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The Ministry of John the Baptist. Mark 1:1-8
The superscription of the Gospel:
v. 1. The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
It is characteristic of the evangelist's nature, which expresses itself in his style of writing, that he loses no time in preliminary discussions and long introductions. He has a message, the one great message for all men of all times. And it sets the limits and boundaries of the preaching of the divine message for all time. The Gospel, the good news of the salvation of all men, is centered in Jesus Christ, who is its beginning, middle, and end: Jesus, the Redeemer, the Savior; and Christ, the Anointed One of God, our great Prophet, Priest, and King. Both His divine-human person and His miraculous office are placed before our eyes. Only this message is the Gospel, the good news. All other messages, that do not lead to Christ, that do not emanate from Christ, are false messages. That is Mark's emphasis.
John's ministry in agreement with prophetic vision:
v. 2. As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send My messenger before Thy face, which shall prepare Thy way before Thee.
v. 3. The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make His paths straight.
v. 4. John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.
Two of the prophets of olden times had distinctly described the person and the work of John the Baptist, and the evangelist combines their prophecies for the purpose of brevity. The first prophecy, Malachi 3:1, is one in which the God of Israel promises to send His personal messenger before the Messiah. And this messenger, by the message which should be imparted to him and which he was to proclaim before the people of the nation, had the purpose, the object, of preparing the way for the Messiah. A thorough preparation of the way was necessary and should be accomplished by the message entrusted to the herald. In the second prophecy, Isaiah 40:3, the distinctive contents of the message are given. It is a voice, preaching, which is heard; not a soft, gentle, and obscure whispering as of one not at all sure of his ground, and not filled with the conviction of the divinity of his message, but a loud calling, to awaken sinners from their sleep of security and indifference. A distinguishing feature: It would be heard, not in the midst of the capital or in the halls of the learned of the people, but out in the wilderness, far from the abodes of men. Simple, but impressive its import: Make ready the way of the Lord; make smooth the highway before Him. It is a spiritual coming of which the prophet speaks; it is the heart and mind that must be prepared for the coming of this Lord, who intends to establish His throne in the hearts of the believers. Only the penitent humble sinners are admitted into this Kingdom. The rocks of self-righteousness, of pride and self-conceit, of a religion of works, will not permit the King to enter into the hearts. These must be removed so thoroughly that not a trace is left behind. That is the sum of the herald's preaching, of his work in preparation for Christ's coming. In fulfilling this prophecy, John the Baptist was out in the wilderness; he appeared out in the arid regions between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea, where the hills slope downward to the Jordan; he began his ministry as one that baptized. He made use of this rite, by God's express command, to emphasize still more strongly his preaching. For his was a proclamation of the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. It was not a mere proselyte baptism, nor was it altogether identical with that of Jesus and the New Testament sacrament. Those that really repented of their sins received remission, forgiveness of their sins, and this remission was sealed unto them by the baptism which was administered unto them by John.
The effect of John's preaching:
v. 5. And there went out unto him all the land of Judea and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins.
A man with a message such as John's, supplemented by the oddity of his dress and habits, was bound to attract attention anywhere, even where his message was not welcome in its real significance. The inhabitants of the Judean hills heard of the hermit first, and came out of curiosity. But the fame of the wilderness preacher traveled fast, and soon the haughty people of the capital, probably with a deprecatory air, set out over the hills to see this strange man with the stranger message. And the effect of his preaching was truly remarkable. Great masses of people, men and women, crowded to his preaching and to his baptism. It was the custom, at the baptism of proselytes, not to administer the rite until the candidate had affirmed most solemnly that he would renounce all idolatrous worship, all heathenish superstitions, and had promised full and undivided allegiance to the Law of Moses. Here the individual confession of sins preceded baptism. As John himself was sincere, he tolerated no sham and deceit, no mere lip-service. He applied the words of the prophet. Those that were bowed down by the full realization of their sinfulness he cheered by the reference to the free grace of God, to those that were proud and conceited he emphasized the necessity of humility, upon those that were inclined to be deceitful he urged simplicity and purity of heart.
John's appearance and message of Christ:
v. 6. And John was clothed with camel's hair and with a girdle of skins about his loins; and he did eat locusts and wild honey;
v. 7. and preached, saying, There cometh One mightier than I after me, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose.
v. 8. I indeed have baptized you with water; but He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost.
