Whedon's Commentary on the Bible
§ 15. — MINISTRY OF JOHN THE BAPTIST, Mark 1:1-8.
1. The beginning of the gospel — This phrase is equivalent to the liturgical phrase, “Here beginneth” the Gospel of Jesus. And hence it forms a sort of title to the book; or, at least, is a formula used to indicate that the complete work from the beginning, and not a fragment, is in hand.
Jesus — Mark not only commences in the very midst of the Gospel events, but introduces the names of Jesus and of John as familiar to his readers.
The impression produced is, that he undertakes to make a record and memorial of facts known in the general to his immediate readers. Son of God — Though Mark gives no account of the miraculous birth of Jesus, which is so largely furnished by Matthew, yet the very title Son of God implies that he knew and recognized the truth of that great fact. From this and many more such instances, we infer that each evangelist selects for his Gospel a comparatively small number of facts from the abundance of his knowledge. The omission of a fact by an evangelist does not prove his unacquaintance with it.
Mark omits the account of the birth of John the Baptist; of the miraculous conception and birth of Jesus; of the Magi; of the shepherds, the murder of the infants, and the flight into Egypt; together with all account of the pedigree, parentage, and childhood of Jesus. He gives few discourses of Jesus, and states no doctrine of himself. What he does give is a brief and rapid narration of the actions and official life of our Saviour.
2. As it is written — The second and third verses, by a strong inversion, should come after the fourth: “John did baptize… as it is written,” etc. The prophecy is quoted from Isaiah 40:3, and Malachi 3:1. As we have explained in the corresponding passage in Matthew, the quotation is a prophecy concerning John, the harbinger of the Messiah Jesus. I send my messenger — This I in the prophet is spoken by Jehovah. But this Jehovah is the Messiah. So that we have here a true Jehovah-Jesus.
4. Baptism of repentance — Not the baptism of faith in a Redeemer already crucified and atoning; but a baptism of repentance and reformation preparatory to his coming. For the remission of sins — This phrase depends on repentance. It is not baptism for the remission of sins, but repentance for such remission.
7. The latchet — The word latchet signifies a fastener of some kind. It is allied to the latch of a door, to the word lock; and is derived from the Latin ligo, to fasten. It here signifies a shoe-string. In Matthew the phrase is, “whose shoes I am not worthy to bear.” Perhaps John, on different occasions, used both expressions.
§ 16. — BAPTISM OF JESUS, Mark 1:9-11.
9. In those days — The days in which John was baptizing.
10. Like a dove — At the creation the Spirit of God moved (in the Hebrew brooded) on the face of the waters. Genesis 1:2. On which passage of Genesis Rabbi Ephraim (as quoted by Townsend) says the “Spirit brooded like a dove, which flies over its nest.”
§ 17. — THE TEMPTATION OF JESUS, Mark 1:12-13.
12. Driveth him into the wilderness — The Spirit impelled him to go where inclination would not have induced him. Matthew says, the Spirit “led” him. He was impelled by the divine impulse; he was “led” by the divine guidance.
13. Forty days tempted — This by no means affirms that the temptation lasted during the whole forty days, any more than the ministry of angels mentioned in the last clause. Satan… wild beasts… the angels — Three very different sorts of company. Diabolical and brutal natures were present to witness or subdue the divine; but, on the other hand the divine and angelic combined with the human were too mighty for them.
§ 23. — RETIREMENT INTO GALILEE, Mark 1:14.
§ 24. — MINISTRY IN GALILEE, Mark 1:14-15.
§ 26. — CALL OF FOUR DISCIPLES, Mark 1:16-20.
19. Mending their nets — Why does Mark mention that they were mending their nets, while he mentions that Peter and Andrew were casting theirs into the sea? This casual expression would be wholly unexplained if we had not an account from another evangelist, namely, Luke, who tells us that the miracle of the immense draught of fishes had been performed, by which the nets of both boats had been broken. This slight clause, thus inserted for no apparent purpose, is one of those undesigned coincidences which show that truth is at the bottom of both narratives. It suggests that the evangelist Mark is aware of more facts than it is consistent with his brevity of purpose to narrate. See note on Mark 1:1. It also suggests that, had we a fifth evangelist, many of the difficulties which now embarrass us in the Gospels would entirely disappear. Meanwhile these slight variations show that there is no combination between the narrators, but that all are reporting the same facts.
§ 27. — DEMONIAC HEALED AT CAPERNAUM, Mark 1:21-28.
21. Went into Capernaum — From the sea where the miraculous draught of fishes took place. Straightway on the Sabbath day — This was not, therefore, on the same day with the miraculous draught of fishes, for these men would probably not have been engaged in fishing on the Sabbath day. Straightway implies perhaps that it was on the immediately next Sabbath.
24. Let us alone — The original word is perhaps a mere interjection, Ea! Yet probably this interjection is derived from the Greek verb signifying let alone. What have we to do with thee — What business have we with each other?
