Matthew Poole's English Annotations
MARK CHAPTER 1
Mark 1:1-8 The Gospel begins with the preaching of John the Baptist.
Mark 1:9-11 Jesus is baptized, witnessed to from heaven,
Mark 1:12-13 and tempted of the devil,
Mark 1:14-15 preacheth in Galilee,
Mark 1:16-22 calleth Peter, Andrew, James, and John,
Mark 1:23-28 healeth one possessed of an unclean spirit,
Mark 1:29-31 Simeon's mother-in-law,
Mark 1:32-34 and divers other diseased persons,
Mark 1:35-39 prayeth alone, and goeth on to preach,
Mark 1:40-45 cleanseth a leper.
The Gospel seems to have taken its name, euaggelion, from the angel's words to the shepherds, Luke 2:10, I bring you good tidings of great joy; for the word in the Greek signifies a good message, or good news or tidings. It sometimes signifieth the historical narration of the coming of Christ, John Baptist's and Christ's preaching, and what he did in the world, his birth, life, death, &c.; sometimes the doctrine of salvation by Christ, in opposition to that of the law; sometimes, the dispensation of it, or that period of time when God began to publish the mystery hid from ages openly to the world. It seemeth here to signify the latter; for both Matthew and Luke seem to begin the history higher. Luke, from the history of John the Baptist and Christ, as to what things preceded their birth. Matthew, from the birth of Christ. But the dispensation of the gospel began with the preaching of John the Baptist. Before his time the doctrine of the gospel was made known to Adam, and Abraham and David; prophesied by Jacob, Isaiah, and several of the prophets; but John was the first in whom those promises and prophecies were fulfilled, the first public and plain preacher of the doctrine of the gospel; for the law and the prophets prophesied until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it, Matthew 11:13 Luke 16:16. So as John's preaching was the beginning of the gospel; for though the doctrine of the gospel was before darkly made known, yet it then began to be plainly and publicly declared to the world. He was the first in whom the gospel prophecies began to have an end, as both the prophecies and the types of it had a more full completion in Christ. Two prophecies at least had their completion in John, which we find in Malachi 3:1, which the evangelist mentions in the next verse, and Mark 4:5, concerning Elias first to come, which our Saviour applies to John, Matthew 11:14 Mark 9:11-13, and the angel before him, Luke 1:17; besides Isaiah's prophecy, Isaiah 40:3, applied unto him by Matthew 3:3 Mark 1:3, and by John applied to himself, John 1:23. This Gospel is called the Gospel of Jesus Christ, because the history of Christ's birth, life, and death is the matter of it. Christ was by Matthew called the Son of David, the son of Abraham, to let us know that he was truly man, a native Jew, and of the royal family, and derived from those two families, to whom the promises of the Messias were made. By Mark he is called
the Son of God, to let us know that he was more than mere man. And indeed who, but he who was the Son of God, could fully reveal his Father's will, determine the law of Moses and introduce a new way of worship, and publish a mystery of salvation, hid from all preceding ages, though not from all individual persons in them.
Ver. 2,3. The prophets Malachi and Isaiah (saith the evangelist) prophesied of this beginning of the gospel. Malachi prophesied that before the great King should come unto Zion, a harbinger should come before him, to prepare his way. The angel, Luke 1:17, expounds both their prophecies, and also that Malachi 4:5; And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord. John by his preaching turned the ears of the people to the sound of the gospel, and so prepared them for Christ. For further explication of these words:
See Poole on "Matthew 3:3". See Poole on "Matthew 11:10". This name given to John the Baptist, A voice crying, gives us the right notion of a gospel minister. Here is but a voice crying, speaking what God hath first suggested to him. Thus God saith to Moses, Exodus 4:15, Thou shalt speak unto him, and put words in his mouth; and I will be with thy mouth, and with his mouth.