The appearance of John did much to call attention to his message, especially as the people of Judea were familiar with the description which the Old Testament gives of the great prophet Elijah, 2 Kings 1:8. His one garment was woven of camel's hair, by no means a stylish and comfortable garment, since he was seeking neither luxury nor easy living. A rough girdle of leather held the garment in place about the loins. His food was in full harmony with his clothing: an edible form of locust, Leviticus 11:22, and the wild honey found in the clefts of rocks or sweated out of certain trees growing in the wilderness. This mode of life he did not merely affect for the sake of making an impression. This was the clothing which he always wore; it was the food which he had always eaten, the customary meal. And now it appears that the message of the prophet, followed by baptism unto forgiveness, was all preparatory to the most characteristic' preaching, that concerning Jesus. He, that one man, that is stronger, that has more power than I, is coming after me, is even now ready to be revealed before you. So great is the difference and contrast between them that John does not even feel himself worthy to perform a service for Him which a slave might covet. He is not worthy to stoop down before this greater Man unloosened the straps of His sandals. That was true, unaffected humility, such as is found in all those that really are serving the Lord. See 1 Timothy 1:15. The work of this Man that was thus expected could be summarized in a short sentence: He will baptize you with the Holy Ghost. And this in contrast to the mere baptism with water, which John was sent to do. That is a feature, the most significant part of Christ's ministry and work for mankind, the baptism with, the communication of, the Holy Ghost, John 20:20. There may not always be evidence of His presence in extraordinary manifestations, as in the early days of the Church, but the Holy Spirit lives, by the gift of Christ, in the hearts of all that have come to faith. And the evidence of His presence is never entirely wanting, if the Christian but make diligent use of the means of grace, through which alone the Spirit is communicated to them at the present time, especially the Word of the Gospel and the Lord's Supper. There will be a growth in grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ, the Savior; there will be cheerfulness in the midst of the various distresses and tribulations of these latter days; there will be, above all, the greater willingness to serve Him in His kingdom, in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness.
The Baptism of Christ and the Beginning of His Ministry.
v. 9. And it came to pass in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in Jordan.
The Mode of Baptism
The Lutheran Church has always held that it is a matter of indifference, so far as the command of God is concerned, and therefore a point of Christian liberty, whether Baptism is performed by immersion or dipping, by sprinkling, by pouring, or by washing, the essential thing being the application of water, not the form of this application. Other church bodies are very narrow in this respect, the Greek Catholic Church maintaining that a threefold immersion is necessary, and the Baptist and Campbellite churches insisting that immersion it must be, at all costs.
In deciding this question, it would obviously be useless to refer to the New Testament passages in which the Sacrament of Baptism is instituted, for there we gain no explanation of the method used by Christ and the apostles, and experience has shown how foolish it is to draw conclusions from attending circumstances about which we know little or nothing. The historical accounts, however, have some value. For instance, the apostles, on the Day of Pentecost, would have had neither time nor the water necessary to immerse the three thousand that were converted by the sermon of Peter, Acts 2:41. Also, the number of rivers in which the eunuch of Queen Candace of Ethiopia might have been immersed by Philip can easily be counted by an infant of a day, for there are none.
But a better method to get a clear under. standing of the form of Baptism is to take the use of the word baptize in Scriptures, in passages where it is used in its ordinary meaning, where the Sacrament is not spoken of. Verse 4, in the chapter above, is a passage illustrating such use. That cups and pots were immersed in ceremonial washing, might still be plausible, but that the couches of the dining-room were also dipped in water every day, is clearly out of the question. The prescribed form of ceremonial purification, which was the method in common use, was the sprinkling of consecrated water. The baptism of the children of Israel, 1 Corinthians 10:2, was not by immersion, as was that of the Egyptians, but by sprinkling. The Bible throughout prefers sprinkling to immersion as a symbol of cleansing, Isaiah 52:15; Ezekiel 36:25. In Joel 2:28 pouring, not immersion, is the figure employed. In fulfillment of this prophecy, the apostles, on Pentecost Day, were baptized with the Holy Ghost, Acts 1:5; Acts 2:3. See Acts 2:41; Acts 10:44-48; Acts 16:32-35; Acts 8:38
The fact that the mode of Baptism was not fixed by Christ or by His apostles, but that this was left open to the Christian Church, is substantiated also by the testimony of history. In a book which is reckoned with those of the Apostolic Fathers, called The Teaching of the Twelve, w hich dates not later than the middle of the second century, the passage occurs: "If you have not living water, baptize into other water; and if you cannot baptize in cold water, do so in warm; but if you have neither, then pour out water three times on the head in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. " Walafrid Strabo, a German monk and writer (808-, tells us that St. Lawrence, a Roman deacon who suffered martyrdom in the persecution of Valerian about 258, baptized one of his executioners with a pitcher of water, by pouring the water on the man's head. The cases recorded in history might be multiplied indefinitely and brought forward to the time of the Reformation. But the conclusion which we must reach, after comparing all evidence, is that, while immersion was the rule for baptisms in the post-apostolic age, other modes of Baptism have always been in use in the Church, and anyone of them may be employed, so long as the application of water with the appropriate formula, as instituted by Christ, is made.
