Jesus’ work begins, and it begins with teaching in the synagogue. We don’t know what he taught, but we know that his teaching “astounded” the people and that he taught “as one having authority”. This is the same language used to describe the people’s reaction to the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7. After three chapters of teaching, Matthew 7:28-29 says, “Now when Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.” These are almost the exact words as here in Mark. It’s possible that his teachings here were similar to that of the Sermon on the Mount.
But this is not where Mark’s focus is. Matthew focuses a lot on Jesus’ authority, while Mark seems more concerned with Jesus’ power. Other than some proclamation of the good news and the calling of the disciples, this is Jesus’ first real public act in Mark. And, as we saw as a sort of prologue to his work in the wilderness, that first act is overcoming evil. Jesus exorcizes an evil spirit, and not only are the people astounded by his teaching, but they are also amazed at his power. In fact, it is the power that he demonstrates that reinforces the authority with which he teaches.
We will see much more of this kind of power from Jesus in stories to come. He will continue to exorcize evil spirits, and we will soon see his power to heal as well. How do we feel about this today? We don’t see this kind of supernatural stuff today? Why not? What kind of power does God have today? How do we make sense of these of these stories today? It is vital to employ our reason and experience when analyzing these stories, but we also must not do so to a degree that we rationalize the stories away. Mark’s Jesus is very much “supernatural” one. He is the very “Son of God”. Let’s let him be, and let’s let these exhibitions of supernatural power challenge us.