The world is not easily astonished or amazed. Human beings have accomplished and achieved so much that even a mission to Mars is so, "Whatever." The latest films resort to more and more outlandish plots and extreme effects to grab and grip attention. The tsunami of digital media has hyper-stimulated us into numbness.
However, travel back with me 2000 years to Galilee and you'll discover something that astonished, something that amazed, something that grabbed and gripped public attention. And it can do the same today. What is it?
Yes, that's right, Christian truth can astonish the world (Mark 1:22). However, it wasn't doctrine alone, it was doctrine taught with authority. That's what made Jesus such a contrast to every other teacher of His day.
But it wasn't the usual human trappings of academic credentials, power-clothes, famous friends, large crowds, or pomp and ceremony that packed his words with power and influence. What was it, then? There are a number of clues in the immediate context of Mark 1:22 that instruct Christ's church, preachers, and witnesses, how to recover this authority.
1. His Calling
Just a few verses before this incident, the Father anointed Jesus with the Holy Spirit and ordained him into public ministry (v. 11).
Just as so much of Jesus' authority was built upon this divine calling, so Christ's witnesses can re-discover unapologetic and unembarrassed public witness by being fully persuaded of God's call and authorization to speak in His name.
2. His Confidence
Few children thrive without a strong and steady assurance of parental love. Few Christians prosper without an assurance of God's love. But with it, we can face trials and speak God's truth with poise and confidence.
That's why Jesus was given such an unforgettable and impregnable assurance of His Father's love at his ordination: "You are my beloved Son" (v. 11). His assured heart produced confident words.
3. His Conscience
When God said, "I'm totally pleased with you, Son," He was putting a holy stamp of approval on Christ's first 30 years on earth. Such a clear conscience lent tremendous authority to His words. Without such, we can preach and witness all we like, but there will be no power, no authority.
4. His Communion
Jesus had just returned "in the power of the Spirit" (Luke 4:11) after having completed 40 days of temptation without a stumble. Such close communion with God amplified His words and magnified His aura of authority. While the Scribes knew "the sources," He knew the Source.
5. His Clock
"The time is fulfilled, the kingdom of God is at hand" (Mark 1:15). Jesus heard God's clock ticking ever closer to the fulfillment of His purposes. The Gospel's time is now. The Gospel's Kingdom is here. The Gospel's King has come. Jesus was a man of urgency because He was a man of eternity. Put eternity and urgency together and you get doctrine with authority.
6. His Clarity
In contrast to the confused and confusing ramblings of the Pharisaical preachers of His day, Jesus' message was profoundly simple and crystal clear. "Repent and believe the Gospel" (v. 15). So profoundly simple, so powerfully clear.
7. His Courage
Jesus interrupted the rough and tough Galilee fisherman: "You, you, and you. Come. Follow me!" There is no waffling or apologizing. Leave your occupations, your money, your comfort, and follow me. What compelling courage. No wonder they followed.
These clues to Christ's astonishing authority show us where to look for similar authority today. There is no substitute for this and there are no shortcuts. You can't buy this authority, qualify for it, or rest in it once you get it.
Oh, and by the way. It says they were astonished at his doctrine. It doesn't say they liked it.