Attention!
2.5 million Ukrainian refugees have fled to Poland. Churches are helping but the financial burden is too much.
Consider helping today!

Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Mark 1:1

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Gospel;   Jesus Continued;   Scofield Reference Index - Gospel;   Mark;   Miracles;   Thompson Chain Reference - Christ;   Divinity;   Divinity-Humanity;   Son;   The Topic Concordance - Jesus Christ;   John the Baptist;  
Dictionaries:
Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Jesus christ;   Mark, gospel of;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Evangelize, Evangelism;   God;   Gospel;   Jesus Christ, Name and Titles of;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Matthew, the Gospel According to;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Jesus Christ;   Jesus, Life and Ministry of;   Mark, the Gospel of;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Gospel;   Jesus Christ;   John the Baptist;   Mark, Gospel According to;   Way;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Benedictus;   Gospel;   Gospel (2);   Gospels;   Gospels (2);   John the Baptist;   Matthew, Gospel According to;   Names and Titles of Christ;   Preaching Christ;   Presence (2);   Son of God;   Morrish Bible Dictionary - New Testament;   People's Dictionary of the Bible - Chief parables and miracles in the bible;   Gospel;   Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary - Christ;  
Encyclopedias:
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Chronology of the New Testament;   Gospel;   Mark, the Gospel According to;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - New Testament;  
Devotionals:
Every Day Light - Devotion for November 22;   Today's Word from Skip Moen - Devotion for April 19;  
Unselected Authors

Clarke's Commentary

-Usherian year of the World, 4030.

-Alexandrian year of the World, 5528.

-Antiochian year of the World, 5518.

-Constantinopolitan AEra of the World, 5534.

-Rabbinical year of the World, 3786.

-Year of the Julian Period, 4740.

-AEra of the Seleucidae, 338.

-Year of the Christian AEra, 26.

-Year of the CCI. Olympiad, 2.

-Year of the building of Rome, 769.

-Year of the Julian AEra, 71.

-Year of the Caesarean AEra of Antioch, 74.

-Year of the Spanish AEra, 64.

-Year of the Paschal Cycle or Dionysian Period, 27.

-Year of the Christian Lunar Cycle, or Golden Number, 8.

-Year of the Rabbinical Lunar Cycle, 5.

-Year of the Solar Cycle, 7.

-Dominical Letter, F.

-Epact, 17.

-Year of the Emperor Tiberius, 14.

-Consuls, C. Calvisius Sabinus, and Cn. Corn. Lentulus Getulicus, from January 1 to July 1; and Q. Marcius Barca and T. Rustius Nummus Gallus, for the remainder of the year. The reason why two sets of Consuls appear in this Chronology is this: the Consuls were changed every year in July; therefore, taking in the whole year, four Consuls necessarily appear: two for the first six months, and two for the latter half of the year.

CHAPTER I.

The mission, preaching, and success of John Baptist, 1-5.

His manner of life, 6.

Proclaims Christ, and baptizes him in Jordan, 7-11.

The temptation of Christ, 12, 13.

John being put in prison, Christ begins to preach, 14, 15.

He calls Andrew and Simon, 16-18.

James and John, 19, 20.

Teaches in Capernaum, 21, 22.

Casts out a demon, 23-28.

Goes into the house of Simon, and heals his mother-in-law,

29-31.

Heals many diseased persons, 32-34.

Goes to the desert, and is followed by his disciples, 35-37.

Preaches in different towns and synagogues of Galilee, and casts

cut devils, 38, 39.

Cleanses a leper, who publishes abroad his miraculous cure,

40-45.

NOTES ON CHAP. I.

Verse Mark 1:1. The beginning of the Gospel — It is with the utmost propriety that Mark begins the Gospel dispensation by the preaching of John the Baptist, he being the forerunner of Jesus Christ, and the first proclaimer of the incarnated Messiah. Gospel-for the meaning of the word see the preface to Matthew. Matthew 1:1

Son of God — To point out his Divine origin; and thus glancing at his miraculous conception. This was an essential character of the Messiah. See Matthew 16:16; Matthew 26:63; Luke 22:67, &c.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Mark 1:1". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/mark-1.html. 1832.

Bridgeway Bible Commentary

15. Preaching of John the Baptist (Matthew 3:1-12; Mark 1:1-8; Luke 3:1-17; John 1:19-28)

The preaching of John soon attracted opposition from the Jewish religious leaders. They sent representatives to question him and then report back on what he taught and who he claimed to be. John denied that he was promoting himself as some new leader in Israel. He did not consider himself to be either the prophet of Deuteronomy 18:15,Deuteronomy 18:18 or the ‘Elijah’ promised in Malachi 4:5. He was only a voice calling people to turn from their sin and be baptized, and so prepare themselves to receive the Messiah. He was like a messenger sent ahead of the king to tell people to clear the way for the royal arrival (Matthew 3:1-6; Luke 3:1-6; John 1:19-23).

John commanded all people to repent, no matter who they were. Those who were descendants of Abraham were no more privileged in the eyes of God than the stones on the ground. All people, regardless of nationality, religion or social status, were to leave their selfish and sinful ways, and produce results in their daily lives that would prove their repentance to be genuine (Matthew 3:7-10; Luke 3:7-14).

Although John baptized people to show they had repented and been forgiven their past sins, his baptism gave them no power to live a pure life. It was merely a preparation for one who was far greater than John. Jesus Christ would give the Holy Spirit, which, like fire, would burn up the useless chaff of the heart, leaving the pure wheat to feed and strengthen the life (Matthew 3:11-12; Luke 3:15-17; John 1:24-28).

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Mark 1:1". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bbc/mark-1.html. 2005.

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

The style of Mark is quick-moving and dramatic, his gospel being one of swift and vigorous action, and one of his favorite expressions being straightway. The entire first year of our Lord's ministry is presented in this first chapter. He summarized the ministry of John the Baptist (Mark 1:1-8), related the baptism of Christ (Mark 1:9-11), and recorded the temptation (Mark 1:12-13) in the first brief section of things preparatory to Jesus' ministry. He then immediately launched into his narrative of the Lord's ministry principally in the vicinity of Capernaum (Mark 1:14-4:34), the following events being related in this chapter: (1) Jesus begins to preach (Mark 1:14-15); (2) he calls four disciples (Mark 1:16-20); (3) casts an unclean spirit out of a man on the sabbath day (Mark 1:21-28); heals Simon Peter's wife's mother of a fever (Mark 1:29-31); casts out many demons (Mark 1:32-34); extends his ministry to all Galilee (Mark 1:35-39); and cleanses a leper (Mark 1:40-45). The student will observe that Mark made extensive use of the historical present, as in the above summary.

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. (Mark 1:1)

The gospel ... always means "the good news" in the New Testament. It is the joyful word of how men may receive the forgiveness of sins and restore the broken fellowship with God, a fellowship broken by the disaster in Eden. All kinds of collateral and tangential benefits flow out to men from the fountainhead in the gospel of Christ; but they are subordinately connected with it, the primary purpose of the gospel having ever been the redemption of men from sin and their endowment with the hope of eternal life. Social, political, and economic benefits, invariably associated with the spread of Christianity, do not appear in the New Testament as primary goals at all. This is not to decry such dividends as being in any way undesirable, but to emphasize the far greater concern for the souls' true redemption from sin.

Jesus Christ, the Son of God ... The compound title of our Lord is of heavenly origin. It was announced, evidently for the first time on earth, in the Saviour's intercessory prayer (John 17:3) and was repeatedly called the "name" which God had "given" (John 17:6,11,12,26). From this, in all probability, derived the apostolic preference for the expression, "Jesus Christ."

Son of God ... is a reference to the unique sonship of Jesus and is the equivalent of hailing him as a supernatural person and as having an equality with God. The Pharisees properly understood the implications of this expression, interpreting it as "making himself equal with God" (John 5:18).

Copyright Statement
Coffman's Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Mark 1:1". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/mark-1.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

The beginning of the gospel - The word “gospel” literally signifies good news, and particularly the good tidings respecting the way of salvation by the Lord Jesus Christ. Some have understood the word “gospel” here to mean “history” or “life - the beginning of the history,” etc.; but Mark says nothing of the early life of the Saviour. The word “gospel” here has reference rather to the preaching of John, an account of which immediately follows, and means the beginning of the good news, or annunciation respecting the Messiah. It was very customary thus to prefix a title to a book.

The Son of God - This title was used here to attract attention, and secure the respect of those who should read the gospel. It is no common history. It does not recount the deeds of man - of a hero or a philosopher - but the doctrines and doings of the Son of God. The history, therefore, “commands” respect.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Mark 1:1". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/mark-1.html. 1870.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

Mark 1:1

. The beginning of the Gospel. Though what we have hitherto taken out of Matthew and Luke is a part of the Gospel, yet it is not without reason that Mark makes the beginning of the Gospel to be the preaching of John the Baptist. For the Law and the Prophets then came to an end, (John 1:17.) “ The Law and the Prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, ” ( Luke 16:16 .) And with this agrees most fully the quotation which he makes from the Prophet Malachi, (Malachi 3:1.) In order to inflame the minds of his people with a stronger desire of the promised salvation, the Lord had determined to leave them, for a time, without new prophecies. We know that the last of the true and lawful prophets was Malachi.

That the Jews, in the meantime, may not faint with hunger, he exhorts them to continue under the Law of Moses, until the promised redemption appear. He mentions the law only, (John 1:17,) because the doctrine of the Prophets was not separate from the law, but was merely an appendage and fuller exposition of it, that the form of government in the Church might depend entirely on the Law. It is no new or uncommon thing in Scripture, to include the Prophets under the name of the Law: for they were all related to it as their fountain or design. The Gospel was not an inferior appendage to the Law, but a new form of instruction, by which the former was set aside.

Malachi, distinguishing the two conditions of the Church, places the one under the Law, and commences the other with the preaching of John. He unquestionably describes the Baptist, when he says, “Behold, I send my messenger,” (Malachi 3:1 :) for, as we have already said, that passage lays down an express distinction between the Law and the new order and condition of the Church. With the same view he had said a little before, (which is quoted by Mark, [Mark 9:13;] for the passages are quite similar,) “Behold, I send you Elijah the Prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord,” (Malachi 4:5.) Again,

Behold, I send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple,” (Malachi 3:1.)

In both passages, the Lord promises a better condition of his Church than had existed under the Law, and this unquestionably points out the beginning of the Gospel But before the Lord came to restore the Church, a forerunner or herald was to come, and announce that he was at hand. Hence we infer, that the abrogation of the Law, and the beginning of the Gospel, strictly speaking, took place when John began to preach.

