with one another saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority!2 And He even commands the defiling spirits and they obey Him.“ (Mk 1:27, AT). And, straight away, the report about Him went out all over the whole surrounding region of Galilee. (Mk 1:28, AT)

Astonishing

Jesus is teaching with authority — with authority greater than the scribes — when He is interrupted by a demon-possessed man.

After Jesus rebukes the demon, ordering it to shut up and come out of the man possessed by an unclean spirit (Mk 1:21-26), the people in the synagogue at Capernaum are astonished.

Astonish (θαμβέω | thambeō) is a word that can refer to amazement3 (cf. Mk 10:24)4 or alarm/fear.5

This is a different word than awestruck in Mk 1:22, but the idea is similar6 (cf. Mk 10:32).7

As we’ve said: Jesus commands; demons obey.8 Simple as that. His authority is astonishing.

In Mark, when Jesus speaks, something happens9 – often a confrontation.10

18th Century evangelist George Whitefield — when asked how he knew he had preached a good sermon — said, “Either someone got saved or someone got angry”.11

This is essentially what happens when Jesus preaches and teaches in Mark.12 Jesus shakes things up, provoking questions and reactions13 (cf. Mt 10:34).14

The people in the synagogue are disputing15 with one another about Jesus. Some are likely amazed, some are likely alarmed/afraid.

In our proclamation of the gospel, we should not be surprised if when we ruffle some feathers.

Many will consider the gospel foolishness (cf. 1 Cor 1:18, 2:14) and will react negatively — if not violently (cf. Mk 13:9f.)!

Jesus tells His disciples plainly:

13 Everyone will hate you because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. (Mk 13:13, NIV)

To be hated by the world is to be Christ-like. If they hated our Master, why wouldn’t they hate His servants (cf. Jn 15:18-20; Mt 10:24-25)?

That being said, Jesus’ teaching combines powerful words and powerful works.16

Yet notice that His words come first; His works confirm His words.17

Authoritative Orders

Jesus commands (ἐπιτάσσω | epitassō) demons (Mk 1:27, 9:25; Lk 8:31;18Lk 4:36)19 and forces of nature (Lk 8:25;20 cf. Ps 89:10; 106:9;21 Mk 4:41).22

After Jesus calms the storm, we read:

25 “Where is your faith?” he asked his disciples. In fear and amazement they asked one another, “Who is this? He commands [epitassō] even the winds and the water, and they obey him.” (Lk 8:25, NIV)23

Jesus authoritative orders are like God (the Father)’s who speaks things into existence and order (cf. Gen 1:3, 9).24

Unsurprisingly, this is something the people had never seen before.25 By proclaiming the kingdom of God in word and deed, Jesus was doing something “new”.26

Fame vs. Faith

Villages of Galilee were close together and were connected via trade and family networks.27 Therefore, word would spread quickly.28

The fame of Jesus spread (cf. Mk 1:33, 37, 45, 2:1-2, 3:7-9),29 but not necessarily faith in Jesus.30

As we shall see, Jesus’ growing popularity among people will be shown to be relatively superficial.31

Many have wondered, if God wants more people to follow Jesus, why doesn’t He perform more miracles? The (faulty) underlying assumption being that if there were more miracles, more people would believe.

However, as the clearly gospels attest, miracles are not “automatically persuasive”.32

As we find in chapter 3 after Jesus heals a man’s hand on the Sabbath:

5 He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored. 6 Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus. (Mk 3:5-6, NIV)33

Seeing a miracle firsthand (pun intended) did not lead the Pharisees and Herodians to give their life to Christ; they actually sought to take the life of Christ!

As we’ve said, Capernaum is one of several towns Jesus condemns for their lack of repentance — even though they had witnessed His miracles:

20 Then Jesus began to denounce the towns in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent. 21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. 23 And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens? No, you will go down to Hades. For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. 24 But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.” (Mt 11:20-24, NIV)

Scribes think He drives out demons because He is possessed by a demon (Mk 3:22), people in His own hometown don’t believe (Mk 6:2-3), Herod thought He was John the Baptist back from the dead (Mk 6:14-16), and even His own disciples misunderstand who He is (Mk 6:52, 8:17-21).34

Witnessing or hearing about miracles is no guarantee that one will believe in Christ as Lord.

And, being amazed does not = being faithful.35

Conclusion

In response to Jesus’ exorcism, which confirms the validity of His teaching about the inbreaking kingdom of God, the people in the Capernuam synagogue are astonished. Some may be amazed, others may be alarmed/afraid.

In Mark, when Jesus preaches and teaches, He provokes a range of reactions. And, He backs up His authoritative words with authoritative works.

The fame of Jesus spreads. But this is not to be equated with genuine faith in Jesus.

For more commentary on Mark, please visit the Book Study Overview page. For the sources cited, please see the bibliography.

Sources

  1. Barbara Aland et al., eds., The Greek New Testament, Fifth Revised Edition (Stuttgart, Germany: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2014), Mk 1:27–28.
  2. Punctuation: It could be teaching with authority or  that He commanded with authority (Witherington, 93; Stein, 89; UBS, 53). Most scholars opt for teaching with authority (Witherington, 93) because of the και (“and”)(Stein, 89) and also because authoritative teaching has already been mentioned in Mk 1:22. Some favor the latter considering the parallel in Lk 4:36 (UBS, 53).
  3. NIDNTTE, 403; BDAG, 442
  4. Bock, 413; Strauss, 93
  5. EDNT, 128, UBS, 129
  6. English, 53; Witherington, 92; Brooks, 50; France, 105
  7. Strauss, 93
  8. Evans, 96
  9. Kernaghan, 46
  10. Kernaghan, 46
  11. Kernaghan, 45
  12. Kernaghan, 45
  13. Witherington, 92; cf. Lane, 73
  14. Cole, 114
  15. “συζητέω means to discuss (so [Mk 9:10]), often with the hostile connotation of ‘dispute’ ([Mk 8:11; 9:14, 16; 12:28]), but with πρὸς ἑαυτούς…denotes intense discussion among the congregation.” (France, 105).
  16. Kernaghan, 45; English, 53; Brooks, 50; Garland, 70; Guelich, 59
  17. Strauss, 94
  18. NIDNTTE, 461
  19. EDNT, 41
  20. NIDNTTE, 461
  21. EDNT, 41
  22. EDNT, 394
  23. BDAG, 1029; EDNT, 41; NIDNTTE, 461)
  24. EDNT, 41
  25. Lane, 76
  26. cf. Guelich, 58, 60; Stein, 90
  27. Keener, 132
  28. Keener, 132
  29. France, 106; Strauss, 94
  30. Hurtado, 28; Witherington, 92
  31. France, 106
  32. Bock, 413 cf. English, 53; Cole, 115; Brooks, 51
  33. Bock, 413; Witherington, 93
  34. Bock, 413; Witherington, 93
  35. Witherington, 90
About @DannyScottonJr 228 Articles
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