Marveling at the Lord’s Teaching: A Meditation for Bible Teachers

ben-white-128604Marveled.

Astonished.

Amazed.

In Luke 4, these three words are used to describe the effect Jesus’ teaching had on people. First, in response to Jesus’ reading of Isaiah 61, coupled with his announcement that “this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (v. 21), Luke record, “all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth” (v. 22). Second, verse 32 says of Jesus teaching on the Sabbath (v. 31), “and they were astonished at his teaching, for his word possessed authority.” And third, verse 36 reports “they were all amazed” because with his words “he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out.”

In these reports, Luke uses three words to express the effect Jesus had on people. And more specifically, the effect Jesus’ words had on people. First, Jesus words amazed (θαυμάζω) people. That is, people were “extraordinarily impressed or disturbed” (BDAG) by his speech. This word is often used to speak of supernatural miracles (Luke 8:25), healings (Luke 11:4), and eventually the resurrection (Luke 24:41). But in this case, they were amazed at the graciousness of his words.

Next, Jesus’ teaching “astonished” the people; it filled them with amazement to the point of being overwhelmed (BDAG). In Luke’s Gospel, “astonished” (ἐκπλήσσω) is used twice. First, it is the word used of Jesus’ parents when they found him in the Temple, listening to the teachers of the Law. In response to Jesus’ answers, the people were amazed, and his parents were dumbfounded (i.e., “His parents didn’t know what to think,” NLT). The other place “astonished” is used is Luke 9:43, where Luke reports that everyone was astonished “at the majesty of God” revealed in Christ. Still, this word in other places responds to the teaching ministry of Jesus (cf. Mark 11:28; Acts 13:12). In short, it was Jesus’ teaching that had effect.

Last, verse 36 reports how people were “being amazed” (ἐγένετο θάμβος). The word (θάμβος) seems to report the response of the people to a specific incident. In this case, Jesus heals a man with an unclean spirit and the people were amazed. Still, Luke doesn’t focus on the people’s amazement with the act, but with Jesus powerful word: “And they were all amazed and said to one another, “What is this word? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out!” And reports about him went out into every place in the surrounding region” (vv. 36–37).

So, Jesus words have visible, even visceral effects, on the people. In short order, the graciousness of his words cause wonder; the power of his word astonishes; and the visible effects of his word send witnesses throughout the region. From these reports, its no wonder that people from all over Judea flocked to him. Jesus’ teaching, unlike the Scribes, possessed power, grace, and the ability to heal. In this way, Luke demonstrates how the sinless Son of God, in addition to being the sin-bearer for the world, was also God’s preeminent teacher.

Discontinuity and Continuity: How Our Teaching Is Not and Is Like Christ’s

From these observations, what applications might we make?

First, no one is like Jesus. This description of power, wonder, and amazement is not something we can or should seek to emulate. Only Jesus has the right to receive such praise. Teachers who look to imitate Jesus’ and reproduce his effects, so that people might follow them draw near to the sin of simony. Named after Simon (Acts 8), teaching that longs to amaze others and receive accolades and monetary rewards from others is antithetical to the teachers calling.

That being said, Acts does report how the apostles’ teaching produced wonder. Yet, more specifically Acts 13:12 indicates that astonishment was found in the Lord’s teaching. In other words, it is not in the apostles teaching that a true disciple’s amazement is found. It is found in the Lord’s teaching conveyed through the word of God.

As we know from other Scripture, the Lord is still speaking today (Ephesians 2:17) and his word is living and active (Hebrews 4:12). Thus, his gracious, redeeming, powerful words continue to go forward, and wherever they do, they produce wonder and excitement when the word of God is coupled with the power of the Spirit (cf. 1 Thess 1:4–5).

In truth, this is what we should pray for, long for, and preach for. We should crucify all desires for people to make much of us and our gifts. And we should like John the Baptist, point all people to Christ. In this way, the true power and grace of his gospel shines through. As we point to Christ and expound his words, he stirs affections in his people; they are amazed; they leave behind their follies and their fishing nets and they come and follow him.

This is what happened on the Emmaus Road, as the hearts of Jesus’ disciples burned at his teaching (Luke 24:32). And this is what happened throughout Jesus’ ministry. And it is what still happens today as the Spirit of Christ speaks to his sheep.

And truly, when this happens, it is Christ’s work. We would be fools to think that our feeble words give people life. But we would be equally foolish to discount the power of the Word preached and the effect it will have on disciples, when it comes with power. For that reason, we should do everything in our power to attend to the Lord’s teaching, because as Luke 4 identifies, when the Lord speaks, it causes wonder in his grace and confidence in his power.

To that end, let us pray and with that prayer let us preach.

Soli Deo Gloria, ds

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

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