Luke saith that John began about the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar. He baptized in the wilderness, that is, a place little inhabited. By his baptism is not to be strictly understood baptism, but his preaching and doctrine, his whole administration; which is called the baptism of repentance, because repentance was the great thing he preached, a seal of which baptism was to be; the consequent of which was to be the remission of sins, or the argument which he used to press repentance was the remission of sins. See Poole on "Matthew 3:5". See Poole on "Matthew 3:6", where we before had these words.
Ver. 7,8. We had the same, with very little difference in the phrase in Matthew. See Poole on "Matthew 3:11".
Ver. 9-11. Christ, who, Luke 2:51, went with his parents to Nazareth, and was subject to them, after he had been disputing with the doctors in the temple, now goes from Nazareth, a city in Galilee, to that part of Galilee near Jordan, or rather to Bethabara, where John was baptizing, and was baptized: See Poole on "Matthew 3:13". See Poole on "Matthew 3:16". See Poole on "Matthew 3:17". See Poole on "John 1:28", where this piece of history is more fully related. Luke addeth, that Christ was now about thirty years of age.
Ver. 12,13. Both Matthew and Luke relate the history of our Saviour’s temptations by the devil more fully. See Poole on "Matthew 4:1". See Poole on "Matthew 4:2". Mark saith immediately, but it is not to be taken strictly for the next moment, but after a day or two, as it should seem.
Ver. 14,15. It should seem that John had but a short time wherein he exercised his public ministry: he was the son of a priest, Zacharias, Luke 1:13, and it is probable that he entered not upon his public ministry till he was thirty years of age (it was the priestly age, and the age at which Luke tells us our Saviour entered upon his public ministry). He was but about six months older than our Saviour, and was imprisoned as soon as our Saviour entered upon his ministry, indeed before we read of his entrance upon it. Upon his imprisonment, Christ begins to preach in Galilee the gospel by which he set up his kingdom, and which leadeth men to the kingdom of God.
And saying, The time is fulfilled, the time determined of God for the revelation of the Messias, and the grace of the gospel through him, foretold by the prophets, Daniel 2:44: hence Christ is said to have come in the fulness, and in the dispensation of the fulness of time, Galatians 4:4 Ephesians 1:10.
And the kingdom of God is at hand; the gracious dispensation of God in the gospel is at hand, or hath approached.
Repent ye, turn from the wickedness of your ways, and believe the gospel, or, in the gospel: to believe the gospel is one thing, to believe in the gospel (as it is here in the Greek) is another. The former phrase signifies no more than a firm and fixed assent to the proposition of the gospel; but to believe in the gospel, is to place our hope of salvation in the doctrine and promises of the gospel, which are the proximate object of our faith, though the primary object of it be the person of the Mediator. There is a repentance that must go before faith, that is the applicative of the promise of pardoning mercy to the soul; though true evangelical repentance, which is a sorrow for sin, flowing from the sense of the love of God in Christ, be the fruit and effect of faith. Our Saviour’s preaching agreeth with the Baptist’s, Matthew 3:2 John 3:23.
Ver. 16-20. We heard of the call of these four apostles before, in Matthew.
See Poole on "Matthew 4:18", and following verses to Matthew 4:22, upon which may be found whatsoever is necessary for the explication of these verses, (having nothing new in them), as also the reconciling of what John saith, John 1:40, about the calling of Andrew and Simon, to what these two evangelists say about it.
Ver. 21,22. We heard before that the synagogues were much of the nature of our parish churches, places where people ordinarily met together on the sabbath days, to worship God by prayer, and reading the law and the prophets, and hearing the words of exhortation, from such as the rulers of the synagogues appointed thereunto. Christ ordinarily preached in them. The evangelists often mention the people’s admiring, being amazed, and astonished at his doctrine; but it is one thing for people to be astonished and amazed at a new doctrine, and to admire the preacher, another thing to believe: we read of many amongst the Jews that were affected at the hearing of Christ with astonishment and admiration, but of few that believed in him.