v. 10. And straightway coming up out of the water, He saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon Him;
v. 11. and there came a voice from heaven, saying, Thou art My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
"In those days," while John was having such marvelous success with his message and with his baptizing, in the days when the crowds that resorted to him were largest. Note. Jesus does not expect John to look for Him, though He might have expected that of one who, by his own confession, was lower than Himself. The King goes forth to seek the herald. From Nazareth Jesus came: there He had lived with His parents during all those years of preparation, concerning which we have only the most meager accounts, Luke 2:51-52. His fellow-citizens in that little mountain town had no idea of the greatness of Him whom they were harboring in their midst, whom they knew only as the carpenter, the son of Joseph. The evangelist adds the geographical note "of Galilee" on account of his Roman readers, who might be unfamiliar with the location of towns in Palestine. The various incidents of the story are omitted by Mark; for his purpose the statement as to the fact of Christ's baptism is sufficient. But the miracle which followed the baptism is important. For when Jesus ascended the bank of the river, as He was leaving the water, there was a manifestation of the Trinity, of which the Christians of all times should know. Jesus had just set foot upon dry ground, when the heavens were cleft open above Him, as though cut apart by a knife. This Jesus saw distinctly; it was a revelation for His benefit. He, who had just received baptism unto the remission of sins, not for His own, but for those of the world that were resting upon Him, was shown the open heaven. It was a manifestation to strengthen Him at the beginning of His ministry, in which He must work out the redemption of mankind. This was further emphasized by the fact that the Holy Spirit, coming down out of the open heavens, descended not merely upon Him, but literally into Him. He was here, in the truest sense of the term, baptized with the Holy Ghost and with power. God, His God, here anointed Him with the oil of gladness, above His fellows, Psalms 45:7; Hebrews 1:9. Therefore the Spirit abode in Jesus, filled His heart and mind, made Him ready, according to His human nature, to perform the work for which He had been born into the world. Here Christ really began to be Christ, as Luther remarks. And His weak human nature needed the assistance of the Spirit. The works peculiar to the redemption of the world were of a nature which no mere man could hope to perform. In the same way there was also a definite reason for the assuring words from heaven when the Father called down: Thou art My beloved Son. The prophet like unto Moses, out of the people of Israel, was about to take up His life-work. But this prophet was, at the same time, the Son of the Most High, beloved of His heavenly Father, who took pleasure in Him, who here publicly declared His complete approval of the work undertaken by Jesus. It was an assurance which stood the Savior in good stead more than once in the course of His ministry and His Passion. Note also: John the Baptist saw and heard all these occurrences as well as Jesus Himself, John 1:32-34. He was a witness for the sake of himself and for the sake of his further message to the people. It is a matter of great consolation to us to know that the Triune God, and all the persons of the Godhead, has a definite share in our salvation, that Jesus entered upon His ministry with the approval and cooperation of the Spirit and the Father.
v. 12. And immediately the Spirit driveth Him into the wilderness.
v. 13. And He was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted of Satan; and was, with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered unto Him.