The Evangelist John presents to us Christ clothed in flesh, “the Word made flesh,” (John 1:14;) so that his birth and the whole history of his appearance are included in the Gospel. But here Mark inquires, when the Gospel began to be published, and, therefore, properly begins with John, who was its first minister. And with this view the Heavenly Father chose that the life of his Son should be buried, as it were, in silence, until the time of the full revelation arrived. For it did not happen without the undoubted Providence of God, that the Evangelists leave out the whole period which Christ spent in private, and pass at once from his earliest infancy to his thirtieth year, when he was openly exhibited to the world, invested with his public character as a Redeemer; Luke excepted, who slightly touches one indication of his future calling, which occurred about his twelfth year, ( Luke 2:42 .)

It had a very close connection with this object, that we should be informed, first, that Christ is a true man, (John 1:14,) and next, that he is “ the Son of Abraham and of David, ” ( Matthew 1:1 ;) as to both of which, the Lord has been pleased to give us an attestation. The other matters which we have examined, relating to “the shepherds, ” ( Luke 2:8 ,) the “Magi,” ( Matthew 2:1 ,) and “Simeon,” ( Luke 2:25 ,) were intended to prove his Divinity. What Luke relates about John and his father Zacharias, ( Luke 1:5 ,) was a sort of preparation for the Gospel.

There is no impropriety in the change of the person which is here made, in quoting the words of Malachi. According to the prophet, God says, I send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way Before Me. Mark introduces God as addressing the Son, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, who shall prepare thy way Before Thee. But we see that Mark had no other intention, than to express more clearly the prophet’s meaning. Mark designates Christ the Son of God The other Evangelists testify that he was born of the seed of Abraham and David, and therefore was the Son of man, ( Matthew 8:20 .) But Mark shows us, that no redemption is to be expected but from the Son of God

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Calvin, John. "Commentary on Mark 1:1". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/mark-1.html. 1840-57.

Smith's Bible Commentary

Let's turn to Mark's gospel.

Mark was a young man when Jesus was crucified, perhaps about twelve years old. So, the gospel that he writes is considered to be the understanding that he received from listening to Peter relate the stories of Jesus Christ. Peter does call Mark his son; that would be son in the faith. And Mark was a companion of Peter through much of Peter's ministry, and thus, heard Peter relate these stories of Jesus Christ. And so in his gospel, you have pretty much Peter's account as written by Mark of Jesus.

There is only one part of Mark's gospel that he probably wrote from personal experience. It's a little insertion in the gospel of Mark that you do not find in the other gospels, and it is concerning the arrest of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. And Mark's gospel tells us that there was a young boy there about twelve years old. And one of the soldiers grabbed him, but he wriggled out of his coat and left his coat in the soldier's hand and ran home. And that is believed to be Mark's personal account of his own experience as a little twelve-year-old boy. He happened to be there in the garden with Jesus and his disciples that night that Jesus was betrayed.

Mark's mother's name was Mary. She was a wealthy woman. She lived in Jerusalem and her home was a gathering place for the church. When Peter was imprisoned by Herod, the church had met in her home for that prayer meeting. And so when Peter was released by the action of the angel and came to the house and knocked on the door, and the young maiden came and saw it was Peter, and was so excited she didn't even open the door, but ran back in and told the people, "Peter's here." And they said, "Ah, you've seen a ghost." That was the home of Mark. His mother's name was Mary, a wealthy woman who lived in Jerusalem. Her home was the gathering place for the early church.

Her brother's name was Barnabas, and he was the companion of Paul on the first missionary journey. Mark also went with them on that first missionary journey, but Mark left them. And we don't know why he left. There is speculation that Mark was afraid to go on into the more hostile areas of Asia, but that is only speculation. We do not know why Mark left Paul and Barnabas on the first missionary journey. But Paul evidently was offended by his leaving, so that when Barnabas and Paul were getting ready to leave on their second missionary journey and Barnabas wanted to take his nephew Mark along, Paul objected strenuously because of the fact that he had left the first time. And from this, the contention between Paul and Barnabas became so great that Barnabas took Mark and went off himself to the island of Cypress. And Paul took Silas and headed on out to Asia. However, this breach between Paul and Mark did not last long, for Paul makes mention of Mark being in Rome with him and ministering to his needs.

It was probably while Mark was in Rome with Paul that he wrote this gospel. It is one of the earliest gospels written, and thought to be written some time before the year sixty-three. It is thought to be written by Mark for the Romans, as he was there with Paul in Rome. Inasmuch as whenever he deals with any of the Jewish customs, he takes the time to explain it, which would not be necessary if he were writing to the Jews. But it is thought that he wrote this gospel for the Romans. Mark is brief in his style. He doesn't go into a lot of details, but he just briefly relates the stories and he covers, therefore, a lot of territory.

Later, as Paul was writing, he asked them to send Mark to him with some of his things, because he said Mark had been such a comfort and a help to him. So, here we have the gospel according to Mark.

In the Bible, we have three beginnings. John's gospel: "In the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God, the Word was God." Genesis 1:1 : "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." But Mark's gospel is:

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God ( Mark 1:1 );

So, Mark does not tell us about the birth of Jesus. He leaves that for Matthew and for Luke. But Mark begins his story at the baptism of John. But this is the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and so he is not going to tell us anything about the early years of Jesus, about his birth. But he starts right in with the ministry of Jesus Christ. So, "The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ." And, being with Paul in Rome, probably he was thinking of Paul's declaration to the Romans in his epistle to them prior to his going there, where Paul said, "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation." We'll find John referring much to the gospel. He is quoting Jesus as making reference to the gospel in many places. Mark sets out--it's John Mark actually, Mark was his surname--he sets out Jesus as the servant. Matthew sets out Jesus as the King, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. Mark emphasizes the servanthood of Jesus Christ. And so in Matthew, Jesus is the Lion; Mark, He is the servant; Luke, He is the Son of Man; and in John, He is the Son of God. These are the various aspects and the phases of Jesus' life that we see in the gospels.

As it is written in the prophets ( Mark 1:2 ),

And he begins, first of all, with a quotation from Malachi, and then he jumps to Isaiah and quotes from Isaiah. As it is written in the prophets:

Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee ( Mark 1:2 ).

That's a quotation from Malachi. It is a quotation concerning John, the forerunner of Jesus Christ. Now, quoting from Isaiah,

The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. And there went out unto him all of the land of Judea, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins. And John was clothed with camel's hair, and with a girdle of skin about his loins; and he did eat locusts and wild honey; And preached, saying, There cometh one mightier than I after me, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose. I indeed have baptized you with water: but he shall baptize you with Holy Ghost ( Mark 1:3-8 ).

So, he briefly tells us of the ministry of John the Baptist, and he quotes the prophecies from the Old Testament that relate to the ministry of John the Baptist.

And then he tells us,

And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized by John in Jordan. And straightway [immediately] coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him. And there came a voice from heaven, saying, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased ( Mark 1:9-11 ).

Here again we see the three persons of the godhead as Jesus is coming up out of the water, the Spirit of God is descending upon Him and the voice of the Father declaring, "Thou art My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased."

And now, he takes us from the baptism.

And immediately the Spirit driveth him into the wilderness. And he was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted of Satan; and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered unto him ( Mark 1:12-13 ).

Now, Mark does not give us any of the details of the temptation of Jesus. He leaves that for the other gospel writers, Matthew and Luke.

Now after that John ( Mark 1:14 )

Do you see the brevity? He doesn't go into details, where the other gospels give us a little bit more detail about that temptation of Jesus in the wilderness.

Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God [notice the gospel of the kingdom, the good news of God's kingdom], and saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel ( Mark 1:14-15 ).

Believe the good news.

Now as he walked by the sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And Jesus said unto them, Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men. And straightway [immediately] they forsook their nets, and followed him. And when he had gone a little further thence [from there], he saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who also were in the ship mending their nets. And straightway [immediately] he called them: and they left their father Zebedee in the ship with the hired servants, and went after him ( Mark 1:16-20 ).

Now as we read Mark's gospel, because he doesn't give us any background, it would appear that Jesus just walking along the shore of Galilee suddenly saw Peter and his brother Simon and said, "Come and follow me. I'll make you fishers of men," and they just left their nets and followed Him. Well, that is what happened, but this isn't the first time that they had met Jesus. This is when Jesus called them to discipleship, but they had met Jesus earlier. In fact, in the gospel of John, he tells us of their earlier meeting of Jesus. Andrew had met Jesus. And he came to Peter his brother and told him, "Hey, we have found the Messiah." And he brought his brother Peter to Jesus. And they knew Jesus; they had met Jesus. They had observed the miracles that He had done. But now, Jesus is calling them to a full commitment of discipleship. Knowing Jesus, immediately upon His call to them, they left their fishing, their nets to follow Jesus.

Notice James and John with their father Zebedee. Jesus later sort of nicknamed them the "sons of thunder." But they had hired servants. They left their father with the hired servants. So they evidently came from a well-to-do background. And so,

And they came into Capernaum [which, of course, is where Peter was living there in Capernaum]; and straightway [immediately] on the Sabbath day he entered into the synagogue, and taught. And they were astonished at his doctrine: for he taught them as one that had authority, and not as the scribes ( Mark 1:21-22 ).

Now, when the scribes would teach the people, express an opinion as their own, they would say, "Now, Rabbi Hallel says of this that it means this or that or the other." And they were always quoting other rabbis. They would never just say flat out, "Now this is what the Lord is saying to us." They never would speak with authority. They would always in their teaching just quote the other ideas, the other thoughts, the other rabbis and what they thought this might have meant. Thus, when Jesus came, He spoke with authority.

We remember in the Sermon on the Mount He said, "You've heard that it hath been said by those of old time, 'Thou shalt not kill,' but I say unto you," and He spoke with authority. And they marveled at this kind of teaching. They weren't use to this kind of teaching. They weren't used to someone speaking with authority concerning the word of God. And so, they were astonished at his teaching because it wasn't as they were used to hearing, but He spoke to them and He taught them with real authority.

And there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God ( Mark 1:23-24 ).

James in his epistle said, "You say you believe in God, so what? That doesn't make you a Christian. That doesn't make you saved. For the devils believe and they fear and tremble before Him." So, just believing in God really doesn't bring you salvation, which many people are mistaken in that. They say, "Well, I'm not an atheist; I believe in God." But that isn't salvation. That's just proving you're not a fool. For it is the fool that has said in his heart, "There is no God." So you say you believe in God, then I believe you're not a fool. But it doesn't mean you're saved. Salvation comes by believing into a vital relationship with Jesus Christ, a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ. "But whosoever believeth into Him," into this vital life-changing relationship with Him, "shall not perish but have everlasting life."