For he taught them as one that had authority: a small derivative from this is yet seen in the gravity, awful presence, and authority which (as a great gift of God) we see still given to some faithful ministers of Christ, such especially as God maketh a more eminent use of in the conversion of souls; but this great preacher had the Spirit above human measure.
Not as the scribes, the ordinary teachers of the Jews, who read their lectures of the law, but so coldly, and without life and power, as the hearts of the people were not at all affected with them, no more than with the dull telling a tale, with which neither tellers nor hearers were much affected.
Ver. 23,24. Luke reports the same passage, Luke 4:33,34; he saith, There was a man which had a spirit of an unclean devil. The devil is called an unclean spirit in opposition to the Spirit of God, which is the Holy Spirit. The man that had this unclean spirit, or rather the unclean spirit in the man, cries out, Let us alone; what have we to do with thee. He doubtless feared what followed, viz. that he should be cast out. He counts himself destroyed when he cannot do mischief; like wicked men, who are the seed of this old serpent, who sleep not, except they have done mischief; and their sleep is taken away, unless they cause some to fall, Proverbs 4:16. The devil here owneth Christ to be the Holy One of God.
Ver. 25,26. It is both here and in many other places observable, that when the devils made a confession of Christ, yet neither Christ nor his apostles would ever take any notice of it. Truth is never advantaged from the confession of known liars, as the devil was from the beginning. Christ needed not the devil’s testimony, either to his holiness, or his being the Son of God, nor would he have people allow the least faith to the devil’s words. Nor was he to be imposed upon by the devil’s good words; he was to make no truce with him, but to destroy him and his works, he therefore charges him to hold his peace, and to come out.
And when the unclean spirit had torn him. The Greek word here, oparaxan, is ill translated torn, as appears by Luke 4:35, where it is said it did him no hurt: the word signifies no more than a violent convulsion, or shaking; and it is observed that those possessed by devils had only their members made use of by the devils, but without any wounding or laceration of them.
He cried out with a loud voice, and came out of him. Oh how loth is the devil to part with his possession! But possibly also Christ would have him cry out with a loud voice, that his miraculous operation might be the more taken notice of.
The Jews had exorcists amongst them, who sometimes cast out devils by some forms of invocation they had; but Christ commanded them out; he neither did it by any kind of entreaty from any compact with the devil, nor yet by any invocation of God, but by an authoritative command. This was new to the Jews, and especially confirming a new doctrine that he had published. But still we read of no believing, no agnation of him as God, or the Son of God, or the Messias and Saviour of the world; only the generality are amazed they could not obtain of themselves to believe this new doctrine, nor yet so far command their passions, but they must be startled and amazed at it.
The fame of his miracles, rather than of his doctrine; by this means many were brought to him to be cured, many were brought also to hear him, some of whom believed, others were hardened.
Ver. 29-31. See Poole on "Matthew 8:14". See Poole on "Matthew 8:15", where we met with this history. Our Saviour sometimes showed his power in diseases not accounted incurable. The miracle appeared,
1. In the cure of her without the use of any means.
2. In the instantaneousness of the act; she did not recover gradually, but in a moment, and to such a degree as she could minister unto them, suppose at dinner or supper, &c.
Ver. 32-34. It was upon the sabbath day, (as appeareth from what went before), therefore the time is noted,
at even, when the sun did set. Before that time, when the sabbath was determined, the Jews thought it unlawful to carry any burdens, but after sunset they judged it lawful. The usage of the particle all here, Mark 1:32,33, is again observable to show the vanity of those who will from general particles conclude propositions contrary to the analogy of faith, those particles being often used in a restrained sense. Luke saith, that the devils cried out, Thou art Christ the Son of God. And he rebuking them, suffered them not to speak, because (or that) they knew him. Christ desired not to be published so soon under that notion, but he much less desired the devil’s testimony in the case: see Mark 1:25 Acts 16:18. The good words of the devil and his seed are indeed a defamation to Christ and his seed.
