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Bible Commentaries
Mark 1

McGarvey's Commentaries on Selected BooksMcGarvey'S Commentaries

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Verses 1-8

P A R T S E C O N D.

(In the wilderness of Judæa, and on the banks of the Jordan,
occupying several months, probably A. D. 25 or 26.)
aMATT. III. 1-12; bMARK I. 1-8; cLUKE III. 1-18.

b1 The beginning of the gospel [John begins his Gospel from eternity, where the Word is found coexistent with God. Matthew begins with Jesus, the humanly generated son of Abraham and David, born in the days of Herod the king. Luke begins with the birth of John the Baptist, the Messiah’s herald; and Mark begins with the ministry of John the Baptist. While the three other evangelists take a brief survey of the preparation of the gospel, Mark looks particularly to the period when it began to be preached. Gospel means good news, and news is not news until it is proclaimed. The gospel began to be preached or proclaimed with the ministry of John the Baptist ( Luke 16:16). His ministry was the dawn of that gospel of which Christ’s preaching was the sunrise] of Jesus [Our Lord’s name as a human being; it means "Saviour"] Christ [Though this is also sometimes used as a name, it is in reality our Lord’s title. It means "the Anointed," and is equivalent to saying that Jesus is our Prophet, Priest and King] the Son of God. [This indicates our Lord’s eternal nature; it was divine. Mark’s gospel was written to establish that fact, which is the foundation of the church ( Matthew 16:18). John’s Gospel was written for a like purpose ( John 20:31). John uses the phrase "Son of [62] God" twenty-nine times, and Mark seven times. As these two evangelists wrote chiefly for Gentile readers, they emphasized the divinity of Jesus, and paid less attention to his Jewish ancestry. But Matthew, writing for Hebrews, prefers the title "Son of David," which he applies to Jesus some nine times, that he may identify him as the Messiah promised in the seed of David-- 2 Samuel 7:12, Psalms 72:1-17, Psalms 89:3, Psalms 89:4, Psalms 132:11, Psalms 132:12.] c1 Now in the fifteenth year of the reign [Tiberius Cæsar, stepson of and successor to Augustus, began to reign as joint ruler with Augustus in August, A. U. C. 765 (A. D. 11). On Aug. 19, 767, Augustus died and Tiberius became sole ruler. Luke counts from the beginning of the joint rule, and his fifteen years bring us to 779. In August, 779, Tiberius began his fifteenth year, and about December of that year Jesus would have completed his thirtieth year] of Tiberius Cæsar [He was born B. C. 41, died March 16, A. D. 37. As a citizen he distinguished himself as orator, soldier and public official. But as emperor he was slothful, self-indulgent, indescribably licentious, vindictive and cruel. He was a master of dissimulation and cunning, and was a veritable scourge to his people. But he still found flatterers even in Palestine, Cæsarea Philippi, and the town Tiberias being named for him], Pontius Pilate [see mention of him in account of our Lord’s trial] being governor of Judæa [The province of Judæa was subdued by Pompey and brought under Roman control in B. C. 63. Its history from that date till the governorship of Pilate can be found in Josephus], and Herod [Also called Antipas. The ruler who murdered John the Baptist and who assisted at the trial of Jesus] being tetrarch [this word means properly the ruler of a fourth part of a country, but was used loosely for any petty tributary prince] of Galilee [This province lay north of Samaria, and measured about twenty-five miles from north to south, and twenty-seven miles from east to west. It was a rich and fertile country], and his brother [half-brother] Philip [He was distinguished by justice and moderation, the one decent man in the Herodian family. He married Salome, [63] who obtained John the Baptist’s head for a dance. He built Cæsarea Philippi, and transformed Bethsaida Julius from a village to a city, and died there A. D. 44. After his death his domains became part of the Roman province of Syria] tetrarch of the region of Ituræa [A district thirty miles long by twenty-five broad, lying north of Batanæa, east of Mt. Hermon, west of Trachonitis. It received its name from Jetur, son of Ishmael ( Genesis 25:15). Its Ishmaelite inhabitants were conquered by Aristobulus, king of Judæa, B. C. 100, and forced by him to accept the Jewish faith. They were marauders, and famous for the use of the bow] and Trachonitis [A district about twenty-two miles from north to south by fourteen from east to west. Its name means "rough" or "stony," and it amply deserves it. It lies between Ituræa and the desert, and has been infested with robbers from the earliest ages. It is called the Argob in the Old Testament, "an ocean of basaltic rock and boulders, tossed about in the wildest confusion, and intermingled with fissures and crevices in every direction"], and Lysanias [Profane history gives us no account of this man. It tells of a Lysanias, king of Chalcis, under Mt. Lebanon, who was put to death by Mark Antony, B. C. 36, or sixty-odd years before this, and another who was tetrarch of Abilene in the reigns of Caligula and Claudius twenty years after this. He probably was son of the first and father of the second] tetrarch of Abilene [The city of Abila (which comes from the Hebrew word "abel," meaning "meadow") is eighteen miles from Damascus and thirty-eight from Baalbec. The province laying about it is mentioned because it subsequently formed part of the Jewish territory, being given to Herod Agrippa I. by Emperor Claudius about A. D. 41], 2; in the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas [Annas had been high priest 7-14 A. D., when he was deposed by the procurator, Gratus. Caiaphas was son-in-law of and successor to Annas. Luke gives both names, one as the rightful and the other as the acting high priest. Compare Acts 4:6. Gentile innovations had made sad havoc with the Jewish law as to this office. In the last one [64] hundred and seven years of the temple’s existence there were no less than twenty-eight high priests. Luke is the only one who fixes the time when Jesus began his ministry. He locates it by emperor and governor, tetrarch and high priest, as an event of world-wide importance, and of concern to all the kingdoms of men. He conceives of it as Paul did-- Acts 26:26], the word of God [The divine commission which bade John enter his career as a prophet ( Jeremiah 1:2, Ezekiel 6:1). Prophets gave temporary and limited manifestations of God’s will ( Hebrews 1:1, Hebrews 1:2). Jesus is the everlasting and unlimited manifestation of the divine purpose and of the very Godhead-- John 14:9, John 12:45, Colossians 1:15, Hebrews 1:3, 2 Corinthians 4:6] came unto John the son of Zacharias, in the wilderness. [The wilderness of Judæa is that almost uninhabitable mass of barren ridges extending the whole length of the Dead Sea, and a few miles further north. It is from five to ten miles wide.] a1 And in those days [Some take this expression as referring to the years when Jesus dwelt at Nazareth. But it is better to regard it as a Hebraism equivalent to "that age" or "that era" ( Exodus 2:11). It contrasts the era when the Baptist lived with the era when Matthew wrote his Gospel, just as we say "in these days of enlightenment" when we wish to contrast the present time with the days of the American Revolution] cometh John [he was cousin to Jesus] the Baptist [So called because God first gave through him the ordinance of baptism. It has been erroneously thought by some that John borrowed this ordinance from the Jewish practice of proselyte baptism. This could not be, for John baptized his converts, but Jewish proselytes baptized themselves. The law required such self-baptism of all persons who were unclean ( Leviticus 14:9, Numbers 19:19, Numbers 8:7, Numbers 8:7.). More than twenty distinct cases are specified in which the law required bathing or self-baptism, and it is to these Paul refers when he states that the law consisted in part "of divers baptisms" ( Hebrews 9:10). But the law did not require this of proselytes, and proselyte baptism was a human appendage to the divinely given Jewish [65] ritual, just as infant baptism is to the true Christian ritual. Proselyte baptism is not mentioned in history till the third century of the Christian era. Neither Josephus, nor Philo, nor the Apocrypha, nor the Targums say anything about it, though they all mention proselytes. In fact, the oldest mention of it in Jewish writings is in the Babylonian Gemara, which was completed about five hundred years years after Christ. The New Testament implies the non-existence of proselyte baptism ( Matthew 21:25, John 1:25, John 1:33). John could hardly have been called the Baptist, had he used an old-time rite in the accustomed manner. The Baptist was a link between the Old and New Testament. Belonging to the Old, he announced the New], preaching [Not sermonizing, but crying out a message as a king’s herald making a proclamation, or a policeman crying "Fire!" in a slumbering town. His discourse was brief and unembellished. Its force lay in the importance of the truth announced. It promised to the Hebrew the fulfillment of two thousand years of longing. It demanded repentance, but for a new reason. The old call to repentance had wooed with the promise of earthly blessings, and warned with the threat of earthly judgments; but John’s repentance had to do with the kingdom of heaven and things eternal. It suggested the Holy Spirit as a reward, and unquenchable fire as the punishment] in the wilderness of Judæa [that part of the wilderness which John chose for the scene of his ministry is a desert plain, lying along the western bank of the Jordan, between Jericho and the Dead Sea], saying, 2 Repent ye [to repent is to change the will in reference to sin, resolving to sin no more] for [John sets forth the motive for repentance. Repentance is the duty, and the approach of the kingdom is the motive inciting to it. Only by repentance could the people be prepared for the kingdom. Those who are indifferent to the obligations of an old revelation would be ill-prepared to receive a new one] the kingdom of heaven is at hand [ Daniel 2:44. "Kingdom of heaven" is peculiar to Matthew, who uses it thirty-one times. He also joins with the other evangelists in calling it the kingdom of God. We know not why [66] he preferred the expression, "kingdom of heaven."] 3 For this is he that was spoken of through Isaiah the prophet, c3 And he came [he made his public appearance, and, like that of Elijah, it was a sudden one-- 1 Kings 17:1] into all the region about the Jordan [The Jordan valley is called in the old Testament the Arabah, and by the modern Arabs the Ghor. It is the deepest valley in the world, its lowest part being about thirteen hundred feet below the level of the ocean] preaching the baptism of repentance unto the remission of sins [as a change leading to remission or forgiveness of sins] beven c4 as it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet [Isaiah flourished from about 759 to 699 B. C.], asaying, bBehold [The clause beginning with "Behold," and ending with "way," is taken from Malachi 3:1. The Revised Version makes Mark quote this passage as if it were from Isaiah, the reading being "written in Isaiah the prophet," but the King James’ version gives the reading "written in the prophets." Following the reasoning of Canon Cook, we hold that the latter was the original reading--see Speaker’s Commentary, note at the end of Mark i.] I send my messenger [John the Baptist was that messenger] before thy face [Malachi says, "my face." "Thy" and "my" are used interchangeably, because of the unity of the Deity-- John 10:30], who shall prepare thy way [Mark says little about the prophets, but at the outset of his Gospel he calls attention to the fact that the entire pathway of Jesus was the subject of prophetical prediction]; cThe voice [ Isaiah 40:3, Isaiah 40:4, quoted from the LXX. The words were God’s, the voice was John’s. So Paul also spake ( 1 Thessalonians 2:1-13). It was prophesied before he was born that John should be a preparing messenger for Christ-- Luke 1:17] of one crying in the wilderness [This prophecy of Isaiah’s could relate to none but John, for no other prophet ever made the wilderness the scene of his preaching. But John always preached there, and instead of going to the people, he compelled the people to come out to him. John was the second Elijah. The claims of all who in these days profess to be reincarnations of Elijah [67] may be tested and condemned by this prophecy, for none of them frequent the wilderness], Make ye ready the way [See also Isaiah 35:8-10. Isaiah’s language is highly figurative. It represents a band of engineers and workmen preparing the road for their king through a rough, mountainous district. The figure was familiar to the people of the East, and nearly every generation there witnessed such road-making. The haughty Seriramis leveled the mountains before her. Josephus, describing the march of Vespasian, says that there went before him such as were to make the road even and straight, and if it were anywhere rough and hard, to smooth it over, to plane it, and to cut down woods that hindered the march, that the army might not be tired. Some have thought that Isaiah’s prophecy referred primarily to the return of the Jewish captives from Babylon. But it refers far more directly to the ministry of the Baptist; for it is not said that the way was to be prepared for the people, but for Jehovah himself. It is a beautiful figure, but the real preparation was the more beautiful transformation of repentance. By inducing repentance, John was to prepare the people to receive Jesus and his apostles, and to hearken to their preaching] of the Lord, Make his paths straight. 5 Every valley shall be filled, And every mountain and hill shall be brought low; And the crooked shall become straight, And the rough way smooth [The literal meaning of this passage is expressed at Isaiah 2:12-17. See also Zechariah 4:7. Commentators give detailed application of this prophecy, and, following their example, we may regard the Pharisees and Sadducees as mountains of self-righteousness, needing to be thrown down, and thereby brought to meekness and humility; the outcasts and harlots as valleys of humiliation, needing to be exalted and filled with hope; and the publicans and soldiers as crooked and rough byways, needing to be straightened and smoothed with proper details of righteousness. But the application is general, and not to be limited to such details. However, civil tyranny, and ecclesiastical pride must be leveled, and the rights of the common people must be exalted before for kingdom of God can [68] enter in]; 6 And all flesh shall see the salvation of God [This last clause of the prophecy is added by Luke alone. He loves to dwell upon the universality of Christ’s gospel.] b4 John came, who baptized in the wilderness and preached the baptism of repentance unto the remission of sins. [Pardoning mercy was to be found in Christ, and all rites then looked forward to the cleansing effected by the shedding of his blood, as all rites now look back to it. But in popular estimation John’s baptism was no doubt regarded as consummating an immediate forgiveness] a4 Now John himself [Himself indicates that John’s manner of life differed from that of his disciples. He did not oblige them to practice the full measure of his abstinence] had his raiment of [John’s dress and food preached in harmony with his voice. His clothing and fare rendered him independent of the rich and great, so that he could more freely and plainly rebuke their sins. Calling others to repentance, he himself set an example of austere self-denial. So much so that the Pharisees said he had a demon-- Matthew 11:18] b6 And was clothed with acamel’s hair [Camels were plentiful in the East. Their finer hair was woven into elegant cloths; but that which was coarser and shaggier was made into a fabric like our druggets, and used for the coats of shepherds and camel-drivers, and for the covering of tents. Prophets often wore such cloth ( Zechariah 13:4), and no doubt it was the habitual garb of John’s prototype ( Malachi 4:5), the prophet Elijah ( 2 Kings 1:8). In Elijah’s day there was demand for protest against the sad havoc which Phoenician luxury and licentiousness were making with the purer morals of Israel; and in John’s day a like protest was needed against a like contamination wrought by Greek manners and customs. Both prophets, by their austerity, rebuked such apostasy, and Jezebel answered the rebuke by attempting Elijah’s life, while Herodias actually took the life of John. As a herald, John was suited to the King whose appearing he was to announce, for Jesus was meek and lowly ( Zechariah 9:9), and had no form nor comeliness that he should be desired-- Isaiah 53:2], [69] and a leathern girdle about his loins [The loose skirts worn in the East required a girdle to bind them to the body. This was usually made of linen or silk, but was frequently more costly, being wrought with silver and gold. John’s girdle was plain, undressed leather]; And his food was {band did eat} alocusts [Locusts, like Western grasshoppers, were extremely plentiful ( Joel 1:4, Isaiah 33:4, Isaiah 33:5). The law declared them clean, and thus permitted the people to eat them for food ( Leviticus 11:22). Arabs still eat them, and in some Oriental cities they are found for sale in the market. But they are regarded as fit only for the poor. They are frequently seasoned with camel’s milk and honey] and wild honey. [Canaan was promised as a land flowing with milk and honey ( Exodus 2:8-17, Exodus 13:15, 1 Samuel 14:26). Many of the trees in the plains of Jericho, such as the palm, fig, manna, ash and tamarisk, exuded sweet gums, which went by the name of tree honey, but there is no need to suppose, as some do, that this was what John ate. The country once abounded in wild bees, and their honey was very plentiful. We have on the record an instance of the speed with which they could fill the place which they selected for their hives ( Judges 14:5-9). The diet of the Baptist was very light, and Jesus so speaks of it ( Matthew 11:18). He probably had no set time for his meals, and all days were more or less fast-days. Thus John gave himself wholly to his ministry, and became a voice--all voice. John took the wilderness for a church, and filled it. He courted no honors, but no Jew of his time received more of them, and by some he was even regarded as Messiah-- Luke 3:15.] b5 And there a5 Then went out unto him ball [A hyperbole common with Hebrew writers and such as we use when we say, "the whole town turned out," "everybody was there," etc. Both Matthew and Luke show that some did not accept John’s baptism ( Matthew 21:23-25, Luke 7:30). But from the language of the evangelist we might infer that, first and last, something like a million people may have attended John’s ministry] the country of Judæa, and all they of Jerusalem; aall [70] the region round about the Jordan [The last phrase includes the entire river valley. On both sides of the river between the lake of Galilee and Jericho, there were many important cities, any one of which would be more apt to send its citizens to John’s baptism than the proud capital of Jerusalem]; 6 and they were baptized of him [Literally, immersed by him. In every stage of the Greek language this has been the unquestioned meaning of the verb baptizo, and it still retains this meaning in modern Greek. In accordance with this meaning, the Greek Church, in all its branches, has uniformly practiced immersion from the earliest period to the present time. Greek Christians never speak of other denominations as "baptizing by sprinkling," but they say, "they baptize instead of baptizing." John’s baptism was instituted of God ( John 1:33), just as Christian baptism was instituted by Christ ( Matthew 28:19). The Pharisees recognized John’s rite as so important as to require divine authority, and even then they underestimated it, regarding it as a mere purification--Josephus Ant. xviii. 5, 2] in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. [As John’s baptism was for the remission of sins, it was very proper that it should be preceded by a confession. The context indicates that the confession was public and general. There is no hint of such auricular confession as is practiced by the Catholics. See also Acts 19:18. John, writing to baptized Christians, bids them to confess their sins, that Jesus may forgive them ( 1 John 1:9). Christian baptism is also for the remission of sins ( Acts 2:38), the ordinance itself a very potent confession that the one baptized has sins to be remitted, and it seems to be a sufficient pubic expression of confession as to sins; for while John’s baptism called for a confession sins, Christian baptism calls only for a confession of faith in Christ-- Acts 22:16, Romans 10:9, Romans 10:10, Mark 16:16.] 