Sermon Bible Commentary
I. The Gospel has had three beginnings, yet it is right to speak of each as the beginning. (1) The beginning as seen in the Divine counsels, when the Gospel was but a thought. (2) The beginning as seen in the Incarnation, when the Gospel became a person. (3) The beginning as seen in its believers, when the Gospel becomes a new creation.
II. One beginning of the Gospel is always introductory to another. It is so in the highest human thinking. There is first the thought, then the agent or representative, then the result. From Mark's preface we learn that there was (a) a prophecy, (b) a pioneer, (c) an introductory rite. The importance of this view is shown by two considerations. (1) It indicates the consistency and progressiveness of Divine revelation. (2) It supplies a test of the genuineness of professed revelation.
III. No beginning of the Gospel can be true and effectual except as it leads to a spiritual consummation. The prophets pointed to John; John pointed to Jesus; Jesus pointed to the Holy Ghost. This fact shows, (1) the transitoriness of all mere ceremony; (2) the uselessness of all mere knowledge; (3) the possibility of the highest fellowship with God. The subject addresses a lesson (1) to students. You have to deal with a harmonious and progressive revelation. In order to be wise master-builders you must grasp the revelation as a whole. You must know it in its proportions, analogies and tendencies; otherwise you might be sacrificing a principle to an accident, or exaggerating the ceremonial to the neglect of the spiritual. (2) To pioneers. A man only works well in proportion as he knows the measure of his power and the limit of his mission. When the frame-maker mistakes himself for the painter, art is degraded. It does not follow that because a man knows the alphabet he can write a book. (3) To Churches. Have you received the Holy Ghost? (4) To enquirers. There is nothing more to come. You have had prophets, psalmists, lawgivers, Christ, and the dispensation of the Spirit. Why wait?
Parker, City Temple, 1871, p. 10.
I. Consider the leading conception and object of St. Mark. Some notice of his main characteristics will throw some light upon these. (1) The main characteristic of this Evangelist is his vividness. (a) If St. Matthew loves to lead us back to the past, with St. Mark that past seems to become living. Hence he constantly uses the present tense in his narrative. (b) "Immediately" is his "catchword." It occurs not less than forty-two times in this short book. (c) Life—life details drop from his pencil, until narratives for which there are parallels in the other synoptics seem to be pre-eminently his (Mark 15:29; Mark 1:24). (2) The influence of St. Peter upon this Gospel (attested by antiquity with one voice) may be repeatedly traced in its peculiarities; we can hear throughout the voice of the Apostle who wrote, "Marcus my son." (3) The leading ideas of this Gospel are (a) that Jesus is Lord, not only of nature and the world of spirits, not only of storms and diseases, but of the sick, stormy, guilty, sorrowing, passionate, yet yearning heart of man. (b) That the life of Jesus is a life of alternate rest and victory, withdrawal and working.
II. On the whole in St. Mark we have not so much as in St. Matthew, the point of convergence of the prophetic rays in the Messiah, the son of Abraham and David. Not so much as in St. Luke, the fairest of the children of men, Priest and Victim, the Teacher of grace and forgiveness. Not so much as in St. John, the Eternal Word made flesh, floating in a robe of heavenly light. It is the Gospel whose emblem is the Lion, whose Hero is full of Divine love and Divine strength. It is the Gospel which was addressed to the Romans, to free them from the misery of scepticism, from the grinding dominion of superhuman force unguided by a loving will. Here, brief as it is, we have, in its essential germs, all the theology of the Church. Had every other part of the New Testament perished, Christianity might have been developed from this.
Bishop Alexander, Leading Ideas of the Gospels, p. 36.
I. One of the great cravings of our human nature which the Gospel of Jesus supplies is our craving for light.
II. Another craving and want of our nature which the Gospel supplies is love.
III. The Gospel is adapted to our nature because it exhibits a pattern of perfectness among men.
IV. The Gospel points out the way to peace: to peace with God, and to peace and rest in the conscience and heart.
V. The Gospel of Christ supplies man with the power and the consolation he needs for times of duty and trial.
VI. The Gospel meets and satisfies our instinct after fellowship.
VII. It also meets and satisfies our longing for immortality.
J. M. Sloan, Christian Press, Dec. 13th, 1877.
References: Mark 1:1.—G. Brooks, Five Hundred Outlines, p. 400; H. M. Luckock, Footprints of the Son of Man, p. 1; Homilist, new series, vol. iii., p. 424; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iii., p. 395. Mark 1:1, Mark 1:2.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. iii., p. 39. Mark 1:1-8.—W. Hanna, Our Lord's Life on Earth, p. 40. Mark 1:1-31.—Ibid., p. 144. Mark 1:2, Mark 1:3.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iii., p. 398. Mark 1:3.—Christian World Pulpit, vol. ii., p. 404. Mark 1:2-6.—H. M. Luckock, Footprints of the Son of Man, p. 6.