Now, this demon crying out said, "I know Thee, whom Thou art. You're the Holy One of God. What are you doing? You're coming to destroy us?" He recognized the power of Jesus. He acclaimed Jesus to be the Son of God, but he wasn't saved. It is possible for you to recognize the power of Jesus and acclaim that Jesus was the Son of God, and still not be saved. Salvation is a life-changing experience as you believe into this relationship with Jesus Christ.

And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace, and come out of him ( Mark 1:25 ).

Speaking with authority to the demon.

And when the unclean spirit [demon] had torn him, and cried with a loud voice, he came out of him ( Mark 1:26 ).

Mark makes mention of many cases of exorcism by Jesus, demonstrating the power that Jesus had over these unclean spirits or demons. We'll talk about that further when we get to the fifth chapter, in the man of Gadara.

And they were all amazed, insomuch that they questioned among themselves, saying, What thing is this? what new doctrine is this? for with authority commandeth he even the unclean spirits, and they do obey him. And immediately his fame spread abroad throughout all the region round about Galilee ( Mark 1:27-28 ).

So suddenly around the area of Galilee there's a buzz about Jesus of Nazareth, the things that He is doing, the things that He is saying.

And forthwith, when they were come out of the synagogue, they entered into the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John ( Mark 1:29 ).

So, Simon and Andrew had a home there in Capernaum.

But Simon's wife's mother lay sick of a fever, and anon they tell him of her. And he came and took her by the hand, and lifted her up; and immediately the fever left her, and she ministered unto them. [That is, she fixed them dinner.] And at even, when the sun did set, they brought unto him all that were diseased, and them that were possessed with devils [demons] ( Mark 1:30-32 ).

Not devils, plural, because there's only one devil. And the word translated in Greek is demons.

And all the city was gathered together at the door. And he healed many that were sick of divers [different types of] diseases, and cast out many devils [demons]; and suffered not the devils to speak [he did not allow the demons to speak], because they knew Him ( Mark 1:33-34 ).

A busy day. The beginning of the ministry of Jesus. He started out in the morning with this man with an unclean spirit as Jesus was teaching in the synagogue, and this man with an unclean spirit crying out and being cured. All day long they began to bring people to Him to be healed, on into the evening hours. How late we don't know. "All the city was gathered together there at the door of Simon's house." You'd say, "Ah, what a tough day. We better sleep in tomorrow." You'd been spiritually expended.

And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed ( Mark 1:35 ).

It's interesting that Jesus' concept of being renewed in strength and refreshed was not sleeping in, but getting out early before anyone else was up and communing with the Father. And He drew His strength from prayer. I do not know of any greater evidence of the necessity of our praying than the fact that Jesus prayed. Being the Son of God He resorted to prayer for strength, for guidance, for life itself. And if He, being the Son of God, saw the necessity of prayer, how much more do we need prayer? If He saw the need of getting up early to pray, how much more should we realize our need of prayer? How important prayer is to the spiritual life of the believer.

And Simon and they that were with him followed after him. And when they had found him, they said unto him, All men seek for Thee ( Mark 1:36-37 ).

So later on when they got up, Jesus was gone. But already there was a crowd of people around the door waiting. And when Simon and the others found Him, they said, "Hey, everybody is looking for You."

And he said unto them, Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also: for therefore came I forth [this is why I came]. And he preached in their synagogues throughout all Galilee, and cast out devils [or demons] ( Mark 1:38-39 ).

And again, Mark makes note of the fact that He was casting out demons. Notice this is the fourth time that Mark makes a special emphasis upon this fact.

And there came a leper to him, beseeching him, and kneeling down to him, and saying unto him, If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth his hand, and touched him, and said unto him, I will [or, I am willing]; be thou clean. And as soon as he had spoken, immediately the leprosy departed from him, and he was cleansed. And he straitly [sternly] charged him, and forthwith sent him away; And saith unto him, See thou say nothing to any man: but go thy way, show thyself to the priest, and offer for thy cleansing those things which Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them. But he went out, and began to publish it much, and to blaze abroad the matter, insomuch that Jesus could no more openly enter into the city, but was without [had to stay out] in desert places: and they came to Him from every quarter ( Mark 1:40-45 ).

Now, Jesus was trying to have, perhaps, a little more freedom of movement. But when the news was going out the leper was cleansed and all of the healings that were being done, it got so bad that He could not come into the cities any more because of the throngs. In fact, we find Him spending a lot of His time in a little boat off shore so that they couldn't press around Him so much. The crowds so often get unruly, pushing, shoving. And so, He would push out a little ways from shore in the boat, and there He would speak to them from the boat as they would stand on the shore. And His purpose in telling this man not to tell anybody is to give Him a little more freedom of movement, but the fellow didn't obey and went everywhere telling everybody what had happened to him. It's hard to keep a secret when God has worked in your life.

Now, it's interesting, Jesus didn't say, "Now look, I want to teach you how to witness, friend. Take this little booklet, the Four Spiritual Laws, and you go out and you take this religious survey and you ask all these questions, which opens the door. And then you say, 'Well, do you know the four spiritual laws?'" You see, when God has done a marvelous work in your life, witnessing is the most natural thing in the world. How can you help but just share what God has done in your life? It's just something that becomes so much a part of your life. That witnessing is a very natural thing, not a programmed thing, but a very natural thing. You couldn't shut these people up. He didn't have to have a Tuesday night witnessing night where we go out and canvas the neighborhood. God was working in the lives of the people. They were being affected and touched by that work of God and they naturally sought to share what God had done for them.

The interesting thing about this leper is, number one; his statement to Jesus, "If you are willing." Is the Lord willing to heal us? Jesus looked upon him with compassion and said, "I'm willing." The second thing is that Jesus touched him. Now, it was unlawful to touch a leper. If you touched a leper, you yourself were considered unclean for a period of time. However, Jesus touched him. But that really wasn't unlawful, because the moment He touched him, he was cleansed. So he was no longer a leper. Immediately, he was cleansed. Jesus said, "Now go and show yourself to the priest, and offer those things which the law prescribed...go through the little ritual."

So, it is interesting to me that God, in the law, made provisions for a man who had an incurable disease, which ostracized him from society. God made provisions for that man with an incurable disease to be returned to society when he was healed of an incurable disease. But how can you be healed of an incurable disease? God made provision for Himself to work as He so desired. So this is the law for the leper in the day of his cleansing. And God, under the law, gave that law for the leper in the day of his cleansing. He come and showed himself unto the priest; he examines him and then he puts him in a house apart. And after seven days, he examines him again to see if there be any new blotches of spots for whatever. And if he is clean after the seven days, then he is to bring in this dove and they are to kill it...two doves, actually. They are to kill the one, put the blood in the basin and all, and they're to take the live dove and dip it in this bloody water and then turn it free. And it flies away with the wings flapping of the blood and all of the dove that was killed as a sacrifice for his cleansing. And he was then cleansed and could return to society.

Interesting though, to me, that God would make provision for Him to work. Oh, let's always give allowance for God to work. Let's not try to put God in a box. So, leprosy is incurable. Well, give God the opportunity to work if He so desires. God left Himself room to work. And if God leaves Himself room to work, surely we ought to leave room for God to work. This is the law of the leper in the day of his cleansing. That, to me, is just absolutely remarkable. I love that particular portion of the Levitical law where God made provision for Him to do a miracle. "If I want to work and heal a leper, all right, this is the law for the leper in the day of his cleansing."

It is interesting in that leprosy is always used in the scripture as a type of sin, because it was such a horrible, loathsome disease that slowly ate away. First of all, it actually doesn't eat away, except that it destroys the nerve endings. And so, people became deformed as the result of the leprosy because they lost feeling. First it began in the extremities of their bodies, usually in their fingers or on their feet. And the first thing that leprosy does is numb your senses. It kills the nerves so you don't feel anything. And because they can't feel anything, pain or whatever, they've lost their sense of feeling. The lepers quite often have their feet gnawed away by rats, and they don't feel it. While they are sleeping at night, the rats will just eat their feet and they don't feel it because of the leprosy having destroyed the nerves. Or they will put their hand down on a hot plate or so, and they will burn their hands and get the gangrene and all as a result of the burns. They can't feel it. And so the damage is done actually because they don't have feeling. They say, "Oh, his finger dropped off." No, a leper's finger doesn't drop off, but because they have lost the feeling in their hands, in their fingers, many times they are burned or destroyed in other ways because of this loss of feeling.

Sin has a way of just anesthetizing a person. A loss of feeling, and slowly you're destroyed. It's incurable, except by a divine work of God. And so Jesus said, "I'm willing; be thou clean, go. Show yourself to the priest." "



Copyright Statement
Copyright © 2014, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, Ca.
Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Mark 1:1". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/csc/mark-1.html. 2014.

Contending for the Faith

And again he entered into Capernaum after some days; and it was noised that he was in the house.

And again he entered into Capernaum: Capernaum, located on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee, is the home of Peter and Andrew and Jesus’ headquarters during His Galilean ministry.

after some days: In the last verse of chapter one the publicity resulting from the leper’s being healed causes the crowds to swell to such large numbers that Jesus has to withdraw from Capernaum into the desert places. Here, Jesus returns to Capernaum "after some days." It is impossible to determine exactly how many days Jesus is gone. Apparently He is gone long enough to allow the city to calm down and return to some sense of normalcy.

and it was noised:

The verb ("noised") means "to hear." The form is aorist passive. The subject is our Lord. "Having entered Capernaum, He was heard of as being in the house" (Wuest 44).

that he was in the house: Most authorities agree the house referred to here is the same house mentioned in chapter one, the one belonging to Peter and Andrew. Another translation renders the phrase "at home." Although Jesus does not own a house, the language implies this is the place He usually lives when He is in Capernaum.

Copyright Statement
Contending for the Faith reproduced by permission of Contending for the Faith Publications, 4216 Abigale Drive, Yukon, OK 73099. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Editor Charles Baily, "Commentary on Mark 1:1". "Contending for the Faith". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ctf/mark-1.html. 1993-2022.

Dr. Constable's Expository Notes

A. The title of the book 1:1 (cf. Luke 3:1-2)

Mark may have intended this sentence to introduce the ministry of John the Baptist since that is what follows immediately. It could also refer to the inception of Jesus’ public ministry and therefore be a title of the Gospel’s introduction (Mark 1:1-13). It seems more probable, however, that this verse is a title for the whole book. It summarizes Mark’s whole Gospel. Incidentally the New Testament never uses the word "Gospel" to describe a book of the Bible. That is a more recent use of the word.