7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees [Josephus tells us that these two leading sects of the Jews started about the same time in the days of Jonathan, the high priest, or B. C. 159-144. But the sentiments which at that time divided the [71] people into two rival parties entered the minds and hearts of the Jews immediately after the return from the Babylonian captivity. These returned Jews differed as to the attitude and policy which Israel should manifest toward the neighboring heathen. Some contended for a strict separation between the Jews and all pagan peoples. These eventually formed the Pharisee party, and the name Pharisee means "the separate." Originally these men were genuine patriots and reformers, but afterwards the majority of them became mere formalists. As theologians the Pharisees represented the orthodox party, and were followed by the vast majority of the people. They believed (1) in the resurrection of the dead; (2) a future state with rewards and punishments; (3) angels and spirits; and (4) a special providence of God carried out by angels and spirits. As a sect they are said to have numbered six thousand at the time of Herod’s death. They were the patriotic party, and the zealots were their extreme section. They covered an extremely selfish spirit with a pious formalism, and by parading their virtues they obtained an almost unbounded influence over the people. By exposing their hypocrisy, Jesus sought to destroy their power over the multitude, and incurred that bitter enmity with which they pursued him to his death. But certain other of the captives who returned from Babylon desired a freer intercourse with the pagans, and sought to break away from every restraint which debarred therefrom. These became Sadducees. They consented to no other restraint than the Scriptures themselves imposed, and they interpreted these as laxly as possible. Some take their name to means "the party of ’righteousness,’" but more think it comes from their founder, Zadok, and is a corruption of the word Zadokite. Zadok flourished 260 B. C. His teacher, Antigonus Sochæus, taught him to serve God disinterestedly--that is, without hope of reward or punishment. From his teaching Zadok inferred that there was no future state of rewards or punishment, and on this belief founded his sect. From this fundamental doctrine sprang the other tenets of the Sadducees. They denied all the four points held by the Pharisees, [72] asserting that there was no resurrection; no rewards and punishments hereafter; no angels, no spirits. They believed there was a God, but denied that he had any special supervision of human affairs ( Matthew 22:23, Acts 23:8). They were the materialists of that day. Considering all God’s promises as referring to this world, they looked upon poverty and distress as evidence of God’s curse. Hence to relieve the poor was to sin against God in interfering with his mode of government. Far fewer than the Pharisees, they were their rivals in power; for they were the aristocratic party, and held the high-priesthood, with all its glories. Their high political position, their great wealth, and the Roman favor which they courted by consenting to foreign rule and pagan customs, made them a body to be respected and feared] coming to his baptism, he said {ctherefore to the multitudes that went out to be baptized on him} aunto them [John spoke principally to the leaders, but his denunciation indirectly included the multitude who followed their leadership], Ye offspring of vipers [A metaphor for their likeness to vipers--as like them as if they had been begotten of them. The viper was a species of serpent from two to five feet in length, and about one inch thick. Its head is flat, and its body a yellowish color, speckled with long brown spots. It is extremely poisonous ( Acts 28:6). John here uses the word figuratively, and probably borrows the figure from Isaiah 59:5. It means that the Jewish rulers were full of guile and malice, cunning and venom. With these words John gave them a vigorous shaking, for only thus could he hope to waken their slumbering consciences. But only one who has had a vision of "the King in his beauty," should presume thus to address his fellow-men. The serpent is an emblem of the devil ( Genesis 3:1, Revelation 12:9, Revelation 12:14, Revelation 12:15), and Jesus not only repeated John’s words ( Matthew 12:35, Matthew 23:23, Matthew 23:33), but he interpreted the words, and told them plainly that they were "the children of the devil" ( John 8:44). The Jewish rulers well deserved this name, for they poisoned the religious principles of the nation, and accomplished the crucifixion of the Son of God], who warned [73] you to flee [John’s baptism, like that of Moses at the Red Sea ( 1 Corinthians 10:2), was a way of escape from destruction, of rightly used. Christian baptism is also such a way, and whosoever will may enter thereby into the safety of the kingdom of Christ, but baptism can not be used as an easy bit of ritual to charm away evil. It must be accompanied by all the spiritual changes which the ordinance implies] from the wrath to come? [Prophecy foretold that Messiah’s times would be accompanied with wrath ( Isaiah 63:3-6, Daniel 7:10-26); but the Jews were all of the opinion that this wrath would be meted out upon the Gentiles and were not prepared to hear John apply the prophecy to themselves. To all his hearers John preached the coming kingdom; to the impenitent, he preached the coming wrath. Thus he prepared the way for the first coming of the Messiah, and those who would prepare the people for his second coming would do well to follow his example. The Bible has a voice of warning and denunciation, as well as words of invitation and love. Whosoever omits the warning of the judgment, speaks but half the message which God would have him deliver. God’s wrath is his resentment against sin-- Matthew 18:34, Matthew 22:7, Mark 3:5.] 8 Bring forth therefore fruit worthy of repentance [John had demanded repentance, he now demands the fruits of it. By "fruit" or "fruits," as Luke has it, he means the manner of life which shows a real repentance]: 9 and think not {cbegin not} [John nips their self-excuse in the bud] ato say within yourselves [speaking to your conscience to quiet it], We have Abraham to our father [The Jews thought that Messiah would rule over them as a nation, and that all Jews would, therefore, be by birthright citizens of his kingdom. They thought that descent from Abraham was all that would be necessary to bring them into that kingdom. John’s words must have been very surprising to them. The Talmud is full of expressions showing the extravagant value which Jews of a later age attached to Abrahamic descent. "Abraham," it says, "sits next the gates of hell, and doth not permit any wicked Israelite to go [74] down into it." Again, it represents God as saying to Abraham, "If thy children were like dead bodies without sinews or bones, thy merit would avail for them." Again, "A single Israelite is worth more before God than all the people who have been or shall be." Again, "The world was made for their [Israel’s] sake." This pride was the more inexcusable because the Jews were clearly warned by their prophets that their privileges were not exclusive, and that they would by no means escape just punishment for their sins ( Jeremiah 7:3, Jeremiah 7:4, Micah 3:11, Isaiah 48:2). John repeated this message, and Jesus reiterated it ( Matthew 8:11, Matthew 8:12, Luke 16:23). We should note that in this preparation for the gospel a blow was struck at confidence and trust in carnal descent. Birth gives no man any privileges in the kingdom of God, for all are born outside of it, and all must be born again into it ( John 1:13, John 3:3); yet many still claim peculiar rights from Christian parentage, and infant baptism rests on this false conception. The New Testament teaches us that we are children of Abraham by faith, and not by blood; by spiritual and not carnal descent ( Romans 4:12-16, Galatians 3:26, Galatians 6:15, John 8:39). It had been better for the Jews never to have heard of Abraham, than to have thus falsely viewed the rights which they inherited from him]: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham [John meant that their being children of Abraham by natural descent gave them no more merit than children of Abraham made out of stone would have. He pointed to the stones along the bank of Jordan as he spoke.] 10 And even now the axe calso alieth at the root of the trees: every tree therefore that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down [The threatened cutting down means the end of the probation of each hearer, when, if found fruitless, he would be cast into the fire mentioned below], and cast into the fire. [Used as fuel.] c10 And the multitudes asked him, saying, What then must we do? [This is the cry of the awakened conscience ( Acts 2:37, Acts 16:30, Acts 22:10). John answered it by recommending them to do the very reverse of what they [75] were doing, which, in their case, was true fruit of repentance.] 11 And he answered and said unto them, He that hath two coats [By coat is meant the tunic, or inner garment, worn next to the skin. It reached to the knees, and sometimes to the ankles, and generally had sleeves. Two tunics were a luxury in a land where thousands were too poor to own even one. Wrath was coming, and he that would obtain mercy from it must show mercy-- Matthew 5:7], let him impart to him that hath none [For a like precept given to Christians, see 2 Corinthians 8:13-15, James 2:15-17, 1 John 3:17]; and he that hath food, let him do likewise. 12 And there came also publicans [The Roman Government did not collect its own taxes. Instead of doing so, it divided the empire into districts, and sold the privilege of collecting the taxes in these districts to certain capitalists and men of rank. The capitalists employed agents to do the actual collecting. These agents were usually natives of the districts in which they lived, and those in Palestine were called publicans. Their masters urged and encouraged them to make the most fraudulent and vexatious exactions. They systematically overcharged the people and often brought false accusation to obtain money by blackmail. These publicans were justly regarded by the Jews as apostates and traitors, and were classed with the lowest and most abandoned characters. The system was bad, but its practitioners were worse. The Greeks regarded the word "publican" as synonymous with "plunderer." Suidas pictures the life of a publican as "unrestrained plunder, unblushing greed, unreasonable pettifogging, shameless business." The Turks to-day collect by this Roman method. Being publicly condemned, and therefore continually kept conscious of their sin, the publicans repented more readily than the self-righteous Pharisees. Conscience is one of God’s greatest gifts, and he that destroys it must answer for it] to be baptized, and they said unto him, Teacher [The publicans, though lowest down, gave John the highest title. Self-abnegation is full of the virtue of reverence, but self-righteousness utterly lacks it], what must we do? 13 And he [76] said unto them, Extort no more than that which is appointed you. [Such was their habitual, universal sin. No man should make his calling an excuse for evil-doing.] 14 And soldiers [These soldiers were probably Jewish troops in the employ of Herod. Had they been Romans, John would doubtless have told them to worship God] also asked him, saying, And we, what must we do? And he said unto them, Extort from no man by violence [The soldiers, poorly paid, often found it convenient to extort money by intimidation. Strong in their organization, they terrified the weak and enforced gratuities by acts of violence], neither accuse any one wrongfully [John here condemns the custom of blackmailing the rich by acting as informers and false accusers against them]; and be content with your wages. [The term wages included rations and money. The soldiers were not to add to their receipts by pillage or extortion. Soldiers’ wages were about three cents a day, so they were exposed to strong temptation. Yet John did not bid them abandon their profession, and become ascetics like himself. His teachings was practical. He allowed war as an act of government. Whether Christianity sanctions it or not, is another question.] 15 And as the people were in expectation [Expecting the Christ--see John 1:19-28], and all men reasoned in their hearts concerning John, whether haply he were the Christ [Prophecy induced a Messianic expectation. The scepter had departed from Judah, and Cæsar’s deputies ruled. Tetrarchs and procurators held the whole civil government. In their hands lay the power of life and death from which only Roman citizens could appeal ( Acts 25:11). The power of the Jewish courts was limited to excommunication or scourging. The seventy weeks of Daniel were now expiring, and other prophecies indicated the fullness of time. But distress, rather than prophecy, enhanced their expectation. Tiberius, the most infamous of men, governed the world. Pontius Pilate, insolent, cruel, was making life irksome and maddening the people. Herod Antipas, by a course of reckless apostasy and unbridled lust, [77] grieved even the religious sense of the hypocrite. Annas and Caiaphas, impersonators of materialism, sat in the chief seat of spiritual power. Men might well look for a deliverer, and hasten with joy to hear of a coming King. But, nevertheless, we could have no more forceful statement of the deep impression made by John’s ministry than that the people were disposed to take him for the Christ]; 16 John answered, saying unto them all, b7 And he preached, saying, a11 I indeed baptize {bbaptized} ayou in {cwith} water unto repentance [That is, unto the completion of your repentance. Repentance had to begin before the baptism was administered. After the sinner repented, baptism consummated his repentance, being the symbolic washing away of that from which he had repented and the bringing of the candidate into the blessings granted to the repentant-- Mark 1:4, Luke 3:3]: cBut there {ahe that} [John preached repentance because of a coming King; he now announces who the King is. He pictures this King as, first, administering a different baptism from his own; second, as a judge who would separate the righteous from the wicked, just as a husbandman sifts the wheat from the chaff] bcometh after me [Subsequent to me in ministry. But John indicates that the coming of Christ would be closely coupled with his own appearing. One event was to immediately follow the other. So Malachi binds together in one time the appearing of both forerunner and judge-- Malachi 3:1-3] he that is mightier than I [mightier both to save and to punish], awhose shoes [The sandal then worn was a piece of wood or leather bound to the sole of the foot to protect it from the burning sand or the sharp stones. It was the forerunner of our modern shoe] I am not worthy to bear [To untie or carry away the shoe of the master or his guest was the work of the lowest slave of the household. As a figure of speech, the shoe is always associated with subjugation and slavery ( Psalms 60:8). John means, "I am not worthy to be his servant." John was simply the forerunner of Jesus; the higher office and honor of being Jesus’ attendants was reserved for others-- Matthew 11:11]: bthe latchet [the lace or strap] of whose shoes I am [78] not worthy to stoop down and unloose. che shall baptize you in the Holy Spirit [That which is here referred to was foretold by the prophets ( Isaiah 44:3, Joel 2:28). In the early church there was an abundant outpouring of the Spirit of God ( Titus 3:5, Titus 3:6, Acts 2:3, Acts 2:4, Acts 2:17, Acts 10:44). This prophecy began to be fulfilled on the day of Pentecost ( Acts 1:5, Acts 2:4). In the choice of the word "baptize" God indicated through his prophet how full this flooding of the Spirit would be] and in fire [Many learned commentators regard the expression "in fire" as a mere amplification of the spiritual baptism added to express the purging and purifying effects of that baptism, but the context forbids this, for, in Matthew 3:10, casting the unfruitful trees into the fire represents the punishment of the wicked, and, in Matthew 3:12, the burning of the chaff with fire does the same, and consequently the baptizing in fire of the intervening verse must, according to the force of the context have the same reference. True, the expression "he will baptize you in the Holy Spirit and with fire," does not separate the persons addressed into two parties, and, if the context is disregarded, might be understood as meaning that the same persons were to be baptized in both; yet the context must not be disregarded, and it clearly separates them]: 17 whose fan [Winnowing shovel. In the days of John the Baptist, and in that country at the present day, wheat and other grain was not threshed by machinery. It was beaten out by flails, or trodden out by oxen on some smooth, hard plot of ground called the threshing-floor. These threshing-floors were usually on elevations where the wind blew freely. When the grain was trodden out, it was winnowed or separated from the chaff by being tossed into the air with a fan or winnowing shovel. When so tossed, the wind blew the chaff away, and the clean grain fell upon the threshing-floor] is in his hand [Ready for immediate work. Both John and Malachi, who foretold John, are disposed to picture Jesus as the judge ( Malachi 3:2-5). Of all the pictures of God which the Bible gives, that of a judge is the most common and frequent], thoroughly to {aand he will thoroughly} ccleanse his threshing-floor [Removing the [79] chaff is called purging the floor. Humanity is a mixture of good and bad, and to separate this mixture, save the good and destroy the bad, is the work of Christ. He partially purges the floor in this present time by gathering his saints into the church and leaving the unrepentant in the world. But hereafter on the day of judgment he will make a complete and final separation between the just and the unjust by sending the evil from his presence and gathering his own into the garner of heaven ( Matthew 25:32, Matthew 25:33). He shall also winnow our individual characters, and remove all evil from us-- Luke 22:31, Luke 22:32, Romans 7:21-25], and to {aand he will} cgather the {ahis} cwheat into his {athe} cgarner [Eastern garners or granaries were usually subterranean vaults or caves. Garnered grain rested in safety. It was removed from peril of birds, storms, blight and mildew. Christians are now on God’s threshing-floor; hereafter they will be gathered into the security of his garner]; but the chaff [when the Bible wishes to show the worthlessness and the doom of the ungodly, chaff is one of its favorite figures-- Job 21:18, Psalms 1:4, Isaiah 17:13, Jeremiah 15:7, Hosea 13:3, Malachi 4:1] he will burn up [To prevent chaff from being blown back and mixed again with the wheat, it was burned up. All the chaff in the church shall be consumed on the day of judgment ( 1 Corinthians 3:12, 1 Corinthians 3:13), and there shall be no mixing of good and bad after death-- Luke 16:26] with unquenchable fire [In this and in other places ( 2 Thessalonians 1:8, 2 Thessalonians 1:9, Mark 9:48, Matthew 25:41), the future suffering of the wicked is taught in the Bible. He shows no kindness to his neighbor, no friendship toward mankind, who conceals the terrors of the Lord. These terrors are set forth in no uncertain terms. Many believe that God will restore the wicked and eventually save all the human race. Others hold that God will annihilate the wicked, and thus end their torment. This passage and the one cited in Mark would be hard to reconcile with either of these views; they indicate that there will be no arrest of judgment nor stay of punishment when once God begins to execute his condemnation. God purged the world with water [80] at the time of the flood; he will again purge it with fire on the day of judgment-- 2 Peter 3:7-10.] 18 With many other exhortations [The sermon here given is in the nature of a summary. It embodies the substance of John’s preaching. Afterwards John preached Christ more directly-- John 1:29-36] therefore preached he good tidings unto the people. [but, like the good tidings of the angel at Bethlehem, it was good only to those who, by repentance, made themselves well pleasing to God.] [81]