Law before Liberty.
As far as Holy Scripture and historical certainty teach us we see man always the same being in body, and brain, and feeling, but in experience a child; even as we also, with all our boastings, shall be children to the more experienced generations to come. This it is which makes the old world so full of power to us. We travel, bit by bit, along the track of life, and see how each lesson was taught and great principles enforced one by one, and all the bitter penalties that came on men, who little knew that the whole world teaching was being wrought out in them, but knew right well what they had to do at the time they chose evil.
I. The Law before the Gospel, St. John the Baptist before Christ, are the great examples of this truth. God for fifteen hundred years pressed the need of law, sternly and unceasingly, by many punishments and many blessings, on His people. Mark, too, the very remarkable fact that the Jew did not know in the least when he obeyed the little, everyday laws which made him a marked man among other nations, that his national life first, afterwards his Christian life, depended on his honour and his obedience. No man knows what depends on his being faithful; we only know what our honour and faithfulness require.
II. The sin of our day is law-breaking under pretence of liberty. There can be no liberty in man or society without perfect trustworthiness and self-mastery. When I look back at the ignorance of the wisest and holiest Jew as to the real meaning of his laws, which we Christians see so plainly, I cannot help looking forward, and feeling that we must be equally ignorant of the great, living world destined to come out of our laws. I feel my ignorance, whilst I see an unknown glory in doing right. Love of Christ destroys law by doing more than the law requires, in no other way. St. John the Baptist, the great personification of righteous law and self-mastery, comes first to, preach the baptism of repentance. You cannot be Christians and lawbreakers; you cannot be Christians and rash criticisers of law. When your love for Christ makes you do always far more than law demands, then you can disregard law. He who gives, for example, does not want to be told not to steal.
E. Thring, Uppingham Sermons, vol. ii., p. 238.
References: Mark 1:4.—Homiletic Magazine, vol. x., p. 99. Mark 1:4-8.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. iii., p. 40. Mark 1:4-9.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. v., p. 150. Mark 1:7-11.—H. M. Luckock, Footprints of the Son of Man, p. 11.
I. John's dispensation was thus shown to be of Divine appointment. Notice the beauty of John's work in relation both to the past and to the future. It was a baptism unto repentance—a baptism, and so connected with the ceremonial past; a baptism unto repentance, and so introductory to a new and more intensely spiritual state of things.
II. But why should Jesus Christ identify Himself with a baptism which was unto repentance? His identification with that baptism was not for the purpose of personal confession, but for the purpose of official absorption; He took up the dispensation, and ended it by the introduction of a better. So, when He took upon Himself the nature of mankind, He did not degrade and enfeeble God, He elevated and glorified man.
III. Vers. 13, 14. (1) Sonship does not exempt from redemption. (2) Temptation does not invalidate sonship. (3) Temptation, rightly answered, makes sonship a life and power.
IV. Vers. 14, 15. (1) The imprisonment of the servant does not hinder the progress of the master. (2) Ill treatment of the messenger may actually help to prove the divinity of the message. (a) It tests sincerity. (b) It tests the sustaining power of the doctrine that is preached. The fifteenth verse shows Jesus Christ in three aspects: (1) As the Interpreter of time; (2) As the Revealer of the Divine kingdom; (3) As a spiritual Regenerator. Under these heads note Time: The preparative process—the development of opportunity—the moral import of certain times. Kingdom: Not a transient erection; not a subordinate arrangement; not a human ambition—the Kingdom of God. Regeneration: Vital, progressive, spiritual. It is to be specially noted that Jesus Christ preached the kingdom of God as a Gospel; rightly understood it is not a despotism, it is not a terror; it is the supremacy of light, of truth, of love.
Parker, City Temple, 1871, p. 11.
