“What new doctrine is this?”

Mark 1:23-27
21 Then they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath He entered the synagogue and taught.
22 And they were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.
23 Now there was a man in their synagogue with an unclean spirit. And he cried out,
24 saying, “Let us alone! What have we to do with You, Jesus of Nazareth? Did You come to destroy us? I know who You are–the Holy One of God!”
25 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be quiet, and come out of him!”
26 And when the unclean spirit had convulsed him and cried out with a loud voice, he came out of him.
27 Then they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? What new doctrine is this? For with authority He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him.”

διδαχη (“didache”): teaching, doctrine, instruction.

These fisherman who chose to follow a Rabbi thought they knew what to expect: long hikes down dusty roads, hours of lectures and conversation, evenings full of doctrinal debates, days full of questions and answers and parables. In short, their lives were to be full of teaching and learning. Jesus said to these rough and ready men, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” (Mark 1:17) And since Jesus began by preaching repentance and the kingdom of God, that’s what they expected to continue to hear. True, this Jesus of Nazareth taught with greater authority than the scribes in the temple, but He was still teaching from the Word of God like any good Rabbi. So we can well imagine the fishermen’s surprise when Jesus, without preamble or explanation, commanded the evil spirit to come out of that man in the synagogue.

“What new doctrine is this?” When one expects to hear words and stories about the things of God, one hardly expects to see a the power of God manifested in such a straightforward fashion. At least, these few men didn’t expect that.

Here’s a question for us: How many of us have witnessed such a demonstration of the raw power of God? And were we surprised? I can honestly say I have not yet witnessed an exorcism, but I have witnessed accurate prophecy and words of knowledge, and I know people who have been healed through faith and prayer. For me, the Holy Spirit of God is alive and well and active in the world. But for those fishermen, it must have been quite a shock to see God still so active in the lives of men. More amazing still must have been to see this Galilean carpenter’s Son commanding such power.

But look at their questions again: “What is this? What new doctrine is this?” They were asking each other, “What are we supposed to learn from this?” So, let us ask ourselves, “What are WE supposed to learn from this?”

Jesus’ message was always to point people back to the love for and of God, to be healed by His mercy, to be renewed by His grace. “Repent, and believe in the gospel,” He said. (Mark 1:15b) How does that dovetail with “Be quiet, and come out of him!”? (v.25) I think we need to look at the end of Mark’s Gospel to see our answer.

Mark 16:15-18
15 And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.
16 “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.
17 “And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues;
18 “they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

Healing the sick, protection from harm, authority over demons, knowledge beyond our own, preaching the gospel–these are the things which Jesus Himself did, and He has given those same tasks and abilities to all believers. (1 Corinthians 12:7-11) That is the new teaching, the new doctrine that so surprised the disciples. Whereas the priests of the temple had once had sole authority over spiritual matters, now in the name of Jesus, we are a priesthood unto ourselves.

1 Peter 2:4-5,9-10
4 Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious,
5 you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

9 But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;
10 who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.

That is the new doctrine, that the priesthood is now among all believers, that the authority of the Son of God is now given to all who believe on Him as the Christ. In that moment at the synagogue, Jesus was showing His disciples what they themselves would one day do.

Acts 3:6
Then Peter said, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.”

Acts 9:40
But Peter put them all out, and knelt down and prayed. And turning to the body he said, “Tabitha, arise.” And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up.

That is the new teaching: the authority of Jesus Christ is given to all who believe, the kingdom of God truly is within us. (Luke 17:21) We who lay claim to the salvation of Christ are now co-heirs with Him not only of His life and His glory but also of His authority. Through the name of Jesus Christ, we can command demons to depart, the lame and sick to be healed, the dead to rise. By the grace of God, we have not only the wisdom of the gospel of Jesus but also the authority of the name of Jesus.

Those who “settle” for only the teachings of Jesus, who claim simply to be followers of Jesus, are short-changing themselves. They are depriving themselves of the richness of a life lived in the Spirit, a life of the full authority and glory of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The gospel story is not just about what Jesus taught or the ministry He did, it is about the payment for our justification before God. The gospel is about Jesus saving us through His mercy and enabling us to exercise His power and His grace to a broken world for the glory of God. The gospel is about Jesus’ authority as Judge and King, and how He has bestowed that authority through the Holy Spirit of God on those who believe. The gospel is about the eternal life of God being manifested through us here in this mortal life. If all we do is follow a few teachings on how to behave and how to be nice to each other, then we are missing out on the riches of God’s grace that are ours to share with all men in the name of Jesus Christ.

“What is this new doctrine?” The “new doctrine”–which is now two thousand years old–is that what we thought we knew about Jesus or about God is old news. The “new doctrine” is that we ourselves are new creations in Christ, with authority and power to do marvelous things in His name. Let us therefore embrace that “new doctrine,” that διδαχη, embracing the name of Jesus Christ to do mighty things for the glory of the kingdom of God.

Holy Lord God, such grace You have given us according to Your good will, and yet some have chosen to ignore the gifts You have given. Open their eyes, Lord, to the doctrine of the authority of the name of Jesus Christ. Help all believers to see that they really do have the power to stand up to Satan and to evil, and to do mighty things in the name of Jesus. I pray, Lord Jesus, that I myself never forget the power You have given me, that I shall always be a faithful minister for Your kingdom and Your glory. Amen.


About Glenn Pettit

I am a deacon at The Well of Iowa, and a father and grandfather. Called to teach and to preach, I write fresh messages about the Bible every now and then.
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