[FFG 62-81]

Verses 9-11

P A R T T H I R D.

(Jordan east of Jericho, Spring of A. D. 27.)
aMATT. III. 13-17; bMARK I. 9-11; cLUKE III. 21-23.

b9 And {a13 Then} bit came to pass in those days, that Jesus came {acometh} bfrom Nazareth of Galilee, ato the Jordan [Tradition fixes upon a ford of Jordan east of Jericho as the place where Jesus was baptized. It is the same section of the river which opened for the passage of Israel under Joshua, and later for Elijah and Elisha. This ford is seventy or eighty miles from Nazareth] unto John, to be baptized of him [He set out from Nazareth, intending to be baptized. Such was his intention before he heard John preach, and he was therefore not persuaded to do it by the preaching. His righteousness was not the result of human persuasion.] band was baptized of John in [Greek "into." The body of Jesus was immersed or plunged into the river] 14; aBut John would have hindered him [It seemed to John too great an honor for him to baptize Jesus, and too great a humiliation for Jesus to be baptized. There is some dispute as to how John came to know this righteousness of Christ, which prompted his protest. The one natural explanation is, that the intimacy of the two families indicated at the beginning of Luke’s account had been kept up, and John knew the history of his kinsman], saying, I have need to be baptized of thee [those are most fit to administer an ordinance who have themselves deeply experienced the need [82] of it], and comest thou to me? [John felt that he needed Jesus’ baptism, but could not think that Jesus needed his. The words "I," "thee," "thou," and "me," show that John contrasted the baptizers as well as the baptisms. As a human being he marveled that the Son of God should come to him to be immersed. The comings of Jesus and the purposes for which he comes are still the greatest marvels which confront the minds of men. Moreover, it should be noted that this protest of John’s needed to be made, for it saved Jesus from being baptized without explanation, as if he were a sinner. Baptism without such explanation might have compromised our Lord’s claim as the sinless one.] 15 But Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it now [Permit me for this moment to appear as your inferior. The future will make plain and clear the difference between us, both as to our missions and our natures. The words show a Messianic consciousness on the part of Jesus]: for thus it becometh us [Some take the word "us" as referring to Jesus and John, but the clause "to fulfil all righteousness" shows that "us" refers to Jesus, and he uses the plural to show that it also becometh all of us] to fulfil all righteousness [Jesus came not only to fulfill all the requirements of the law, but also all that wider range of righteousness of which the law was only a part. 1. Though John’s baptism was no part of the Mosaic ritual, it was, nevertheless, a precept of God, given by his prophet ( John 1:33). Had Jesus neglected or refused to obey this precept he would have lacked a portion of the full armor of righteousness, and the Pharisees would have hastened to strike him at this loose joint of his harness ( Matthew 21:23-27). 2. It was the divinely appointed method by which the Messiahship of Jesus was to be revealed to the witness John ( John 1:33, John 1:34). We should note here that those who fail to obey God’s ordinance of baptism fail (1) to follow the example of Jesus in fulfilling the divine will and precepts; (2) to obey one of the positive commands of almighty God spoken by his own Son.] Then he suffereth him. [John’s humility [83] caused him to shrink from this duty, but did not make him willfully persist in declining it. Humility ceases to be a virtue when it keeps us from performing our allotted tasks.] c21 Now it came to pass, when all the people were baptized [This may mean that, on the day of his baptism, Jesus was the last candidate, and hence his baptism was the most conspicuous of all; but it more probably means that Jesus was baptized in the midst of John’s work--at the period when his baptism was in greatest favor], that, Jesus also having been {a16 And Jesus, when he was} cbaptized, and praying [All divine ordinances should be accompanied with prayer. Luke frequently notes the times when Jesus prayed. Here, at the entrance of his ministry, he prayed, and at the last moment of it he also prayed ( Luke 23:46). In his highest exultation at the transfiguration ( Luke 9:29), and in the lowest depths of humiliation in Gethsemane ( Luke 22:41), he prayed. He prayed for his apostles whom he chose ( Luke 6:12), and for his murderers by whom he was rejected ( Luke 23:34). He prayed before Peter confessed him ( Luke 9:18), and also before Peter denied him-- Luke 22:32], b10 And straightway coming up out of {awent up straightway from} bthe water [the two prepositions, "out of" and "from," show that Jesus was not yet fully out of the river, and that the vision and the voice were immediately associated with his baptism], aand lo, bhe saw [The statement that he saw the Spirit descending, which is also the language of Matthew, has been taken by some as implying that the Spirit was invisible to the multitude. But we know from John’s narrative that it was also seen by John the Baptist ( John 1:33, John 1:34), and if it was visible to him and to Jesus, and it descended, as Luke affirms, in a bodily shape like a dove ( Luke 3:22), it would have required a miracle to hide it from the multitude. Moreover, the object of the Spirit’s visible appearance was to point Jesus out, not to himself, but to others; and to point him out as the person concerning whom the voice from heaven was uttered. No doubt, then, the Spirit was visible and audible to all who [84] were present Luke 4:14] as a dove [That is, like a dove. All four evangelists are careful to inform us that it was not an actual dove], and coming upon him; c22 and the Holy Spirit descended in a bodily form [Lightfoot suggests that the Spirit thus descended that he might be revealed to be a personal substance and not merely an operation of the Godhead, and might thus make a sensible demonstration as to his proper place in the Trinity], as a dove [The descent of the Spirit upon Jesus was in accordance with prophecy ( Isaiah 11:2, Isaiah 41:1). The dove shape suggests purity, gentleness, peace, etc. Jesus makes the dove a symbol of harmlessness ( Matthew 10:15). In fact, the nature of this bird makes it a fit emblem of the Spirit, for it comports well with the fruits of the Spirit ( Galatians 5:22, Galatians 5:23). The nations of the earth emblazon eagles upon their banners and lions upon their shields, but He who shall gather all nations into his kingdom, appeared as a Lamb, and his Spirit appeared under the symbol of a dove. Verily his kingdom is not of this world. It [85] is a kingdom of peace and love, not of bloodshed and ambition. Noah’s dove bore the olive branch, the symbol of peace, and the Holy Spirit manifested Jesus, God’s olive branch of peace sent into this world-- Psalms 72:7, Luke 2:14, John 14:27, Ephesians 2:11-18], upon him, a17 and lo, a voice ccame aout of the heavens, {cheaven} [Voices from heaven acknowledged the person of Christ at his birth, his baptism, his transfiguration and during the concluding days of his ministry. At his baptism Jesus was honored by the attestation of both the Spirit and the Father. But the ordinance itself was honored by the sensible manifestation of each several personality of the Deity--that the three into whose name we ourselves are also baptized], asaying, This is {bthou art} [The "this is," etc. of Matthew are probably the words as John the Baptist reported them; the "thou art," etc., of Mark and Luke are the words as Jesus actually heard them. The testimony of the Father is in unreserved support of the fundamental proposition of Christianity on which the church of Christ is founded ( Matthew 16:15-18). On this point no witness in the universe was so well qualified to speak as the Father, and no other fact was so well worthy the honor of being sanctioned by his audible utterance as this. The testimony of Christ’s life, of his works, of the Baptist, and of the Scriptures might have been sufficient; but when the Father himself speaks, who shall doubt the adequacy of the proof?] amy beloved Son [See also Matthew 17:5. The Father himself states that relationship of which the apostle John so often spoke ( John 1:1). Adam was made ( Genesis 1:26), but Jesus was begotten ( Psalms 2:7). Both were sons of God, but in far different senses. The baptism of Jesus bears many marked relationships to our own: 1. At his baptism Jesus was manifested as the Son of God. At our baptism we are likewise manifested as God’s children, for we are baptized into the name of the Father, and are thereby permitted to take upon ourselves his name. 2. At his baptism Jesus was fully commissioned as the Christ. Not anointed with material oil, but divinely consecrated and qualified by the Spirit and accredited by the Father. At baptism we also [86] received the Spirit ( John 3:5, Acts 2:38, Acts 19:1-6), who commissions and empowers us to Christian ministry-- Acts 1:8, 1 John 3:24], in whom {cin thee} [Some make the phrases "in whom" and "in thee" to mean more than simply a declaration that God is pleased with Jesus. They see in it also the statement that the Father will be pleased with all who are "in Christ Jesus"-- Ephesians 1:6] aI am well pleased [It is no slight condemnation to be well pleasing to God ( Job 4:18). It is the Christian’s joy that his Saviour had this commendation of the Father at the entrance upon his ministry.] c23 And Jesus himself, when he began to teach, was about thirty years of age. [The age when a Levite entered upon God’s service ( Numbers 4:3, Numbers 4:47); at which Joseph stood before Pharaoh ( Genesis 41:46); at which David began to reign ( 2 Samuel 5:4). Canon Cook fixes the date of Christ’s baptism in the spring A. U. C. 780. Wiseler in the summer of that year, and Ellicott in the winter of that year.]