References: Mark 1:9-11.—W. Hanna, Our Lord's Life on Earth, p. 50; Preacher's Monthly, vol. iii., p. 42; Homiletic Magazine, vol. x., p. 294. Mark 1:9-13.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. v., p. 152. Mark 1:11-13.—J. Martineau, Hours of Thought, vol. ii., p. 33. Mark 1:12-13.—A. C. Tait, Church of England Pulpit, vol. i., p. 145; Expositor, 1st series, vol. iii., No. 321; Preacher's Monthly, vol. iii., pp. 44, 161; G. Brooks, Five Hundred Outlines, p. 76; H. M. Luckock, Footprints of the Son of Man, p. 15; W. Hanna, Our Lord's Life on Earth, p. 58; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. i., p. 355; vol. vi., p. 148. Mark 1:13.—Ibid., vol. v., p. 149; J. Vaughan, Sermons, 15th series, p. 93; Outline Sermons to Children, p. 133.
Two things appear on the surface in the Psalmists' interpretation of the idea of the kingdom of God.
I. One is its moral purpose. The kingdom of God is indeed exhibited in the Psalms in all its magnificence; in all its breadth; over nature and man; over the stars of the sky, and the cattle upon a thousand hills; over the storms of the desert and the waterfloods; over the march of history and the destinies of nations, and the secrets of the heart of man; over all that vast, inconceivable universe beyond the most distant star. But the impressiveness and the awe and the wonder with which the Psalmists dwelt on what was outward and tangible, makes all the more striking the clearness, the strength with which they discerned amid all the might and majesty of God's everlasting dominion; amid all its beauty and all its terrors, the supreme and governing power of a moral purpose of the law of holiness and righteousness and truth. There is a conviction about the kingdom, which, from the first Psalm to the last, knows no blessedness but the blessedness of righteousness, of innocence, of pardon; it is a kingdom far above man's power to influence; far above man's capacity to comprehend or measure; which is revealed to man only that he may understand that the law which never can be broken—more firm than the round world, which cannot be moved, than the heavens so far above us—the law which no change can touch, no might can alter, is the eternal law of right and wrong.
II. Equally noticeable is the breadth with which the Psalmists assumed and announced the universal character of the kingdom of God; for they were not insensible to the privileged position of the chosen people; they had all an Israelite's feeling that God dwelt and ruled in Israel as He did nowhere else; their hearts swelled at the remembrance of the greatness of their fortunes, at the pathetic vicissitudes of her most wonderful history. But though they were so conscious of their own wonderful election, the heathen are not, in their thoughts, excluded from the kingdom of God. He who dwelt in Zion or Jerusalem was yet God of all the families of the earth; and for the blessing of all the families of the earth was the blessing given to Abraham and his seed. That vast sea of nations which surged around the narrow bounds of Israel, so utterly unlike it in language, in worship, in history; separated from it as widely as if they had been inhabitants of another world, was yet saved and ruled by the All-Holy, whom they worshipped. They, the first fruits, the firstborn of mankind, were but the leaders in the song of praise.
R. W. Church, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxviii., p. 385.
Repentance and Faith.
I. Consider the insufficiency of repentance by itself to procure the forgiveness of sin. Turn to analogy; turn to experience; turn to reason, and you may equally prove the fallacy of the opinion, which would establish a necessary connection between repentance and forgiveness. So long as there is any notion of the virtue of repentance—its virtue as a necessary procuring of pardon and acceptance—there must be a suspicion that the atonement is not called for, and therefore a question as to whether, indeed, it have ever been made.
II. Consider the suitableness of faith to being associated, as it is in the text, with repentance. If the sacrifice of Christ removes all the obstacles which appear to us to lie in the way of forgiveness, there can be no difficulty in admitting the suitableness of faith to be combined with repentance as a condition; for faith is simply that through which, as an instrument or hand, we lay hold on, and appropriate, the results of Christ's obedience and death. Believing in the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, we pass into a position, not indeed of actual innocence, for nothing can destroy the fact that we have sinned, but we pass into a position in which no claim can be substantiated against us, which we cannot show to have been fully met and fully discharged.