"The term ’gospel’ or ’evangel’ was not a word first coined among the Christians. On the contrary, the concept was significant both in pagan and Jewish culture. Among the Romans it meant ’joyful tidings’ and was associated with the cult of the emperor, whose birthday, attainment to majority and accession to power were celebrated as festival occasions for the whole world. The reports of such festivals were called ’evangels’ in the inscriptions and papyri of the Imperial Age." [Note: Ibid., pp. 42-43.]

Possibly Mark began his Gospel as he did to recall the opening verse of Genesis. The good news about Jesus Christ provides a beginning of as great significance as the creation of the cosmos. When Jesus’ came to earth and began His ministry, God created something new. This Gospel presents a new beginning in which God revealed good news about Jesus Christ. Thus this title might be a clue to the divine origin of the second Gospel.

"In Galatians 4:4-6, Paul viewed the gospel story as in two parts, God’s sending ’his Son’ and the sending to ’the Spirit of his Son.’ Mark covers the first of these two sendings. The full apostolic message also included the sending of the Holy Spirit. But the story of the sending of the Son of God had its historical beginning with the coming of John the forerunner." [Note: D. Edmond Hiebert, Mark: A Portrait of the Servant, p. 27]

The word "gospel" is the modern equivalent of the old English "god-spel" meaning good news. The Greek word is euangelion. The gospel is the good news that God has provided eternal salvation through the ministry of Jesus Christ (cf. Isaiah 40:9; Isaiah 41:27; Isaiah 52:7; Isaiah 61:1-3; Romans 1:16). This term is important in the theological emphasis of Mark’s narrative (cf. Mark 1:14-15; Mark 8:35; Mark 10:29; Mark 13:9-10; Mark 14:9).

"’The Gospel is neither a discussion nor a debate,’ said Dr. Paul S. Rees. ’It is an announcement!’" [Note: Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, 1:110.]

The word "gospel" also describes a certain type of literature, a literary genre. Gospel literature is not just history or biography. It is "preaching materials, designed to tell the story of God’s saving action in the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth." [Note: R. P. Martin, Mark: Evangelist and Theologian, p. 21.] Mark’s Gospel contains the good news that the early Christians preached (cf. Acts 2:36). [Note: C. F. D. Moule, The Gospel According to Mark, p. 8.]

"Mark does not write as a disinterested historian. He writes as a preacher conveying God’s good news of salvation by emphasizing Jesus’ saving ministry . . . Mark also writes as a theologian, arranging and interpreting the tradition to meet the needs of his hearers." [Note: Wessel, p. 611.]

Jesus Christ is the subject of this gospel (objective genitive). He is also the source of it (subjective genitive). Probably the former meaning is what Mark had in mind here. He seems to have wanted to provide an account of Jesus’ ministry so his readers could have a factual basis for their understanding of the gospel they had believed.

"Jesus" is the Greek form of the Hebrew "Joshua" meaning "Yahweh is salvation" or "salvation of Yahweh." "Christ" transliterates the Greek word kristos that means "anointed." The Hebrew word for "anointed" is mesiah from which we get "Messiah." By the time Mark wrote his Gospel, "Jesus Christ" had become a proper name, not a name (Jesus) and a title (Christ), the original meanings of these words. However, Mark intended "Christ" to have its full titular meaning as well (cf. Mark 8:29; Mark 12:35; Mark 14:61; Mark 15:32).

Mark further identified Jesus Christ as the "Son of God." This title does not appear is some important early manuscripts of Mark, but it is probably legitimate. [Note: See Carson and Moo, p. 187.] It expresses Jesus’ unique relationship to God and identifies an important theme in the second Gospel (cf. Mark 1:11; Mark 3:11; Mark 5:7; Mark 9:7; Mark 12:6; Mark 13:32; Mark 14:36; Mark 14:61; Mark 15:39). The title is messianic, but it connotes a subordinate relationship to God. Mark presented Jesus as the Servant of God particularly in this book. Rather than recording a nativity narrative that showed that Jesus was the Son of God, Mark simply stated that fact with this title. [Note: See Herbert W. Bateman IV, "Defining the Titles ’Christ’ and ’Son of God’ in Mark’s Narrative Presentation of Jesus," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 50:3 (September 2007):537-59.]

". . . from the start the narrator of Mark’s story establishes with the reader a relationship of confidence by divulging the secret of Jesus’ identity long before it becomes known to characters in the story, for the first line is an aside to the reader revealing that Jesus is the anointed one, the son of God. This technique puts the reader on the inside, among those who know, and enables the reader to understand more than many of the characters in the drama understand. This technique is an important foundation in this story which is concerned with what is hidden and what is secret." [Note: David M. Rhoads and Donald M. Michie, Mark as Story: An Introduction to the Narrative of a Gospel, p. 41.]

"The Gospel is not a mystery story in which the identity of the main character has to be guessed; from the outset it is made clear who this is-the Son of God." [Note: E. Best, The Temptation and the Passion, p. 168.]

Taken together "Jesus," "Christ," and "Son of God" present Jesus as a man who was God’s special agent but who was also fully divine.

"The superscription refers to Jesus as ’the anointed one, the son of God.’ At the end of the first half of the story, Peter acknowledges Jesus as ’the anointed one’ [Mark 8:29] and at the end of Jesus’ life the centurion identifies Jesus as ’son of God’ [Mark 15:39]. The first half of the gospel emphasizes the authority of Jesus to do acts of power. The second half emphasizes the suffering of Jesus in filial obedience to God. Although the characterization of Jesus is consistent throughout, there appears, nevertheless, a clear development in the portrayal of Jesus from one half of the gospel to the next. In the first step, he serves with power; in the second, he serves as the one who suffers. Throughout the style and the structure of episodes the two-step progressions prepare the reader to be drawn more readily into seeing this larger second step and accepting this clearer, more precise understanding of Jesus." [Note: Rhoads and Michie, pp. 48-49.]

"In the gospel story he narrates, Mark tells, of course, of Jesus. Intertwined with the story of Jesus, however, are two other story lines: that of the religious authorities and that of the disciples." [Note: Kingsbury, p. vii.]

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Mark 1:1". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/mark-1.html. 2012.

Dr. Constable's Expository Notes

I. INTRODUCTION 1:1-13

This opening section of the book sets the stage for the presentation of Jesus Christ as the unique Servant of the Lord. Mark omitted references to Jesus’ birth and youth. These subjects are irrelevant when presenting the life of a servant.

"The accent falls upon the disclosure that Jesus is the Messiah, the very Son of God, whose mission is to affirm his sonship in the wilderness. His encounter with Satan provides the background for the delineation of the conflict between the Son of God and the forces of Satan which is so prominent an element in the Marcan narrative of Jesus’ ministry." [Note: Lane, p. 40.]

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Mark 1:1". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/mark-1.html. 2012.

Barclay's Daily Study Bible

Chapter 1

THE BEGINNING OF THE STORY ( Mark 1:1-4 )

1:1-4 This is the beginning of the story of how Jesus Christ, the Son of God, brought the good news to men. There is a passage in Isaiah the prophet like this--"Lo! I send my messenger before you and he will prepare your road for you. He will be like a voice crying in the wilderness, 'Get ready the road of the Lord. Make straight the path by which he will come'." This came true when John the Baptizer emerged in the wilderness, announcing a baptism which was the sign of a repentance through which a man might find forgiveness for his sins.

Mark starts the story of Jesus a long way back. It did not begin with Jesus' birth; it did not even begin with John the Baptizer in the wilderness; it began with the dreams of the prophets long ago; that is to say, it began long, long ago in the mind of God.

The Stoics were strong believers in the ordered plan of God. "The things of God," said Marcus Aurelius, "are fun of foresight. All things flow from heaven." There are things we may well learn here.

(i) It has been said that "the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts," and so are the thoughts of God. God is characteristically a God who is working his purposes out. History is not a random kaleidoscope of disconnected events; it is a process directed by the God who sees the end in the beginning.

(ii) We are within that process, and because of that we can either help or hinder it. In one sense it is as great an honour to help in some great process as it is a privilege to see the ultimate goal. Life would be very different if, instead of yearning for some distant and at present unattainable goal, we did all that we could to bring that goal nearer.

"In youth, because I could not be a singer,

I did not even try to write a song;

I set no little trees along the roadside,

Because I knew their growth would take so long.

But now from wisdom that the years have brought me,

I know that it may be a blessed thing

To plant a tree for someone else to water,

Or make a song for someone else to sing."

The goal will never be reached unless there are those who labour to make it possible.

The prophetic quotation which Mark uses is suggestive.

I send my messenger before you and he will prepare your road for you. This is from Malachi 3:1. In its original context it is a threat. In Malachi's day the priests were failing in their duty. The offerings were blemished and shoddy second-bests; the service of the temple was a weariness to them. The messenger was to cleanse and purify the worship of the temple before the Anointed One of God emerged upon the earth. So then the coming of Christ was a purification of life. And the world needed that purification. Seneca called Rome "a cesspool of iniquity." Juvenal spoke of her "as the filthy sewer into which flowed the abominable dregs of every Syrian and Achaean stream." Wherever Christianity comes it brings purification.

That happens to be capable of factual demonstration. Bruce Barton tells how the first important journalistic assignment that fell to him was to write a series of articles designed to expose Billy Sunday, the evangelist. Three towns were chosen. "I talked to the merchants," Bruce Barton writes, "and they told me that during the meetings and afterward people walked up to the counter and paid bills which were so old that they had long since been written off the books." He went to visit the president of the chamber of commerce of a town that Billy Sunday had visited three years before. "I am not a member of any church," he said. "I never attend but I'll tell you one thing. If it was proposed now to bring Billy Sunday to this town, and if we knew as much about the results of his work in advance as we do now, and if the churches would not raise the necessary funds to bring him, I could raise the money in half a day from men who never go to church. He took eleven thousand dollars out of here, but a circus comes here and takes out that amount in one day and leaves nothing. He left a different moral atmosphere." The exposure that Bruce Barton meant to write became a tribute to the cleansing power of the Christian message.

When Billy Graham preached in Shreveport, Louisiana, liquor sales dropped by 40 per cent and the sale of Bibles increased 300 per cent. During a mission in Seattle, amongst the results there is stated quite simply, "Several impending divorce actions were cancelled." In Greensboro, North Carolina, the report was that "the entire social structure of the city was affected."

One of the great stories of what Christianity can do came out of the mutiny on the Bounty. The mutineers were put ashore on Pitcairn Island. There were nine mutineers, six native men, ten native women and a girl, fifteen years old. One of them succeeded in making crude alcohol. A terrible situation ensued. They all died except Alexander Smith. Smith chanced upon a Bible. He read it and he made up his mind to build up a state with the natives of that island based directly on the Bible. It was twenty years before an American sloop called at the island. They found a completely Christian community. There was no gaol because there was no crime. There was no hospital because there was no disease. There was no asylum because there was no insanity. There was no illiteracy; and nowhere in the world was human life and property so safe. Christianity had cleansed that society.

