Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments
Mark 1:1-3. The beginning of the gospel — That is, of the gospel history; of Jesus Christ, the Son of God — Who was, or is, in the bosom of the Father, John 1:18, and came down from heaven, John 3:13, to reveal his Father’s will unto us, to confirm his doctrine by a great variety of astonishing miracles, to set us a perfect example of every branch of piety and virtue, to expiate our sins by the sacrifice of himself, and to abolish death, with respect to such as believe aright in him, by rising from the dead as the first-fruits of them that sleep. The evangelist speaks with strict propriety in this sentence, for the beginning of the gospel is in the account of John the Baptist, contained in the first paragraph; the gospel itself in the rest of the book. Thus the verse must be considered as being connected with the following, and as signifying that the gospel of Jesus Christ began, according to the prediction of the prophets, with the preaching and baptism of John the Baptist. In styling Jesus the Son of God, while the other evangelists describe him chiefly as the Son of man, Mark gives him a title the most likely, as being the most august, to engage the attention and obedience of the Romans, those lords of the earth, to the religion which was promulgated by him. Behold, I send my messenger, &c. — See notes on Malachi 3:1; Matthew 11:10. The voice of one, &c. — See notes on Isaiah 40:3; Matthew 3:3.
Mark 1:4. John — Who was the very person spoken of by those prophets, being sent of God for that end, did baptize in the wilderness — Which lay east from Jerusalem, along the river Jordan and the lake Asphaltites, also called the Dead sea. By wilderness, in the Scriptures, it is plain that we are not always to understand what is commonly denominated so with us, a region either uninhabitable or uninhabited. No more seems to have been denoted by it than a country fitter for pasture than for agriculture, mountainous, woody, and but thinly inhabited. These ερημοι, wildernesses, did not want their towns and villages. And preach the baptism of repentance — That is, preach repentance, and baptize as a sign and means of it. Thus John endeavoured to prepare men for the coming of that Messiah who was to save his people from their sins. See notes on Matthew 3:2-3. This baptism, says Dr. Lightfoot, may belong to children, though it be the baptism of repentance, and they know not what repentance means; for it requireth not their repentance at the receiving of this sacrament, but it engageth them to it for the time to come, namely, when they shall come to the use of reason, and the knowledge of the engagement. And so was it with the children that were circumcised; for they by that sacrament became debtors to observe the whole law, Galatians 5:3, when they knew not what obedience or the law meant; but that bound them to it when they came to years of knowledge and discretion.
Mark 1:5-8. There went out to him all Judea, &c. — So disposed were the people to receive his baptism. See note on Matthew 3:5. The latchet of whose shoes, &c. — That is, whose servant I am not worthy to be, or to perform for him the meanest offices. He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost — The promise of which is made to you and your children, Acts 2:39; where see the note, and on Matthew 3:11.
Mark 1:9-11. It came to pass in those days — Of John’s baptism at the river Jordan; that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee — Where he lived for many years in a retired manner, with his parents; and was baptized of John in Jordan — Near Bethabara. John 1:28. See on Matthew 3:13-17.
Mark 1:12-13. Immediately the Spirit driveth him — Gr. εκβαλλει, thrusteth him out, or, sends him away, as the same word signifies, Mark 1:43. Luke says, ηγετο, he was moved, or led; Matthew, ανηχθη, he was led up, namely, from the plain of Jordan. He was forty days tempted of Satan — Invisibly. After this followed the temptation by him in a visible shape, related by Matthew. These forty days, says Dr. Lightfoot, the holy angels ministered to Christ visibly, and Satan tempted him invisibly; at the end of them, Satan puts on the appearance of an angel of light, and pretends to wait on him as they did. See on Matthew 4:2-11. And was with the wild beasts — Though they had no power to hurt him. Mark, we may observe, not only gives us a compendium of Matthew’s gospel, but likewise several valuable particulars, which he and the other evangelists have omitted; especially such particulars as might enable the Romans, or Gentiles in general, better to understand him. Thus, as a Roman might not know how wild and uninhabited the deserts of Arabia were, in which Christ was tempted, he adds here, that he was with the wild beasts.