III. Note the thorough harmony of the conditions laid down in our text with the blessed fact that eternal life is God's free gift through Christ. The conditions do not take off the least from the freeness of salvation. There may be nothing meritorious in the conditions, but, nevertheless, God may be pleased to impose those conditions, and to determine that He will not bestow the gift unless they are performed. I am not pardoned for the sake of my repentance; I am not pardoned for the sake of my faith, and yet it hath pleased God to appoint that without repentance and faith I shall not be pardoned, but that with them I shall. Through repentance and faith the merit of Christ is appropriated to you, but when appropriated it is as independent, as alone, in gaining entrance for you into heaven, as though there had been no conditions for its appropriation.
H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 2,514.
References: Mark 1:14, Mark 1:15.—Expositor, 1st series, vol. iv., p. 430; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. v., p. 154; vol. x., p. 235. Mark 1:14-20.—H. M. Luckock, Footprints of the Son of Man, p. 20. Mark 1:15.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. viii., No. 460; Homilist, 3rd series, vol. i., p. 15.
I. Vers. 16-20. (1) Christ is the Preparer of His servants. "I will make you"—how much was involved in that promise. (a) Authority; (b) Qualification. (2) Small beginnings compatible with sublime results. (3) The claims of God override all other claims—the sons left their father. (4) The discharge of common duties the best preparation for higher calls. (5) The place of the servant is after the master—"Come ye after Me;" they are not invited to equal terms, they must walk in the King's shadow.
II. Vers. 21, 22. (1) Men will teach well only as they teach under Christ. (2) Authority is impossible apart from association with the Master. (3) Authority of tone must come from intensity of conviction. (4) Hearers know the voice of authority. (5) The Christian teacher is to show his supremacy over all other teachers.
III. Vers. 23-8. (1) Wickedness is always afraid of purity. (2) Wickedness has no favour to ask of purity, except to be let alone. (3) Wickedness can always identify the presence of the spirit of Jesus Christ. (4) For this reason the Church is a constant judgment upon all unclean spirits. (5) The completeness of Jesus Christ's authority—His authority in doctrine, and His authority in work. (6) Fulness of spiritual life is the guarantee of fulness of spiritual power.
IV. Vers. 29-31. Jesus Christ had both a public and private ministry; He worked in the synagogue, He worked also in the domestic circle. Let us learn from this (1) that the individual case as well as the case of the multitude should be regarded as worthy of attention. (2) That bodily diseases as well as spiritual ailments are within the sphere of our solicitude; we are to be philanthropic as well as spiritually minded. (3) We are to put ourselves in personal contact with those who suffer.
V. Vers. 32-4. The natural sun set, but the Sun of Righteousness arose with healing in His wings. In the evening as well as in the morning Jesus Christ was at work. Men come to Jesus Christ according to the urgency of their want. It is well if men can feel their want of Christ at any point.
Parker, City Temple, 1871, p. 23.
References: Mark 1:16-19.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. v., p. 156. Mark 1:16-20.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. iii., p. 46; A. B. Bruce, The Training of the Twelve, p. 17; W. Hanna, Our Lord's Life on Earth, p. 154. Mark 1:16-35.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. ii., p. 253.
Christ's Election of Disciples.
Christ chose as His messengers the unlearned and poor, and the outcast of the theologians, and the uninterested in politics, and the men and women of whom society knew nothing; the fisherman and the publican, the Pharisee who left the priestly ranks, the rich who left their riches, the Israelite without guile, the cottager, the sinner and the harlot who were contrite; but chiefly—for with these in His favourite haunts He most companioned—the fishermen of the lake of Galilee.
I. "Come," He said, "I will make you fishers of men. And they left all, and followed Him." He was not wrong, then, in His choice. These men, who gave up all at once for Him, had impulse, heart, impetuosity, and love. These were the first elements He wanted in the character of His followers, the main things needed for their work. It was a hard task He set them to; and no faint-heartedness or questioning could bear its trials. They had—and it was their chief quality—the heart to venture greatly, the love to give up all, the faith which removed mountains. Not in their diction was the word impossible.
II. It was this intensity of spirit that Christ stirred in His followers. He had the prophet's power of kindling passion, of awaking a youth in those who loved Him. No one who reads the Gospels but recognises the unique power of Christ's personality. But had that been all, His work would not have been done; the life He made in men would scarcely have lasted beyond His death. With the passing of the person would have passed the power. No; the main thing was this, that the personal influence was weighted with infinite, divine, ideal thoughts; was used to stablish living truths in the hearts of men; living, because they created and supported a life. That was His real power. "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men." That was the sort of thought He gave them.