* Recognizing the weight of Bro. McGarvey’s argument, I nevertheless contend that the multitude only shared partially in such a vision, if they shared it at all; for 1. There is no Scripture which even hints that the vision was seen by more than the two "inspired" parties, Jesus and John; and, on the contrary, the words of Jesus at John 5:37, though not addressed to the specific audience present at his baptism, were addressed to the Jews generally. 2. Jesus was to be manifested by his character and teaching rather than by heavenly sights and sounds ( Matthew 12:39), and the mysteries of the kingdom ( Matthew 13:11), and the opened heavens ( John 1:50, John 1:51), with many other manifestations, were reserved for believers ( John 12:28-30, Matthew 17:1, Matthew 17:2, Matthew 17:9, Acts 1:9, Acts 7:55, Acts 7:59, Acts 10:40, Acts 10:41), and are still so reserved ( 1 Corinthians 2:14). As to the arguments given above, we suggest that "bodily shape" does not insure universal sight. Baalam did not see what the ass saw ( Numbers 22:21-31). Again, it may be true that Jesus did not need to see the vision to "point him out to himself," but he must have needed it for some purpose, for it is twice asserted that he saw it, and the temptations which immediately follow show that assurances of his divinity at this particular time were by no means misplaced.

[FFG 82-87]

Verses 12-13

aMATT. IV. 1-11; bMARK I. 12, 13; cLUKE IV. 1-13.