"Immediately," not a mere introductory word here as so often in Mark's Gospel, but emphasizing quick action. Christ was now formally installed and prepared for His work; He must enter upon it at once. Mark well: the Spirit drove Him: into the wilderness. It is a stronger word than that used by the other evangelists, Matthew 4:1; Luke 4:1. Christ was a true human being. He had some idea of the severity of the trial that awaited Him, and He very naturally hung back; the flesh was weak. But the Spirit, by gentle insistence, urged Him onward. It was a hard fight which He must undergo, but it was a part of His office. For forty days He was out there in the mountainous wilderness; for forty days He withstood the unceasing attacks of Satan, for the incidents narrated by Matthew and Luke are only outstanding features of the temptation. To destroy the works of the devil He had come into the world, 1 John 3:8, and to destroy the works of the devil He must begin at the very outset of His official work. An impressive picture: The Son of God, according to His human nature, surrounded by the majesty of the desert hills, with no living being to keep him company but the wild beasts whose haunts He had invaded, attacked in every possible way, in every conceivable manner, by Satan, who endeavors, with all his devilish power and cunning, to hinder the work of redemption. But the Savior conquered, He routed the devil. And the Victor received the ministrations of the angels, the good spirits, who came to Him after the battle, whose service refreshed Him according to both body and soul. It was a spiritual crisis through which Jesus here passed while He resisted the temptation, both fierce and protracted. It is more than probable that the terrific strain of those days of ceaseless vigilance left Him as exhausted as in Gethsemane. When it was necessary for an angel to come and strengthen Him.
The beginning of Christ's preaching:
v. 14. Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the Gospel of the kingdom of God,
v. 15. and saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent ye, and believe the Gospel.
The narrative moves forward very rapidly, since the evangelist merely sketches the early days of Christ's official work. He omits the visit to Samaria, the journey to Galilee, and the return to Judea. Jesus purposely waited with a more public demonstration of His powers until John the Baptist was no longer engaged in His preparatory labors. With John's being placed into prison his career was practically ended, though some of his disciples continued to adhere to him. Now Christ journeyed into Galilee and came forth openly with His message. This was due partly to the fact that even at this early date the Pharisees of Judea were planning to remove Him, John 4:1, and partly to the prophecy to which Matthew refers at this point, Matthew 4:14-16. His work, His constant occupation at this time, was preaching the Gospel of God, the good news of which God is the Author, which God had made possible, and which tells about God and His concern about the entire sinful and fallen mankind. It is the characteristic message of the New Testament. Its summary is: Fulfilled is the time, and near is come the kingdom of God; repent and believe the Gospel. In and with the coming of Jesus the time which the prophets of old always had in mind was fulfilled, Galatians 4:4; Ephesians 1:10. For the entire Old Testament points forward to His coming. With His coming also the kingdom of God has come near. His presence, message, and work invite faith in Him, by which all men should become members of His kingdom. For "that is what it means," as Luther says, "to be in the kingdom of heaven, if I am a living member of Christianity, and not only hear the Gospel, but also believe. If this were not so, a man would be in heaven, just as though I would throw a log or block among the Christians, or as the devil is among them. " Repentance must necessarily precede faith; for the latter implies the acceptance of the Savior of sinners and therefore also the acknowledgment of sins committed. The sinners, those that know their sinfulness, will then be more than willing to put their trust in the Gospel, whose essence is the forgiveness of sins through the merits of Jesus Christ. It was a message of salvation and glory which Jesus was here proclaiming.
The formal call of the first disciples:
v. 16. Now as He walked by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew, his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishers.
v. 17. And Jesus said unto them, Come ye after Me, and I will make you to become fishers of men.
v. 18. And straightway they forsook their nets and followed Him.
v. 19. And when He had gone a little farther thence, He saw James, the son of Zebedee, and John, his brother, who also were in the ship mending their nets.
v. 20. And straightway He called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the ship with the hired servants and went after Him.
Here is an interesting feature: the prominence given to the call of Peter and his brother. Probably Peter, in the course of his Gospel-teaching, loved to dwell especially upon that fact that the Lord had seen fit to call him as one of the disciples, and thus had honored him far above his deserts. And the Holy Ghost had Mark make a note of it here to bring out all the more strongly the grace and love of Christ. It was at the Sea of Galilee, where Jesus spent a large part of the time while He lived in Capernaum. Jesus was walking along the shore, when He saw two fishermen, both of them sons of one Jonas, busy with the work of their calling, throwing out nets into the sea, casting about, now on the one side of their boat, then again on the other. The call of Jesus is explicit and unmistakable: Follow behind Me, be My disciples. His promise is comprehensive: I will make you to become fishers of men. He did not want to communicate to them by a single miracle, as He might have done, the spiritual gifts necessary for this calling, but He wanted to make them ready for their life-work by a gradual process of training. Fishers of men they were to become; their endeavors should be directed toward the souls of men, to bring them into the net of Christ, to make them members, if possible, of the communion of saints. This call decided both brothers at once. Without the slightest hesitation they left their nets and followed Him. Where the will and call of Jesus is evident at any time, there must be no hesitating, no consulting with flesh and blood: a cheerful, immediate following of Christ is demanded by the obedience of faith. In a similar manner Jesus, having gone a little farther on the shore, saw the two sons of Zebedee, one of whom He also had had in His company before. They were also busy with some work connected with their calling as fishermen, since they were mending nets. At the call of Jesus they proved themselves as willing as the sons of Jonas had been: they left their father in the boat with the hired assistants. They were not needed so badly at home but that they could heed the call of Jesus. So the Lord now had four men that had been pledged to be His regular disciples, and to be trained for the great work of preaching the Gospel throughout the world.