Mark 1:14-15. After John was put in prison — By Herod; Jesus came into Galilee, preaching, &c. — Till that time, say the fathers, ανεμεινε αυτον μαρτυρησαι περι αοτου, he waited for John’s testimony concerning him. Accordingly, St. Peter represents Christ as beginning thus to preach from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached was ended, Acts 10:37. Now hence it is evident, that his coming into Galilee, mentioned Luke 4:14, must refer to the same time, that so all the evangelists may agree. The time is fulfilled — The time of my kingdom, foretold by Daniel, and expected by you, is fully come. The kingdom of God is at hand —
That kingdom which God is about to erect by the Messiah, (foretold by Daniel 2:44; and Daniel 7:14,) whereby he will rescue men from the dominion of Satan and of sin, of the world and of the flesh, and constitute them his loyal subjects and obedient servants; whereby he will reign in them, as well as over them, ruling their hearts by his grace as well as their lives by his laws; that kingdom, which is not in word, but in power, 1 Corinthians 4:20, which is righteousness, internal and external, love to God and all mankind, and obedience flowing therefrom; peace with God and peace of conscience, consequent on deliverance from the guilt and power of sin, and joy in the Holy Ghost, arising from the Holy Spirit’s influences assuring us of our adoption into the family of God, inspiring us with a lively hope of his glory, Galatians 4:6; Romans 5:2; and giving us an earnest of our future inheritance in our hearts, Ephesians 1:14. See note on Romans 14:17. This kingdom of God, of which believers are possessed on earth, is at once a preparation for, and an earnest of, the kingdom of God in heaven. Repent ye, and believe the gospel — That you may be Christ’s loyal subjects in time and in eternity, and be made partakers of this two-fold kingdom. Observe well, reader, the one, only way leading to the kingdom of God on earth and in heaven, is, repentance toward God, productive of fruits worthy of repentance, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, and in the great truths and precious promises of his holy gospel. See on Matthew 3:2; John 1:12; and John 3:16.
Mark 1:17-20. Come, and I will make you fishers of men — I will enable you to draw them into my true church by the net of my gospel. And straightway — Upon his call; leaving their nets, they followed him — From this time they forsook their employ, and constantly attended him. Happy they who follow Christ at the first call! When he had gone thence, he saw James — See on Matthew 4:21. Mending their nets, which they had washed, Luke 5:2. The Greek word, καταρτιζοντας, here rendered mending, or refitting, signifies also preparing, or making.
Mark 1:21-22. And they went into Capernaum — When our Lord had thus called Peter, Andrew, James, and John, they all left the side of the lake, and entered with him into the city of Capernaum. And straightway on the sabbath day — Doubtless the next sabbath, which was probably the very next day. The word for sabbath day, τοις σαββασιν, is in the plural number, and the expression is frequently the same where it is evidently to be understood of a particular day, as Matthew 12:1; Matthew 28:1; Acts 13:14. And taught — Declared the important truths which he was in so extraordinary a manner commissioned to reveal and vindicate. And they were astonished at his doctrine — Were again struck with amazement at it, as they had been when he first came to preach among them. See Luke 4:23, and note on Matthew 7:28. There seems to have been something in the discourses, as well as in the miracles of this last sabbath that he spent among them at this time, which raised their wonder, and affected them in a peculiar manner, as appears from the multitude of sick people which were brought to him that evening, Mark 1:32-33; Luke 4:40; Matthew 8:16.
Mark 1:23-28. And there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit — Luke, which had a spirit of an unclean devil. And he cried out — Luke, with a loud voice. As soon as the devil saw Jesus, dreading his power, and expecting to be dispossessed, he cried out in great terror: saying, in the name of all the rest, Let us alone, &c. Art thou come to destroy us — By driving us out of our abodes on earth to the regions of darkness? I know thee — Under all the disadvantages of thy present appearance, I can sufficiently discern who thou art, the Holy One of God — Whom he hath sanctified and sent into the world for the destruction of my kingdom, and therefore I dread thee. It seems plain, from what is said afterward, Mark 1:27, that the other persons then present did not know Jesus to be the Son of God; how then should the demoniac know this if he had been only mad, as some vainly suppose, and not really possessed by an evil spirit? This case was so remarkable, that, as the evangelist adds, immediately our Lord’s fame spread abroad throughout all the region round about Galilee. However, though madmen might not know Christ, the devils could not be ignorant of him, from the time of his baptism, when the voice from heaven said, This is my beloved Son, &c, and therefore Satan soon after, in one of his temptations, says, If thou be the Son of God, &c., Matthew 4:6. And Jesus rebuked him — Not being willing to receive any testimony from Satan. When the unclean spirit had torn him — Or convulsed him, as σπαραξαν seems here to mean. Accordingly, σπαραγμον, as Grotius has observed, is sometimes used to signify a convulsion. It is certainly much more natural, as Doddridge observes, to understand the expression thus, than to suppose the devil to have torn him, according to the common meaning of the word torn, which leaves the reader to imagine that he grievously wounded him, when Luke expressly says, he hurt him not. And cried with a loud voice — Or, noise, rather, for he was forbidden to speak. Christ would neither suffer those evil spirits to speak in opposition, nor yet in favour of him. He needed not their testimony, nor would encourage it, lest any should infer that he acted in concert with them. Luke says, When the devil had thrown him in the midst, he came out of him — It is remarkable, that in all the cures of this sort which our Lord performed, the person to be cured was seized with the disorder in its violence at the time of the cure, and raised from the stupor of the fit to perfect health in an instant. The reason was, that thus the reality and greatness both of the disorder and the cure were fully proved, to the conviction of every beholder. And they were all amazed — At so miraculous a cure; insomuch that they questioned among themselves — Inquired of each other, and reasoned together, saying, What new doctrine is this? — Luke, τις ο λογος ουτος, what a word is this! How powerful is this man’s word, or command! for with authority commandeth he even the unclean spirits — An indubitable proof that his doctrine was attended with an extraordinary power: and immediately his fame — Raised by this signal miracle, spread abroad throughout all the region — And made way for his reception in the progress which he afterward took into every place of the neighbouring country.