Secret prayer stands commended to us, as by the precept of Christ, Matthew 6:6, so by his frequent example, to teach us that our duty in prayer is not discharged without it: we are to pray with all prayer and supplication. There is in public and private prayer a more united strength and interest, but in secret prayer an advantage for more free and full communication of our souls unto God. Christ for this chooseth the morning, as the time freest from distractions and company; and a solitary place, as fittest for a secret duty.
Ver. 36-39. Peter probably pitieth the multitude, because many amongst them needed Christ’s presence, for their bodily infirmities. Our Saviour knew their hearts better than Peter; and that which made them so much seek for him, was either in some a curiosity to see miracles wrought, or at best but a desire of some bodily benefit from him. Whereas his working of miracles was but a secondary work, subservient to his work in preaching, and done to confirm his doctrine, and to advantage them as to their faith in him as the Messias. As therefore he refused to gratify the curiosity of the Pharisees in giving them a sign, so here our Saviour takes no notice of the multitude seeking for him, but saith to his disciples, Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also; for therefore came I forth. Paul saith that God sent him not to baptize, but to preach, 1 Corinthians 1:17. Our Saviour saith not, Let us go into the next towns, that I may work miracles, but that I may preach there also; he doth not say he came forth to work miracles, but to preach: how it comes to pass that some are possessed of so slight an opinion of preaching as to think that it is needless, which our Saviour and St. Paul counted to be their principal work, where, in the mean time, they pretend to derive from Christ, I cannot tell. I am sure preaching was the greatest part of Christ’s work; how it comes to be the least part of ministers’ work since, or how any of them think it sufficient to discharge that work by journeymen, which he thought it not beneath him to do himself, may deserve their examination which make it so. We do not say that preaching is a greater work than prayer, or that it is not ministers’ duty to pray; nor yet that it is greater than administering the sacrament: but this we say, we read of Christ’s preaching often in the synagogues, on the mountain, in a ship; of his public praying we read not, though of his private and secret prayer often. We read expressly that he baptized none. We must have leave to think that our greatest work which our Lord and his apostles were most employed in, and do think others will be of our minds as soon as they shall understand, that if the end of preaching be not turning men from one opinion to another, but from the love and practice of sin to God, there is as much need of it as ever; and that the turning of men from one opinion to another, without a change of heart, as to the love of sin, is but a turning of men from one quarter of the devil’s kingdom to another.
Ver. 40-45. We before had this piece of history, in Matthew, See Poole on "Matthew 8:2" See Poole on "Matthew 8:3" See Poole on "Matthew 8:4", we shall also meet with it hereafter in Luke 5:14,15. Our Lord being moved with compassion, or affected in his bowels, (as the word signifies), is often used as expressive of the cause of his acts of mercy: thus in curing the leper, he at once both showed himself the Son of man, one who could have compassion on our infirmities, and indeed could not but have such a commiseration toward mankind; and the Son of God, that he could in an instant, by a touch, or by the word of his power, command off a disease of so difficult cure. For his charging of him to say nothing to any man, we are not able to give a perfect account of it, whether it was to avoid a suspicion of ostentation, or to avoid a throng of company pressing upon him, or to avoid the odium which he knew the doing of these mighty works would bring him under with the scribes and Pharisees, until the time came for the fuller revelation of himself. Much less can we tell how to excuse the leper for doing contrary to this charge, which we find many others to have done who had the like charge, yet we read not of our Saviour’s blaming them for it. Mark addeth, that his publication of it caused that Jesus could no more openly enter into the city, but was without in desert places; by which is to be understood only places less inhabited; some think, places near the shore, where by going into a ship (as he often did) he could more easily quit himself of the throng of people, for (as it followeth) they came to him from every quarter.
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Mark 1:4". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/mark-1.html. 1685.