Bible Commentaries
Mark 6

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

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Verses 1-56

Mark 6:3 . Is not this the carpenter? The jews were bound to teach their children some trade, as no man could say what the vicissitudes of life might be. Hence Lightfoot cites the following passage from the Talmud. “It is incumbent on a father to circumcise his son, to redeem him, (by the half shekel) to teach him the law, and instruct him in some occupation.” Again: “Whosoever teacheth not his son a trade, teacheth him in fact to rob.”

Mark 6:4 . A prophet is not without honour, but in his own country. “The fond adherence of a priest or a preacher to his own kindred and house, renders him but little service in his ministry. If he have faults, they are known there, and he becomes contemptible. If he have great talents, they excite envy, and he is opposed. If he makes himself familiar, he loses respect, by which his authority suffers; if he do not, he is counted proud, and is avoided. The property of an evangelical minister is to be, as it were, another Melchizedek, without country, without house, without relations, or to be as if he had none.” QUESNEL.

Mark 6:14 . Herod heard of him, for his name was spread abroad. Josephus, by giving John the highest character, as a virtuous man and a prophet, confirms all that the four evangelists have said of him. The day of Herod from this time was dark, and his end without honour. St. Mark, following St. Matthew, Mark 14:1-2, adds many other circumstances.

Mark 6:28 . And brought his head in a charger. The custom is still the same in the east; the heads of culprits are brought to the prince or the judge, when the executioner receives his reward. And blood-money is a bitter reward.

Mark 6:56 . Whithersoever he entered, into villages, cities, or country as many as touched him were made whole. These were the days of the Son of man. The brazen serpent lost not its virtue by healing many.


The martyrdom of John, mentioned in Mark 6:14-29, is a subject highly interesting to the church. He was arrested in his meridian lustre, and in a moment of his greatest usefulness and worth. His fame had attracted the admiration of Herod, and even the scribes durst not affirm that his baptism was of men. Herod therefore sent for him to the court. And was the interview happy between the worst and the best of men? John was the same at court as in the desert. He was still God’s servant, and Herod’s subject. He could not spend an hour in conversation, reciting his call, his ministry and success, without making a fair application of his doctrine to his royal auditor. He felt as a prophet for the soul of his sovereign, and attempted to disenchant his affections from the degrading chains of illicit love. What a model for ministers at court. We had once a Latimer; but ah, he is dead. The result was, that pride and anger gained the ascendancy in Herod’s mind, and John was sent to prison.

When a man ventures on a course of crimes he knows not where he shall stop. Herod having imprisoned John in a moment of wrath, thought of no farther vengeance, but the incestuous Herodias thirsted for blood. Criminal love is pregnant with mischief, and lawless passions unrestrained are the source of every mischief to a guilty mind. Herod was a wretch enslaved with various passions. Delighted with Salome’s dancing, he rashly promised beyond prudence; and hampered by the ties of honour, he thought his oath more sacred than the life of a prophet. So he was drawn with regret to bring upon himself and his country the blood of the righteous.

Providence takes peculiar pleasure in crossing the carnal joys of worldly men. When Nebuchadnezzar promised himself the happiest of days on the dedication of his golden god, behold Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego would not worship the idol. When Belshazzar was boasting against the Lord, behold the handwriting troubled him. And now when Herod flattered himself with a jubilee of happy birthdays, behold his incestuous love drew his soul into a gloom of crimes which should never be chased away. Let us learn to tremble at sensual joy; and let him that glorieth, glory in the Lord, and in the knowledge of redeeming love.

Guilt is haunted with terror. When Herod heard of the miracles of Jesus, he said, this is John. Ah, that bloody head, how often did he see it in every apartment of his house! Ah, that bloody head, not all the waters of Jordan could wash away the stains. He needed neither sunshine by day, nor candle by night, to behold the ghastly sight. To his sadducean principles he had constant recourse; for the infidel will fly from his guilt to his creed. A thousand and a thousand times he whispered, There is neither resurrection, nor angel, nor spirit, nor future state. But ah, the opiate was fallacious, his creed belied his feeling. His conscience resounded with a deafening voice, There is a God who avenges the innocent, and punishes the guilty. There is a God who will not annihilate his patriarchs and martyrs for a momentary offspring. There is a God who has raised up John from the dead; and therefore mighty works do show themselves in him. Here indeed conscience was defective in knowledge, but not in sentiment. John was still alive with God, but it was Jesus who did the miracles, to show tyrants that they cannot frustrate the divine counsel. And providence presently realized his terrors. He was defeated by Arethas, king of the Arabians, and father of Herodias. And the Romans, on hearing of his conduct, banished him to Vienne. So Josephus, and so Eusebius testify.

Rash and unholy vows are among our most foolish sins, and they ought not to be kept. To break a sinful vow is the firstfruit of repentance, but to keep it is the confirmation of crime. It was happy for Saul that the army forced him to break his vow, which prohibited his men from tasting food, and to spare the life of Jonathan.

But what we most admire here is the prudence of Jesus. When he heard of this, still pursuing his work, he spake no evil of Herod; and not willing to fly in the face of government, he retired to heal and feed the multitude in the desert, as explained in Matthew 14:13.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Mark 6". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. 1835.