Preaching and Healing in Capernaum.
Christ's manner of teaching:
v. 21. And they went into Capernaum; and straightway on the Sabbath-day He entered into the synagogue and taught.
v. 22. And they were astonished at His doctrine; for He taught them as one that had authority, and not as the scribes.
In Capernaum Jesus had His headquarters and here also Peter and Andrew now lived. Jesus may have called the four disciples on a Friday and arrived at Capernaum the same evening, before the prescribed Sabbath-rest began. But He lost no time in carrying on His work. On the Sabbath He went into the synagogue, and, after the manner of the Jews, was given the right to address the assembly, to give them the explanation of Scriptures, which was usually given by one of the elders of the synagogue, the meamar , or talk. The impression which He made at once was profound. Here was something utterly unlike the usual cut-and-dried droning about tradition and observance of elders' commandments. Here was a man with a message, with teaching, with a. doctrine so unusual, so impressive, that the assembled members of the congregation were almost beside themselves with astonishment and wonder. The feature which at once marked His teaching was His authoritative manner of presenting the matter. He was a teacher that knew how to influence heart and mind; His applications were intelligible, and they went to the root of the matter presented by Him. There was nothing of the dead monotony of the method of the scribes here, although He employed none of the orator's schemes to enhance the effect. Luther says in explanation: "With authority, that is, His preaching was as of one that means it with all seriousness; and what He said had power and lived, as though it had hands and feet."
The man with the unclean spirit:
v. 23. And there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out,
v. 24. saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with Thee, Thou Jesus of Nazareth? Art Thou come to destroy us? I know Thee who Thou art, the Holy One of God.
v. 25. And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace, and come out of him.
v. 26. And when the unclean spirit had torn him, and cried with a loud voice, he came out of him.
v. 27. And they were all amazed, insomuch that they questioned among themselves, saying, What thing is this? What new doctrine is this? For with authority commandeth He the unclean spirits, and they do obey Him.
v. 28. And immediately His fame spread abroad throughout all the region round about Galilee.
By chance, as the average person would say, but as we say, by God's dispensation, there was present in the synagogue, on that Sabbath morning, a man with an unclean spirit, possessed with a demon. Spiritually unclean the devil is, and the contact with him or his angels makes filthy before God. He had taken possession of the body of this man, using his members to do his bidding. It was the evil spirit that cried out at the sight of Jesus, affirming that he and Jesus of Nazareth had nothing in common, that he and all the demons belonged to a company which are and always will be at variance with the Son of God. His cry is a cry of fear, lest Christ should see meet to condemn them, to destroy them by chaining them forever in hell. He was conscious of his own spiritual uncleanness as compared with the holiness of Jesus, the Holy One of God. "In the emphatic sense, and thus, according to John 6:69; Revelation 3:7, the concealed designation of the Messiah. As the typical Old Testament anointed ones represented the Messiah, so the typical saints, priests, prophets, and kings, Psalms 16:1-11, represent the Holy One, in the most exclusive sense. " But Jesus soon made His business known by rebuking the demon and bidding him hold his peace and come out of the man. Jesus has absolute authority over all things, over all creatures, not only in heaven and on earth, but also under the earth. He is the Master and Lord also of the evil spirits. And so this demon, forced against his evil will to obey, tried to vent his spite in one last effort to harm the body of his victim. He convulsed him, he threw him into a spasm, into a severe epileptic fit. Then, with a last great, screaming cry, he goes forth from the man. The effect of this miracle, coming immediately after the address which had made such a deep impression, was overwhelming. The people were almost stupefied with astonishment. A questioning-together, a hubbub arose in the school, which shows how deeply they were moved: Who can explain this? Has He a new revelation that enables Him to deliver men from the power of demons? Does He do this by His own authority, in His own power? For we see that He orders the unclean spirits about, and they obey Him without question. The news spread like wildfire, at once, everywhere, in the whole region of Galilee round about. Jesus had here given indisputable evidence that He was indeed the Holy One of God, who had come into the world to destroy the works of the devil and to deliver all men from the bondage of Satan.