III. Fishers of men! Surely they were that. They saw before them a vast ocean, in whose depths were men and women and children dead in sin, lost in ignorance, superstition, and misery. In a few small barks they launched forth into the deep, and let down their nets for a draught; they rescued Jew, Greek, Roman, barbarian, king, priest, courtier, workman, slave, all nations, kindreds, tongues, and classes. And that is your work. Are you doing it with all your heart? It is the one foremost duty, and the one transcendent blessing of life, to seek and save the lost, the suffering, and the ignorant. And when we do this, it becomes the master-thought of life. The airs of heaven breathe through our daily labour. All is sacred, for in all that we are doing, we do Christ's work of rescuing men.
S. A. Brooke, The Spirit of the Christian Life, p. 294 (see also Christian World Pulpit, vol. xvii., p. 390).
References: Mark 1:17.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. xiii., p. 111. Mark 1:18.—Spurgeon, Evening by Evening, p. 173. Mark 1:19, Mark 1:20.—R. Balgarnie, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxvi., p. 214. Mark 1:21-28.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxx., No. 1765; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. v., p. 294; H. M. Luckock, Footprints of the Son of Man, p. 25; W. Hanna, Our Lord's Life on Earth, p. 127.
I. It was the Sabbath day in the early spring when our Lord performed this, the first miracle recorded by St. Mark. All nature seemed hushed in a profound and holy calm. The little town of Capernaum, exalted unto heaven, built on bold, rising ground, lay at rest; its white marble synagogue, given by a Roman soldier, a heathen man, to the Jewish nation whom he loved, glittered in dazzling brightness in the early morning sun. Soon the synagogue is filled, and to the men of Capernaum Jesus, the prophet of Galilee, spake. And as they listened, as only crowds do listen when the speaker's soul goes forth and holds them spellbound, there rose a strange and startling cry. All unobserved, a poor demoniac had entered that house of prayer. Perhaps he came thinking it to be a sanctuary, where for a moment he might be soothed by memories of Sabbath days passed away for ever. Suddenly the air is rent by his shriek of terror; each worshipper is struck dumb with fear. The crowd heard the shriek, they saw the ghostly vision of the unclean demoniac, but were helpless. In tones almost of anger, but with a word of power, the Prophet that should come into the world bids the unclean spirit come out. No wonder that the little flock was filled with admiration and enthusiasm; no wonder that forthwith His fame spread abroad throughout all that country.
II. See the interest which God's call evoked; see the effect upon the men of Capernaum, the conquest, so it seemed, of their whole heart; see their amazement, their absolute conviction, as the demoniac lay before them healed. Yet in a few days all was forgotten, and they who had the unspeakable blessedness of hearing Christ's words spoken from His own lip, they who beheld one of His most startling miracles, heard soon after that most awful woe, "Shall be brought down to hell." Let us be warned by the sad history of Capernaum so often repeated. The mere enjoyment of hearing God's voice, or joining in services or sacraments, will not do anything for us save increase our condemnation, unless we join together earnest prayer to God the Holy Ghost and stern resolution of a braver, truer, higher life, and begin at once to do the will of God.
T. Birkett-Dover, The Ministry of Mercy, p. 21.
References: Mark 1:22.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iv., p. 415; W. Knight, Dundee Pulpit, p. 145. Mark 1:23.—W. F. Hook, Sermons on the Miracles, vol. i., p. 55. Mark 1:23-27.—Homilist, vol. iv., p. 376; G. Macdonald, The Miracles of our Lord, p. 161. Mark 1:24.—J. Wilmot-Buxton, Sunday Sermonettes for a Year, p. 214. Mark 1:27.—J. Keble, Sermons for Christmas and Epiphany, p. 472; G. E. L. Cotton, Sermons and Addresses in Marlborough College, p. 408. Mark 1:29-33.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxi., No. 1236. Mark 1:29-35.—H. M. Luckock, Footprints of the Son of Man, p. 30. Mark 1:30.—Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, p. 246. Mark 1:30, Mark 1:31.—Christian World Pulpit, vol. vi., p. 36; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iii., p. 254. Mark 1:31.—W. F. Hook, Sermons on the Miracles, vol. i., p. 69. Mark 1:32-34.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. iii., p. 49; E. Paxton Hood, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxiii., p. 392. Mark 1:33-34—G. F. Maclear, Church of England Pulpit, vol. iii., p. 332.
