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THE SCOPE OF OUR LORD’S MINISTRY
Mark 1:14-15. Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the Gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the Gospel.
THOSE Christians who have taken up religion lightly, and have not the root of divine grace within them, will, as soon as persecution threatens them, be ready to renounce their holy profession; whilst those who have been influenced by a truly Christian principle, will be intimidated by nothing. When Paul was imprisoned at Rome, some were ashamed of his chain and forsook him: but others “waxed confident by his bonds, and were much more bold to speak the word without fear [Note: Philippians 1:14.].” This is the true spirit of Christianity, and agrees with the example which Christ himself has set us. St. John was cast into prison for his fidelity in executing the ministerial office. But no sooner did our Lord hear of his imprisonment, than he went into Galilee, where John himself had been preaching, and bore testimony to the very truths which John himself had maintained. The scope of John’s ministry had been, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand [Note: Matthew 3:1-2.]:” and the instant that this holy man was precluded from any further discharge of his ministry, our blessed Lord insisted on the same awakening topic: saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: Repent ye, and believe the Gospel.”
To elucidate this important subject, we shall shew,
What is the kingdom here spoken of—
The terms used respecting it in our text, sufficiently shew what we are to understand by it:
It is the kingdom of God—
[Every kingdom may be considered as His, inasmuch as he is the founder of all the empires upon earth: “he pulleth down one, and setteth up another.” But this is his in a more eminent manner. It is an empire which he raises over the souls of men: it is erected, not by means of carnal weapons, but by an invisible and spiritual influence which he exerts over their minds, whereby he “brings them into captivity to the obedience of Christ [Note: 2 Corinthians 10:4-5.].” It is not an empire determined by any particular boundaries, but spread over the face of the whole earth. His laws are written in the hearts of his subjects, and reach to the thoughts and desires, as much as to their outward actions. “It comes not with observation” and pomp, as other kingdoms: it is seated altogether “within men,” and consists in “righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost [Note: Romans 14:17.].” His subjects have peculiar privileges, such as no other people upon earth can partake of: but these are altogether of a spiritual nature, and invisible to carnal eyes. Their King is ever with them; every one of them has access to him at all times: and all that he possesses is theirs. His power is incessantly put forth for the protection and support of every individual amongst them; he orders every thing for their good, and is ever occupied in making them happy; giving them a peace which passeth understanding, and a joy which is unspeakable and glorified. In short, it is frequently called “the kingdom of heaven;” as it well may be, seeing that it is an exact counterpart of that which is in heaven, and differs only from that in its measure and degree. If only we conceive of God reigning amongst his saints and angels in heaven, it will help us more than any thing else to understand the nature of his kingdom on earth: the laws of both realms, yea, and the privileges too, are the same: holiness is the law both of the upper and the lower realm [Note: Ezekiel 43:10-12.]; and happiness in God is their one great privilege. The two are allied to each other as the acorn and the oak: grace is glory begun; and glory is grace consummated.]
It is a kingdom which was at that time to be established—
[The prophets had spoken clearly of a kingdom which was to be erected by the Messiah at an appointed period [Note: Daniel 2:44; Daniel 7:13-14.]; and it was generally understood, not only among the Jews, but among the Gentiles also, that the time was nearly arrived. What the Samaritan Woman said, “We know that the Messiah is coming,” may be considered as the public voice at that time. Now our blessed Lord says respecting it, “The time is fulfilled; the kingdom of God is at hand:” and he commanded his Disciples to declare the same; and, in the event of their message being despised, he bade them declare with increased vehemence to the very people who should reject them, “Be ye sure of this, that the kingdom of God is come nigh unto you [Note: Luke 10:9; Luke 10:11.].”
This then decidedly shews, that the kingdom here spoken of was the Messiah’s kingdom, even that which, in name at least, is established amongst us: in name, I say, because “all are not Israel who are of Israel,” “nor is he a Jew who is one outwardly.” It has before been observed that this is a spiritual kingdom; and the subjects of it are spiritual subjects.]
This leads us to shew,
What we must do in order to become subjects of it—
We have no need to emigrate from one country to another in order to place ourselves under the dominion of Christ. There is a way appointed for all to have their names enrolled among his people; and that is,
[This is a duty independent of Christianity: every one that has violated the holy laws of God, ought to be deeply humbled for his iniquities. But this is an indispensable requisite for our admission into the Redeemer’s kingdom. An impenitent sinner, whether his sins have been more or less heinous, cannot possibly be numbered with his subjects. Such a man hates the laws by which they are governed; he will not yield to the authority which they obey: he even despises the privileges which they consider as their most inestimable treasure: whatever therefore he may call himself, he is, in fact, an enemy, a rebel, a traitor; and as such he will be considered by that King to whom he has professed allegiance — — — In order to become “a fellow-citizen with the saints,” he must himself become a saint. Till then, he is accounted “a stranger and a foreigner [Note: Ephesians 2:19.]” — — —]
To believe the Gospel—
[Repentance is necessary to prepare men for the kingdom; but it is faith which actually introduces them into it. The Gospel sets forth Christ, not merely as “a Prince, but as a Saviour also.” It represents him as having borne our sins in his own body on the cross, and as having made thereby a full and perfect satisfaction to God for them. It assures us also of a complete reconciliation with him, the very moment that we embrace its glorious truths. On our believing its testimony, we begin to see the Lord Jesus in his true character: we no more account him a hard Master, but one whose service is perfect freedom. We then long to have our very thoughts subjected to his dominion, and our whole souls made obedient to his will. Thus we become enlisted under his banners, and entitled to all the privileges of his subjects — — — In short, by repentance we cast down the weapons of our rebellion; and by faith we devote ourselves to him as his peculiar people.]