The healing of Peter's mother-in-law:
v. 29. And forthwith, when they were come out of the synagogue, they entered into the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John.
v. 30. But Simon's wife's mother lay sick of a fever, and anon they tell Him of her.
v. 31. And He came and took her by the hand, and lifted her up; and immediately the fever left her, and she ministered unto them.
Mark tells this story with greater attention to detail than Matthew, undoubtedly because Peter had taken note of all the things which concerned him closely. By the word "forthwith" the evangelist calls attention to the miracle. The two brothers, Simon and Andrew, as the text here expressly states, had a house in Capernaum. And to this Christ and His four disciples wended their way. Hardly had they entered the house, when they, the members of the household, especially Simon and Andrew, told him about the severe sickness of Peter's mother-in-law, who was ill with a bad fever, which is apt to sap the strength very rapidly. Jesus, in turn, lost no time in performing His work of sympathy. Going to her couch, He lifted or raised her up by taking hold of her hand. At the same time, He rebuked the fever, Luke 4:39, and it left her at once. And her full strength was restored to her in a moment, for she was able to arise and serve them all, but especially Him, to whom she owed her recovery. Fevers and grievous diseases of all kinds are an uncanny power, their very mysteriousness often renders them baffling and fearful. But Christ is stronger than all powers of destruction.
Healing of various diseases:
v. 32. And at even, when the sun did set, they brought unto Him all that were diseased, and them that were possessed with devils.
v. 33. And all the city was gathered together at the door.
v. 34. And He healed many that were sick of divers diseases, and cast out many devils; and suffered not the devils to speak, because they knew Him.
Jesus had little chance for rest, once the power was known which people had witnessed in Him. The people waited indeed until the Sabbath was past, for the day came to an end with the setting of the sun. But then they brought to Him, they carried to Him all those that were in a bad way, that were not feeling well, together with such as were troubled with demons. So quickly had His fame spread that practically all the inhabitants of the city had come together and were assembled before the door of the house where He was staying. And they were not disappointed in their trust. No matter what the disease was (and many different forms of sickness were represented in that great multitude), He healed them. And many demons He cast out; by a word of command from Him they had to leave their victims and take their disagreeable presence elsewhere. Note: Christ did not permit the demons to speak, lest they tell the people the truth concerning Him. The Lord desires no testimony from the devil and from all those that are willingly in His service. He wanted to reveal Himself to the people of Galilee in His own way and at His own time.
Jesus retires for rest and strength:
v. 35. And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, He went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.
v. 36. And Simon and they that were with Him followed after Him.
v. 37. And when they had found Him, they said unto Him, All men seek for Thee.
v. 38. And He said unto them, Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also; for therefore came I forth.
It had been long after sundown, probably as long as twilight lasted, that Jesus had been busy with the sick people. And yet, before the dawn brightened the hills on the eastern shore of Lake Gennesaret, while it was yet night, He arose, left the house, and went out into a desert place. He had doubtless been tired the evening before. And He knew that the future would bring many such days, with excitement and labor from morning till night. He was ready for this work; that was His office for which He had come. But His purpose in seeking a lonely place so early in the morning was to enter into communion with His heavenly Father by prayer, Hebrews 5:7-8. He needed new strength for further labors and trials, and this He sought and received through prayer. There is no better way of maintaining the spiritual strength and serenity needed in difficult work for the Lord than by constant intercourse with the Lord in His Word and by prayer. Jesus was soon missed at home, and Peter and several others followed the way which they thought Jesus must have taken. The text implies an earnest, anxious seeking, for this is necessary at all times when Jesus is the object of the search. Having found the Master, they inform Him that all the people were even then searching for Him. To men and women anxious to hear words out of the mouth of Jesus and to see works of glory performed by Him, the early hours of the morning are not too early. But at this time Jesus was not influenced by the message of Peter. He denies the implied petition to return to Capernaum at this time. He wanted to go to other places, and asked them to go along, to village-towns, little, unfortified hamlets. For there He wanted to preach, to proclaim the Word of the Gospel. The healing was a secondary consideration; it was intended merely to confirm the Word. The people of Capernaum should now, for a season, have time and leisure to meditate upon the preaching He had done before them, in order to have the full benefit of its influence.
