And they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and was teaching. And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes.
Everyone remembers a good teacher. But everyone remembers a bad one too! When I was at school, I had experience of both. I had a Biology teacher, who I’m sure had been good at his job at some point in the past, but a combination of family problems and loss of vision meant that by the time I had him his lessons were dull, and not particularly stimulating. He knew his stuff, but failed to communicate this to pupils in an interesting way. My History teacher, however, was superb. Not only did she live and breathe her subject, and have a deep fascination with the past, but she was also extremely skilled at making her lessons fun, lively, interesting and memorable to her students. Consequently, I did much better in History than Biology – and subsequently went on to be a History teacher myself!
One of the features of Mark’s gospel I find most interesting is Mark’s emphasis on Jesus’ teaching; he makes it absolutely clear that teaching was at the heart of Jesus’ ministry, and stresses that he was good at it. In these verses we see Jesus teaching in a synagogue, and the people being astonished not just by what he said, but also the way he said it. They were used to the scribes, who like my Biology teacher, almost certainly knew their subject well, but lacked the passion and excitement that would grip their listeners.
The people listening to Jesus are clear why he is such an astonishing teacher; he teaches with authority. Here is someone not just repeating the platitudes of others, but teaching as one whose views are definitive, and against which no-one can argue. This, of course, is because he is the Son of God, and therefore teaches with the wisdom and understanding of God.
The challenge then goes out to you today; will you listen to Jesus teaching as we go through Mark’s Gospel? Will you prepare to be astonished?