This subject furnishes us with abundant matter,
[Should it not be an object of anxious inquiry with us all to ascertain whose subjects we are? There are but two, who divide between them the dominion of the world: Satan is the god of this world, who has usurped a power over all mankind: but of these, Jehovah, the Creator of all things, has a few, whom he has rescued and redeemed from his tyrannic sway. If we belong to Christ, God has brought us “out of the kingdom of darkness, and translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son.” Inquire then whether such a change has taken place? Inquire whether you have deeply repented of your past subjection to Satan, and whether with humble gratitude you have fled for refuge to the hope set before you in the Gospel? Can you appeal to God that you have returned to him as a base rebel, acknowledging your desert of death, and imploring mercy solely in the name of Christ? Can you appeal to him, that you do yet daily, and hourly as it were, give up yourselves to his service, desiring to live, and, if need be, to die, for him? — — — O consider the importance of these inquiries, and the proneness of your hearts to self-deceit! — — — And pray to God to instruct you by his Holy Spirit, that you may know, before it is too late, whose you are, and whom you serve — — —]
[Be it granted, that we are the Lord’s: still what cause for shame have the very best amongst us, when we think how little love we bear to our heavenly King, and how little zeal we have manifested in his service. The subjects of earthly monarchs will go to the very ends of the earth to preserve and to extend their territories. Life seems of no value to them, in comparison of the honour of their, prince: to die in his cause appears an object of ambition rather than of dread: and the smallest testimony of his favour is deemed an ample recompence for all the dangers and difficulties that can be endured. Ah! who does not blush at the consideration of these things? If called to preach his Gospel to the heathen, who does not demur, and ask a thousand questions, which shew, that our own ease is of more importance in our eyes than his honour? Even a contemptuous look, or a reproachful name, or some little sacrifice of worldly interest, are often sufficient to deter us from embracing opportunities of exalting him. Whose conscience does not reproach him as shamefully deficient in duty to the best of Kings, and in gratitude towards the greatest of Benefactors? Truly when we consider what sovereign mercy, what almighty power, and what unbounded grace have been exercised towards us, we may well mourn and weep on the retrospect of every day, and at the review of every hour — — —]
[We ought not to compare ourselves with others for the purpose of fostering self-preference and pride; yet we may well take occasion from the state of all around us to admire and adore that grace which has caused us to differ from them. For though, in the view of our high attainments, we have need of humiliation, yet, in the view of our high privileges, we have cause for most exalted joy: and if we felt as we ought, our every act would be obedience, and our every word be praise.
Nor is there wanting abundant cause of thankfulness even to those who are yet in rebellion against him. What reason have they to bless his name, that he has not yet said, “Bring hither those mine enemies who would not that I should reign over them, and slay them before me!” What a blessing should they account it that his Gospel is yet sounding in their ears; and that they may yet, if only they will repent and believe the Gospel, be partakers of his kingdom and glory! People are apt to think us harsh and severe when we call them to repentance: but we call you to repentance and faith, not as duties, but as privileges. What a privilege would those who are now in hell account it, if they could have one more such message delivered to them from the Lord! Know ye then, beloved, that “this is the accepted time:” I pray God, ye may find it also “the day of salvation.”]
THE LEPER HEALED
Mark 1:45. But he went out, and began to publish it much, and to blaze abroad the matter, insomuch that Jesus could no more openly enter into the city, but was without in desert places: and they came to him from every quarter.
THERE is certainly a great similarity between many of our Lord’s miracles: but there are in every one of them some circumstances that distinguish them from others; and these open to us a wide field for appropriate and useful observations. There are different accounts of lepers healed by the power of Jesus. The text informs us of one whose manner of applying for relief, and of discovering his gratitude towards his benefactor, were very peculiar.
To elucidate the words before us we may inquire,
What “the matter was which he so published and blazed abroad”—
A man came to our Lord to be cured of the leprosy—
[The leprosy was a disorder which none but God could cure [Note: 2 Kings 5:7.]. The man who was infected with it believed our Lord’s ability to heal him, but he knew not the marvellous extent of his compassion: hence he doubted his willingness to bestow so great a blessing. He submitted himself however to the will of this divine Physician, and with deepest humility implored his sovereign help [Note: He came kneeling to him, falling on his face, and beseeching him. Compare Matthew 8:2.Luke 5:12; Luke 5:12.].]