Mark 1:29-34. They entered into the house of Simon — That is, of Peter. See the notes on Matthew 8:14-17. And all the city was gathered together at the door — Namely, of the house in which Jesus was; some coming as humble petitioners for themselves or their friends, others as spectators of the surprising miracles which he wrought, and some probably to hear and be instructed by his discourses. O what a fair prospect was here! Who could then have imagined that all these blossoms would die away without fruit? And he healed many — Luke says, Luke 4:40, He laid his hands on every one of them and healed them. The sight of so many of the humankind in distress, moved him; and he took pity on them, and cured them all. And he suffered not the devils to speak, because they knew him — Luke, knew that he was the Christ — That is, according to the hypothesis of those who consider the Scriptural demoniacs as being only diseased persons, he suffered not the diseases to speak, because they knew him! The fact seems to have been this, the demons, in addressing Jesus, honoured him with the title of the Messiah. This, his enemies said, they never would have done, had he not been in compact with them. Therefore, our Lord would not have their testimony, because it was a real and intended defamation of him; and because he foresaw that it would be made a bad use of by men of evil minds.
Mark 1:35-39. And in the morning, a great while before day — εννυχου λιαν, When the night was very far advanced, or, when it was yet deep night, he went out, &c. — Thus diligently did the Son of God labour for us! After the preceding day had been spent in preaching, and the evening in working miracles, Jesus allowed himself but a very short repose. And departed into a solitary place — Withdrawing not only from the multitude, but even from his disciples; for the company of the best friends is not always seasonable nor acceptable. There are times and cases when a true Christian would not be willing that his dearest friends should be witnesses of what passes between God and his soul. By retiring thus early in the morning for prayer, our Lord teaches that the morning is a fit season, yea, the best season, for private duties. Then our spirits are most fresh, and our minds most free, before the cares and distractions of the day have broken in upon us. It is better to go from prayer to business, than from business to prayer. But not only early in the morning, but at other convenient times, we find our Lord retiring to pour out his soul in prayer to his heavenly Father, hereby showing all his followers the great importance of cultivating communion with God in private: and those who are employed in his public service should especially attend to this, lest, while they keep the vineyard of others, their own should be neglected and empoverished. And Simon, &c., followed after him — When the day was somewhat advanced, and crowds of people came to inquire after him, Peter, and they that were with him — That is, those who have been already mentioned as his partners and companions, guessing where he was, went out and followed after him; and said, All men seek for thee — They were glad that their Master was become so popular already, and wished him to appear in public yet more in that place, because it was their own city, and men are apt to be partial to the places with which they are particularly acquainted, and in which they feel themselves peculiarly interested. And he said, Let us go into the next towns — The villages in the neighbourhood; that I may preach there also — And work miracles there; for therefore came I forth — Not to be constantly resident in one place, but to go about doing good. It being Christ’s design to propagate the gospel everywhere, he would not confine his ministry to any particular place, no, not to the great city of Capernaum; but resolves to preach the word in the smallest towns and villages. Herein he set ministers an instructive example, showing them that they must be as willing to preach the gospel in the smallest villages as in the largest cities, when God calls them thereunto. Let the place be never so obscure and mean, and the congregation never so small and poor, the greatest must not think it beneath them to go and instruct them, though but a handful of people. And he preached throughout all Galilee — Not drawn from his purpose by the persuasions, however importunate, of his friends. And cast out devils — Working also divers miracles to illustrate and confirm his doctrine. See on Matthew 4:23.
Mark 1:40-44. And there came a leper, &c. — Concerning the miracle recorded in these verses, see the notes on Matthew 8:2-4.
Mark 1:45. But he went out, and began to publish it much, &c. — But the man, instead of concealing the cure, was so overjoyed at the suddenness and greatness of the blessing, and of the divine mercy manifested toward him in so miraculous a deliverance, that he could not forbear publishing it everywhere; insomuch that Jesus could no more openly enter into the city — Namely, of Capernaum: to prevent which inconvenience, as well as for the other reasons mentioned in the note on Matthew 8:4, our Lord had enjoined him silence: but was without, in desert places — Was obliged to retire into a neighbouring wilderness, to refresh his body with rest, and his spirit with meditation and prayer. And they came to him from every quarter — Even into the wilderness, remote as it was from the habitations of many of them.
Tuesday, March 28th, 2017
the Fourth Week of Lent
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