Where Christ is allowed to come the antiseptic of the Christian faith cleanses the moral poison of society and leaves it pure and clean.

John came announcing a baptism of repentance. The Jew was familiar with ritual washings. Leviticus 11:1-47; Leviticus 12:1-8; Leviticus 13:1-59; Leviticus 14:1-57; Leviticus 15:1-33 details them. "The Jew," said Tertullian, "washes himself every day because every day he is defiled." Symbolic washing and purifying was woven into the very fabric of Jewish ritual. A Gentile was necessarily unclean for he had never kept any part of the Jewish law. Therefore, when a Gentile became a proselyte, that is a convert to the Jewish faith, he had to undergo three things. First, he had to undergo circumcision, for that was the mark of the covenant people; second, sacrifice had to be made for him, for he stood in need of atonement and only blood could atone for sin; third, he had to undergo baptism, which symbolized his cleansing from all the pollution of his past life. Naturally, therefore, the baptism was not a mere sprinkling with water, but a bath in which his whole body was bathed.

The Jew knew baptism; but the amazing thing about John's baptism was that he, a Jew, was asking Jews to submit to that which only a Gentile was supposed to need. John had made the tremendous discovery that to be a Jew in the racial sense was not to be a member of God's chosen people; a Jew might be in exactly the same position as a Gentile; not the Jewish life, but the cleansed life belonged to God.

The baptism was accompanied by confession. In any return to God confession must be made to three different people.

(i) A man must make confession to himself. It is a part of human nature that we shut our eyes to what we do not wish to see, and above all to our own sins. Someone tells of a man's first step to grace. As he was shaving one morning he looked at his face in the mirror and suddenly said, "You dirty, little rat!" And from that day he began to be a changed man.

No doubt when the prodigal son left home he thought himself a fine and adventurous character. Before he took his first step back home he had to take a good look at himself and say, "I will get up and go home and say that I am an utter rotter." ( Luke 15:17-18.)

There is no one in all the world harder to face than ourselves; and the first step to repentance and to a right relationship to God is to admit our sin to ourselves.

(ii) A man must make confession to those whom he has wronged. It will not be much use saying to God that we are sorry until we say we are sorry to those whom we have hurt and grieved. The human barriers have to be removed before the divine barriers can go. In the East African Church, a husband and wife were members of a group. One of them came and made confession that there was a quarrel at home. The minister at once said, "You should not have come and confessed that quarrel just now; you should have made it up and then come and confessed it."

It can often be the case that confession to God is easier than confession to men. But there can be no forgiveness without humiliation.

(iii) A man must make confession to God. The end of pride is the beginning of forgiveness. It is when a man says, "I have sinned," that God gets the chance to say, "I forgive." It is not the man who desires to meet God on equal terms who will discover forgiveness, but the man who kneels in humble contrition and whispers through his shame, "God be merciful to me a sinner."

THE HERALD OF THE KING ( Mark 1:5-8 )

1:5-8 And the whole country of Judea went out to him, and so did all the people of Jerusalem, and they were baptized by him in the River Jordan, while they confessed their sins. John was clad in a garment of camel's hair, and he had a leather girdle round his waist, and it was his custom to eat locusts and wild honey. The burden of his proclamation was, "The one who is stronger than I is coming after me. I am not fit to stoop down and to loosen the strap of his sandals. I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."

It is clear that the ministry of John was mightily effective, for they flocked out to listen to him and to submit to his baptism. Why was it that John made an impact such as this upon his nation?

(i) He was a man who lived his message. Not only his words, but also his whole life was a protest. Three things about him marked the reality of his protest against contemporary life.

(a) There was the place in which he stayed--the wilderness. Between the centre of Judaea and the Dead Sea lies one of the most terrible deserts in the world. It is a limestone desert; it looks warped and twisted; it shimmers in the haze of the heat; the rock is hot and blistering and sounds hollow to the feet as if there was some vast furnace underneath; it moves out to the Dead Sea and then descends in dreadful and unscalable precipices down to the shore. In the Old Testament it is sometimes called Yeshiymown ( H3452) , which means The Devastation. John was no city-dweller. He was a man from the desert and from its solitudes and its desolations. He was a man who had given himself a chance to hear the voice of God.

(b) There were the clothes he wore a garment woven of camel's hair and a leather belt about his waist. So did Elijah ( 2 Kings 1:8). To look at the man was to be reminded, not of the fashionable orators of the day, but of the ancient prophets who lived close to the great simplicities and avoided the soft and effeminate luxuries which kill the soul.

(c) There was the food he ate--locusts and wild honey. It so happens that both words are capable of two interpretations. The locusts may be the animals for the law allowed them to be eaten ( Leviticus 11:22-23); but they may also be a kind of bean or nut, the carob, which was the food of the poorest of the poor. The honey may be the honey the wild bees make; or it may be a kind of sweet sap that distills from the bark of certain trees. it does not matter what the words precisely mean. In any event John's diet was of the simplest.

So John emerged. People had to listen to a man like that. It was said of Carlyle that "he preached the gospel of silence in twenty volumes." Many a man comes with a message which he himself denies. Many a man with a comfortable bank account preaches about not laying up treasures upon earth. Many a man extols the blessings of poverty from a comfortable home. But in the case of John, the man was the message, and because of that people listened.

(ii) His message was effective because he told people what in their heart of hearts they knew and brought them what in the depths of their souls they were waiting for.

(a) The Jews had a saying that "if Israel would only keep the law of God perfectly for one day the Kingdom of God would come." When John summoned men to repentance he was confronting them with a decision that they knew in their heart of hearts they ought to make. Long ago Plato said that education did not consist in telling people new things; it consisted in extracting from their memories what they already knew. No message is so effective as that which speaks to a man's own conscience, and that message becomes well-nigh irresistible when it is spoken by a man who obviously has the right to speak.

(b) The people of Israel were well aware that for three hundred years the voice of prophecy had been silent. They were waiting for some authentic word from God. And in John they heard it. In every walk of life the expert is recognizable. A famous violinist tells us that no sooner had Toscanini mounted the rostrum than the orchestra felt his authority flowing over them. We recognize at once a doctor who has real skill. We recognize at once a speaker who knows his subject. John had come from God and to hear him was to know it.

(iii) His message was effective because he was completely humble. His own verdict on himself was that he was not fit for the duty of a slave. Sandals were composed simply of leather soles fastened to the foot by straps passing through the toes. The roads were unsurfaced. In dry weather they were dust heaps; in wet weather rivers of mud. To remove the sandals was the work and office of a slave. John asked nothing for himself but everything for the Christ whom he proclaimed. The man's obvious self-forgottenness, his patent yieldedness, his complete self-effacement, his utter lostness in his message compelled people to listen.

(iv) His message was effective because he pointed to something and someone beyond himself. He told men that his baptism drenched them in water, but one was coming who would drench them in the Holy Spirit; and while water could cleanse a man's body, the Holy Spirit could cleanse his life and self and heart. Dr. G. J. Jeffrey had a favourite illustration. When he was making a telephone call through the operator and there was some delay, the operator would often say, "I'm trying to connect you." Then, when the connection had been effected, the operator faded out and left him in direct contact with the person to whom he wished to speak.

John's one aim was not to occupy the centre of the stage himself, but to try to connect men with the one who was greater and stronger than he; and men listened to him because he pointed, not to himself, but to the one whom all men need.

THE DAY OF DECISION ( Mark 1:9-11 )

1:9-11 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan; and as soon as he came up out of the water he saw the heavens being riven asunder and the Spirit coming down upon him, as a dove might come down; and there came a voice from heaven, "You are my beloved Son; I am well pleased with you."

To any thinking person the baptism of Jesus presents a problem. John's baptism was a baptism of repentance, meant for those who were sorry for their sins and who wished to express their determination to have done with them. What had such a baptism to do with Jesus? Was he not the sinless one, and was not such a baptism unnecessary and quite irrelevant as far as he was concerned? For Jesus the baptism was four things.

(i) It was the moment of decision. For thirty years he had stayed in Nazareth. Faithfully he had done his day's work and discharged his duties to his home. For long he must have been conscious that the time for him to go out had to come. He must have waited for a sign. The emergence of John was that sign. This, he saw, was the moment when he had to launch out upon his task.

In every life there come moments of decision which may be accepted or rejected. To accept them is to succeed; to reject them, or to shirk them, is to fail. As Lowell had it:

"Once to every man and nation comes the moment to decide

In the strife of Truth with falsehood, for the good or evil side;

Some great cause, God's new Messiah, offering each the bloom or

blight,

Parts the goats upon the left hand, and the sheep upon the right

And the choice goes by for ever 'twixt that darkness and that

light."

To every man there comes the unreturning decisive moment. As Shakespeare saw it:

"There is a tide in the affairs of men,

Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;

Omitted, all the voyage of their lives

Is bound in shallows and in miseries."

The undecided life is the wasted life, the frustrated life, the discontented life, and often the tragic life. As John Oxenham saw it:

"To every man there openeth

A way and ways and a way;

The high soul treads the high way,

And the low soul gropes the low,

And in between on the misty flats,

The rest drift to and fro."

The drifting life can never be the happy life. Jesus knew when John emerged that the moment of decision had come. Nazareth was peaceful and home was sweet, but he answered the summons and the challenge of God.

(ii) It was the moment of identification. It is true that Jesus did not need to repent from sin; but here was a movement of the people back to God; and with that Godward movement he was determined to identify himself. A man might himself possess ease and comfort and wealth and still identify himself with a movement to bring better things to the downtrodden and the poor and the ill-housed and the over-worked and the underpaid. The really great identification is when a man identifies himself with a movement, not for his own sake, but for the sake of others. In John Bunyan's dream, Christian came in his journeying with Interpreter to the Palace which was heavily guarded and required a battle to seek an entry. At the door there sat the man with the inkhorn taking the names of those who would dare the assault. All were hanging back, then Christian saw "a man of a very stout countenance come up to the man that sat there to write, saying, 'Set down my name, sir'." When great things are afoot the Christian is bound to say, "Set down my name, sir," for that is what Jesus did when he came to be baptized.

