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Home / Commentaries / Barne's Notes / Mark /  Chapter 1

Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Mark 1

Verse 1

The beginning of the gospel - The word “gospel” literally signifies good news, and particularly the good tidings respecting the way of salvation by the Lord Jesus Christ. Some have understood the word “gospel” here to mean “history” or “life - the beginning of the history,” etc.; but Mark says nothing of the early life of the Saviour. The word “gospel” here has reference rather to the preaching of John, an account of which immediately follows, and means the beginning of the good news, or annunciation respecting the Messiah. It was very customary thus to prefix a title to a book.

The Son of God - This title was used here to attract attention, and secure the respect of those who should read the gospel. It is no common history. It does not recount the deeds of man - of a hero or a philosopher - but the doctrines and doings of the Son of God. The history, therefore, “commands” respect.


Verse 2-3

As it is written in the prophets - Mark mentions “prophets” here without specifying which. The places are found in Malachi 3:1, and in Isaiah 41:3. See the notes at Matthew 3:3.


Verses 4-8

See the notes at Matthew 3:3, Matthew 3:5-6, Matthew 3:11.


Verses 9-11

See the notes at Matthew 3:13-17.


Verse 12-13

Here Mark relates concisely what Matthew has recorded more at length in Matthew 9:25, where the same word is used in the original: “And when they were all put forth” in Greek, “all driven out.”

And was with the wild beasts - This is added to show the desolation and danger of his dwelling there. In this place, surrounded by such dangers, the temptations offered by Satan were the stronger. Amid want and perils, Satan might suppose that he would be more easily seduced from God. But he trusted in his Father, and was alike delivered from dangers, from the wild beasts, and from the power of temptation, thus teaching us what to do in the day of danger and trial.

And the angels ministered unto him - From Luke 4:2 we learn that in those days he did eat nothing. When Mark says, therefore, that the angels ministered to him, it means after the days of temptation had expired, as is said by Matthew 4:11.


Verse 14

Now after that John was put in prison - John was imprisoned by Herod, Matthew 14:3.

Jesus came into Galilee - He left Judea and went into the more retired country of Galilee. He supposed that if he remained in Judea, Herod would also persecute him and attempt to take his life. His time of death had not come, and he therefore prudently sought safety in retirement. Hence, we may learn that when we have great duties to perform for the church of God, we are not to endanger our lives wantonly. When we can secure them without a sacrifice of principle, we are to do it. See Matthew 24:16.


Verse 15

The time is fulfilled - That is, the time for the appearance of the Messiah, the time so long foretold, has come. “The kingdom of God is at hand.” See the notes at Matthew 3:2.

Repent ye - Exercise sorrow for sins, and turn from them.

And believe the gospel - Literally, trust in the gospel, or believe the good tidings - to wit, respecting salvation. See the notes at Matthew 4:17.


Verses 16-20

See the notes at Matthew 4:18-22.


Verses 21-28

See also Luke 4:31-37.

Mark 1:21

And they went into Capernaum - For the situation of Capernaum see the notes at Matthew 4:13.

Straightway - Immediately. On the following Sabbath.

The synagogue - See the notes at Matthew 4:23.

And taught - In the synagogue, the presiding elder, after reading the Scriptures, invited anyone who chose to address the people, Acts 13:15. Though our Saviour was not a “priest” of the Levitical order or an “officer” of the synagogue, yet we find him often availing himself of this privilege, and delivering his doctrines to the Jews.

Mark 1:22

He taught them as one that had authority … - See the notes at Matthew 7:29.

Mark 1:23

A man with an unclean spirit - See Matthew 4:24. It is probable that this man had lucid intervals, or he would not have been admitted into the synagogue. When there, one of his fits came on, and he suddenly cried out.

Mark 1:24

Let us alone - Though only one impure spirit is mentioned as possessing this man, yet that spirit speaks also in the name of others.

They were leagued together in the work of evil, and this one knew that if he was punished, others would also share the same fate.