The Prayers of Jesus.
I. The mystery of the prayers of Jesus. If Jesus is, as we believe, God, how could God pray to God? How were there any needs in His nature on behalf of which He could pray? A partial answer is found in the truth that all prayers do not spring from a sense of need. The highest form of prayer is conversation with God—the familiar talk of a child with his father. It was so with the Son; but this communion does not clear away the mystery of Jesus' prayers. The only adequate explanation is Christ's humanity. Jesus prayed because He was a man. Human nature, even in Him, was a feeble, tender thing. He had to fall back on the strength found in prayer. And if He, perfect in every stage of His development, and with no past weakening every present effort, needed prayer, how much more do we.
II. His habits of prayer. Some of these habits are recorded. They are deeply interesting and instructive. (1) He used, for example, to go out of the house in which He was, into the solitudes of nature, to pray. (2) Christ prayed in company as well as in secret. We read of Him taking now two or three disciples, and again the twelve apart for prayer. United prayer acts on many minds in the same way as conversation. Where two or three meet together, hearts burn, and Christ Himself appears in their midst.
III. The occasions on which He prayed. Some such occasions get special prominence. (1) He prayed before taking an important step in life; (2) He prayed when His life was specially busy; (3) He prayed before entering temptation; (4) He died praying.
IV. The answer to His prayers. Out of these we shall select two. (a) The transfiguration was an answer to prayer. (b) His baptism was an answer to prayer.
J. Stalker, Contemporary Pulpit, vol. vi., p. 373.
Prayer a Mark of True Holiness.
I. Without doubt our Lord prayed for the furtherance of that work which His Father had given Him to do. It is remarkable that the occasions of retirement and prayer mentioned by the Evangelists are those which precede the miracle of walking on the water, the going forth to preach, the choice of the apostles, the transfiguration, the temptation of Peter, and His own betrayal in the garden. Amidst the contradiction of sinners, and the deadness of the unbelieving, with the foresight of the great sin of the world which should be committed in His own passion, with the whole career and probation of His Church through this perilous world, before His prophetic intuition, we may in some little measure understand what yearning desires of love and sorrow moved Him to all but unceasing intercession.
II. But His prayers were not altogether for others. Deeply mysterious as it is, they were offered also for Himself. It was a property of His true humiliation that He should derive strength through prayer; and a part of His humiliation for us that He should need to pray.
III. And once more He prayed while He was on earth, because prayer was the nearest return to the glory which He laid aside when He was made man. It was, if we may so speak, His only true dwelling, rest, home, delight. We read of His weeping, and His being wearied, and of His being troubled in spirit; but we never read that He rested, except upon the brink of a well by the wayside, nor that He slept, except in the ship. Prayer and converse with His Father in heaven was the only shelter into which the world could not break.
IV. From this view we learn (1) that a life of habitual prayer is a life of the highest perfection; and that our prayer will be more or less perfect in proportion as our state of holiness is more or less advanced. (2) The spirit of prayer is a direct gift from God. Prayer springs from compunction, and compunction from love to Him whom our sins have pierced; and to perceive this is the gift of God, sometimes given early in the life of a penitent, but for the most part after years of fear and mortification. (3) As the sacrifice of Christ is the one only effectual sacrifice, so is His the one only true and all-prevailing prayer.
H. E. Manning, Sermons, vol. ii., p. 326.
I. The prayers of our Lord were not poured forth for an example only, but rather were the expression of the real feelings of our Lord's human soul—the means whereby He sought fresh supplies of strength to meet the ceaseless onset of the powers of darkness. His powers of prayer were the times when He retired to the contemplation of that glorious object, on which, with His Father, He had entered, in them He surrendered His soul unreservedly to all the emotions of Divine love—both that which He felt for the Father, and which He felt for all mankind, that thus He might the better dedicate Himself to the work He had undertaken.
II. How do we fail here to imitate our Saviour? There is a lesson here for us all, both old and young. Prayer such as Christ's is the great weapon with which the saints of every age have prospered in their warfare. There is nothing which those who spend a busy life have so much need to beg of God as the earnest resolution and the power, at whatever cost, to give themselves in very truth to prayer.
