Verse 28. "The people were astonished" - oi ocloi, the multitudes; for vast crowds attended the ministry of this most popular and faithful of all preachers. They were astonished at his doctrine. They heard the law defined in such a manner as they had never thought of before; and this sacred system of morality urged home on their consciences with such clearness and authority as they had never felt under the teaching of their scribes and Pharisees. Here is the grand difference between the teaching of scribes and Pharisees, the self-created or men-made ministers, and those whom GOD sends. The first may preach what is called very good and very sound doctrine; but it comes with no authority from God to the souls of the people: therefore, the unholy is unholy still; because preaching can only be effectual to the conversion of men, when the unction of the Holy Spirit is in it; and as these are not sent by the Lord, therefore they shall not profit the people at all. Jer. xxiii. 32.
From one of the royal household of George III., I have received the following anecdote:-The late Bishop F. of Salisbury having procured a young man of promising abilities to preach before the king, and the young man having, to his lordship's apprehension, acquitted himself well, the Bishop, in conversation with the king afterwards, wishing to get the king's opinion, took the liberty to say, "Does not your majesty think that the young man who had the honour to preach before your majesty, is likely to make a good clergyman, and has this morning delivered a very good sermon?" To which the king, in his blunt manner, hastily replied, "It might have been a good sermon, my lord, for aught I know; but I consider no sermon good that has nothing of Christ in it!"
Verse 29. "Having authority" - They felt a commanding power and authority in his word, i.e. his doctrine. His statements were perspicuous; his exhortations persuasive; his doctrine sound and rational; and his arguments irresistible. These they never felt in the trifling teachings of their most celebrated doctors, who consumed their own time, and that of their disciples and hearers, with frivolous cases of conscience, ridiculous distinctions, and puerile splittings of controversial hairs-questions not calculated to minister grace to the hearers.
Several excellent MSS. and almost all the ancient versions read, kai oi farisaioi, and the Pharisees. He taught them as one having authority, like the most eminent and distinguished teacher, and not as the scribes and Pharisees, who had no part of that unction which he in its plenitude possessed. Thus ends a sermon the most strict, pure, holy, profound, and sublime, ever delivered to man; and yet so amazingly simple is the whole that almost a child may apprehend it! Lord! write all these thy sayings upon our hearts, we beseech thee! Amen.