A large part of the work of Jesus was preaching (Mark 1:14). He often carried out His preaching ministry in the Synagogue. “They went into Capernaum; and immediately on the Sabbath He entered the synagogue and began to teach” (Mark 1:21). Jesus’ teaching was different. “He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes” (Mark 1:22). The teaching of Jesus was striking, not only because of its content, but because of how He taught.
The scribes were masters of the material of Scripture. They could inform Israel as to its content. They were also masters of the traditional interpretations of Scripture. Their presentations were informative; they were informational. The scribes “expounded the law of Moses by rote” and their teachings “came not from the heart” (Matthew Henry).
On the other hand, Jesus taught and proclaimed the gospel with authority. There was a force and a power present in His words. There was a prophetic tone and quality to His preaching. Sixteenth century Puritan, William Perkins, reminds us, “Preaching the Word is prophesying in the name and on behalf of Christ” (The Art of Prophesying, 7). Preaching is therefore more than feeding the mind. “There is more to preaching than imparting information…. Unless sermons address the affections, they have failed as sermons” (Derek Thomas, A Passionate Pleas for Preaching, 38).
Speaking of content, the note on Mark 1:22 in the Geneva Bible (1599) says of Jesus, “He teacheth that doctrine, by which alone Satan is driven out of the world, which he also confirmeth by a miracle.” After emphasizing His deity, seen in the fore part of Mark, our Lord taught “the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. And He was stating the matter plainly” (Mark 8:31-32). Preaching worthy of the name sets forth Christ and His work as the alone answer to the wiles and power of the devil. The essential content of biblical preaching is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and its profound implications. “Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives” (Hebrews 2:14-15).
We tend to put more emphasis on content than on presentation. We fall prey to the modern educational heresy. “Give them enough information and people will be all right.” This has been the posture of modern sex education. If you give them the needed information, kids will make proper decisions. We too become purveyors of information. Just give the people of the church the teaching, the information, they need. Of course, we would say, the difference is the new birth. This is true. However, our response puts emphasis on the listener. The emphasis in Mark 1:22 is different. “He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.” The preaching of Christ was prophetic in character.
Have we as a church lost our prophetic voice? Have we been settling for teaching, teaching like the scribes, rather than preaching which is prophesying? Jesus stood in the prophetic tradition (Deuteronomy 18:15). And so the people “were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority.” Pray for a vibrant prophetic voice within the church in our day. Pray for a muscular prophetic voice in the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America.