c1 And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan, b12 And straightway the Spirit driveth him forth cand a1 Then [Just after his baptism, with the glow of the descended Spirit still upon him, and the commending voice of the Father still ringing in his ears, Jesus is rushed into the suffering of temptation. Thus abrupt and violent are the changes of life. The spiritually exalted may expect these sharp contrasts. After being in the third heaven, Paul had a messenger of Satan to buffet him-- 2 Corinthians 12:7] was Jesus led up [The two expressions "driveth" and "led up" show that Jesus was drawn to the wilderness by an irresistible impulse, and did not go hither of his own volition ( Ezekiel 40:2). He was brought into temptation, but did not seek it. He was led of God into temptation, but was not tempted of God. God [87] may bring us into temptation ( Matthew 6:13, Matthew 26:41, Job 1:12, Job 2:6), and may make temptation a blessing unto us, tempering it to our strength, and making us stronger by the victory over it ( 1 Corinthians 10:13, James 1:2, James 1:12), but God himself never tempts us-- James 1:13] of the Spirit into the wilderness [The wilderness sets in back of Jericho and extends thence along the whole western shore of the Dead Sea. The northern end of this region is in full view from the Jordan as one looks westward, and a more desolate and forbidding landscape it would be hard to find. It is vain to locate the temptation in any particular part of it. Jesus may have wandered about over nearly all of it] to be tempted of the devil [As a second David, Jesus went forth to meet that Goliath who had so long vaunted himself against all who sought to serve God, and had as yet found none to vanquish him. The account of the temptation must have been given to the disciples by Jesus himself, and as it pleased him to give it to us as an actual history of real facts, it behooves us to accept it without being presumptuously inquisitive. Of course, it has supernatural features, but the supernatural confronts us all through the life of Jesus, so there is nothing strange about it here. Jesus had taken upon him our flesh, and hence he could be tempted, with a possibility of falling. But his divinity insured his victory over temptation. He became like us in ability to fall, that he might make us like unto himself in power to resist. It behooved him to be tempted, and thus sharing our nature with its weakness and temptation he might bring us to share his nature with its strength and sinlessness ( Hebrews 2:17, Hebrews 2:18, Hebrews 4:15, Hebrews 4:16). Sinlessness does not preclude temptation, else Adam could not have been tempted, nor could Satan himself have fallen. Moreover, temptation is in so sense sin. It is the yielding of the will to temptation which constitutes sin. The spiritual history of humanity revolves around two persons; namely, the first and the second Adam. The temptation of Christ was as real as that of Adam. He had taken upon himself our temptable nature ( Philippians 2:7, Philippians 2:8), and he was tempted not as a private soldier, but as the second Adam, the Captain of [88] our salvation ( Hebrews 2:10-18). The failure of the first Adam brought sorrow, darkness and death; the success of the second Adam brought joy, light and immortality. One of the tenets of modern infidelity is the denial of the personality of the devil. It is asserted that the idea of a devil was not known to the early Hebrews, but was borrow from Persian dualism. The Persians held that there were two contending deities--a good one and a bad one; and the Hebrews, according to these critics, learned this doctrine from the Persians during the days of their Babylonian captivity, and modified it so that the god of evil became the devil. But such a theory is based upon the absurd notion that all the books of the Old Testament were written after the return of the Jews from Babylon. Their theory requires this notion, for the books of Genesis and Job, which were written centuries before the captivity, both show a knowledge of this being, and the first connects him and his work with the very beginning of human history. Those who believe in the inspiration of the Scriptures must also believe in the personality of the devil, for they plainly teach it. The devil is a fallen angel ( Judges 1:6, 2 Peter 2:4). This doctrine need startle no one, for as there are good and bad spirits in the body, so there are good and bad spirits out of the body. Since God permits sinful spirits in the body, why should he not also permit them out of the body? If there can be a Herod, a Nero, a Judas, among men, why may there not be a Satan among evil spirits? Being but an angel, Satan is neither omnipresent, omniscient nor omnipotent. He is only a tolerated rebel, as we are tolerated rebels. He was the first sinner ( 1 John 3:8), and was the originator of sin ( John 8:44). He is the perpetual tempter of mankind ( Revelation 20:2, Revelation 20:8), but he shall be conquered by the Redeemer ( John 12:31, Revelation 12:9), and may be conquered by us also through the grace of Christ ( 1 Peter 5:8, 1 Peter 5:9, James 4:7); but is, nevertheless, dangerous ( Revelation 2:10, Revelation 3:9). Jesus, therefore, teaches us to pray for deliverance from him ( Matthew 6:13, R.V.). Jesus will destroy the works of Satan ( 1 John 3:8), and Satan himself shall suffer eternal punishment [89] ( Revelation 20:10). There is but one devil in the spirit world. The word which our King James Version translates "devils" should be translated "demons." The word "devil" means false accuser or slanderer, and the word in the plural is twice applied, metaphorically, to men and women ( 2 Timothy 3:3, 1 Timothy 3:11). The devil is called slanderer because he speaks against men ( Revelation 12:10-12) and against God ( Genesis 3:1-5). The word "devil" is Greek. The word "Satan" is Hebrew, and means adversary ( Job 2:1). Satan is referred to under many other terms, such as Beelzebub ( Matthew 12:24); serpent ( Revelation 12:9); prince of the powers of the air ( Ephesians 2:2); Abaddon (Hebrew) and Apollyon (Greek), meaning destroyer ( Revelation 9:11); Belial, meaning good for nothing ( 2 Corinthians 6:15); murderer and liar ( John 8:44); prince of this world ( John 12:31); god of this world ( 2 Corinthians 4:4); and the dragon ( Revelation 12:7). These terms are always used in the Bible to designate an actual person; they are never used merely to personify evil. The devil may have appeared to Jesus in bodily form, or he may have come insensibly as he does to us. Our Lord’s temptation makes the personality of the tempter essential, else Christ’s own heart must have suggested evil to him, which is incompatible with his perfect holiness.] b13 And he was cled in the Spirit [that is, under the power of the Spirit] in the wilderness [Isolation from humanity is no security from temptation. In fact, our present passage of Scripture shows that it is highly favorable to temptation. The experience of all hermits shows that loneliness is the mother of a multitude of evil desires] 2 during forty days [Matthew speaks of the temptation as coming "after" forty days. Evidently Mark and Luke regard the long fast as part of the process of temptation, seeing that without it the first temptation would have been without force. There is no evidence of any other specific temptations before the three], being tempted of bSatan; cthe devil, band he was with the wild beasts [A graphic touch, showing the dreariness and desolation of the wilderness, and indicating its peril. Lions, [90] wolves, leopards and serpents have been found in the Judæan wilderness]; cAnd he did eat nothing [It used to be thought that a forty days’ absolute fast was a practical impossibility, and Luke’s words were therefore modified to mean that he ate very little. But as a forty days’ fast has been safely accomplished in modern times, and as it was Jesus who fasted, we see no reason why we should not take Luke’s statement literally, as indicating an absolute fast] in those days: and when they were completed. a2 And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights [A forty days’ fast was accomplished by Moses ( Exodus 34:28, Deuteronomy 9:18), and by Elijah ( 1 Kings 19:8), and it is a significant fact in this connection that these two men appeared with Christ at his transfiguration ( Matthew 17:3). Those who share Christ’s sufferings shall also share his glorification ( Romans 8:17, 2 Timothy 2:11, 2 Timothy 2:12). The forty days’ fast became a basis for the temptation. We are told that temptation results from the excitement of desire ( James 1:14), and, as a rule, the greater the desire the greater the temptation. Viewed from this standpoint the temptation of the second Adam greatly exceeded in strength that of the first, for Adam abstained as to a particular fruit, but Christ fasted as to all things edible], he afterward hungered. [Here, for the first time, our Lord is shown as sharing our physical needs. We should note for our comfort that one may lack bread and suffer want, and still be infinitely beloved in heaven.] 3 And the tempter came [Satan is pre-eminently the tempter, for other tempters are his agents. He may possibly have appeared as an angel of light ( 2 Corinthians 11:14), but the purpose of his coming is more important than the manner of it. He came to produce sin in Jesus, for sin would render him forever incapable of becoming our Saviour--a sacrifice for the sins of others] c3 And the devil said unto him, If thou art the Son of God, command this stone that it {acommand that these stones} become bread. [The devil’s "if" strikes at the faith of Christ, and faith is the bond of union and accord between man and God. The main sin of this temptation was therefore distrust, though [91] it had other sinful phases. The Father’s voice had just declared the Sonship of Jesus, and Satan here boldly questions the truth of God’s words, just as he did in the beginning ( Genesis 3:3-5). The temptation smacks of curiosity, and curiosity is the mother of many sins. Though Satan so glibly questioned the divinity of Christ, his kingdom soon began to feel the power of that divinity ( Luke 4:34-41), and shall continue to feel it until his kingdom is destroyed ( Hebrews 2:14, 1 John 3:8). This temptation appealed to the present appetite, the impulse of the moment, as many of our temptations do. It has been quaintly said of the tempter that "he had sped so successfully to his own mind by a temptation about a matter of eating with the first Adam, that he practiced the old manner of trading with the second." This first temptation is still Satan’s favorite with the poor. He suggests to them that if they were really the beloved objects of God’s care, their condition would be otherwise. We should note that Jesus wrought no selfish miracle. Such an act would have been contrary to all Scripture precedent. Paul did not heal himself ( 1 Corinthians 12:7-9, Galatians 4:13, Colossians 4:14), nor Epaphroditus, ( Philippians 2:25-27), nor Trophimus ( 2 Timothy 4:20). Denying himself the right to make bread in the wilderness, Christ freely used his miraculous power to feed others in the desert ( Matthew 14:15-21), and merited as just praise those words which were meant as a bitter taunt-- Matthew 27:42.] 4 But he {c4 And Jesus} aanswered and said, cunto him, It is written [Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 8:3. It is a saying relative to the times when Israel was sustained by manna in the wilderness. The case of Jesus was now similar to that of Israel. He was in a foodless wilderness, but he trusted that as God had provided for Israel in its helplessness, so would he now provide for him. Israel sinned by doubt and murmuring, and proposing to obtain bread in its own way--that is, by returning to Egypt ( Exodus 16:1-9). Jesus avoided a like sin. We should note the use which our Lord made of Scripture: in his hour of trial he did not look to visions and voices and special revelation for guidance, but used the written Word as the lamp [92] for his feet ( Psalms 119:105); in the conflict of temptation he did not defend himself by his own divine wisdom, but used that wisdom which God had revealed to all Israel through his prophets. Jesus fought as a man ( Philippians 2:6, Philippians 2:7), and used that weapon which, as God, he had given to man ( Ephesians 6:17). Jesus used the Scripture as of final, argument-ending authority. Eve also started with "God hath said" ( Genesis 3:3); but she was not constant in her adherence to God’s word. Jesus permitted Satan neither to question nor pervert the Scripture], Man [In using the word "man" Jesus takes his stand with us as a human being] shall not live by bread alone [Called out of Egypt as God’s Son ( Matthew 2:15), Jesus could well expect that he would be fed with manna after his forty days’ fast. He trusted that God could furnish a table in the wilderness ( Psalms 78:19). We, too, have abundant reason for a like trust. God gave us our lives, and gave his Son to redeem them from sin. He may let us suffer, but we can not perish is we trust him. Let us live by his word rather than by bread. It is better to die for righteousness than to live by sin. God fed Israel with supernatural bread, to show the people that they lived thus, and not by what they were pleased to call natural means. The stomach is a useful agent, but it is not the source of life, nor even the life sustainer. Those who think that the securing of bread is the first essential to the sustaining of life, will fail to seek any diviner food, and so will eventually starve with hunger--soul hunger.] abut by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God [To satisfy our sense of duty is often more pleasant than to appease the pangs of hunger ( John 4:32-34, Job 23:12, Jeremiah 15:16). The trust of Jesus that God would speak in his behalf and save him, was like that of Job ( Job 13:15). God can sustain our lives without food if he chooses. We shall live if God wills it, bread or no bread; and we shall likewise die at his word ( Matthew 6:25, John 6:47-58, Acts 17:28). God can support our lives independent of our body-- Matthew 10:28.] 5 Then the devil taketh him [Matthew emphasizes the [93] compulsory companionship of Satan. Jesus was in the hands of Satan as was Job ( Job 2:5, Job 2:6); but in Jesus’ case Satan had the power of life and death, and he eventually took Jesus to the cross and slew him there] into the holy city [A common name for Jerusalem. The inscription on Jewish coins was "Jerusalem the Holy." Arabs to-day call it "el Kuds," "the Holy." The Holy City did not exclude the tempter nor temptations. The church may be the scene of man’s sorest trial to resist wrong. But in the Holy City which is to come there will be no temptation]; c9 And he led him to Jerusalem, aand set him [The two verbs "taketh" and "setting" imply that Satan exercised a control over the bodily person of our Lord] on the pinnacle of the temple [It is not known exactly what spot is indicated by the word "pinnacle." Hence three places have been contended for the proper locality: 1. The apex of the temple structure itself. 2. The top of Solomon’s porch. 3. The top of Herod’s royal portico. As to the temple itself, Josephus tells us that its roof was covered with spikes of gold, to prevent even birds from alighting upon it, and, if so, men could not stand upon it. Solomon’s porch, or the eastern portico, faced the Mount of Olives, and has been fixed upon by tradition as the place from which James, the Lord’s brother, was hurled. The royal portico of Herod was at the southeast corner of the temple enclosure, and overlooked the valley of Kidron. Here was then, and is yet, the greatest height about the temple, and it was, therefore, the most suitable place for Satan’s proposal], 6 and saith {csaid} aunto him, If [Godly life rests on faith. The life the devil would have us lead rests on ifs and uncertainties, on doubt and skepticism. We should note that foolish men doubt the divinity of Jesus, but the temptations of our Lord show how positively Satan was convinced of it. The opening scenes of Christ’s ministry are redolent with his divinity. The Baptist asserted his purity and might, the Spirit visibly acknowledged his worthiness, the Father audibly testified to his Sonship, and the devil twice assaulted him as the divine champion] thou art the Son of God, cast thyself down [94] [The first temptation was to under-confidence; the second to over-trust and presumption--two very dangerous conditions of the soul. Men begin by disparagingly doubting that Jesus can save them from their sins, and end by recklessly presuming that he will save them in their sins. Comparing this with Eve’s temptation, we find that she was vainly curious to see if she might be like God ( Genesis 3:5), but Christ resisted such curiously. It is urged by some as to this temptation that there is no hint of vainglory or display, because nothing is said about casting himself down in the presence of the people, and that Jesus was merely taken to the temple because the sacred locality would tend to heighten his trust in the protecting promise which Satan quoted. But this ground is not well taken, for 1. The temple presumes a crowd. 2. We have a right to presume that this temptation would be like others to which Jesus was subjected. He was frequently invited to work miracles to satisfy curiosity, and he invariably refused to do so]: cfrom hence: 10 for it is written [This quotation is taken from Psalms 91:11, Psalms 91:12, and applies to man generally. Note 1. The devil’s head is full of Scripture, but to no profit, for his heart is empty of it. 2. By quoting it he shows a sense of its power which modern rationalism would do well to consider. 3. Satan’s abuse of Scripture did not discourage Christ’s use of it], He shall give his angels charge concerning thee [Regarding Satan’s words as a quotation, we are struck with the fact that his knowledge of this particular passage was based upon his personal experience. He had been confronted by the presence of the guardian angels and had fretted at it ( Job 1:10, 2 Kings 6:8, 2 Kings 6:17, Psalms 34:7, Judges 1:9). As a temptation, Satan’s words appeal to Jesus to be more religious; to put more trust and reliance upon the promises of the Father; and he puts him in the place--the temple--where he might argue that God could least afford to let his promise fail], to guard thee: 11 and, On their hands they shall bear thee up [All who love pomp, display of artistic taste, gaieties of fashion, intoxication of fame, etc., fall by this temptation. Those who truly rest on God’s promises, stand on a sure [95] foundation, but those who rise on bubbles must come down when they burst], Lest haply thou dash thy foot against a stone. 12 And Jesus answering, said unto him, aagain it is written {csaid,} ["Written," "said"; the writings of Scripture are in general the sayings of God. But the Bible is not made up of isolated texts. To get a right understanding we must compare Scripture with Scripture. We could have no higher indorsement of the Old Testament than this use of it by Christ. It was sufficient for him in his temptations, and with the addition of the New Testament, it is sufficient for us in all things-- 2 Timothy 3:16, 2 Timothy 3:17, Colossians 3:3-16], aThou shalt not make trial [Make experiment upon God, set traps for him, put one’s self in dangerous situations, hoping thereby to draw forth some show of loving deliverance. Had Jesus cast himself down, he would have demanded of the Father a needless miracle to prove his Sonship, and would thereby have put the love of God to an unnecessary trial. All who jeopardize themselves without any command of God or call of duty, make trial of his love] of the Lord thy God. 8 Again, the devil taketh him [whether naturally or supernaturally, "whether in the body or out of the body" ( 2 Corinthians 12:2-4), we can not tell. But it was a real, practical trial and temptation] unto an exceeding high mountain [it is immaterial which mountain this was; for from no mountain could one see the whole earth with the natural eye], c5 And he led him up, aAnd showeth {cshowed} ahim [It is not said by either evangelist that Jesus saw the kingdoms from the mountain-top, but that Satan showed them to him. From any high Judæan mountain it would be easy for him to locate Rome, Greece, Egypt, Persia and Assyria, and as he pointed out their locality a few brief words of description would picture them to the imagination of Jesus, and cause their glories to move before his eyes. But it is very likely that to this description some sort of supernatural vision was added. It tempted the eye of Jesus as the luscious fruit did the eye of Eve-- Genesis 3:6] all the kingdoms of the world [It tempted Jesus to realize the dreams [96] which the Jewish nation entertained. It was an appeal to him to reveal himself in the fullness of his power and authority as above generals, princes, kings, and all beings of all ages. An appeal to obtain by physical rather than by spiritual power; by the short-cut path of policy rather than by the long road of suffering and martyrdom. Jesus came to obtain the kingdoms of the world. He was born King of the Jews, and confessed himself to be a King before Pilate. All authority is now given to him, and he must reign until he puts all his enemies under his feet, and until all the kingdoms of the world become his kingdom. Satan’s way to obtain this kingdom differed from God’s way. He might obtain it by doing Satan’s will and becoming his worshiper, or by worshiping God and doing his will. Satan would give the speedier possession, but God the more lasting. We also strive for a kingdom; but let us obtain ours as Christ did his], and the glory of them [That is, all their resources as well as their magnificence. Their cities, lands and people, their armies, treasures and temples, etc. Many parents, in encouraging their children to seek earthly glory and distinction, unconsciously assist Satan in urging this temptation]; cin a moment of time [These words strongly indicate that the prospect must have been supernaturally presented. The suddenness of the vision added greatly to the power of the temptation]; a9 and he cthe devil said unto him, To thee will I give all this authority {aAll these things will I give thee,} [From the standpoint of Christ’s humanity, how overwhelming the temptation! It was the world’s honors to one who had for thirty years led the life of a village carpenter; it was the world’s riches to him who had not where to lay his head. From the standpoint of Jesus’ divinity the temptation was repulsive. It was a large offer in the sight of Satan, but a small one in the sight of him who made all the worlds. Such offers are large to the children of the world, but small to those who are by faith joint-heirs with Christ ( Romans 8:17, Philippians 3:7, Philippians 3:8). But the temptation was, nevertheless, very specious and plausible. The power of Jesus linked with that of Satan, and [97] operating through Jewish fanaticism and pagan expectation would, in a few months, have brought the whole earth into one temporal kingdom, with Jesus as its head. But the kingdom of Christ rested upon a surer promise ( Psalms 2:8) than that here given by the "father of lies." God had promised, and, despite the pretensions of Satan, God had not yet retired from the government of the world. It was true that Satan and his emissaries had, by usurpation, gained an apparent possession of the world, but Jesus had right to it as the heir of God ( Matthew 21:33-43). Being stronger than Satan, he had come to regain his kingdom, not by treaty, but by conquest ( Luke 11:19-22). Moreover, he would obtain it as a spiritual and not as a carnal kingdom. Servants of Christ should remember this. Every attempt to establish Messiah’s kingdom as an outward, worldly dominion is an effort to convert the kingdom of heaven into the kingdom of the devil. God’s kingdom can not be secularized. It should be noted also that Satan omits the words "if thou art the Son of God" in this instance, for their presence would have marred the force of the temptation. Note also that this was the only temptation wherein Satan evinced any show of generosity. He is slow to give anything, and most of us sell out to him for nothing-- Isaiah 52:3], and the glory of them: for it hath been delivered unto me [Satan does not claim an absolute but a derivative right, and his claim is not wholly unfounded ( John 12:31, John 14:30, John 16:11). But the kingdom has been delivered unto him by men rather than by God ( Ephesians 2:2). How much more quickly Jesus would have obtained power, had he received it from men by consenting to co-operate with them in their sinful practices as does Satan]; and to whomsoever I will [Not so Jesus. His giving is according to the Father’s will-- Matthew 9:23] I give it [The Emperor Tiberius then held it in the fullest sense ambition ever realized. Yet he was the most miserable and degraded of men. Satan knows how to take full toll for all that he gives.] 7 If [In the temptations Satan uses three "ifs." The first "if" is one of despairing doubt; the second, one of vainglorious speculation; the third, one of moral and [98] spiritual compromise] thou therefore wilt afall down and worship cbefore me [Satan and God each seek the worship of man, but from very different motives. God is holiness and goodness, and we are invited to worship him that we may thereby be induced to grow like him. But Satan seeks worship for vanity’s sake. How vast the vanity which would give so great a reward for one act of worship! Verily the devil is fond of it. He gives nothing unless he obtains it, and all his generosity is selfishness. Worshiping before Satan is the bending of the soul rather than of the body. He holds before each of us some crown of success, and says: "Bend just a little; slightly compromise your conscience. Accept the help of Pharisee and Sadducee, and keep silent as to their sins. Mix a little diplomacy with your righteousness. Stoop just a little. If you do, I will aid you and insure your success. If you do not, I will defeat you and laugh at your failures." It is Satan’s sin to make such suggestions, but it is not our sin until we comply with them. We may more quickly obtain by his wrong way, but more surely by God’s right way. Let no Christian be humiliated or discouraged by gross temptation, since even the Son of God was tempted to worship the devil. What Jesus would not do, the Beast has done, and has received the kingdoms for a season ( Revelation 13:1-9). Note, too, that it is all one whether we worship Satan, or mammon, the gift which he offers-- Matthew 6:24], it shall all be thine. 8 And a10 Then cJesus answered and said {asaith} cunto him, aGet thee hence [The passionate utterance of an aroused soul. Indignation is as divine as patience ( Ephesians 4:26). Satan’s sweetest temptation was most disgusting to Christ, for its sin was so grossly apparent. It ran counter to the very first of the ten commandments. Jesus would give it no room in his thoughts; he spurned it, as being as heinous as the law describes it ( Deuteronomy 5:6-11). Temptation must be peremptorily rejected. Jesus did not stop to weigh the worthiness of Satan; it was sufficient that God only is to be worshiped. As God, Jesus was himself an object of worship; but as man he worshiped the Father privately and publicly. Satan [99] sought to command Jesus, but was commanded of him. Step by step Satan has obeyed this command, and foot after foot, earth’s spiritual world has been yielded by his departing presence], Satan [The first and second temptations were so subtle and covert, and their sin so skillfully disguised, as to suggest that Satan himself was disguised. If so, his pride and vanity, revealed in this last temptation, betrayed him so that Jesus tore off his mask and called him by his right name. When he tempted him in a somewhat similar matter, Jesus called Simon Peter by this name ( Matthew 16:23), but he laid a different command upon each of them. To Satan he spoke as an enemy, saying, "Get thee hence." He ordered Satan from his presence, for he had no proper place there. To Peter he spoke as to a presumptuous disciple, saying, "Get thee behind me." The disciple is a follower of his master, and his proper place is in the rear]: for it is written [Jesus gives a free translation of Deuteronomy 6:13. He substitutes the word "worship" for the word "fears." Fear prohibits false and induces true worship, and loving worship is the source of all acceptable service. The three Scripture quotations used by Jesus are all from the book of Deuteronomy. He struck Satan with that very part of the Spirit’s sword which modern critical infidelity, in the name of religion, and often aided by so-called religious organizations, seeks to persuade us to cast away], Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. [By serving God, Jesus obtained all the earthly authority which the devil offered him, and heavenly authority in addition thereto ( Matthew 28:18). So much better are the rewards of God than Satan’s.] c13 And when the devil had completed every temptation. a11 Then the devil leaveth {che departeth from} him for a season. [See James 4:7. But Satan left to return many times. Here was the first being endowed with human nature who had defeated Satan under all circumstances for thirty years. This was Satan’s first defeat under Christ’s ministry. His last is yet to come, and it shall come by this same Christ. Temptations are battles. They leave the victor stronger and the [100] vanquished weaker. Hence Satan when resisted is represented as fleeing. But he only flees for a season. He never despairs of the conflict so long as man is on the earth. Christ was constantly tempted by the returning devil ( Luke 22:28). As Jesus hung upon the cross, all these three temptations with their accompanying "ifs" were spread out before him-- Matthew 27:39-43] aand behold, angels came [They had probably witnessed the contest. Compare 1 Corinthians 4:9, 1 Timothy 3:16. Angels do not appear again visibly ministering unto Jesus until we find him in Gethsemane ( Luke 22:43). When Satan finally departs from us, we, too, shall find ourselves in the presence of angels-- Luke 16:22] and ministered unto him. [Jesus was probably fed by the angels, as was Elijah by one of them ( 1 Kings 19:4-7). Satan and suffering first, then angels, refreshment and rest. God had indeed given his angels charge, and they came to him who refused to put the father to the test. But they did not succor Jesus during his temptation, for that was to be resisted by himself alone-- Isaiah 63:3.]