Art thou come to destroy us? — So the Gergesene demoniacs say, “Art thou come hither to torment us before the time?” Matthew 8:29. From which we infer that the demons live in fearful anticipation of the day when they shall be destroyed by being subjected to torment which they do not now endure. The time is coming when they shall be cast into the bottomless pit. Revelation 20:10. And they are now reserved in chains of darkness unto the judgment of the great day. I know thee who thou art — So also in Matthew 8:29, the two demons recognise him in his divine and adjudging character. So in Acts 16:16-18, the girl possessed with the spirit of Python or Apollo proclaims the apostles to be the servants of the Most High. The apostle, like the Saviour, repudiated the testimony of such witnesses, for reasons perhaps apparent from our note on the next verse. See note on Mark 5:2.
25. Hold thy peace — Jesus was careful to guard himself and his own cause from every token of sympathy with the infernal beings, and so drew a most palpable line of hostility between them and himself. This he did probably to prevent all colouring for the Jews to say that there was collusion between him and them; or that he cast out devils through diabolical confederacy and power. Yet our Lord did not veil himself from their perception, nor prevent their expressing their first recognition of him; knowing their language concerning him would be of such a character as to indicate that they feared and dreaded him as their worst enemy.
26. Had torn him — Rather, had convulsed him. Luke says he left the man without doing him any permanent injury. Cried with a loud voice — In this respect he hardly disobeyed the command to hold his peace; for he did not speak any more or utter any further testimony to the divinity of Jesus. But with a cry of despair, rage, and fear, he surrenders his place and departs.
27. What new doctrine — A new set of facts was coming to light; a new power was being disclosed. Men’s ideas must open to the new views and new doctrines as soon as a being has appeared on earth superior to and in antagonism with the powers of darkness. Indeed, it is important to remark that, striking as was the testimony rendered to the heavenly mission of Jesus, from the fact that his miracles were in opposition to the ills of men, to their diseases, their sorrows, and deaths, including the whole ruin that sin produces, there was needed this miracle of casting out devils from their dominion over men, to place the opposition between him and the powers of hell in the clearest view. He is the friend of man; an opponent of sin, death, and hell. Hence it seems, in fact, that it was this very miracle of casting out devils that his enemies subsequently felt themselves most called upon to explain by perverting.
28. Spread… throughout… Galilee — The phrase, region round about Galilee, would be more correctly rendered, the surrounding region of Galilee. Our Lord did not leave Galilee, but took a circuit in it. It went abroad that a beneficent being had appeared, at whose touch and voice disease and damage and leprosy and demons disappeared.
The followers of the Saviour were even for centuries called by the Pagans Galileans. The philosopher Epictetus, who lived after the time of the Emperor Nero, asked if a philosopher can become indifferent to suffering, like the Galileans, meaning thereby the Christians. And the Emperor Julian, surnamed the Apostate, in the third century, who was cut off in the midst of his efforts to destroy Christianity, cried with his dying voice, addressing Christ, “Thou hast conquered, O Galilean!”
§ 28. — HEALING OF PETER’S WIFE’S MOTHER, vv. AND MANY OTHERS, Mark 1:29-39.
(29-33. See notes on Matthew 8:14; Matthew 8:17. 34-39. See notes on Matthew 4:23-25.)
34. Suffered not the devils to speak — See notes on Mark 1:25. Some good critics render this clause, “suffered not the devils to say that they knew him.” His peremptory and stern dealing with these malignant beings was to show his abhorrence, of their malignant nature. Moreover, he thereby taught us at this day not to found our faith on pretended spiritualistic manifestations from unknown supernatural sources or sorceries. If we trust in that class of deceptions we are liable to be betrayed by them into damnable falsehood and delusion.
35. And in the morning — The day after the Sabbath he retired from the crowds to find a place of prayer. It was as if to recruit his spiritual strength, that had been expended upon such a number of miracles, preachings, and debates, by communion with God.
37. All men seek for thee — The crowds of yesterday had returned, all seeking the wonderful benefactor. But there was growing up a dangerous popularity. The miracles which he had performed in order to work a quiet spiritual effect upon the people, and, like the dew, prepare them for the full reception of the seed of truth, were in danger of producing too secular and general an excitement. From man he first turns to God in prayer; and then from man overfed with privileges, he departs to those who are perhaps hungering amid a famine of the word.
38. Towns — The Greek word here designates places larger than villages, but unwalled, and less than ordinary cities.
39. He preached in their synagogues — From which it appears that their synagogues were scattered through the villages of Galilee, as churches are among us.
45. To blaze abroad — This shows the full wisdom of Jesus in forbidding him to tell any man. The rumour raised a tumult and a crowd and an excitement wholly unlike the gentle and spiritual movement it was the purpose of Jesus to create. Could no more openly enter — The tumult was getting too great for the good of the people, or for the quiet of government. Our Lord and the crowd were in danger of attracting the suspicious notice of the authorities. From every quarter — Even his sacred retirement was haunted with their visits.
Saturday, April 22nd, 2017
Saturday in Easter Week
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