Why Were People Amazed at Jesus’ Teaching? And, Why Aren’t We?

Open my eyes that I may behold wondrous things from Thy law.  (Psalm 119:18)

If I could do one thing for members of your congregation, I would give them fresh eyes to see the Word of God as though for the first time.

I would give them a new appreciation, a deeper enjoyment, a delight in the Law of the Lord (Psalm 1:2).

We sometimes envy those who have come late to the Kingdom and are reading God’s word for the first time.  They are enchanted by its stories, excited by its champions, enthralled by its riches, thrilled by its insights, and elated by its promises.

No doubt you have noticed that when Jesus taught, people were amazed and astonished.  Scripture tells us that in so many places.  Check out Matthew 7:29; 9:33; 12:23; 13:54; Mark 1:22,27; 2:12; 5:20,42; 6:2,51; 7:37; 10:26; 11:18; and Luke 4:32,36; 5:9,26; 8:25; 9:43; 11:14; 13:17; 20:26. In John, the wonderful statement of 7:46 (“Never man spake like this man!”) seems to be the closest thing to this.

I have two questions concerning this:

(1) Why were the people amazed at Jesus’ teaching?

(2) And, why aren’t we?

There were numerous reasons for their astonishment at our Lord’s teachings.  Matthew 7:29 says they were amazed because Jesus taught as one having authority and not as the scribes, who would cite various experts’ opinions. Jesus, however, would say, “I say to you.”  But the primary reason for their amazement is that they had never heard anything like this before. It was new. Their hearts were fertile soil.  The words from Jesus fell from His lips onto their hearts and were received with great joy. They were so thirsty.

So why aren’t we amazed?  Short answer: We are not thirsty.

We do our daily Bible reading, close the Bible and think, “That was nice,” and we run off to other tasks.  We are instructed and blessed, inspired and taught, but amazed? Not often.

The culprit–for the vast majority of us–is our over-familiarity with Scriptures.  Those of us brought up in church have read it again and again, and it’s familiar to us.  We never come away thinking, “That’s new” or “I’ve never heard that before.”  We have heard it before. And even if we love it, our over-familiarity with Holy Scripture is the problem.

What I suggest

So, I’m suggesting we return to the Father and ask for fresh eyes.  Eyes that see the wondrous insights from God’s Word as though for the first time.

By fresh eyes I mean receptive hearts.  Thirsty souls.  Responsive minds.  “Open my eyes, Lord.”

Satan uses two tactics–he tells two lies–to discourage God’s children from reading and loving His word.  He says, “You already know that. You’ve read the Bible all your life.  It’s boring.”

The truth: Even if you have read it all your life, you do not know it. You know a lot of it and a great deal about it, but there is so much you do not know.  No one does.  I’m 84 years old at the moment. I recall when I was 9 or 10 years old lying in bed on a Saturday morning reading chapter after chapter of God’s word.  I read God’s word through all the teen years, and since the Lord sent me into His ministry at the age of 21,  I have pretty much lived in His word.  But in no way could you say I know it all.  There is so much about God’s word I do not know.

It’s not boring.  I am the one who is boring.  My mind is dull and I am often as the Hebrews whom the anonymous writer addresses in chapter 5 of his epistle. You have become dull of hearing…and need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food.

That’s me so much of the time. “Help me, Father.”

You are boring.  But not God’s word. It’s anything but that.

The other lie from hell is the opposite.  If telling us “You already know that Scripture; it’s boring” does not work with us, Satan says, “No one can know it. It’s too complicated, too deep, too contradictory.”  He’s lying, of course. Even the elementary school student can read God’s word–especially the Psalms and the Gospels–and find nuggets here and there. John 3:16 and the 23rd Psalm are golden.

We should never forget our Lord’s judgment on Satan’s tactics.  He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44).

God’s word is fresh and eternal.  God’s word is nourishing and vital. God’s word is relevant and current.  God’s word is understandable and sensible. God’s word is a delight and it is solid food.  And, sometimes, it is forceful and convicting.

But boring? Never!

Is not my word like fire? declares the Lord, and like a hammer which shatters a rock? (Jeremiah 23:29).

God’s word is many things; boring is not one of them.

Let us pray the Psalmist’s prayer as we come to open His word. Lord, open my eyes that I may behold wondrous things from Thy law (Psalm 119:18).

I suggest we pray that prayer each time we open the Book.  Furthermore, we should–

-read it reverently. This is the Word of God.  Written by men? Of course. It did not drop down from Heaven fully formed. See what the Apostle Peter said about that: Men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God (2 Peter 1:21). And the Apostle Paul: All Scripture is given by inspiration of God (2 Timothy 3:15).

read it expectantly. If it is indeed the Word from Heaven, it makes sense that it should contain divine wisdom for human situations.  We should be like the lame man of Acts 3 who gave his attention to Peter and John, expecting to receive something from them. Let us read God’s word reverently and expectantly.

-read it slowly. Many of us rush through Scripture reading like 9th graders in a classroom wanting nothing more than to survive this experience and return to our seats.  Slow down.  You’re not going anywhere. This Holy Book is your assignment for the rest of your days.  Take your time.  Read it slowly, and when you finish a passage, consider reading it again.  Savor it.

–read it aloud if we can. At my house, I love to sit on the back deck and read the Bible out loud. Not “loud, loud,” but spoken.  Just get it out of you.  Let your heart hear you saying God’s word.

–read it with a mind to obeying it.  Jesus said, If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them (John 13:17).  Obedience is the whole point.

Oh and mark up your Bible.  Have a fine-point pen and a high-lighter handy to underscore a favorite passage.  Now, don’t mess up the page and make reading it a chore. Just here and there, emphasize a verse or two.  Write in the margin.

And yes, read God’s word for enjoyment.  As Job said, I have esteemed the words of Thy mouth more than my necessary food (Job 23:12).

I’m not to that point yet, but it’s my goal. I’m getting there.

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This article originally appeared on JoeMcKeever.com and is reposted here by permission.

Joe McKeever
Joe McKeever

Joe McKeever spent 42 years pastoring six Southern Baptist churches and has been writing and cartooning for religious publications for more than 40 years.