Podcast Reflections

Reflection on Mark 1.21-28

Listen to a reflection on the gospel reading set for Epiphany 1: Tuesday, 11 January 2022 – Mark 1.21-28

Mark 1.21-28

Jesus and his disciples went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, and he cried out, ‘What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.’ But Jesus rebuked him, saying, ‘Be silent, and come out of him!’ And the unclean spirit, throwing him into convulsions and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, ‘What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.’ At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.


Throughout the New Testament we find many references to teachers and teaching. Paul lists it as one of the spiritual gifts that are bestowed upon some people. Similarly, it is emphasized that to be gifted as a teacher is to have an additional level of responsibility laid upon one’s shoulders. Teachers are listened to; teachers shape lives, teachers mould the way their students think and behave. Those who teach exercise some kind of authority as they impart knowledge. This imparting of practical and theoretical knowledge invites others to travel a different path through life. The teacher should also be an example to those whom they teach, and it is this concept of ‘the teacher as a model of good practice’ that we see in today’s reading.

The reading opens with Jesus entering the synagogue in Capernaum and teaching. We are also told that those who heard Jesus’ teaching were astounded … for he taught as one having authority, and not as the scribes. In these few words we are being presented with a very important aspect of educational and spiritual practice … the need to keep ‘up to date’!

The scribes were a group of learned men who studied the Hebrew scriptures, transcribed them and then wrote commentaries for the edification and education of others. Because their study was so firmly rooted in the past, there was no room in their scholarship for change and development. The literal ancient Law of the Lord was sacrosanct, even when it was totally disconnected from the real daily lives of those to whom they were ministering. 

In contrast to the scribes, Jesus brought the Law of the Lord into the modern context. He was not changing that Law, but he was leading others towards a more profound understanding of its implications. Jesus’ teaching had a power and relevance that was both new and exciting. Jesus’ teaching had a power and relevance that could change lives, even the lives of those who were weighed down with serious physical and mental disability.

As we get older we remember, often with affection, those teachers who inspired us when we were younger. We remember their mannerisms and some of their words. We remember the aura that seemed to emanate from them as they sought to prepare us for life. But, as we look back at those inspirational teachers, we often fall into the trap of the scribes. We see the teaching of those men and women who influenced our early years as being ‘written on tablets of stone’. Rather than using their teaching as a foundation and a springboard, we settle back and think we have all the answers, even to the point of resisting anything that may contradict what we were taught decades earlier. We allow no room for change!

The teaching of Jesus is meant to bring about change. It is meant to provide us with the tools and the confidence to move forward as God wishes, it is not meant to provide us with a prehistoric comfort blanket. Let us pray that we might always be astounded at the teaching of Jesus. Let us pray that, in our astonishment, we might play our part in keeping God’s word alive for all with whom we travel through this earthly life.