The Healing of a Leper
The beginning of the Galilean journey:
v. 39. And He preached in their synagogues throughout all Galilee, and cast out devils.
v. 40. And there came a leper to Him, beseeching Him, and kneeling down to Him, and saying unto Him, If thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean.
v. 41. And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth His hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou clean.
v. 42. And as soon as He had spoken, immediately the leprosy departed from him, and he was cleansed.
Mark relates the events of the Galilean journey very briefly. Jesus went, He carried out His intention at once, perhaps without returning to Capernaum; the anxiety to perform His work urged Him on. Throughout. Galilee, not only in the towns of the hill country of Upper Galilee, but also in the less mountainous districts of Lower Galilee, He went His way. The outstanding feature of the journey was the preaching in the synagogues, which could be done all the more easily, since services were held not only on the Sabbath, but on Mondays and Thursdays as well. He came preaching, He continued proclaiming the glad tidings of salvation to all, without respite, without ceasing. "This zealous, affectionate, and persevering diligence of Christ should be copied by all His servants in the ministry: it is not less necessary now than it was then. " wherever people were assembled for services, He was willing and anxious to bring them the message of salvation. It was also on this trip that a leper came to Him. Whether this leper is the same one of whom Matthew speaks, chapter 8:2, is immaterial. Note the urgency of his behavior: He comes, he begs and pleads, he bows down on his knees before Jesus, and he puts his desire in words. His prayer is a model: If Thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean. Here is humility and submission; he leaves all in the hands of Jesus; the Master must know best what is expedient and what is wholesome. Here is also the trust of faith; the man knows, he has the firm conviction that Christ has the power to heal him. To know that Christ is the great Healer for all weaknesses and maladies of body and soul, to put one's trust in Him absolutely for help, but, in the case of bodily infirmities, to leave the time, the means, and the method in His hands, that is the essence of confidence in the Lord. The prayer and the entire bearing of the man impressed Jesus very deeply. Having compassion, He extended His hand, He touched him and said: I will; become clean. That almighty word wrought the miracle, it drove away the sickness that was such a severe burden upon the poor man. See Hebrews 2:17; Hebrews 4:15; Acts 4:30. There was no interval of doubt and uncertainty, the healing was complete at once.
Christ's attempt to avoid unwelcome publicity:
v. 43. And He straitly charged him, and forthwith sent him away;
v. 44. and saith unto him, See thou say nothing to any man; but go thy way, show thyself to the priest, and offer for thy cleansing those things which Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them.
v. 45. But he went out, and began to publish it much, and to blaze abroad the matter, insomuch that Jesus could no more openly enter into the city, but was without in desert places; and they came to Him from every quarter.
Here is a matter which might seem strange at first glance. Speaking to the former leper in a most severe manner, assuming a threatening aspect, He thrust him away, with the injunction to tell no man about the miracle, but to follow the command of the Levitical purification strictly, Leviticus 13:1-59; Leviticus 14:1-57. The bringing of his sacrifice was to be a witness, a testimony to all men, that he really had been cleansed of his leprosy. The reasons for this behavior of the Lord are evident from the entire story, in comparison with the previous text. The Word of the Gospel which He preached was the most important thing in the eyes of the Lord. People should seek Him for the sake of that Word. Publicity resulting from His healing the sick and cleansing the lepers might bring many that would care nothing for the preaching and thus hinder His Messianic labors. Then also, the Lord wanted to avoid unpleasantness, in case the priest should find out about His healing the leper before the man actually appeared to be adjudged clean. But the man, in the fullness of his joy, disregarded the Lord's command and, by publishing broadcast the fact of his having been healed, really added to the Lord's anxieties and labors. For now people came swarming from all sides, insomuch. that Jesus could no longer go into the city, but was obliged to stay out in lonely, desert places, and even there they found Him, coming from all parts of Galilee.
Summary. John's ministry prepared the way for the Lord, who thereupon, after His baptism and the temptation in the wilderness, entered upon His labors in Galilee, called four men to be His disciples, taught in the synagogue and cast out an unclean spirit, healed Simon's mother-in-law and many other sick people, made a preaching trip through Galilee, and healed a leper.
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Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Mark 1". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany