Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible
Mark 1:1-13. A brief introductory section showing how the work of John the Baptist, and the baptism and temptation of Jesus, led up to the ministry in Galilee.
Mark 1:1 is perhaps best taken as the title to the whole book. It may be a late addition, but it represents the writer's point of view. Like Luke, he relates what Jesus began to do. The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus form in themselves the beginning: the end is not yet. Moreover, the gospel is the fact of Jesus Christ. For Mk. "Jesus is not the herald but the content of the gospel" (Wellhausen).
Mark 1:2-8. As was foretold in Isaiah, Christ's coming was prepared for by the appearance of a prophet, in the person of John (p. 661), who called the Jewish people to repent, and to prove their repentance by baptizing themselves or letting themselves be baptized in Jordan, that they might be fitted to receive the Messianic forgiveness. His appeal had a profound effect, which Mk. describes with a characteristic touch of popular exaggeration when he says all the land of Judah responded. This response grew with time, for the imperfect tenses used in Mark 1:5 imply a continuous succession of hearers and converts. John wore the rough garment associated with earlier prophets (Zechariah 13:4), while his leather girdle recalled Elijah (2 Kings 1:8). His food was drawn from the desert. His severe simplicity of dress and diet (cf. Ascension of Isaiah, 210f.) emphasized the call to repentance. It was a time to fast. One utterance of John's arrests Mk., and seems to him worth recording. John spoke of a greater than himself, to whom he was not worthy to render even the humble service usually assigned to slaves. Through this mightier one would come the gift of the Spirit. John was essentially a forerunner.
Mark 1:2 f. The reading of RV in Mark 1:2 is probably correct, though the passage is not from Is. but combines Malachi 3:1 and Exodus 23:20, while Mark 1:3 reproduces LXX of Isaiah 40:3, which construes "in the wilderness" with "the voice of one crying," and not as Heb, with "make ready the way." The LXX rendering and some further alterations make the passages more readily applicable to John. Possibly they were linked together and ascribed to Is. in an early work of testimonies (i.e. a collection of OT texts intended to convince or confute the Jews; cf. p. 700) which Mk. used or from which they were inserted into his text.
Mark 1:8. Loisy thinks the reference to the Holy Ghost is due to Mk., who gives a Christian colouring to John's saying. Elsewhere (Matthew 3:11 f.) John anticipates a Messiah who comes to judgment. Did he contrast his own baptism by water unto repentance with Messiah's baptism by fire unto judgment? If so, Mk. has changed an original "with fire" into "with the Holy Ghost." But in view of Ezekiel 36:25-27, John may well have spoken as reported in Mk. (see further ERE, ii. 375, 381).
Mark 1:9-11. The Baptism of Jesus.—While John was drawing crowds to the Jordan, Jesus came from Nazareth (p. 29, Matthew 2:23*) in Galilee (an obscure village unknown except through the Christian tradition) and was baptized, thus recognising in John's preaching the call of God to His people. In the very act by which He shared the national repentance and attributed Divine authority to John's mission, He received a vision and heard a voice which revealed to Him His own place in this movement. The Spirit of God rent the heavens and came down on Jesus as a dove (the symbol to the Jews of purity and harmlessness: see Luke 2:24, Matthew 10:16), thus marking Him out as the mightier one of whom John spoke. By Mk. the vision was probably regarded as objective, and therefore visible to John and the crowd if present. But it is not said that John saw the vision or recognised the Christ in Jesus. The vision is significant as being the consecration of Jesus to the Messianic office. (See further, pp. 661f.)
Mark 1:12 f. The Temptation.—Henceforth, in a new and special sense, Jesus is under the control of the Spirit, who now drives Him into the wilderness, where He is tempted by the adversary. He is alone amid the haunts of wild beasts, but the angels serve and sustain Him.MK's verses read like a summary of a longer story, but the references to the wild beasts and to the apparently continuous ministry of angels, which seems to exclude fasting, suggest that the story summarised differed from the accounts of the Temptation given in Mt. and Lk. The length of time spent by Jesus in the desert is given as forty days. This is a conventional number, paralleled in OT stories (e.g. Genesis 7:17, Exodus 24:18, 1 Kings 19:8). This and other details have sometimes been regarded as proof that the story of the Temptation is a myth. But that the decisive vision should be followed by a period of retirement and temptation is natural enough. (See further, p. 703.)
Mark 1:14 to Mark 3:6. The First Period of the Galilean Ministry.
Mark 1:14 f. Jesus Announces in Galilee the Nearness of the Kingdom.—Not immediately after the Temptation, but after the arrest of John (Mark 6:17), Jesus returned to Galilee from the south country and took up John's message. Like John, Jesus calls men to repent because God's kingdom is near. But the menace of judgment uttered by John becomes good tidings on the lips of Jesus. If the phrase "believe the gospel" is due to Mk. and not to Jesus, it rightly characterizes the contrast between Jesus and His forerunner; cf. Mark 2:18 f., Luke 4:17 f., Matthew 11:18 f.
Mark 1:16-20. The Call of the First Disciples.—The sudden call and unhesitating response argue, according to Porphyry (c. A.D. 300), either the incompetence of the lying historian or the stupidity of the disciples. But Mk. does not imply that this was the first these men had seen or heard of Jesus (cf. John 13:5-38*). He does, however, suggest the attractive power of Jesus, which he regarded as supernatural. At a word men left all to be with Him. It must have seemed foolish to those who did not know Him.
Mark 1:21-39. A Specimen Day in Capernaum.—With His first followers, Jesus went to Capernaum (p. 29), "a border town in the kingdom of Antipas, on the high road from Ptolemais to Damascus" (HNT, ad loc.; Matthew 4:13*). Mk.'s information now becomes more detailed, and he records the events of the first Sabbath as perhaps Simon himself recalled them.
Mark 1:21-28. Jesus visits the synagogue and proclaims His message there. Throughout the earlier period of His Galilean ministry the synagogues seem to have been open to Him (cf. Mark 1:39; Mark 3:1, Luke 4:16). Of the content of His teaching, Mk. tells us nothing. He only brings out the contrast between Jesus and the scribes. They taught from authorities, balancing one traditional opinion with another. Jesus spoke with authority as one commissioned of God. The same confidence and sense of power which were felt in His words were apparent in His dealings with demoniacs. Jesus uses no incantation or adjuration. He simply gives His commands and the evil spirits obey Him. This fact apparently interests Mk. and his readers even more than the sayings of Jesus. The astonishment aroused by the teaching was turned into amazement by the miracle, and the fame of the new prophet spread through Galilee.
[Mark 1:22. and not: better "yet not." The scribes taught with authority, but that of Jesus was of a different, stamp.—A. J. G.]
Mark 1:22-27. Of the two words "astonished" and "amazed" the latter seems to be the stronger. It implies fear (see Mark 10:32 and the parallels to this passage). The first word is more frequent in Mk. who elsewhere (Mark 6:2, Mark 10:26, Mark 11:18) attributes the same effect to the teaching of Jesus.
