They were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority…
Christ had no doubts about His message because Jesus was the Word of God in human flesh.
The young preacher was in a quandary. While searching for direction about what shape his developing work should take, his plight was aggravated by the fact that a friend in ministry was now having serious questions about his faith, especially about the Scriptures. He had to admit to himself that he, too, was having similar questions. After all, popular writers of the day were making assertions that didn’t square with what he had been taught as a child and learned while he was in school. At the heart of his dilemma was whether the Bible could be trusted. His struggle left him feeling hypocritical. He could not go on preaching to people while, at the same time, having nagging doubts in his own mind about the Bible’s reliability. With an ever-busier schedule looming before him, something had to give. He had to resolve the issue one way or the other, once and for all.
One moonlit night he went for a walk in the woods, pondering the questions swirling in his head. As he related years later:
Dropping to my knees there in the woods, I opened the Bible at random on a tree stump in front of me. I could not read it in the shadowy moonlight, so I had no idea what text lay before me…I could only stutter into prayer. The exact wording of my prayer is beyond recall, but it must have echoed my thoughts: “O God! There are many things in this book I do not understand. There are many problems with it for which I have no solution. There are many seeming contradictions. There are some areas in it that do not seem to correlate with modern science. I can’t answer some of the philosophical and psychological questions…”
Then this young preacher made a commitment that would forever mark his life.
“Father, I am going to accept this as Thy Word – by faith! I’m going to allow faith to go beyond my intellectual questions and doubts, and I will believe this to be your inspired Word.”
Reflecting on that moment, he said, “When I got up from my knees, I sensed the presence and power of God as I had not sensed it in months. Not all my questions were answered, but a major bridge had been crossed. In my heart and mind, I knew a spiritual battle had been fought and won.” Throughout his subsequent ministry, people would comment on the conviction and authority with which he preached.
When Christ began teaching the crowds that thronged after Him, He spoke with unparalleled conviction and authority. He had no doubts about His message because Jesus was the Word of God in human flesh. One of the 12 men Jesus chose to be with Him as His disciples, a fisherman named John, began his Gospel account about Jesus by saying, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God” (John 1:1-2).
Jesus Himself told His hearers, “You search the Scriptures…it is these that testify about Me” (John 5:39). And, in the words of one of the New Testament writers, “God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son…. And He is…the exact representation of His nature” (Hebrews 1:1-3).
The authority in Christ’s words was evident to those who heard Him. After being tempted
He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read. And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book and found the place where it was written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.”
And He closed the book, gave it back to the attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” And all were speaking well of Him, and wondering at the gracious words which were falling from His lips (Luke 4:16-22).
In response to this keynote message of His ministry, as well as to His subsequent teaching, people were “amazed…for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as the scribes” (Mark 1:22).
As Christ spoke, people wrestled in their minds to come to terms with what He was saying. “Teacher,” one man asked, “which is the great commandment in the Law?”
He said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:36-40).
As Jesus proclaimed the Word of God, He unfolded its meaning with a power that penetrated people’s hearts. His Sermon on the Mount, for example, recorded in the Gospel according to Matthew – a tax collector also chosen by Jesus to be one of the Twelve – magnified the demands of the Great Commandment with specific applications that pierced external, superficial morality. Far from being a way of salvation, properly understood, the Sermon on the Mount drives us to our knees with an acute realization of our desperate need for Christ’s salvation.
The result of Jesus’ teaching was that people were astonished. “Never has a man spoken the way this man speaks,” they declared (John 7:46).
That’s all well and good, you may say, but I’ve never heard Christ speak. All I have to go on today is the Bible and, like that young preacher, I have lots of questions about it. Is it indeed reliable? Is it, as one historic creed declares, “the only infallible rule of faith and practice”?
My response is that, like that young preacher, each of us ultimately does have to accept the Bible by faith. Doing so, however, does not require blind, irrational faith. To the contrary, it’s quite reasonable. It’s a leap not into the dark but, rather, into the light.
The Bible we have today that has been translated and passed down from generation to generation is supported by a greater quantity of historical manuscripts – and demonstrates a greater degree of textual consistency and fidelity – than any other ancient document. The Dead Sea scrolls provide some of the earliest corroboration of the accuracy of the Old Testament manuscripts that served as the basis for today’s translations.
Christ Himself affirmed the inspiration and integrity of the Old Testament, which were the Scriptures in existence while He was here. The New Testament was written within the lifetime of eyewitnesses to Christ’s life and ministry, by apostles and others whose work could have been decisively refuted had it been untrue.
And archaeology has repeatedly verified key portions of both the Old and New Testaments. When thoroughly considered, there is more evidence for the reliability of the Bible than other sources of information on which we make decisions and take action every day!
It really comes down to a question of our premise: Could Almighty God, in choosing to reveal Himself to the human race, inspire and superintend the compilation of a cohesive and accurate written record of His nature, ways, and will, or would imparting and preserving such a record be too difficult for Him? From my perspective – in an age when billions of bits of information are routinely stored on silicon microchips – while the Bible is certainly a wonder, producing it was for God (I say this reverently) no big deal. For most people, I think their difficulty in accepting the Bible was summed up by Mark Twain when he said, “It ain’t those parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me – it’s the parts that I do understand.”
Many of Christ’s hearers, especially the religious leaders, were greatly troubled by both what they did understand in His teaching as well as what they didn’t. Jesus, perceiving in some the attitude that His talk could be just empty words, gave them even more to talk about – namely, His amazing works. Those works would leave them, in today’s vernacular, unable to compute.
And, oh, who was that young preacher who determined that night in the woods to rely on the Scriptures? Just the man God would use to preach the gospel of Christ to more people than anyone else in history – Billy Graham. And his commitment to the Scriptures endured throughout his life, a fact to which he testified in the book he authored as his legacy for Christian living, The Journey, and published in his late eighties. There, in reflecting on his moment of commitment to the Scriptures so many years earlier, he wrote these uncompromising words:
Especially significant to me…was Jesus’ own view of Scripture. He not only quoted it frequently, but also accepted it as the Word of God…. He also told [His disciples], “I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen [rendered in some Bible translations as “jot” and “tittle,” referring to markings in the Hebrew alphabet], will by any means disappear from the Law.”…Shouldn’t I have the same view of Scripture as my Lord?