Our Lord with infinite condescension granted his request—
[He was not extreme to mark the weakness of the leper’s faith; but, “moved with compassion,” gave him the desired relief. As a prophet of God he could touch the leper without contracting any defilement: he declared that the disease should vanish at his command, and instantly, by a touch, imparted soundness to the disordered body.]
He however accompanied the mercy with a solemn charge—
What was the injunction given him respecting it —
Our Lord directed him to go to the priest, and present immediately the accustomed offerings to God—
[The priests were appointed judges in all leprous cases. They were authorized to pronounce a man clean or unclean, according to certain marks laid down in the law of Moses [Note: Lev 13:1-46]. When a man was acknowledged to be clean he was to present his offerings to God [Note: Leviticus 14:2-32.]. This therefore our Lord enjoined the the leprous man to do. In doing it he would exact from the priest himself “a testimony” to the truth of the miracle that had been wrought, and would give abundant evidence that the person who wrought it was not an enemy to the Mosaic law; yea, he would shew that the worker of this miracle was no other than the Messiah himself.]
He charged him also not to divulge the matter to any one till he should have performed this service—
[The injunction given our Lord was as solemn and strict as possible [Note: συναντιλαμβάνεται, graviter interminatus ei, ver. 43.]. Jesus might be actuated in part by desire to avoid all appearance of ostentation. It is possible also he might wish not to give umbrage to the state by increasing the number of his followers; but chiefly he was solicitous to guard against the malice of the priests. He well knew that they, from their enmity to him, might be induced to deny the cure, and thus they would both cast a reflection upon him, and deprive the man of the liberty to which he was now entitled. Hence with such solemnity and authority did he enjoin the leper to “say nothing to any man.”]
This charge however the leper did not sufficiently regard—
What were the consequences of his disobeying that injunction—
The man could not refrain from “publishing the matter” to all around him—
[He felt in his body a consciousness of perfect health; and, as might well be expected, his soul was inflamed with gratitude to his merciful Benefactor: he never thought what reasons there might be for the prohibition. It is probable he thought the injunction proceeded only from modesty, and the more he supposed it to proceed from this principle, the more would he be anxious to spread his Benefactor’s fame. To offer his appointed gift he went instantly, and with great gladness; but he knew not how to check the ardour of his love and gratitude; nor can we wonder that he overlooked the command given him. We mean not however to justify his disobedience: for the word of God utterly condemns every deviation from the Divine will [Note: Deuteronomy 27:26.]: but the leper’s disobedience most assuredly sprang from a good principle; nor can we doubt but that the indulgent Saviour, who well knew his motives, would readily pardon it.]
Though evil consequences ensued, yet were they overruled for good—
[Our Lord’s fame spread with great rapidity through all the country. Hence he was much incommoded by the multitudes who flocked around him; nor “could he any more openly enter into the city by reason of them.” He was forced to seek for solitude and retirement “in desert places:” but the multitudes who came were desirous “to hear” his word; and occasion also was afforded by them for the working of many other miracles [Note: Luke 5:15.]. Thus great benefit accrued to the bodies certainly, and we trust also, to the souls, of many.]
Are there any here who feel themselves infected with the leprosy of sin?
[The corruption of our hearts is often set forth under this figure: nor is there one amongst us that is not infected with it. Indeed so fatally has it spread, that we may well apply to ourselves that lothesome description [Note: Isaiah 1:5-6.]— and, in reference to this very disorder, exclaim with the prophet [Note: Isaiah 6:5.], “Woe is me, I am undone!” Let not any one however who feels the infection, hope to heal himself: the disorder bids defiance to every hand but God’s. Come then to Jesus, the almighty, the only, physician of souls: come to him, like the leper, with the deepest humility, and reverence; nor doubt his willingness, any more than his power, to heal you. Ask yourselves, wherefore he came from heaven? Was it not to seek and save the lost? Wherefore was the fountain of his blood opened, but for sin, and for uncleanness [Note: Zec 13:1]? Let then the declaration he has made, encourage every one amongst you [Note: John 6:37.]. However polluted you be, he will condescend to touch you, and by his sovereign power will remove the guilt and pollution of your sins.]
Are there, on the other hand, any who hope that they have been healed of their leprosy?
[There is no injunction upon you to conceal this matter from the world: you are rather commanded to make it known to all around you. He said to the demoniac, “Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath bad compassion on thee [Note: Mark 5:19.]” And thus also he says to you. Not that spiritual blessings should be a subject of ostentatious boasting [Note: Proverbs 25:27; Proverbs 27:2.];” but it never can be wrong to comply with that ardent exhortation of the Psalmist [Note: Psalms 105:1-3.]— or to perform that very duty, for the promoting of which the mercy was vouchsafed [Note: 1 Peter 2:9.]. Let every one then adopt the language of the blessed virgin [Note: Luke 1:46-48.]— but let there be also a conscientious regard to the commands of Jesus. Whether we see the reasons of them or not, we must punctually observe them. Thus will Christ eventually be magnified in our contact, and sinners will be most effectually encouraged to flock unto him.]
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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Mark 1". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany