Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments
Mark 1:1. The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. This commencement is laconic, beautiful, and perspicuous. Several Greek authors begin their books in this independent way. It asserts the divine and human geniture of Christ. He is the Seed, the Son of the woman, of Abraham, of David. Pagan fable, which once had pure tradition for its origin, asserts the same. To apostatize from this faith is an apostasy from the faith of the primitive world. They all expected the Messiah, and expected him from heaven.
Mark 1:2. As it is written in the prophets. Isaiah, in chap. Isaiah 40:3, had spoken of John, and of the Messiah to console the nation, after the most humiliating disclosure, that all Hezekiah’s armory and treasures, chiefly gathered after the destruction of the Assyrians, should be carried away to Babylon. In like manner the prophet Malachi 3:1, had said, with a view to revive and cherish their expectations of Christ, that JEHOVAH, for whom they waited, should suddenly, and unexpectedly come to his temple, even the Messenger of the covenant, in whom was their delight. St. Mark was therefore justified in thus commencing his gospel, for the law and the prophets, comprising the Hebrew dispensation, continued till John; since which time the kingdom of God has been preached.
Mark 1:3. The voice of one crying in the wilderness, professing that God had sent him to preach repentance to Israel, and to baptize them preparatory to the advent of Christ. What a novel sight — what a new era of grace! A man clothed in a rough garment, and preaching with the zeal of Elijah. Surely, said the people, this is a prophet of the ancient school. Oh how his voice resounded — how rigorous were his words. The voice still speaks, the ministry is continuous. Wisdom, the matron of the church, cries in the chief places of concourse; she expostulates with the foolish; yea, Christ is now at the door, — see that ye refuse not him that speaketh.
Mr. Maundrel, speaking of the wilderness says, “From this place we proceeded in an intricate way, among hills and vallies, all of a very barren aspect, though discovering evident signs of culture in ancient times. In a few hours we arrived at that mountainous desert in which the Saviour was tempted. It is a miserable, dry, barren scene, consisting of high rocks so torn and dislocated, as if the earth had suffered some great convulsion. From these high grounds we had a delightful prospect over the plains of Jericho, the dead sea, and the mountains of Arabia:” p. 79.
Prepare ye the way of the Lord. Ulphilas, in the year 350, translated the four gospels into the Gothic language, of which the Swedes had a copy written on vellum, with a solution of silver. Hence it was called Codex argenteus, and was preserved at Upsala. But alas, it was lately destroyed, with all the library, by fire. My copy reads, RAIHTOS WAURKEITH STAIGOS GOTHS UNSARIS. Literally, work right the stages of our God; proof sufficient that this honoured missionary was untainted with the Arian heresy. God had providentially prepared the Messiah’s way by the translation of all the old testament into Greek, and politically by the tolerant character of the Roman conquests; and ecclesiastically, by the vast accession of gentile proselytes to judaism. But it is John’s ministry of repentance and faith, which prepares the way of Christ to enter the heart.
Mark 1:4. The baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. The note of Tertullian is, “that the act of baptizing penitents prepares them as candidates for the pardon and the sanctification which follow; the act is antecedent to the grace.” In like manner circumcision was the seal of righteousness by faith; and as that rite made its subject a debtor to keep the whole law, so baptism subjected the believer to walk in all the ordinances of the Lord blamelessly.
Mark 1:5. There went out to him all Judea, and were baptized of him in JorDaniel These were John’s first disciples. Other districts followed, including gentiles, soldiers and publicans. The last were a deputation of the learned, who declined the doctrine which he preached. John went northward towards Galilee, and completed his work as the harbinger of the Lord, before Herod had power to put him in prison.
Mark 1:12. Immediately the Spirit driveth him into the wilderness. Beza’s ancient copy, and some others, have the Holy Spirit. The Greek εκβαλλειν denotes impulsive force.
Mark 1:15. Repent ye, and believe the gospel. The scribes had taught salvation by works. Here Christ, the true light, reöpens the ancient way of salvation by faith. How sure is the counsel of providence. John retires in the lustre of popularity; but Jesus treads on his steps, and excels him in works. Ministers may die, but their work shall live; the pillars may fall, but the house shall stand. Repentance, we here learn, must presede faith, because it respects past sins; and faith must follow in order, because it respects future objects. Hence, I blame the many divines who put faith before repentance. True repentance consists in a just sight and sense of our sins. It hates and renounces sin; and it is completed by a lively sentiment of the goodness of God in sparing us in our sinful state, and in sparing us to experience his mercy and love in Jesus. Then follows that godly sorrow which is repentance unto life; and all the fruits of mortification, prayer, restitution, and perseverance in piety.