[FFG 87-101]

Verse 14


Subdivision A.
aMATT. IV. 12; bMARK I. 14; cLUKE III. 19, 20; dJOHN IV. 1-4.

c19 but Herod the tetrarch [son of Herod the Great, and tetrarch, or governor, of Galilee], being reproved by him [that is, by John the Baptist] for Herodias his brother’s wife, and for all the evil things which Herod had done [A full account of the sin of Herod and persecution of John will be found at Matthew 14:1-12, Mark 6:14-29. John had spoken the truth to Herod as fearlessly as to the Pharisees, publicans and soldiers], 20 added this also to them all [the sins of Herod, as a ruler, already outweighed [138] his virtues; (comp. Daniel 5:27); but, with reckless abandon, Herod went on, adding to the weighty reasons which justified his condemnation], that he shut up John in prison. [In the fortress at Machærus, east of the Dead Sea, as we learn from Josephus. The duration of the ministry of John the Baptist is variously estimated at from fourteen to eighteen months.] b14 Now after John was delivered up [either delivered up by the people to Herod ( Matthew 17:12), or delivered up by Herod himself to the warden of the castle of Machærus ( Luke 12:58), or by Providence to Herod himself-- Acts 2:23], awhen he [Jesus] heard [he was in Judæa when he heard it] that John was delivered up [and], d1 When therefore the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John [We saw at John 3:26 how the Baptist heard about the number of Jesus’ baptisms, being informed by his jealous friends. Like jealous friends, no doubt, informed the Pharisees. Jesus may have known of this information being given by reason of his supernatural powers, but it is more likely that he heard of it in a natural way] 2 (although Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples) [Jesus, as divine Lawgiver, instituted baptism, and his disciples administered it. We nowhere hear of the disciples of John administering baptism. In fact, the Baptist, like the disciples of Jesus, baptized under a divine commission, and could not delegate the power to others. It was the office of Jesus to commission others to this work, not to perform it himself. Had he done so, those baptized by him might have foolishly claimed for themselves some peculiar honor by reason thereof ( 1 Corinthians 1:14, 1 Corinthians 1:15). Jesus was the spiritual baptizer, in which baptism the efficacy lies in the administrant; but water baptism, the efficacy of which lies rather in the spirit of the one baptized than in the virtues of the administrant, Jesus left to his disciples], 3 he left Judæa, and departed again {awithdrew bcame} dinto Galilee. [We have in these verses two reasons assigned for the withdrawal of Jesus into Galilee, namely: 1. The imprisonment of John the Baptist [139] 2. Knowledge of the Pharisees that Jesus was baptizing more disciples than John. The first gives us the reason why he went to Galilee, the second the reason why he left Judæa. Jesus did not go into Galilee through fear of Herod, for Herod was tetrarch of Galilee. The truth is, the absence of John called for the presence of Jesus. The northern part of Palestine was the most fruitful soil for the gospel. During the last six or eight months of John’s ministry we find him in this northern field, preparing it for Christ’s kingdom. While we can not say definitely that John was in Galilee (Bethabara and Ænon being the only two geographical names given), yet he certainly drew his audiences largely from the towns and cities of Galilee. While John occupied the northern, Jesus worked in the southern district of Palestine; but when John was removed, then Jesus turned northward, that he might sow the seed of the kingdom in its most fruitful soil. But if there was a reason why he should go to Galilee, there was an equal reason why he should depart from Judæa. His popularity, manifesting itself in the number of his baptisms, was exciting that envy and opposition which caused the rulers of Judæa eventually to take the life of Jesus ( Matthew 27:18). The Pharisees loved to make proselytes themselves ( Matthew 23:15). They no doubt envied John’s popularity, and much more, therefore, would they be disposed to envy Christ. The influence of the Pharisees was far greater in Judæa than in Galilee, and the Sanhedrin would readily have arrested Jesus had he remained in Judæa ( John 7:1, John 10:39), and arrest at this time would have marred the work of Jesus. Therefore, since it is neither sinful nor unbecoming to avoid persecution, Jesus retired to Galilee, when he remained until his second passover. By birth a prophet of Judæa, he became, in public estimation, by this retirement, a prophet of Galilee. Though Jesus first taught in Judæa, the ministry in Galilee so far eclipsed the work in Judæa that it was spoken of as the place of beginning ( Luke 23:5, Acts 10:37), and prophetically designated as the scene of the divine manifestation-- Matthew 4:14.] 4 And he must needs pass through Samaria. [The province which [140] took its name from the city of Samaria, and which lay between Judæa and Galilee. Owing to the hatred which existed between Jews and Samaritans, many of the Jews went from Jerusalem to Galilee by turning eastward, crossing the Jordan, and passing northward through Peræa. This journey required about seven days, while the more direct route, through Samaria, only took three days. Galilæans often passed through Samaria on their way to and from the Jerusalem feast (Josephus’ Ant. xx. 6, 1). The arrest of John would scatter his flock of disciples ( Mark 14:27), and Jesus, as chief shepherd ( 1 Peter 5:1-4), hastened to Galilee, to gather together those which might else go astray and be lost.]

[FFG 138-141]

Verses 14-15

aMATT. IV. 17; bMARK I. 14, 15; cLUKE IV. 14, 15.

a17 From that time Jesus began to preach [The time here indicated is that of John the Baptist’s imprisonment and Jesus’ return to Galilee. This time marked a new period in the public ministry of Jesus. Hitherto he had taught, but he now began to preach. When the voice of his messenger, John, was silenced, the King became his own herald. Paul quoted the Greeks as saying that preaching was "foolishness," but following the example here set by Christ, he used it as the appointed means for saving souls. While Matthew gives us many of the earlier incidents of Christ’s life, he enters upon the account of his ministry at the time when Jesus returned to Galilee. From that time forward he was probably an eye-witness of the events which he records], bpreaching the gospel of God, 15 And saying, {aand to say,} Repent ye; for bthe time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God {aof Heaven} bis at hand. [Jesus preached the gospel or good news of his own advent and of the setting up of the unending kingdom which should convert the world to righteousness and save the souls of men. We should note that Jesus himself declares that the prophesied time for the setting up of his kingdom was at hand. There were many general prophecies as to this kingdom, but one which especially fixed the time of its coming; viz.: Daniel 9:24-27. This prophecy tells of seventy weeks in which each day is reckoned as a year, so that the seventy weeks equal four hundred and ninety years. They are to be counted from the date of the decree which ordered the rebuilding of Jerusalem. The Messiah, or Prince, was to come at the beginning of the seventieth week, or four hundred and eighty-three years from the date of the decree. Some take the decree referred to as to be that mentioned in Nehemiah 2:7, Nehemiah 2:8. Jahn and Hales fix the date [155] of this decree in the year 444 B. C. According to this, Jesus would have begun his ministry in the year A. D. 39. Others take the decree to be mentioned in Ezra 7:12-26., which was thirteen years earlier, and which would bring the beginning of the ministry of Jesus to the year A. D. 26. But there is much uncertainty about all ancient chronology. Suffice it to say that Daniel told in round numbers how long it would be until Messiah should come, and that Jesus said that this time had been fulfilled. It would have been easy to ascertain the correct chronology at the time when Jesus spoke, and we have no record that any presumed to dispute his statement. Jesus announced the coming of a new dispensation. The King had already come, but the kingdom in its organization and administration was as yet only "at hand." Until the crucifixion of Christ and the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost the kingdom could not be fully organized, for the blood shed upon the cross furnished the means for purification which precedes a proper entrance into the kingdom, and the coming of the Holy Spirit afforded that indwelling strength by which those entering are enabled to abide therein]: repent ye, and believe in the gospel. [That is, prepare for the kingdom by repenting of sin, and by believing the glad news that the kingdom was approaching, for the King had come ( John 1:49). The preaching of Jesus at this time did not differ materially from that of John the Baptist, for John preached repentance and the approaching kingdom ( Matthew 3:2), and the gospel ( Luke 3:18), and belief in the King ( John 1:29, John 1:36, John 3:36). The fact that repentance comes before belief in this passage is by some taken as an indication that repentance precedes faith in the process of conversion, but it should be remembered that the preaching here is addressed to the Jewish people, who already believed in God, and in the Scripture as the revelation of God. They were, therefore, required to bring forth fruit worthy of the old faith and the old revelation as preparatory to their reception of the new faith and the new revelation. Thus repentance and faith appears to be the established order for Hebrews ( Hebrews 6:1), and their [156] proselytes ( Acts 20:21), because of the spiritual standpoint or condition in which the gospel found them. But those who have no faith in God can surely have no repentance toward him, for belief precedes every call upon God, whether for mercy, pardon, or any other blessing-- Romans 10:13, Romans 10:14], cand a fame went out concerning him through all the region round about. [The miracles of Jesus and the manner in which he taught caused the people to glorify his name.] 15 And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified of all. [If we may trust later tradition (and the New Testament corroborates it), synagogues were very plentiful in that day, there being at least one in each town. In the synagogue the people met on Sabbath and feast days. The temple at Jerusalem was used for ceremonial worship, but the services in the synagogue were of far different order, the study and application of the Scripture being the principal feature.]

[FFG 155-157]

Verses 16-20

(Sea of Galilee, near Capernaum.)
aMATT. IV. 18-22; bMARK I. 16-20; cLUKE V. 1-11.

a18 And walking b16 And passing along by the sea of Galilee [This lake is a pear-shaped body of water, about twelve and a half miles long and about seven miles across at its widest place. It is 682 feet below sea level; its waters are fresh, clear and abounding in fish, and it is surrounded by hills and mountains, which rise from 600 to 1,000 feet above it. Its greatest depth is about 165 feet], he [Jesus] saw atwo brethren, Simon who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, {bthe brother of Simon} casting a net in {ainto} the sea [The New Testament speaks of three kinds of nets, viz.: the amphiblestron, which is only mentioned here; the sagene, mentioned only at Matthew 13:47; and the dictua, which is mentioned in all other places. The dictua was a casting-net; the sagene, a seine or dragnet; and the amphiblestron was a drawnet, a circular bell-shaped affair, which was thrown upon the water, so that it spread out and [161] caught, by sinking, whatever was below it]; for they were fishers. [Though Simon and Andrew had been companions of Jesus on at least one journey, they did not as yet understand that his service would require all their time. The facts that Jesus now temporarily resided at Capernaum afforded them an opportunity to return to their old occupation, which they readily embraced. Fishing was then a prosperous trade on the lake of Galilee.] b17 And Jesus said {ahe saith} bunto them, Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men. [It was an invitation to follow, that they might be instructed by hearing his teaching and beholding his work. Jesus called them from a lower to a similar but higher labor. He calls all honest tradesmen in this manner. He invites carpenters to build his temple, servants to serve the great King, physicians to heal immortal souls, merchants to invest in pearls of great price, etc. The fisherman found many points of resemblance between the old and new calling, such as, 1, daily hardships and dangers; 2, earnest desires for the objects sought; 3, skill and wisdom in the use of means, etc. Disciples are fishers, human souls are fish, the world is the sea, the gospel is the net, and eternal life is the shore whither the catch is drawn.] a21 And going on from thence ba little further, ahe saw two other brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, bwho also were in the boat awith Zebedee their father, mending their {bthe} nets. [They also, like Peter and Andrew, were at work when Jesus found them. God calls the busy to his business. For instances where God had called the busy, see cases of Moses ( Exodus 3:1, Exodus 3:2), Gideon ( Judges 6:11), Saul ( 1 Samuel 10:1-3), David ( 1 Samuel 16:11-15), Elisha ( 1 Kings 19:19-21), Matthew ( Matthew 9:9), Saul ( Acts 9:1-6). Moreover most of these were called from lowly work, for such is God’s method ( 1 Corinthians 1:26-29). We should note two reasons why God chose the lowly and unlearned: 1, their minds being free from prejudice were more ready to entertain new truth; 2, the strength of the gospel was made more apparent by the [162] weakness of its ministers ( 1 Corinthians 2:3-5, 2 Corinthians 4:7, Zechariah 4:6). Of these two brothers, James was the first apostolic martyr and John the last survivor of the twelve. James was beheaded about A. D. 44 ( Acts 12:1, Acts 12:2); and John, after upwards of seventy years of Christian service, died at Ephesus about A. D. 100.] 20 And straightway he called them [From Matthew and Mark we would suppose that Jesus was alone when he called the two sets of brothers, and that with them he immediately left the lake. But we learn from Luke that he taught and worked a miracle before leaving the lake]: c1 Now it came to pass, while the multitude pressed upon him and heard the word of God, that he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret [This body of water bore many names. It was anciently called Chinnereth ( Numbers 34:11), or Chinneroth ( Judges 12:3), from a fortified town ( Joshua 19:35) and district ( 1 Kings 15:20) in Naphtali bearing that name. It is here called Gennesaret, from a plain of that name upon its northwestern shore (which may be a corruption of the old name Chinnereth.) It received its name, Galilee, from the district to which it belongs, and in later times it bore the name Tiberias ( John 6:1), from the city of that name on its western shore]; 2 and he saw two boats standing by the lake: but the fishermen had gone out of them, and were washing their nets. [We may conceive of the fishermen, in answer to Jesus’ call, drawing their boats together to the point where he stood upon the shore. Then, as Jesus stood teaching, they occupied themselves in the shallow water behind by washing their nets while they listened to him.] 3 And he entered into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, and asked him to put out a little from the land. [He did this that he might avoid the press, and that the people might be better able both to see and to hear.] And he sat down [the usual attitude or posture of a teacher] and taught the multitudes out of the boat. 4 And when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, Put out into the deep, and let down your nets for a [163] draught. ["Put out" is in the singular, being addressed to Simon alone; "let down" is plural, being addressed generally to those in the boat.] 5 And Simon answered and said, Master, we have toiled all the night, and took nothing: but at thy word I will let down the nets. ["Master" is a broader word than "Rabbi"; it indicates a superior, but does not confine his superiority to matters of instruction. The words of Peter show a willingness to oblige or honor Jesus, but are devoid of hope as to the thing proposed. Night was the time for fishing ( John 21:3); and the proper place to cast the net was near the shore; but if Jesus wished to fish by daylight in the middle of the lake, Simon was not too weary to humor the wish.] 6 And when they had done this, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes; and their nets were breaking [that is, the nets began to snap when they tried to lift them out of the water]; 7 and they beckoned unto their partners in the other boat, that they should come and help them. [This indicates that they were well out into the lake, where it was easier to beckon than to shout explanations. Some think the marvel wrought by Jesus made them speechless, but they were so engrossed in the magnitude and value of the catch that the full glory of the miracle had not yet come upon them.] And they came, and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. [They probably ran a second net under the one which enclosed the fishes, and by thus doubling the strength of the net were able to draw the fish up between the boats. A great load thus suddenly dumped in the side of a boat will cause it to list, dip water and threaten to sink. Such appears to have been the case here until the loads were so distributed as to right the ships.] 8 But Simon Peter, when he saw it, fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord. 9 For he was amazed, and all that were with him, at the draught of the fishes which they had taken [This miracle came home to the soul of Peter because it was wrought in his own boat, with his own nets, and concerned his own business. [164] Religion is only powerful as it becomes personal. Peter’s request shows how deeply the miracle impressed him. It gave him that sense of the divine presence which never fails to overwhelm the hearts of men. No man can behold God in his glory and live ( Exodus 33:20-23, Exodus 20:18, Exodus 20:19); and though there have been exceptions where men have seen God or his representatives and lived ( Exodus 24:9-11, Judges 6:21-23, Judges 13:22, Judges 13:23, Isaiah 6:1-5, Daniel 10:16-19, Genesis 32:30); yet no man, not even the purest, has ever stood in the presence of God or his ministers without feeling such a sense of weakness and sinfulness as to almost extinguish life-- Revelation 1:17, Job 42:5, Job 42:6]; 10 and so were also James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said unto Simon, Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men. [Jesus here shows the purpose for which this miracle had been wrought. It was a prophetic type or picture which foreshadowed the triumphs of the day of Pentecost and other seasons when the apostles had great ingatherings of souls through the preaching of the gospel.] 11 And when they had brought their boats to land, they astraightway cleft all [that is to say, Peter and Andrew], bleft the nets [but James and John], aleft the boat and their father, bZebedee in the boat with the hired servants, and went after him. {cfollowed him} [The four partners, boats, different kinds of nets, hired servants, etc., and the fact that Salome, the wife of Zebedee, was one of those who ministered to Christ out of her substance ( Matthew 27:55, Matthew 27:56, Luke 8:3), all indicate a business of respectable proportions: a fact which suggests that the church of Christ would catch more souls if all its parts were in partnership. Evidently when the four men left the boats and nets Zebedee took charge of them. While the four rightly recognized that the divine call was superior to their earthly obligations, there is nothing which leads us to imply that their sudden departure discomfited Zebedee. The call of Christ here marks a change in their relationship to him. Hitherto discipleship had not materially interfered with [165] business, but this present call separated them from their occupation, and prepared them for the call to be apostles which came later, and which required them to be his constant companions-- Mark 3:14.]