What have we to do with thee? - See the notes at Matthew 8:29. By this the spirit meant to say that, if Jesus cast him out, he would use an improper interference. But this was untrue. The possession of the man was a direct assault upon God and his works. Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil, and Jesus had a right, therefore, to liberate the captive, and to punish him who had possessed him. So Satan still considers it an infringement of his rights when God frees a “sinner” from bondage and destroys his influence over the soul. So he still asks to be let alone, and to be suffered to lead people captive at his will.

Art thou come to destroy us? - Implying that this could not be the intention of the “benevolent” Messiah; that to be cast out of that man would, in fact, be his destruction, and that therefore he might be suffered still to remain. Or it may imply, as in Matthew 8:29, that the time of their destruction had not come, and that he ought not to destroy them before that.

I know thee who thou art - Evil spirits seem to have been acquainted at once with the Messiah. Besides, they had learned from his miracles that he was the Messiah, and had power over them.

The Holy One of God - The Messiah. See Daniel 9:24. Jesus is called “the Holy One of God” because:

1.Jesus was eminently pure.

2.Because Jesus was the only begotten Son of God - equal with the Father. And,

3.Because Jesus was anointed (set apart) to the work of the Messiah, the mediator between God and man.

Mark 1:25

And Jesus rebuked him - Chided him, or commanded him, with a threatening.

This was not the man that Jesus rebuked, but the spirit, for he instantly commanded the same being to come out of the man. In all this, Jesus did not once address the man. His conversation was with the evil spirit, proving conclusively that it was not a mere disease or mental derangement - for how could the Son of God hold converse with “disease” or “insanity?” - but that he conversed with a “being” who also conversed, reasoned, cavilled, felt, resisted, and knew him. There are, therefore, evil spirits, and those spirits have taken possession of human beings.

Hold thy peace - Greek, “Be muzzled.” “Restrain thyself.” “Cease from complaints, and come out of the man.” This was a very signal proof of the power of Jesus, to be able by a word to silence an evil angel, and, against his will, to compel him to leave a man whom he delighted to torment.

Mark 1:26

And when the unclean spirit … - Still malignant, though doomed to obey - submitting because he was obliged to, not because he chose - he exerted his last power, inflicted all the pain he could, and then bowed to the Son of God and came out.

This is the nature of an evil disposition. Though compelled to obey, though prevented by the command and providence of God from doing what it “would,” yet, in seeming to obey, it does all the ill it can, and makes even the appearance of obedience the occasion for increased crime and mischief.

Mark 1:27, Mark 1:28

And they were all amazed … - The power of casting out devils was new to them.

It was done by a word. Jesus did it in his own name and by his own authority. This proved that he was superior to all the unclean spirits. In consequence, Jesus‘ fame spread throughout all the country, and the impression became prevalent that he was the Messiah.


Verses 29-31

See the notes at Matthew 8:14-15.


Verses 32-34

See the notes at Matthew 8:16-17.

And at even, when the sun did set - See the notes at Matthew 8:16.

Mark 1:33

All the city - A great part of the city. A great multitude from the city.

Mark 1:34

And suffered not the devils to speak, because they knew him - They knew that he was the Messiah.

If they had spoken, they would have made that known to the people. Jesus was not desirous at that time that that should be publicly known, or that his name should be blazoned abroad. The time had not come when he wished it to be promulgated that he was the Messiah, and he therefore imposed silence on the evil spirits.


Verses 35-37

And in the morning, rising up a great while before day - Luke says Luke 4:42, “when it was day.” The passage in Mark means, in the original, not literally “a great while before day,” but very early, or while there was yet “much appearance of night.” The place in Luke means “at daybreak,” at the beginning of day. Then, also, there is much appearance of night; and Luke and Mark therefore refer to the same time before it was fully light, or just at daybreak.

And departed into a solitary place, and there prayed - Observe here:

1.that the Saviour, though perfectly holy, regarded the duty of secret prayer as of great importance.

2.that he, sought a solitary place for it - far away from the world and even from his disciples.

3.that it was early in the morning - always the best time, and a time when it should not be omitted.

4.if Jesus prayed, how much more important is it for us!

