Mark 1:21
A note of Christ's work as a whole, which occasioned remark amongst his contemporaries. Not so much what he did, as how. A grandeur of nature and manner. Nothing is so difficult to define as authority, especially when it is a personal attribute.


1. From the outset of his career. The Capernaum synagogue, where his boyhood had been passed, did not daunt him. The ordinary circumstances, which tend to dwarf even great men, did not detract from his greatness.

2. It showed itself especially in two directions, viz. teaching and spiritual healing.

(1) Teaching. "He taught - spake - as one having authority." An indefinable yet absolute difference existed in this respect between him and the customary teachers of the people. They went back upon prescription and tradition, the sentences of the rabbis, the legal interpretations received in the schools. They would refer back to some great name, or some generally acknowledged opinion, as a lawyer collects his instances; but their own opinion was seldom or never fortheoming; if it was, it was tentative, unoriginal, and uninfluential. Now, Christ had quite a different tone. He referred to the sentences of the Jewish schools only to condemn them, and he did not hesitate to range himself alone against all the weight of tradition. "Ye have heard that it hath been said,... but I say unto you;" "Verily, verily, "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away."

(2) Action. Look at this special case, the man with the unclean spirit. He shows mastery from the very first. His word is a command, and there is no flinching or compromise. Nor is the order despised; he said, and it was done.

3. It gave a character to his entire work. "What is this? a new teaching! with authority he commandeth even the unclean spirits, and they obey him;" or, "A new teaching with authority (or power)! He commandeth," etc. In the whole round of duties, and undertakings connected with his mission, it is observable, and its effect is to draw attention and impress.

II. To WHAT IT WAS NOT. This was the problem which presented itself, which was meant to present itself, to the men of his day. That it was no accident of manner or any mere assumption of superiority is shown by its results. And the general bearing of Christ was meekness itself. It was due to nature rather than office, to personal relation with God.

1. To absolute spiritual insight. He saw and knew what he was speaking about in its ground and essence. It was therefore unnecessary for him to sit at any man's feet, or to borrow wisdom of any teacher.

2. To absolute trust in moral power. This arose from his identifying himself with it. He did not only speak about truth; he was "the Way, the Truth, and the Life." "I and my Father are one." The display of superior physical strength did not appall him, nor was he discouraged by suffering or death.


1. His divinity. This "unknown quantity" in Christ was as unmistakable as it was immeasurable. Out of the depth and fullness of his own spiritual life he must have spoken. The Divine element is therefore an inevitable inference. "Never man spake like this man."

2. His power to save. "Even the unclean spirits" obeyed him. It is the moral or subjective side of temptation on which the real weakness of man exists; and just there Christ is omnipotent. He can cure the sick soul and restore moral tone and energy. And his words are an unerring guidance and discipline for the soul: "Lord, to whom can we go? Thou hast the words of eternal

And they went into Capernaum.
The Teacher of humility begins His mission at a town where pride chiefly reigned. Preference is due from ministers to the greatest need, not to the greatest inclination. A minister should always begin by instructing, in imitation of God, who leads men, not by a blind instinct, but by instruction and knowledge, by the external light of His Word, and the internal light of His grace.


(the field of repentance, or city of comfort) was a beautiful little town, situated on the western shore of the Galilean Lake, a short distance from its head. Though small, it was a very busy and thriving town; the leading highway to the sea from Damascus on the east to Accho or Ptolemais on the Mediterranean on the west, ran through it, thus opening the markets of the coast to the rich yield of the neighbouring farms, orchards, and vineyards, and the abundant returns of the fisheries of the lake. The townsfolk, as a rule, enjoyed the comfort and plenty we see in the houses of Peter and Matthew. The houses were built of black lava, though most of them were relieved of their sombreness by being whitened with lime. The synagogue, however, which was the principal architectural ornament of the town, and which the centurion built and presented to the Jews of the place, was of white limestone, the blocks of stone being large and chiselled, and the cornices, architraves, and friezes of which, as evidenced by the ruins, were finely carved. The streets of the village radiated from the synagogue, and stretched up the gentle slope behind it, the main street running north, to Chorazin, a neighbouring town not far distant.

(D. C. Hughes, M. A.)

The synagogue carries us back for its origin to the land of the exile. Cut off from the sacrificial worship of the temple, devout Jews gathered together for prayer and hearing of the law, and little sanctuaries were built for their meetings; and after the return from captivity, though the statelier ritual of the temple was restored, synagogues in towns and villages became an integral part of the ecclesiastical system. They claim our interest, not only from their association with our Lord's preaching and miracles, but as well from the fact that it was from "the eighteen prayers" which were read therein daily except on the Sabbath, that Jesus drew the chief materials for that which the Christian Church has consecrated for daily use as "the Lord's Prayer." Now, of all the synagogues in Palestine, perhaps that at Capernaum is fullest of historic reference. Its erection at the sole expense of a large-hearted Roman soldier had earned for him the affection of the inhabitants, for when his servant was sick they pleaded with Jesus on the grounds that the petitioner was worthy of special consideration, because "he loved the people and built us the synagogue." The discovery and identification of its ruins in later years have awakened no little attention, and have set at rest a long-standing dispute as to the site of Capernaum. At Tell Hum, on the lake, remains of a synagogue of unusual size and beauty have been excavated, the style of which belongs to the Herodian period of architecture. It appears to have been a common custom to carve over the entrance of these buildings an emblem, which, as far as we know, with a single exception, was "the seven-branched candlestick," indicating that they were designed mainly for illumination or teaching. The exceptional instance is a Tell Hum. The lintel of the chief doorway has a carving in the centre, of "the pot of manna," which is encircled with the vine and clusters of grapes. And it is this which enables us to identify "His own city," as well as the building where He delivered one of His most important discourses...It was in this building that our Lord spent the morning of His first Sabbath day in Galilee, and He taught with such novel power that the people were filled with amazement. They had been used to the teaching of the scribes, with their interminable details and puerilities, and their slavery to traditional interpretation. There was no freedom of thought or speech, no departure even by a hair's-breadth from the decisions of the doctors, nothing but the dry bones of Rabbinical exposition, and we are not surprised that, when Christ came and spoke with "thoughts that breathed and words that burned," and drew His illustrations from the sights and sounds in which they lived and moved, the very freshness delighted them, and they exclaimed at the novelty and independence of His teaching.

(H. M. Luckock, D. D.)

I. He entered into the synagogue ON THE SABBATH DAY.

1. The synagogue — origin unknown. There were two divisions, ten officers, etc. The service — prayer, etc.

2. The Sabbath day. Christ honoured ordinances. Sanctioned social worship. He is still in the midst of His people. Where will you find Him on the Sabbath?

II. In the synagogue CHRIST TAUGHT. Not the first time. His sermon not recorded. The Spirit has amply provided for our instruction. Christ still preaches.


1. They were astonished.

2. They were not converted.

3. Many wonder, who do not believe.


1. The scribes employed tradition.

2. Christ spoke assured and naked truth — delivered a message from God — awakened the testimony of conscience.

(Expository Discourses.)

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