A. C. Tait, Lessons for School Life, p. 40.
One Habit of Jesus.
Great natures make their own habits. Their moods are not acquired, but are native to them. The habits of a great nature are shaped and coloured by the magnificent quality within. It is because of the greatness of Jesus, especially on the religious side of His nature, that He becomes the great object of studentship to one who would cultivate like religiousness in his own nature. That which was natural and spontaneous in Him must be acquired by us, and acquired, too, chiefly by the way of imitation. Let us be grateful to heaven that it gave to us an Ideal, to which, by gradual approximations and persevering effort, we can in the end bring the real.
I. Among His habits Jesus had one from which I wish to draw a lesson. It was the habit of retiring ever and anon from the presence of His intimate disciples to some secluded spot. We know that He loved to be alone with Himself. Perhaps this was the result of His greatness; that interior greatness of His nature which made Him, in one sense, uncompanionable with men of this earth. The Teacher wearied of being with His pupils constantly. Their thoughts were not His thoughts. He condescended to them, but the mental and spiritual posture which He had to assume when He stooped to their level wearied Him. In order to rest Himself He had to rise to the full erectness of His stature. This withdrew Him from them, for it lifted Him above them. Alone, with men withdrawn, their little world shut out, the noise of their babbling silenced, He could draw nigh to the Eternal Father, and see the invisible glories float around Him, and hold conversations with those who speak with a finer language than the tongues of this earth have ever learned.
II. Whatever was the cause out of which grew this habit of Jesus, we feel confident there was a cause. And it was a cause existing in connection with human natures, and in earthly circumstance. Men ministered unto Him, and men also interrupted ministration needed by His soul. Hence He mingled with men and He withdrew from men. He met them, and anon He departed from them. In the midst of His public life He clung to His privacy. Modern civilisation is a civilisation of trade, of commerce, of intercourse between man and man. There are times when the earth is a delight, and there are times, too, when we turn from the earth with a cry at our hearts that we might leave it for ever because of its burdens. In brief, there are times when the seen and the heard minister to us. But, on the other hand, there are times when out of the unseen alone cometh help, and the ravens of silence, as sent of God, coming on noiseless wing, alone bring bread to our starving souls. In retirement (1) we get a vivid idea of God as a real Being; (2) the soul regains its lost pre-eminence, and seems to the reason superior to all else.
W. H. Murray, The Fruits of the Spirit, p. 408.
References: Mark 1:35.—W. H. Jellie, Christian World Pulpit, vol. vi., p. 196; G. Brooks, Five Hundred Outlines, p. 81; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iv., p. 143; vol. vi., p. 145.
I. Ver. 35.—There is something very touchingly illustrative of our Saviour's humanity in this verse. He could have prayed upon His couch; yet as He worked after the sun had set, so He departed to pray before the sun had risen. If the Master required to pray, can the servants live without communion with God? To begin the day with God is the only method of setting oneself above all its events, and triumphing over them with perfect mastery. A discourse might be founded on these words, showing the religious uses of time. (1) There would be social service, such as we have seen in the life of Christ; (2) there would be public ministry, in which crowds might enjoy our Christian teaching; (3) there would be sacred devotion, in which the soul will hold close intercourse with God.
II. Vers. 36-9.—The true disciple always knows where to find the Master. The disciples knew the habits of their Lord; they knew that in some hidden places He could be found in the early hours of the day; at all events they knew that Jesus Christ would be found in the path of usefulness, or preparation for usefulness. What the disciples said in their wondering delight shall one day be literally true. All men will be in search of the Saviour of the world. In the first instance, the Saviour sought all men, and in the second all men will seek the Saviour. Instant response to the desire of the world is shown in Christ's readiness still further to preach the Gospel. His object in life was undivided, and its unity was its omnipotence. Jesus Christ preached, and He called His servants to the same work. Preaching can never fail to be one of the mightiest instruments in stirring the human mind and in moulding human society. Individual preaching may become feeble; even distinguished ministers may cool in the enthusiasm with which they undertook their great work; but preaching as instituted by Jesus Christ, exemplified in His own ministry, can never cease to be one of the most effective agencies in human education and progress.
Parker, City Temple, 1871, p. 33.
References: Mark 1:35-39.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxx., No. 1769; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. v., p. 298. Mark 1:36-45.—H. M. Luckock, Footprints of the Son of Man, p. 34.
I. In this chapter we have seen some who were brought to the Saviour, and in the 40th verse we find a man who came to Jesus. Note the blessedness of those who have others to conduct them to Jesus Christ; also note the opportunity which each man has of making his case known to Jesus Christ.
II. Ver. 44 may be used for the purpose of showing how Jesus Christ brings men into the established laws and relations of His own government, even under circumstances which might seem to justify an exception to the usual course of things. In our highest moments of inspiration and delight we ought to be controlled by law. Even our ecstasy should be regulated where it might endanger the constancy and faithfulness of our life. Jesus Christ never dissociates the ministry from the preceding dispensations; He always heightens and consummates; He never destroys except by fulfilment as the fruit destroys the blossom. The whole chapter might be used for the purpose of showing how possible it is for our Christian life to be sublime from the very beginning.
III. The 45th verse shows how much can be done by the energy of one man. So much did the recovered leper publish his restoration that Jesus Christ could no more openly enter into the city by reason of the multitude that thronged upon Him, and by reason of the sensation which so great a miracle had created. Is there not in this incident an illustration of what we may do by being faithful to our convictions and impulses regarding the Son of God? Have we been healed without publishing the fact? Have we mentioned the fact of our conversion even to our dearest friend? Learn from the leper the possibility of so exalting a whole neighbourhood about personal recovery as to extend the name, and bring blessings upon the gracious power, of Jesus Christ.
Parker, City Temple, 1871, p. 43.
References: Mark 1:40.—W. F. Hook, Sermons on the Miracles, vol. i., p. 87; Preacher's Monthly, vol. iii., p. 49. Mark 1:40-42.—J. G. Greenbough, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxvii., p. 280. Mark 1:40-45.—W. Hanna, Our Lord's Life on Earth, p. 137. Mark 1:41.—Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, p. 248. Mark 1:43-45.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. ii., p. 107; vol. v., p. 299. Mark 1:45.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxii., No. 1298.
The Cure of Simon's Wife's Mother.
Pain, sickness, delirium, madness, as great infringements of the laws of nature as the miracles themselves, are such veritable presences to the human experience that what bears no relation to their existence cannot be the God of the human race. And the man who cannot find his God in the fog of suffering, no less than he who forgets his God in the sunshine of health, has learned little either of St. Paul or St. John.
I. All suffering is against the ideal order of things. No man can love pain. It is an unlovely, an ugly, abhorrent thing. The more true and delicate the bodily and mental constitution, the more it must recoil from pain. No one, I think, could dislike pain so much as the Saviour must have disliked it. God dislikes it; He is then on our side in this matter. He knows it is grievous to be borne; a thing He would cast out of His blessed universe, save for reasons.
II. Let us look at the miracle as received by the woman. She had a great fever. She was tossing from side to side in vain attempts to ease a nameless misery. A sudden ceasing of motions uncontrolled; a coolness gliding through the burning skin; a sense of waking into repose; a consciousness of all-pervading well-being, of strength conquering weakness, of light displacing darkness, of urging life at the heart; and behold! she is sitting up in her bed, a hand clasping hers, a face looking into hers. He has judged the evil thing, and it is gone.
III. In the matter of healing, as in all the miracles, we find Jesus doing the works of the Father. God is our Saviour; the Son of God comes healing the sick, doing that before our eyes which the Father, for His own reasons, does from behind the veil of His creation and its laws. The cure comes by law; comes by the physician who brings the law to bear on us. We awake, and lo! it is God the Saviour. Need I, to combat the vulgar notion that the essence of the miracles lies in their power, dwell upon this miracle further? Surely no one who honours the Saviour will for a moment imagine Him, as He entered the chamber where the woman lay tormented, saying to Himself, "Here is an opportunity of showing how mighty My Father is!" No. There was suffering; here was healing. What I could imagine Him saying to Himself would be, "Here I can help! Here My Father will let Me put forth My healing, and give her back to her people."
G. Macdonald, Miracles of Our Lord, p. 25.
References: Mark 2:1, Mark 2:2.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. vi., p. 8; H. M. Luckock, Footprints of the Son of Man, p. 38.
Sunday, March 26th, 2017
the Fourth Sunday of Lent
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