(iii) It was the moment of approval. No man lightly leaves his home and sets out on an unknown way. He must be very sure that he is right. Jesus had decided on his course of action, and now he was looking for the seal of the approval of God. In the time of Jesus the Jews spoke of what they called the Bath ( H1323) Qol ( H6963) , which means, the daughter of a voice. By this time they believed in a series of heavens, in the highest of which sat God in the light to which no man could approach. There were rare times when the heavens opened and God spoke; but, to them, God was so distant that it was only the far away echo of his voice that they heard. To Jesus the voice came directly. As Mark tens the story, this was a personal experience which Jesus had and not in any sense a demonstration to the crowd. The voice did not say, "This is my beloved Son," as Matthew has it ( Matthew 3:17). It said, "Thou art my beloved Son," speaking direct to Jesus. At the baptism Jesus submitted his decision to God and that decision was unmistakably approved.

(iv) It was the moment of equipment. At that time the Holy Spirit descended upon him. There is a certain symbolism here. The Spirit descended as a dove might descend. The simile is not chosen by accident. The dove is the symbol of gentleness. Both Matthew and Luke tell us of the preaching of John. ( Matthew 3:7-12; Luke 3:7-13.) John's was a message of the axe laid to the root of the tree, of the terrible sifting, of the consuming fire. It was a message of doom and not of good news. But from the very beginning the picture of the Spirit likened to a dove is a picture of gentleness. He will conquer, but the conquest will be the conquest of love.

THE TESTING TIME ( Mark 1:12-13 )

1:12-13 And immediately the Spirit thrust him into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, and all the time he was being tested by Satan. The wild beasts were his companions, and the angels were helping him.

No sooner was the glory of the hour of the Baptism over than there came the battle of the temptations. One thing stands out here in such a vivid way that we cannot miss it. It was the Spirit who thrust Jesus out into the wilderness for the testing time. The very Spirit who came upon him at his baptism now drove him out for his test.

In this life it is impossible to escape the assault of temptation; but one thing is sure--temptations are not sent to us to make us fall; they are sent to strengthen the nerve and the sinew of our minds and hearts and souls. They are not meant for our ruin, but for our good. They are meant to be tests from which we emerge better warriors and athletes of God.

Suppose a lad is a football player; suppose he is doing well in the second team and showing real signs of promise, what will the team manager do? He certainly will not send him out to play for the third team in which he could walk through the game and never break sweat; he will send him out to play for the first team where he will be tested as he never was before and have the chance to prove himself. That is what temptation is meant to do--to enable us to prove our manhood and to emerge the stronger for the fight.

Forty days is a phrase which is not to be taken literally. It is the regular Hebrew phrase for a considerable time. Moses was said to be on the mountain with God for forty days ( Exodus 24:18); it was for forty days that Elijah went in the strength of the meal the angel gave him ( 1 Kings 19:8). Just as we use the phrase ten days or so, so the Hebrews used the phrase forty days, not literally but simply to mean a fair length of time.

It was Satan who tempted Jesus. The development of the conception of Satan is very interesting.

The word Satan in Hebrew simply means an adversary; and in the Old Testament it is so used of ordinary human adversaries and opponents again and again. The angel of the Lord is the satan who stands in Balaam's way ( Numbers 22:22); the Philistines fear that David may turn out to be their satan ( 1 Samuel 29:4); David regards Abishai as his satan ( 2 Samuel 19:22); Solomon declares that God has given him such peace and prosperity that he has no satan left to oppose him ( 1 Kings 5:4). The word began by meaning an adversary in the widest sense of the term.

But it takes a step on the downward path; it begins to mean one who pleads a case against a person. It is in this sense that it is used in the first chapter of Job. In that chapter Satan is no less than one of the sons of God ( Job 1:6); but his particular task was to consider men ( Job 1:7) and to search for some case that could be pleaded against them in the presence of God. He was the accuser of men before God. The word is so used in Job 2:2 and Zechariah 3:2. The task of Satan was to say everything that could be said against a man.

The other title of Satan is the Devil; the word devil comes from the Greek diabolos ( G1228) , which literally means a slanderer. It is a small step from the thought of one who searches for everything that can be said against a man to the thought of one who deliberately and maliciously slanders man in the presence of God. But in the Old Testament Satan is still an emissary of God and not yet the malignant, supreme enemy of God. He is the adversary of man.

But now the word takes the last step on its downward course. Through their captivity the Jews learned something of Persian thought. Persian thought is based on the conception that in this universe there are two powers, a power of the light and a power of the dark, Ormuzd and Ahriman; the whole universe is a battle-ground between them and man must choose his side in that cosmic conflict. In point of fact that is precisely what life looks like and feels like. To put it in a word, in this world there is God and Gods Adversary. It was almost inevitable that Satan should come to be regarded as The Adversary par excellence. That is what his name means; that is what he always was to man; Satan becomes the essence of everything that is against God.

When we turn to the New Testament we find that it is the Devil or Satan who is behind human disease and suffering ( Luke 13:16); it is Satan who seduces Judas ( Luke 22:3); it is the devil whom we must fight ( 1 Peter 5:8-9; James 4:7); it is the devil whose power is being broken by the work of Christ ( Luke 10:1-19); it is the devil who is destined for final destruction ( Matthew 25:41). Satan is the power which is against God.

Here we have the whole essence of the Temptation story. Jesus had to decide how he was to do his work. He was conscious of a tremendous task and he was also conscious of tremendous powers. God was saying to him, "Take my love to men; love them till you die for them; conquer them by this unconquerable love even if you finish up upon a cross." Satan was saying to Jesus, "Use your power to blast men; obliterate your enemies; win the world by might and power and bloodshed." God said to Jesus, "Set up a reign of love." Satan said to Jesus, "Set up a dictatorship of force." Jesus had to choose that day between the way of God and the way of the Adversary of God.

Mark's brief story of the Temptations finishes with two vivid touches.

(i) The beasts were his companions. In the desert there roamed the leopard, the bear, the wild boar and the jackal. This is usually taken to be a vivid detail that adds to the grim terror of the scene. But perhaps it is not so. Perhaps this is a lovely thing, for perhaps it means that the beasts were Jesus' friends. Amidst the dreams of the golden age when the Messiah would come, the Jews dreamed of a day when the enmity between man and the beasts would no longer exist. "I will make for you a covenant on that day with the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the creeping things of the ground." ( Hosea 2:18.) "The wolf shall dwell with the lamb and the leopard shall lie down with the kid.... The sucking child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder's den; they shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain." ( Isaiah 11:6-9.) In later days St. Francis preached to the beasts; and it may be that here we have a first foretaste of the loveliness when man and the beasts shall be at peace. It may be that here we see a picture in which the beasts recognized, before men did, their friend and their king.

(ii) The angels were helping him. There are ever the divine reinforcements in the hour of trial. When Elisha and his servant were shut up in Dothan with their enemies pressing in upon them and no apparent way of escape, Elisha opened the young man's eyes and all around he saw the horses and the chariots of fire which belonged to God. ( 2 Kings 6:17.) Jesus was not left to fight his battle alone--and neither are we.

THE MESSAGE OF THE GOOD NEWS ( Mark 1:14-15 )

1:14-15 After John had been committed to prison, Jesus came into Galilee, announcing the good news about God, and saying, "The time that was appointed has come; and the Kingdom of God is here. Repent and believe the good news."

There are in this summary of the message of Jesus three great, dominant words of the Christian faith.

(i) There is the good news. It was preeminently good news that Jesus came to bring to men. If we follow the word euaggelion ( G2098) , good news, gospel through the New Testament we can see at least something of its content.

(a) It is good news of truth ( Galatians 2:5; Colossians 1:5). Until Jesus came, men could only guess and grope after God. "O that I knew where I might find him," cried Job ( Job 23:3). Marcus Aurelius said that the soul can see but dimly, and the word he uses is the Greek word for seeing things through water. But with the coming of Jesus men see clearly what God is like. No longer do they need to guess and grope; they know.

(b) It is good news of hope ( Colossians 1:23). The ancient world was a pessimistic world. Seneca talked of "our helplessness in necessary things." In their struggle for goodness men were defeated. The coming of Jesus brings hope to the hopeless heart.

(c) It is good news of peace ( Ephesians 6:15). The penalty of being a man is to have a split personality. In human nature the beast and the angel are strangely intermingled. It is told that once Schopenhauer, the gloomy philosopher, was found wandering. He was asked, "Who are you?" "I wish you could tell me," he answered. Robert Burns said of himself, "My life reminded me of a ruined temple. What strength, what proportion in some parts! What unsightly gaps, what prostrate ruins in others!" Man's trouble has always been that he is haunted both by sin and by goodness. The coming of Jesus unifies that disintegrated personality into one. He finds victory over his warring self by being conquered by Jesus Christ.

(d) It is good news of God's promise ( Ephesians 3:6). It is true to say that men had always thought rather of a God of threats than a God of promises. All non-Christian religions think of a demanding God; only Christianity tells of a God who is more ready to give than we are to ask.

(e) It is good news of immortality ( 2 Timothy 1:10). To the pagan, life was the road to death; man was characteristically a dying man; but Jesus came with the good news that we are on the way to life rather than death.

(f) It is good news of salvation ( Ephesians 1:13). That salvation is not merely a negative thing; it is also positive. It is not simply liberation from penalty and escape from past sin; it is the power to live life victoriously and to conquer sin. The message of Jesus is good news indeed.

(ii) There is the word repent. Now repentance is not so easy as sometimes we think. The Greek word metanoia ( G3341) literally means a change of mind. We are very apt to confuse two things--sorrow for the consequences of sin and sorrow for sin. Many a man is desperately sorry because of the mess that sin has got him into, but he very well knows that, if he could be reasonably sure that he could escape the consequences, he would do the same thing again. It is not the sin that he hates; it is its consequences.

Real repentance means that a man has come, not only to be sorry for the consequences of his sin, but to hate sin itself. Long ago that wise old writer, Montaigne, wrote in his autobiography, "Children should be taught to hate vice for its own texture, so that they will not only avoid it in action, but abominate it in their hearts--that the very thought of it may disgust them whatever form it takes." Repentance means that the man who was in love with sin comes to hate sin because of its exceeding sinfulness.

(iii) There is the word believe. "Believe," says Jesus, "in the good news." To believe in the good news simply means to take Jesus at his word, to believe that God is the kind of God that Jesus has told us about, to believe that God so loves the world that he will make any sacrifice to bring us back to himself, to believe that what sounds too good to be true is really true.

JESUS CHOOSES HIS FRIENDS ( Mark 1:16-20 )

1:16-20 While he was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew, Simon's brother, casting their nets into the sea, for they were fishermen. So Jesus said to them, "Follow me! and I will make you fishers of men." And immediately they left their nets and followed him. He went a little farther and he saw James, the son of Zebedee, and John, his brother, who were in their boat, mending their nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat, with the hired servants, and went away after him.