Mark 1:24. Did the demoniacs, as Mk. suggests, openly acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah? If so, how did they reach the conviction, and why does their confession not influence the public? These questions raise difficulties. Some scholars hold that Mk. has given his own interpretation to inarticulate cries. "The testimony of the demons exists for the reader but did not exist for the spectators." Consequently the motive assigned for enjoining silence in Mark 1:34 is mistaken. Wrede holds that the demons' confession and their repression by Jesus are alike unhistorical. He groups along with this material, the passages in which those healed of their complaints are told to keep silence, e.g. Mark 1:44, Mark 5:43, Mark 7:36, and also the passages in which the disciples are forbidden to reveal the Messianic secret, e.g. Mark 8:30, Mark 9:9. The historic fact, according to Wrede, is that Jesus was not recognised as Messiah during His lifetime. Mk. accounts for this, by supposing that Jesus did not wish to be recognised. Therefore the demons are silenced, miracles of healing are not to be mentioned, the disciples may not say anything. Yet in Mk.'s view the Messianic secret must have been penetrated. Demons and disciples must have confessed. Miracles must have been impressive evidence. His narrative is full of contradictions because he tries to reconcile his conviction of the Messiahship of Jesus with the fact that the Messianic claim was not made public during the lifetime of Jesus. Wrede's ingenious theory rests on an illegitimate grouping of details, which do not require and are not capable of a common explanation. Thus in Mark 1:44 and Mark 7:36 the enjoining of silence is as intelligible and as historic as it is pointless and artificial in Mark 5:43. That some demoniacs addressed Jesus as Messiah, that such confessions aroused wonder but not faith in the people, and that Jesus sought to silence the demoniacs (the injunction and the word used were normal in exorcism) may well be historic fact. For the whole subject, see p. 663, Nevius, Demon-Possession and Allied Themes, and Harnack, The Mission and Expansion of Christianity, i. 125-146.
Mark 1:29-31. The Miracle of Healing in Simon's House.—Jesus and His disciples were apparently Simon's guests in Capernaum. Simon's wife's mother (? the hostess) was sick, and the members of the household appealed to Jesus. He lifted her up and not only freed her from fever, but restored her to strength so that she was able to prepare the meal. Fever usually leaves a patient weak, but "when the Lord bestows health, restoration is immediate and complete" (Jerome).
Mark 1:32-34. at even when the sun did set: Simon's wife's mother was healed on the Sabbath. When the Sabbath was over, the house was besieged with sick persons. Jesus healed many. Each case seems to be treated individually. Mk. especially mentions the cure of the possessed.
Mark 1:35-39. The Decision to Leave Capernaum.—The concourse of sick embarrasses Jesus, either because the work of healing tended to obscure His message or because Capernaum threatened to monopolise His attention. Simon may have remembered how the Master left the house and went out of the city to pray. To Simon's surprise, Jesus does not seize the favourable opportunity of Capernaum. God's herald may not remain stationary. Everywhere the proclamation is accompanied by the expulsion of demons. Their overthrow is proof of the nearness of God's kingdom.
Mark 1:35. and there prayed: "No Christology is true which makes a Christ for whom prayer is either unnatural or impossible" (H. R. Mackintosh, Doctrine of the Person of Christ, p. 399).
Mark 1:38. for to this end came I forth is interpreted theologically in Luke 4:43* and by many modern commentators, but the phrase may mean simply "That is why I left Capernaum," or "that was my purpose in setting out to evangelize." The ambiguity proves the priority of Mk.
Mark 1:40-45. The Healing of the Leper.—By placing this incident at this point in his narrative, Mk. gives a further reason for the difficulty which met Jesus on His return from Capernaum. The story with Mk.'s ending connects closely with ch. 2. We have here a work of healing (not, as some think, a request to Jesus to declare the man free from leprosy), but the original interest centres on the sayings of Jesus embedded in the story.
Mark 1:40. HNT cites Epictetus III. Mark 10:14 f.: "Why then do you flatter the physician? Why do you say, ‘If thou wilt, sir, I shall be well'?"
Mark 1:41. An early reading gives "moved with anger" instead of "with compassion." If this reading be original, the flattery of "if thou wilt," or the implied doubt of His goodwill may occasion the emotion (cf. Mark 10:14-18; see also Temple, Kingdom of God, pp. 25f.).
Mark 1:43. The word "strictly charged" suggested strong feeling, as also the verb "thrust him out" (Gr. exebalen; cf. Mark 1:12). Apparently the scene of the incident is a house, into which no leper should have come (Leviticus 13:46).
Mark 1:44. Jesus enjoins the carrying out of the Law (Leviticus 14:2-32) Perhaps omit comma after "commanded" (RV), since "for a testimony unto them" is not emphatic, and does not mean "to testify to the priests that a prophet has arisen" (so Swete). That would defeat the object of the injunction of silence.
Sunday, March 26th, 2017
the Fourth Sunday of Lent
Search This Commentary