[FFG 161-166]

Verses 21-28

(At Capernaum.)
bMARK I. 21-28; cLUKE . iv. 31-37.

b21 And they [Jesus and the four fishermen whom he called] go into {che came down to} Capernaum, a city of Galilee. [Luke has just spoken of Nazareth, and he uses the expression "down to Capernaum" because the latter was on the lake shore while Nazareth was up in the mountains.] And bstraightway on the sabbath day he entered into the synagogue and taught. {cwas teaching them} b22 And they were astonished at his teaching: for he taught them as having {chis word was with} bauthority, and not as the scribes. [Mark uses the adverb "straightway" and the particle "again" (which has a similar meaning) to depict the rapid movement of Jesus. As used by him in this connection it probably indicates that this was the next Sabbath after the calling of the four fishermen. The astonishment of the people was natural. Not yet recognizing Jesus’ divinity, they could not understand how one so humble could speak with such authority. They contrasted his teaching with that of the scribes. The scribes were learned men who preserved, copied and expounded the law and the tradition ( Ezra 7:6, Ezra 7:12, Nehemiah 8:1, Matthew 15:1-6, Matthew 23:2-4, Mark 12:35, Luke 11:52). They were also called "lawyers" ( Mark 12:28, Matthew 22:35), and "doctors of the law" ( Luke 5:17-21). Though the teaching of Jesus differed from the teaching of the scribes as to matter, the contrast drawn is as to manner. They spoke on the authority of Moses or the elders, but Jesus taught by [166] his own authority. Their way was to quote minute precedents supported by endless authorities. A passage taken from later rabbinical writings starts thus: "Rabbi Zeira says, on the authority of Rabbi Jose bar Rabbi Chanina, and Rabbi Ba or Rabbi Chija on the authority of Rabbi Jochanan," etc. Contrast this with the oft-repeated "I say to you" of Jesus-- Matthew 5:18, Matthew 5:20, Matthew 5:22, Matthew 5:26, Matthew 5:28, Matthew 5:34.] 23 And straightway there was in their {cthe} bsynagogue a man with {cthat had} ban unclean spirit {ca spirit of an unclean demon} [Matthew, Luke and Mark all concur in pronouncing demons unclean; that is, wicked. They thus corrected the prevailing Greek notion that some of the demons were good. The word "demon," as used in our Saviour’s time by both Jews and Greeks, meant the spirits of the departed or the ghosts of dead men, and the teaching of that and prior ages was that such spirits often took possession of living men and controlled them. But whatever these demons were, the Scripture, both by its treatment of them and its words concerning them, clearly indicates that they were immaterial, intelligent beings, which are neither to be confused with maladies and diseases of the body, nor with tropes, metaphors, or other figures of speech. In proof of this we adduce the following Scripture facts: 1, the legislation of the Old Testament proceeded upon the assumption that there was such a thing as a "familiar spirit" ( Leviticus 19:31); 2, in the New Testament they are spoken of as personalities ( James 2:19, Revelation 16:14), Jesus even founding a parable upon their habits ( Luke 11:24-26); 3, Jesus distinguished between them and diseases, and so did his disciples ( Matthew 10:8, Luke 10:17-20); 4, Jesus addressed them as persons, and they answered as such ( Mark 5:8, Mark 9:25); 5, they manifested desires and passions ( Mark 5:12, Mark 5:13); 6, they showed a superhuman knowledge of Jesus ( Matthew 8:29). It would be impossible to regard demon possession as a mere disease without doing violence to the language used in every instance of the expulsion of a demon. The frequency of demoniacal possession in the time of Jesus is probably due to the fact that his advent [167] formed a great crisis in the spiritual order of things. For fuller treatment of the subject, see Millennial Harbinger, 1841, pp. 1 John 3:8). At his second coming the workers themselves shall suffer ( Matthew 25:41). We find that they recognized that the time of this "torment" had not yet come-- Matthew 8:29.] I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God. [It is impossible that fever or disease, mental or physical, could give such supernatural knowledge. The demon called Jesus the Holy One, 1, because it was one of his proper Scriptural names ( Psalms 16:10, Acts 3:14); 2, because holiness was that characteristic which involved the ruin of demons as unholy ones--just as light destroys darkness. We should note here the unfruitful knowledge, faith, and confession of demons. They lacked neither knowledge ( Matthew 8:29), nor faith ( James 2:19), nor did they withhold confession; but Jesus received them not. Repentance and willing obedience are as necessary as faith or confession.] 35 Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace, and come out of him. [We have in this phrase two personages indicated by the personal pronoun "him"; one of whom is commanded to come out of the other; one of whom is now rebuked and hereafter to be destroyed, the other of whom is delivered. In commanding silence Jesus refused to receive the demon’s testimony. We can see at least three reasons for this: 1, it was not fitting that the fate of the people should rest upon the testimony of liars; 2, because receiving such testimony might have been taken as an indication that Jesus sustained friendly relations to demons--something which the enemies of [168] Christ actually alleged ( Matthew 12:24); 3, the Messiahship of Jesus was to be gradually unfolded, and the time for its public proclamation had not yet come.] And when the demon {bunclean spirit} chad thrown him down in the midst, btearing him and crying with a loud voice, che came out of him, having done him no hurt. [The demon first racked the body of the man with a convulsion, and then, with a cry of rage, came out. All this was permitted that, 1, there might be clear evidence of demoniacal possession; 2, the demon’s malignity might be shown; 3, it might be manifested that the spirit came not out of its own accord, but because compelled thereto by the command of Christ. The cry was, however, a mere impotent expression of anger, for Luke, "the beloved physician," notes that it did the man no hurt.] b27 And they were all amazed, {aamazement came upon all}, binsomuch that they questioned among themselves, cand they spake together, one with another, saying, bWhat thing is this? cWhat is this word? ba new teaching! cfor with authority and power he commandeth beven the unclean spirits, cand they come out. band they obey him. [The power to command disembodied spirits thus amazed the people, because it was more mysterious than the power to work physical miracles. By this miracle Jesus demonstrated his actual possession of the authority which he had just assumed in his teaching.] 28 And the report of him went out straightway {c37 And there went forth a rumor concerning him} beverywhere into all {cevery place of} bthe region of Galilee roundabout. [This fame was occasioned both by the miracle and the teaching. The benevolence and publicity of the miracle, and its power--the power of one mightier than Satan--would cause excitement in any community, in any age. Though this is the first miracle recorded by either Mark or Luke, yet neither asserts that it was the first miracle Jesus wrought, so there is no conflict with John 2:11.] [169]

[FFG 166-169]

Verses 29-34

(At Capernaum.)
aMATT. VIII. 14-17; bMARK I. 29-34; cLUKE IV. 38-41.

c38 And he arose out of the synagogue [where he had just healed the demoniac], b29 And straightway, when they were come out of the synagogue, they came {centered} binto the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. [Peter and Andrew had dwelt at Bethsaida ( John 1:44). They may have removed to Capernaum, or Bethsaida, being near by, may be here counted as a part, or suburb, of Capernaum. Its name does not contradict this view, for it means "house of fishing" or "fishery."] 30 Now Simon’s wife’s mother lay sick of {cwas holden with} a great fever. [The Papists, who claim that Peter was the first pope, must confess that he was married at this time, and continued to be so for years afterwards ( 1 Corinthians 9:5). Celibacy is unauthorized by Scripture ( Hebrews 13:4). God says it is not good ( Genesis 2:18). Luke speaks as a physician; for Galen, the father of medicine, divided fevers into little and great.] a14 And when Jesus was come into Peter’s house, he saw his wife’s mother lying sick of a fever. band straightway they tell him of her: cand they besought him for her. [Their interest in her shows the spirit of love and kindness which pervaded the home.] b31 and he came c39 And he stood over her, and rebuked the fever [Though it was an inanimate force, it was still subject to rebuke, as were the winds and waves of Galilee-- Matthew 8:26]; a15 And he touched her hand, band took her by the hand, and raised her up [thus showing the miracle came from him, and that he felt a tender interest in the sufferer]; cand it {bthe fever} cleft her: and immediately she rose up {aarose,} band she ministered unto them. {ahim.} [Her complete recovery emphasized the miracle. Such fevers invariably leave the patient weak, [170] and the period of convalescence is long and trying, and often full of danger. She showed her gratitude by her ministry.] b32 And at even, awhen even was come, cwhen the sun was setting, {bdid set,} call they that had any sick with divers diseases, brought them unto him; bthey brought unto him all that were sick, and them {amany} bthat were possessed with demons. [Their delay till sundown was unquestionably caused by the traditional law of the Sabbath which forbade men to carry any burden on that day ( John 5:10). The Sabbath closed at sundown ( Leviticus 23:32). The distinction is drawn between the sick and the demon-possessed. Lightfoot gives two reasons why demoniacal possession was so common at that time, viz.: 1, the intense wickedness of the nation; 2, the addiction of the nation to magic, whereby the people invited evil spirits to be familiar with them.] cand he laid his hands on every one of them, aand he cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all cthem athat were sick: 17 that it might be fulfilled which was spoken through Isaiah the prophet [ Isaiah 53:4], saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare our diseases. [Isaiah’s vision is progressive; he sees, first, a man of sorrows; second, a man sorrowful because he bore the sickness and sorrows of others; third, a man who also bore sin, and healed the souls of others by so doing. Such was the order of Christ’s life. His early years were spent in poverty and obscurity; his days of ministry in bearing, by sympathy and compassion, the sicknesses and sorrows of others ( John 11:35, Mark 14:34); and in the hour of his crucifixion, he became the world’s sin-bearer-- John 1:29, 1 Peter 2:24.] b33 And all the city was gathered together at the door. 34 And he healed many that were sick of divers diseases, and cast out many demons; c41 And demons also came out from many, crying out, and saying, Thou art the Son of God. And rebuking them, he suffered them {bthe demons} cnot to speak, bbecause they knew him. cthat he was Christ. [Those who are disposed to frequent spiritual seances and to seek information from mediums should remember that the Son of God permitted his disciples to receive no information from such sources. He forbade demons to speak in the presence of his own, even on the most important of all topics.] [171]

[FFG 169-170]

Verses 35-39

aMATT. IV. 23-25; bMARK I. 35-39; cLUKE IV. 42-44.