No sooner had Jesus taken his decision and decided his method than he proceeded to build up his staff. A leader must begin somewhere. He must get to himself a little band of kindred souls to whom he can unburden his own heart and on whose hearts he may write his message. So Mark here shows us Jesus literally laying the foundations of his Kingdom and calling his first followers.

There were many fishermen in Galilee. Josephus, who, for a time, was governor of Galilee, and who is the great historian of the Jews, tells us that in his day three hundred and thirty fishing boats sailed the waters of the lake. Ordinary people in Palestine seldom ate meat, probably not more than once a week. Fish was their staple diet ( Luke 11:11; Matthew 7:10; Mark 6:30-44; Luke 24:42). Usually the fish was salt because there was no means of transporting fresh fish. Fresh fish was one of the greatest of all delicacies in the great cities like Rome. The very names of the towns on the lakeside show how important the fishing business was. Bethsaida ( G966) means House of Fish; Tarichaea means The Place of Salt Fish, and it was there that the fish were preserved for export to Jerusalem and even to Rome itself. The salt fish industry was big business in Galilee.

The fishermen used two kinds of nets, both of which are mentioned or implied in the gospels. They used the net called the sagene ( G4522) . This was a kind of seine- or trawl-net. It was let out from the end of the boat and was so weighted that it stood, as it were, upright in the water. The boat then moved forward, and, as it moved, the four corners of the net were drawn together, so that the net became like a great bag moving through the water and enclosing the fish. The other kind of net, which Peter and Andrew were using here, was called the amphiblestron ( G293) . It was a much smaller net. It was skilfully cast into the water by hand and was shaped rather like an umbrella.

It is naturally of the greatest interest to study the men whom Jesus picked out as his first followers.

(i) We must notice what they were. They were simple folk. They did not come from the schools and the colleges; they were not drawn from the ecclesiastics or the aristocracy; they were neither learned nor wealthy. They were fishermen. That is to say, they were ordinary people. No one ever believed in the ordinary man as Jesus did. Once George Bernard Shaw said, "I have never had any feeling for the working-classes, except a desire to abolish them, and replace them by sensible people." In The Patrician John Galsworthy makes Miltoun, one of the characters, say, "The mob! How I loathe it! I hate its mean stupidity, I hate the sound of its voice, and the look on its face it's so ugly, so little!" Once in a fit of temper Carlyle declared that there were twenty-seven millions of people in England--mostly fools! Jesus did not feel like that. Lincoln said, "God must love the common people--he made so many of them." It was as if Jesus said, "Give me twelve ordinary men and with them, if they will give themselves to me, I will change the world." A man should never think so much of what he is as of what Jesus Christ can make him.

(ii) We must notice what they were doing when Jesus called them. They were doing their day's work, catching the fish and mending the nets. It was so with many a prophet. "I am no prophet," said Amos, "nor a prophet's son; but I am a herdsman, and a dresser of sycamore trees, and the Lord took me from following the flock, and the Lord said to me, 'Go, prophesy to my people Israel'." ( Amos 7:14-15.) The call of God can come to a man, not only in the house of God, not only in the secret place, but in the middle of the day's work. As MacAndrew, Kipling's Scots engineer, had it:

"From coupler flange to spindle guide

I see thy hand, O God;

Predestination in the stride

Of yon connecting rod."

The man who lives in a world that is full of God cannot ever escape him.

(iii) We must notice how he called them. Jesus' summons was, "Follow me!" It is not to be thought that on this day he stood before them for the first time. No doubt they had stood in the crowd and listened; no doubt they had stayed to talk long after the rest of the crowd had drifted away. No doubt they already had felt the magic of his presence and the magnetism of his eyes. Jesus did not say to them, "I have a theological system which I would like you to investigate; I have certain theories that I would like you to think over; I have an ethical system I would like to discuss with you." He said, "Follow me!" It all began with a personal reaction to himself; it all began with that tug on the heart which begets the unshakeable loyalty. This is not to say that there are none who think themselves into Christianity; but for most of us following Christ is like falling in love. It has been said that "we admire people for reasons; we love them without reasons." The thing happens just because they are they and we are we. "I," said Jesus, "when I am lifted up from the earth will draw all men to myself." ( John 12:32.) In by far the greatest number of cases a man follows Jesus Christ, not because of anything that Jesus said but because of everything that Jesus is.

(iv) Lastly we must note what Jesus offered them. He offered them a task. He called them not to ease but to service. Someone has said that what every man needs is "something in which he can invest his life." So Jesus called his men, not to a comfortable ease and not to a lethargic inactivity; he called them to a task in which they would have to spend themselves and burn themselves up, and, in the end, die for his sake and for the sake of their fellow men. He called them to a task wherein they could win something for themselves only by giving their all to him and to others.

JESUS BEGINS HIS CAMPAIGN ( Mark 1:21-22 )

1:21-22 So they came into Capernaum; and immediately on the Sabbath day Jesus went into the Synagogue and began to teach; and they were completely astonished at the way he taught, for he taught them like one who had personal authority, and not as the experts in the law did.

Mark's story unfolds in a series of logical and natural steps. Jesus recognized in the emergence of John God's call to action. He was baptized and received God's seal of approval and God's equipment for his task. He was tested by the devil and chose the method he would use and the way he would take. He chose his men that he might have a little circle of kindred spirits and that he might write his message upon them. And now he had to make a deliberate launching of his campaign. If a man had a message from God to give, the natural place to which he would turn would be the church where God's people met together. That is precisely what Jesus did. He began his campaign in the synagogue.

There are certain basic differences between the synagogue and the church as we know it today.

(a) The synagogue was primarily a teaching institution. The synagogue service consisted of only three things--prayer, the reading of God's word, and the exposition of it. There was no music, no singing and no sacrifice. It may be said that the Temple was the place of worship and sacrifice; the synagogue was the place of teaching and instruction. The synagogue was by far the more influential, for there was only one Temple. But the law laid it down that wherever there were ten Jewish families there must be a synagogue, and, therefore, wherever there was a colony of Jews, there was a synagogue. If a man had a new message to preach, the synagogue was the obvious place in which to preach it.

(b) The synagogue provided an opportunity to deliver such a message. The synagogue had certain officials. There was the Ruler of the synagogue. He was responsible for the administration of the affairs of the synagogue and for the arrangements for its services. There were the distributors of alms. Daily a collection was taken in cash and in kind from those who could afford to give. It was then distributed to the poor; the very poorest were given food for fourteen meals per week. There was the Chazzan. He is the man whom the King James Version describes as the minister. He was responsible for the taking out and storing away of the sacred rolls on which scripture was written; for the cleaning of the synagogue; for the blowing of the blasts on the silver trumpet which told people that the Sabbath had come; for the elementary education of the children of the community. One thing the synagogue had not and that was a permanent preacher or teacher. When the people met at the synagogue service it was open to the Ruler to call on any competent person to give the address and the exposition. There was no professional ministry whatsoever. That is why Jesus was able to open his campaign in the synagogues. The opposition had not yet stiffened into hostility. He was known to be a man with a message; and for that very reason the synagogue of every community provided him with a pulpit from which to instruct and to appeal to men.

When Jesus did teach in the synagogue the whole method and atmosphere of his teaching was like a new revelation. He did not teach like the scribes, the experts in the law. Who were these scribes?

To the Jews the most sacred thing in the world was the Torah, the Law. The core of the law is the Ten Commandments, but the Law was taken to mean the first five books of the Old Testament, the Pentateuch, as they are called. To the Jews this Law was completely divine. It had, so they believed, been given direct by God to Moses. It was absolutely holy and absolutely binding. They said, "He who says that the Torah is not from God has not part in the future world." "He who says that Moses wrote even one verse of his own knowledge is a denier and despiser of the word of God."

If the Torah is so divine two things emerge. First, it must be the supreme rule of faith and life; and second, it must contain everything necessary to guide and to direct life. If that be so the Torah demands two things. First, it must obviously be given the most careful and meticulous study. Second, the Torah is expressed in great, wide principles; but, if it contains direction and guidance for all life, what is in it implicitly must be brought out. The great laws must become rules and regulations--so their argument ran.

To give this study and to supply this development a class of scholars arose. These were the Scribes, the experts in the law. The title of the greatest of them was Rabbi. The scribes had three duties.

(i) They set themselves, out of the great moral principles of the Torah, to extract rules and regulations for every possible situation in life. Obviously this was a task that was endless. Jewish religion began with the great moral laws; it ended with an infinity of rules and regulations. It began as religion; it ended as legalism.

(ii) It was the task of the scribes to transmit and to teach this law and its developments. These deduced and extracted rules and regulations were never written down; they are known as the Oral Law. Although never written down they were considered to be even more binding than the written law. From generation to generation of scribes they were taught and committed to memory. A good student had a memory which was like "a well lined with lime which loses not one drop."

(iii) The scribes had the duty of giving judgment in individual cases; and, in the nature of things, practically every individual case must have produced a new law.

Wherein did Jesus' teaching differ so much from the teaching of the Scribes? He taught with personal authority. No Scribe ever gave a decision on his own. He would always begin, "There is a teaching that..." and would then quote all his authorities. If he made a statement he would buttress it with this, that and the next quotation from the great legal masters of the past. The last thing he ever gave was an independent judgment. How different was Jesus! When he spoke, he spoke as if he needed no authority beyond himself. He spoke with utter independence. He cited no authorities and quoted no experts. He spoke with the finality of the voice of God. To the people it was like a breeze from heaven to hear someone speak like that. The terrific, positive certainty of Jesus was the very antithesis of the careful quotations of the Scribes. The note of personal authority rang out--and that is a note which captures the ear of every man.

THE FIRST VICTORY OVER THE POWERS OF EVIL ( Mark 1:23-28 )

1:23-28 There was in the synagogue a man in the grip of an unclean spirit. Immediately he broke into a shout. "What have we to do with you, Jesus of Nazareth?" he said. "Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are you are The Holy One of God." Jesus spoke sternly to him. "Be silent," he said, "and come out of him." When the unclean spirit had convulsed the man and had cried with a great cry it came out of him. They were all so astonished that they kept asking each other, "What is this? This is a new kind of teaching. He gives his orders with authority even to unclean spirits and they obey him." And immediately the report about Jesus went out everywhere over the whole surrounding district of Galilee.

If Jesus' words had amazed the people in the synagogue, his deeds left them thunderstruck. In the synagogue there was a man in the grip of an unclean spirit. He created a disturbance and Jesus healed him.

All through the gospels we keep meeting people who had unclean spirits and who were possessed by demons or devils. What lies behind this?

The Jews, and indeed the whole ancient world, believed strongly in demons and devils. As Harnack put it, "The whole world and the circumambient atmosphere were filled with devils; not merely idolatry, but every phase and form of life was ruled by them. They sat on thrones, they hovered around cradles. The earth was literally a hell."