If Jesus did it in the morning, how much more important is it for us, before the world gets possession of our thoughts; before Satan fills us with unholy feelings; when we rise fresh from beds of repose, and while the world around us is still! David also thus prayed, Psalm 5:3; Psalm 119:147. He that wishes to enjoy religion will seek a place of secret prayer in the morning. If that is omitted, all will go wrong, our piety will wither. The world will fill our thoughts. Temptations will be strong. Through the day, we shall find it impossible to raise our feelings to a state of proper devotion. It will be found to be true universally, “that the religious enjoyment through the day will be according to the state of the heart in the morning, and can therefore be measured by our faithfulness in early secret prayer.” How different, too, was the conduct of the Saviour from those who spend the precious hours of the morning in sleep! He knew the value of the morning hours; he rose while the world was still; he saw the light as it spread abroad in the east with fresh tokens of his Father‘s presence, and joined with the universal creation in offering praise to the everywhere present God.

Mark 1:36

And Simon - Simon Peter.

They that were with him - The other apostles.

Mark 1:37

All men seek for thee - That is, many men, or multitudes. The inquiry after him was general. They told him this, evidently, with a view to induce him to leave his place of retirement, and to prevail upon him to appear publicly to instruct the multitudes.


Verse 38

And he said unto them … - This was said in answer to their “implied” request that he would go and meet the multitudes. “Since the anxiety to hear the truth is so great, since such multitudes are waiting to hear the word, let us go into the next towns,” etc.

Next towns - Towns in the neighborhood or vicinity of Capernaum. He proposed to carry the gospel to them, rather than that multitudes should leave their homes and attend him in his ministry. The word here rendered “towns” denotes places in size between “cities” and “villages,” or large places, but without walls.

For therefore came I forth - That is, came forth from God, or was sent by God. Luke, says Luke 4:43, “for therefore am I sent.” Compare John 16:28; “I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world.” The meaning of this verse therefore is, “Since multitudes press to hear the word, let us not remain here, but go into the neighboring towns also: for I was sent by God not to preach at Capernaum only, but “throughout Judea,” and it is therefore improper to confine my labors to this place.”


Verse 39

And he preached in their synagogues - See Matthew 4:23.

All Galilee - See Matthew 1:22.

And cast out devils - See Matthew 4:24.


Verses 40-45

And there came a leper … - See the notes at Matthew 8:1-4.

Kneeling down to him - He kneeled and inclined his face to the ground, in token of deep humiliation and earnest entreaty. Compare Luke 5:12.

If thou wilt - This was an acknowledgment of the almighty power of Jesus, and an appeal to his benevolence.

Make me clean - You (Jesus) can heal me of this loathsome and offensive disease, in the eye of the law justly regarded as “unclean,” and render me “legally” clean, and restore me to the privileges of the congregation.

And Jesus … touched him - It was by the law considered as unclean to touch a leprous man. See Numbers 5:2. The fact that Jesus touched him was evidence that the requisite power had been already put forth to heal him; that Jesus regarded him as already clean.

I will - Here was a most manifest proof of his divine power. None but God can work a miracle; yet Jesus does it by his “own will” - by an exertion of his own power. Therefore, Jesus is divine.

See thou say nothing to any man - The law of Moses required that a man who was healed of the leprosy should be pronounced clean by the priest before he could be admitted again to the privileges of the congregation, Leviticus 14:4, Leviticus 14:10.

For a testimony unto them - Not to the priest, but to the people, that they may have evidence that it is a real cure. The testimony of the priest on the subject would be decisive.

Mark 1:45

Began to publish it much - That is, he made known his own cure. He was so deeply affected with it, and so much rejoiced, that he followed the natural dictates of his own feelings rather than the command of the Saviour.

Jesus could no more enter openly into the city - The word “could,” here, does not refer to any natural inability, or to any physical obstacle in his way, but only denotes that there was difficulty, inconvenience, or impropriety in his doing it then; that he judged it best not then to enter into the city. The difficulty was, probably, that his being in the city drew such crowds of people as rendered it difficult to accommodate them, or so as to excite the opposition of civil rulers.

The city - The city or large town where the leper was cured. The same reason for not entering that city applied also to others, so that he remained in the deserts, where the multitudes could come to him without any difficulty or opposition.


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Bibliography Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Mark 1:1". "Barnes' Notes on the New Testament". "http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/view.cgi?book=mr&chapter=001. 1870.

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