Faith in its first openings is simply a belief of the truth, the Godhead of Christ, the authenticity of the scriptures, &c. But the faith of an awakened sinner consists in seeing himself destitute of all righteousness and help, in danger of hell fire; and then in seeing Jesus Christ, as the alsufficient, the willing and ready Saviour of the soul. Consequently the mind makes every exertion to close with Christ on his own terms, and to receive all the benefits of justifying faith. This last and full act of instilling faith, bishop Jewel in the homily on faith, Saurin in his catechim, and Wesley in his sermons, define in St. Paul’s words, an assurance that Christ has loved me, and given himself for me. Consequently, It is a sure trust and confidence that my sins are forgiven through the merits of Christ. Thus he that believeth on the Son of God hath everlasting life.
Mark 1:16. He saw Simon and Andrew, as he afterwards beheld James and John, casting a net into the sea. These were pious men, disciples of John the baptist, before their call to the ministry. Jesus called them with a promise of great usefulness: “I will make you to be fishers of men.” Indicative that they must work as hard in their new profession as in the old. Thus the Redeemer laid the first four stones of his spiritual temple, without either noise or tumult, and without consulting the princes of this world.
Mark 1:23. There was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. A demon in essence, and unclean in language; and who, it would seem, disturbed the worship of God by the horror of his words.
Mark 1:24. I know thee — the Holy One of God. This, in forty places of the old testament, is Christ’s proper title. “Great is the Holy One of Israel in the midst of thee.” Isaiah 12:6. After the voice at his baptism, the demons knew him; but the princes of this world knew him not. As the Redeemer he most graciously delivered the bodies of men from Satan’s power, so he will deliver the soul from all the works of the devil, pride, self-love, and unbelief; above all, from impurity of thought.
Mark 1:30-31. Simon’s wife’s mother lay sick of a fever. The Saviour’s presence brought peace, and health, and joy to this house. Ministers are here taught to do all the good they can to the families which they visit, not indeed forgetting the servants, who have souls of equal value with their masters’. — St. Mark, four apostles being present, puts this miracle in its proper place, it being a little anticipated in Matthew 8:14.
Mark 1:32. When the sun did set. The sabbath was then over, because the jews kept it holy from the sunsetting of the preseding day.
Mark 1:41. I will, be thou clean. This miracle of cleansing the leper occurred immediately after the sermon on the mount. Matthew 8:2. See on Leviticus 13, 15, 16. This uncleanness was emblematical of the fouler leprosy of our hearts, incurable by human aid, but cleansed by the powerful word of Christ. — For the cure of sanctifying grace we must come kneeling, and in faith: If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. We must expect an instantaneous cure by the word of Christ: I will, be thou clean. — He is ready, he is willing, he is strong to save. But be careful to give praise and glory to God in acts of thanksgiving. — This leper, we should note, was a gentile, for the evangelical fountain can wash and make white the gentile armies of every nation, and of every tongue. Revelation 7:11-14.
This chapter presents us with two grand scenes, the ministry of John, rising unexpectedly as a morning star; and that of Jesus, succeeding as the sun of righteousness. John; in dress, in character, in eloquence and majesty, bore all the characters of an ancient prophet. On this head there was but one opinion among the people. He resembled Elijah, whom prophecy had said he should personate:
“The great Tishbite, who on fiery wheels
Rode up to heaven, yet once again is come.”
As John retired, having in a short course completed his mission, the Saviour confirmed his word; for the gates of hell shall not prevail against his church. And the ministry of the Saviour was connected with miracles, as stated in the eleventh of Matthew; and all his miracles were wrought to inspire belief, and to strengthen the ultimate conviction, that he was the true Messiah. The first aspects were demonstration, that he was a teacher come from God. John 3:2. But the subsequent reflection carried conviction that he was the Lord himself, veiled in the likeness of sinful flesh. The works he did in his Father’s name, they bore witness who he was.
Let us then devoutly pray, that he would repeat his miracles in our hearts, and arise and maintain his cause in this our age, more inveterate against his mission and glory than that even of the scribes and pharisees.
Sunday, March 26th, 2017
the Fourth Sunday of Lent
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