1. Exposition

Why were the people who heard Jesus astonished?

Mark 6:2 (ESV)

2 And on the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands?

In Mark 1:27 we learned that people were amazed because Jesus taught with authority. He taught in a way that showed people he really understood the Scriptures and made clear demands upon their lives to respond with repentance and faith (Mark 1:15). Here, in Mark 6:2, the amazement is not primarily because of what Jesus is teaching, but the fact that Jesus is the one who is teaching.1 This is confirmed by the questions they ask each other in the rest of this verse.

Teaching in the synagogue on the Sabbath indicates that Jesus has some authority as a teacher. The people were probably familiar with some of his previous teachings as he ministered around the Sea of Galilee. However, despite this the people were still astonished. It may not even have been in a positive manner, as it is clear the people still rejected Jesus despite their astonishment.2 Furthermore, this astonishment is not aimed at the works and wisdom in and of itself but rather at their origin which is the drive of the opening question: Where did this man get these things?3

The people started to question the source of Jesus’ power and wisdom displayed in his ministry. This question came up naturally, because Jesus was the local boy who grew up in the community and who was known for being a craftsman like his father, Joseph. He was not formally trained as a rabbi (see John 7:15).

Additionally, the way in which the questions are asked seem to give an implied answer: these works and wisdom are from God. Mark writes it specifically in this manner to draw the reader’s attention to this answer. This is through the use of the passive participle (δοθεῖσα) in the second question, What is the wisdom given to him?4 The use of this participle in this context is as a divine passive which typically entails being given something by God.