b35 And in the morning, a great while before day, he rose up went out [i. e., from the house of Simon Peter], and departed into a desert place, and there prayed. [Though Palestine was densely populated, its people were all gathered into towns, so that it was usually easy to find solitude outside the city limits. A ravine near Capernaum, called the Vale of Doves, would afford such solitude. Jesus taught ( Matthew 6:6) and practiced solitary prayer. We can commune with God better when alone than when in the company of even our dearest friends. It is a mistaken notion that one can pray equally well at all times and in all places. Jesus being in all things like men, except that he was sinless ( Hebrews 2:17), must have found prayer a real necessity. He prayed as a human being. Several reasons for this season of prayer are suggested, from which we select two: 1. It was a safeguard against the temptation to vainglory induced by the unbounded admiration and praise of the multitude whom he had just healed. 2. It was a fitting preparation on the eve of his departure on his first missionary tour.] c42 And when it was day, he came out and went into a desert place. [Mark has in mind the season when Jesus sought the Father in prayer, and so he tells us it was "a great while before day." Luke has in mind the hour when Jesus faced and spoke to the multitude, so he says, "When it was day."] b36 And Simon. [As head of the house which Jesus had just left, Simon naturally acted as leader and guide to the party which sought Jesus] and they that were with him [they who were stopping in Simon’s house; viz.: Andrew, James, and John] followed after him [172] [literally, "pursued after him." Xenophon uses this word to signify the close pursuit of an enemy in war. Simon had no hesitancy in obtruding on the retirement of the Master. This rushing after Jesus in hot haste accorded with his impulsive nature. The excited interest of the people seemed to the disciples of Jesus to offer golden opportunities, and they could not comprehend his apparent indifference to it]; 37 and they found him, and say unto him, All are seeking thee. [The disciples saw a multitude seeking Jesus for various causes: some to hear, some for excitement, some for curiosity. To satisfy the people seemed to them to be Christ’s first duty. Jesus understood his work better than they. He never encouraged those who sought through mere curiosity or admiration ( John 6:27). Capernaum accepted the benefit of his miracles, but rejected his call to repentance-- Matthew 11:23.] 38 And he saith unto them, Let us go elsewhere into the next towns [the other villages of Galilee], that I may preach there also; for to this end came I forth. [I. e., I came forth from the Father ( John 16:28) to make and preach a gospel. His disciples failed to understand his mission. Afterwards preaching was with the apostles the all-important duty-- Acts 6:2, 1 Corinthians 1:17.] cand the multitudes sought him after him, and came unto him, and would have stayed him, that he should not go from them. [They would have selfishly kept his blessed ministries for their own exclusive enjoyment.] 43 But he said unto them, I must preach the good tidings of the kingdom of God to the other cities also: for therefore was I sent. [Jesus sought to arouse the entire nation. That which the disciples regarded as a large work in Capernaum was consequently in his sight a very small one. Those who understand that it is God’s will and wish to save every man that lives upon the earth will not be overelated by a successful revival in some small corner of the great field of labor.] b39 And he aJesus went about in all Gailiee [The extreme length of Galilee was about sixty-three miles, and its extreme width about thirty-three miles. Its average [173] dimensions were about fifty by twenty-five miles. It contained, according to Josephus, two hundred and forty towns and villages. Its population at that time is estimated at about three millions. Lewin calculates that this circuit of Galilee must have occupied four or five months. The verses of this paragraph are, therefore, a summary of the work and influence of Jesus during the earlier part of his ministry. They are a general statement, the details of which are given in the subsequent chapters of the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke--the Gospel of John dealing more particularly with the work in Judæa], binto their synagogues throughout all Galilee, ateaching in their synagogues [The word "synagogue" is compounded of the two Greek words "sun," together, and "ago," to collect. It is, therefore, equivalent to our English word "meeting-house." Tradition and the Targums say that these Jewish houses of worship existed from the earliest times. In proof of this assertion Deuteronomy 31:11, Psalms 74:8 are cited. But the citations are insufficient, that in Deuteronomy not being in point, and the seventy-fourth Psalm being probably written after the Babylonian captivity. It better accords with history to believe that the synagogue originated during the Babylonian captivity, and was brought into the motherland by the returning exiles. Certain it is that the synagogue only came into historic prominence after the books of the Old Testament were written. At the time of our Saviour’s ministry synagogues were scattered all over Palestine, and also over all quarters of the earth whither the Jews had been dispersed. Synagogues were found in very small villages, for wherever ten "men of leisure," willing and able to devote themselves to the service of the synagogue, were found, a synagogue might be erected. In the synagogues the people met together on the Sabbaths to pray, and to listen to the reading of the portions of the Old Testament, and also to hear such instruction or exhortation as might be furnished. With the permission of the president of the synagogue any one who was fitted might deliver an address. Thus the synagogues furnished Jesus (and in later times his disciples also) with a congregation [174] and a suitable place for preaching. We find that on week days Jesus often preached in the open air. But the synagogues are thus particularly mentioned, probably, because in them were held the most important services, because they were necessary during the rainy and cold season, and because their use shows that as yet the Jewish rulers had not so prejudiced the public mind as to exclude Jesus from the houses of worship], and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, band casting out demons [Mark singles out this kind of miracle as most striking and wonderful], aand healing all manner of disease and all manner of sickness among the people. 24 And the report of him went forth into all Syria [caravans passing through Galilee back and forth between the Mediterranean seaports on the west and the Persian cities on the east, and between Damascus on the north and Egypt on the south, would carry the reports concerning Jesus far and wide]: and they brought unto him all that were sick, holden with divers diseases and torments, possessed with demons, and epileptic, and palsied; and he healed them. [Thus, by his actions, Jesus showed that the kingdom of God had come. The wonders of Moses were mostly miracles of judgment, those of Jesus were acts of compassion. The diseases here enumerated are still among the most difficult for physicians to handle. The term "palsy" included all forms of paralysis, catalepsy, and cramps.] 25 And there followed him great multitudes [these popular demonstration, no doubt, intensified the erroneous notion of his disciples that the kingdom of Jesus was to be one of worldly grandeur] from Galilee and Decapolis [Decapolis is formed from the two Greek words "deka," ten, and "polis," city. As a geographical term, Decapolis refers to that part of Syria lying east, southeast, and south of the Lake of Galilee. There is some doubt as to which were the ten cities named, for there seem at times to have been fourteen of them. Those commonly reckoned are 1. Damascus. 2. Philadelphia. 3. Raphana. 4. Sycthopolis. 5. Gadara. 6. Hyppos. 7. Dion. 8. Pella. 9. Galas. 10. Kanatha. The [175] other four are Abila and Kanata (distinct from Kanatha), Cæsarea Philippi, and Gergesa. None of these were in Galilee save Sycthopolis. According to Ritter, these cities were colonized principally by veterans from the army of Alexander the Great. A reminiscence of their Macedonian origin is found in the fact that there was a city named Pella in Macedonia. These cities are said to have been formed into a confederacy by Pompey the Great. In the time of Jesus they were chiefly inhabited by Greeks or heathens, and not by Jews. Josephus expressly calls Gadara and Hyppos Greek cities] and Jerusalem and Judæa and from beyond the Jordan. [The land beyond Jordan was called Peræa, which means "beyond." According to Josephus, it included territory between the cities of Pella on the north and Machærus on the south. That is to say, its northern boundary began on the Jordan opposite the southern line of Galilee, and its southern boundary was at Moab, about the middle of the east shore of the Dead Sea.] c44 And he was preaching in the synagogues of Galilee.

[FFG 172-176]

Verses 40-45

aMATT.VIII. 2-4; bMARK I. 40-45; cLUKE V. 12-16.

c12 And it came to pass, while he was in one of the cities [it was a city of Galilee, but as it was not named, it is idle to conjecture which city it was], behold, bthere cometh {acame} bto him a leper [There is much discussion as to what is here meant by leprosy. Two diseases now go by that name; viz., psoriasis and elephantiasis. There are also three varieties of psoriasis, namely, white, black and red. There are also three varieties or modifications of elephantiasis, namely, tubercular, spotted or streaked, and anæsthetic. Elephantiasis is the leprosy found in modern times in Syria, Greece, Spain, Norway and Africa. Now, since Leviticus 13:1-59., in determining [176] leprosy, lays great stress on a white or reddish-white depression of the skin, the hairs in which are turned white or yellow, and since it also provides that the leper who is white all over shall be declared clean, and since in the only two cases where lepers are described-- Numbers 12:10, 2 Kings 5:27--they are spoken of as "white as snow," scholars have been led to think that the Biblical leprosy was the white form of psoriasis. But the facts hardly warrant us in excluding the other forms of psoriasis, or even elephantiasis; for 1. Leviticus xiii. also declares that any bright spot or scale shall be pronounced leprosy, if it be found to spread abroad over the body; and this indefinite language would let in elephantiasis, cancer and many other skin diseases. In fact, the law deals with the initial symptoms rather than with the ultimate phases of the fully developed disease. 2. Elephantiasis was a common disease in our Saviour’s time, and has been ever since, and would hardly be called leprosy now, if it had not been popularly so called then. The word "leprosy" comes from "lepo," which means to peel off in scales. It is hereditary for generations, though modern medical authorities hold that it is not contagious. However, the returning Crusaders spread it all over Europe in the tenth and eleventh centuries, so that according to Matthew Paris there was no less than nine thousand hospitals set apart for its victims. The facts that the priests had to handle and examine lepers, and that any one who was white all over with leprosy was declared clean, led scholars to think that the laws of Moses, which forbade any one to approach or touch a leper, were not enacted to prevent the spread of a contagion, but for typical and symbolic purposes. It is thought that God chose the leprosy as the symbol of sin and its consequences, and that the Mosaic legislation was given to carry out this conception. Being the most loathsome and incurable of all diseases, it fitly represents in bodily form the ravages of sin in the soul of a man. But there must also have been a sanitary principle in God’s laws, since we still deem it wise to separate lepers, and since other people besides the Hebrews (as the Persians) prohibited lepers from mingling with other [177] citizens. Elephantiasis is the most awful disease known. The body of its victim disintegrates joint by joint, until the whole frame crumbles to pieces. Psoriasis is milder, but is very distressing. Mead thus describes a case: The "skin was shining as covered with flakes of snow. And as the furfuraceous or bran-like, scales were daily rubbed off, the flesh appeared quick or raw underneath." In addition to the scaly symptoms, the skin becomes hard and cracks open, and from the cracks an ichorous humor oozes. The disease spreads inwardly, and ends in consumption, dropsy, suffocation, and death], ca man full of leprosy [Some have thought that Luke meant to indicate one so completely covered with leprosy as to be clean ( Leviticus 13:28, Leviticus 13:29, Leviticus 13:36, Leviticus 13:37). But the fact that Jesus sent him to the priest, shows that he was not such a clean leper. Luke meant to describe a leper in the last stages of the disease--a leper past all hope]: and when he saw Jesus, bbeseeching him, and kneeling down to him, and saying to him, che fell on his face, aand worshipped him, cand besought him, saying, bunto him, cLord [The Jews, in addressing any distinguished person, usually employed the title "Lord." They were also accustomed to kneel before prophets and kings. It is not likely that the leper knew enough of Jesus to address him as the Son of God. He evidently took Jesus for some great prophet; but he must have had great faith, for he was full of confidence that Jesus had power to heal him, although there was but one case of leper-cleansing in the Scriptures-- 2 Kings 5:1-19, Luke 4:27], if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. [The leper believed in the power of Jesus, but doubted his willingness to expend it on one so unworthy and so unclean. In temporal matters we can not always be as sure of God’s willingness as we can be of his power. We should note that the man asked rather for the blessing of cleanness than for health. To the Jew uncleanness was more horrible than disease. It meant to be an outcast from Israel, and to be classed with swine, dogs and other odious and abhorrent creatures. The leper, therefore, prayed that the Lord would remove his shame [178] and pollution.] b41 And being moved with compassion, he stretched forth his hand, and touched him [Mark habitually notes the feelings, and hence also the gestures of Jesus. It was not an accidental, but an intentional, touch. Popular belief so confused and confounded leprosy with the uncleanness and corruption of sin, as to make the leper feel that Jesus might also compromise his purity if he concerned himself to relieve it. The touch of Jesus, therefore, gave the leper a new conception of divine compassion. It is argued that Jesus, by this touch, was made legally unclean until the evening ( Leviticus 13:46, Leviticus 11:40). But we should note the spirit and purpose of this law. Touch was prohibited because it defiled the person touching, and aided not the person touched. In Jesus’ case the reasons for the law were absent, the conditions being reversed. Touching defiled not the toucher, and healed the touched. In all things Jesus touches and shares our human state, but he so shares it that instead of his being defiled by our uncleanness, we are purified by his righteousness. Moreover, Jesus, as a priest after the order of Melchizedek ( Hebrews 5:6), possessed the priestly right to touch the leper without defilement-- Hebrews 4:15], and saith unto him, {csaying,} I will; be thou made clean. [The Lord’s answer is an echo of the man’s prayer. The words, "I will," express the high authority of Jesus.] b42 And straightway the {ahis} cleprosy departed from him, {awas cleansed.} band he was made clean. ["Luke says, ’departed’, giving the merely physical view of the event. Matthew says, ’was cleansed’, using ceremonial language. Mark combines the two forms"--Godet.] 43 And he strictly charged him, cto tell no man [The language used indicates that Jesus sternly forbade the man to tell what had been done. The man’s conduct, present and future, shows that he needed severe speech. In his uncontrollable eagerness to be healed he had overstepped his privileges, for he was not legally permitted to thus enter cities and draw near to people ( Numbers 5:2, Numbers 5:3); he was to keep at a distance from them, and covering his mouth, was to cry, "Tame, [179] tame--unclean, unclean" ( Leviticus 13:45, Leviticus 13:46, Luke 17:12, Luke 17:13). The man evinced a like recklessness in disregarding the command of Jesus]: band straightway sent him out, a4 And Jesus saith unto him, See thou tell no man; {bsay nothing to any man:} [Several reasons are suggested why the Lord thus commanded silence: 1. It may have been better for the man not to mention his cure ( John 9:34). 2. He required the decision of the priest to make him legally clean; and too much talk might so prejudice the priests as to lead them to refuse to admit his cure. 3. But the best reason is that it accorded with our Lord’s general course, which was to suppress excitement, and thus prevent too great crowds from gathering about him and hindering his work. To take this view is to say that Jesus meant to prevent exactly what happened] cbut go, and show thyself to the priest, and offer for thy cleansing, according as Moses commanded, bthe things which {athe gift that} Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them. [Though healed of his leprosy, the man was not legally clean until declared so by the priest. The priest alone could readmit him to the congregation. The local priest inspected the healed leper, and if he was found clean or cured, he was purified by the use of two birds, cedar wood, scarlet and hyssop, razor and bath. After seven days he was again inspected, and if still cured the priest repaired with him to the temple, where he offered the gift for his cleansing, which was three lambs, with flour and oil; or if the leper was poor, one lamb and two doves or pigeons, with flour and oil ( Leviticus 14:19-22.). The healed leper was a testimony that Messiah, the great Physician, had come, and that he respected the law of Moses. This testimony was given both to priests and people.] 45 But he went out [from the presence of Jesus and from the city], and began to publish it much, and to spread abroad the matter, {c15 But so much the more went abroad the report concerning him:}. [The leper was so elated that he could scarcely refrain from publishing his cure, and he must also have thought that this was what Jesus really [180] wanted--that in commanding him not to publish it he did not mean what he said] and great multitudes came together to hear, and to be healed by him of their infirmities. binsomuch that Jesus could no more openly enter into a city [Not a natural or physical inability, but the inability of impropriety. Jesus could not do what he judged not best to do. The excitement cause by such an entry was injurious in several ways: 1. It gave such an emphasis to the miracles of Jesus as to make them overshadow his teaching. 2. It threatened to arouse the jealousy of the government. 3. It rendered the people incapable of calm thought. Two things constantly threatened the ministry of Jesus, namely, impatience in the multitude, and envious malice in the priests and Pharisees. Jesus wished to add to neither of these elements of opposition. Thus the disobedience of the leper interrupted Jesus, and thwarted him in his purpose to visit the villages. Disobedience, no matter how well-meaning, always hinders the work of Christ], c16 But he withdrew himself in the deserts, {bwas without in desert places:} [That is, the the remote grazing-lands like that desert in which he afterwards fed the five thousand. Such was our Lord’s unexampled meekness that he preferred the silent deserts to the applause of multitudes. His meekness was as high above the capacity of a merely human being as were his miracles] cand prayed. [Luke’s gospel is pre-eminently the gospel of prayer and thanksgiving] band they came to him from every quarter.

[FFG 176-181]

Bibliographical Information
McGarvey, J. W. "Commentary on Mark 1". "J. W. McGarvey's Original Commentary on Acts". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/oca/mark-1.html. Transylvania Printing and Publishing Co. Lexington, KY. 1872.
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