Dr. A. Rendle Short cites a fact which shows the intensity with which the ancient world believed in demons. In many ancient cemeteries skulls were found which had been trepanned. That is to say, a hole had been bored in the skull. In one cemetery, out of one hundred and twenty skulls, six had been trepanned. With the limited surgical technique available that was no small operation. Further, it was clear from the bone growth that the trepanning had been done during life. It was also clear that the hole in the skull was too small to be of any physical or surgical value; and it is known that the removed disc of bone was often worn as an amulet round the neck. The reason for the trepanning was to allow the demon to escape from the body of the man. If primitive surgeons were prepared to undertake that operation, and if men were prepared to undergo it, the belief in demon-possession must have been intensely real.

Where did these demons come from? There were three answers to that question. (i) Some believed that they were as old as creation itself. (ii) Some believed that they were the spirits of wicked men who had died and were still carrying on their malignant work. (iii) Most people connected the demons with the old story in Genesis 6:1-8 (compare 2 Peter 2:4-5).

The Jews elaborated the story in this way. There were two angels who forsook God and came to this earth because they were attracted by the beauty of mortal women. Their names were Assael and Shemachsai. One of them returned to God; the other remained on earth and gratified his lust; and the demons are the children that he begat and their children.

The collective word for demons is mazzikin, which means one who does harm. So the demons were malignant beings intermediate between God and man who were out to work men harm.

The demons, according to Jewish belief, could eat and drink and beget children. They were terrifyingly numerous. There were, according to some, seven and a half millions of them; every man had ten thousand on his right hand and ten thousand on his left. They lived in unclean places, such as tombs and spots where there was no cleansing water. They lived in the desert where their howling could be heard--hence the phrase a howling desert. They were specially dangerous to the lonely traveller, to the woman in child-birth, to the bride and bridegroom, to children who were out after dark, and to those who voyaged at night. They were specially active in the midday heat and between sunset and sunrise. There was a demon of blindness and a demon of leprosy and a demon of heart-disease. They could transfer their malign gifts to men. For instance, the evil eye which could turn good fortune into bad and in which all believed was given to a man by the demons. They worked along with certain animals--the serpent, the bull, the donkey and the mosquito. The male demons were known as shedim, and the female as lilin, after Lilith. The female demons had long hair and were the enemies of children. That is why children had their guardian angels ( Matthew 18:10).

It does not matter whether or not we believe in all this; whether it is true or not is beside the point. The point is that the people in New Testament times did. We still may use the phrase Poor devil! That is a relic of the old belief. When a man believed himself to be possessed he was "conscious of himself and also of another being who constrains and controls him from within." That explains why the demon-possessed in Palestine so often cried out when they met Jesus. They knew that Jesus was believed by some at least to be the Messiah; they knew that the reign of the Messiah was the end of the demons; and the man who believed himself to be possessed spoke as a demon when he came into the presence of Jesus.

There were many exorcists who claimed to be able to cast out demons. So real was this belief that by A.D. 340 the Christian church actually possessed an Order of Exorcists. But there was this difference--the ordinary Jewish and pagan exorcist used elaborate incantations and spells and magical rites. Jesus with one word of clear, simple, brief authority exorcised the demon from a man. No one had ever seen anything like this before. The power was not in the spell, the formula, the incantation, the elaborate rite; the power was in Jesus and men were astonished.

What are we to say to all this? Paul Tournier in A Doctor's Casebook writes, "Doubtless there are many doctors who in their struggle against disease have had, like me, the feeling that they were confronting, not something passive, but a clever and resourceful enemy." Dr. Rendle Short comes tentatively to the conclusion that "the happenings in this world, in fact, and its moral disasters, its wars and wickedness, its physical catastrophes, and its sicknesses, may be part of a great warfare due to the interplay of forces such as we see in the book of Job, the malice of the devil on one hand and the restraints imposed by God on the other."

This is a subject on which we cannot dogmatize. We may take three different positions. (i) We may relegate the whole matter of demon-possession to the sphere of primitive thought and say that it was a primitive way of accounting for things in the days before man knew any more about men's bodies and men's minds. (ii) We may accept the fact of demon-possession as being true in New Testament times and as being still true today. (iii) If we accept the first position we have to explain the attitude and actions of Jesus. Either he knew no more on this matter than the people of his day, and that is a thing we can easily accept for Jesus was not a scientist and did not come to teach science. Or he knew perfectly well that he could never cure the man in trouble unless he assumed the reality of the disease. It was real to the man and had to be treated as such or it could never be cured. In the end we come to the conclusion that there are some answers we do not know.

A PRIVATE MIRACLE ( Mark 1:29-31 )

1:29-31 And immediately, when they had come out of the synagogue, they went, along with Peter and John, into the house of Simon and Andrew. Peter's mother-in-law was in bed with an attack of fever. Immediately they spoke to Jesus about her. He went up to her and took her by the hand and raised her up, and the fever left her, and she attended to their needs.

In the synagogue Jesus had spoken and acted in the most amazing way. The synagogue service ended and Jesus went with his friends to Peter's house. According to Jewish custom the main Sabbath meal came immediately after the synagogue service, at the sixth hour, that is at 12 o'clock midday. (The Jewish day began at 6 a.m. and the hours are counted from then.) Jesus might well have claimed the right to rest after the exciting and exhausting experience of the synagogue service; but once again his power was appealed to and once again he spent himself for others. This miracle tells us something about three people.

(i) It tells us something about Jesus. He did not require an audience in order to exert his power; he was just as prepared to heal in the little circle of a cottage as in the great crowd of a synagogue. He was never too tired to help; the need of others took precedence over his own desire for rest. But above all, we see here, as we saw in the synagogue, the uniqueness of the methods of Jesus. There were many exorcists in the time of Jesus, but they worked with elaborate incantations, and formulae, and spells, and magical apparatus. In the synagogue Jesus had spoken one authoritative sentence and the healing was complete.

Here we have the same thing again. Peter's mother-in-law was suffering from what the Talmud called "a burning fever." It was, and still is, very prevalent in that particular part of Galilee. The Talmud actually lays down the methods of dealing with it. A knife wholly made of iron was tied by a braid of hair to a thorn bush. On successive days there was repeated, first, Exodus 3:2-3; second, Exodus 3:4; and finally Exodus 3:5. Then a certain magical formula was pronounced, and thus the cure was supposed to be achieved. Jesus completely disregarded all the paraphernalia of popular magic, and with a gesture and a word of unique authority and power, he healed the woman.

The word that the Greek uses for authority in the previous passage is exousia ( G1849) ; and exousia was defined as unique knowledge together with unique power; that is precisely what Jesus possessed, and that is what he was prepared to exercise in a cottage. Paul Tournier writes, "My patients very often say to me, 'I admire the patience with which you listen to everything I tell you.' It is not patience at all, but interest." A miracle to Jesus was not a means of increasing his prestige; to help was not a laborious and disagreeable duty; he helped instinctively, because he was supremely interested in all who needed his help.

(ii) It tells us something about the disciples. They had not known Jesus long, but already they had begun to take all their troubles to him. Peter's mother-in-law was ill; the simple home was upset; and it was for the disciples the most natural thing in the world to tell Jesus all about it.

Paul Tournier tells how one of life's greatest discoveries came to him. He used to visit an old Christian pastor who never let him go without praying with him. He was struck by the extreme simplicity of the old man's prayers. It seemed just a continuation of an intimate conversation that the old saint was always carrying on with Jesus. Paul Tournier goes on, "When I got back home I talked it over with my wife, and together we asked God to give us also the close fellowship with Jesus the old pastor had. Since then he has been the centre of my devotion and my travelling companion. He takes pleasure in what I do (compare Ecclesiastes 9:7), and concerns himself with it. He is a friend with whom I can discuss everything that happens in my life. He shares my joy and my pain, my hopes and fears. He is there when a patient speaks to me from his heart, listening to him with me and better than I can. And when the patient is gone I can talk to him about it."

Therein there lies the very essence of the Christian life. As the hymn has it, "Take it to the Lord in prayer." Thus early the disciples had learned what became the habit of a lifetime--to take all their troubles to Jesus and to ask his help for them.

(iii) It tells us something about Peter's wife's mother. No sooner was she healed than she began to attend to their needs. She used her recovered health for renewed service. A great Scottish family has the motto "Saved to Serve." Jesus helps us that we may help others.

THE BEGINNING OF THE CROWDS ( Mark 1:32-34 )

1:32-34 When evening had come and when the sun had set, they kept bringing to him all those who were ill and demon-possessed. The whole city had crowded together to the door; and he healed many who were ill with various diseases and cast out many demons; and he forbade the demons to speak because they knew him.

The things that Jesus had done in Capernaum could not be concealed. The emergence of so great a new power and authority was not something which could be kept secret. So the evening found Peter's house besieged with crowds seeking Jesus' healing touch. They waited until evening because the law forbade the carrying of any burden through a town on the Sabbath day (compare Jeremiah 17:24). That would have been to work and work was forbidden. They had, of course, no clocks or watches in those days; the Sabbath ran from 6 p.m. to 6 p.m.; and the law was that the Sabbath was ended and the day had finished when three stars came out in the sky. So the people of Capernaum waited until the sun had set and the stars were out and then they came, carrying their sick, to Jesus; and he healed them.

Three times we have seen Jesus healing people. First he healed in the synagogue; second, he healed in the house of his friends; and now he healed in the street. Jesus recognized the claim of everyone. It was said of Dr. Johnson that to be in misfortune was to be assured of his friendship and support. Wherever there was trouble Jesus was ready to use his power. He selected neither the place nor the person; he realized the universal claim of human need.

The people flocked to Jesus because they recognized in him a man who could do things. There were plenty who could talk and expound and lecture and preach; but here was one who dealt not only in words but also in actions. It has been said that "if a man can make a better mousetrap than his neighbours, the public will beat a path to his house even if he lives in the middle of a wood." The person people want is the effective person. Jesus could, and can, produce results.

But there is the beginning of tragedy here. The crowds came, but they came because they wanted something out of Jesus. They did not come because they loved him; they did not come because they had caught a glimpse of some new vision; in the last analysis they wanted to use him. That is what nearly everyone wants to do with God and his Son. For one prayer that goes up to God in days of prosperity ten thousand go up in time of adversity. Many a man who has never prayed when the sun was shining begins to pray when the cold winds come.

Someone has said that many people regard religion as belonging "to the ambulance corps and not to the firing-line of life." Religion to them is a crisis affair. It is only when they have got life into a mess, or when life deals them some knock-out blow that they begin to remember God. We must all go to Jesus for he alone can give us the things we need for life; but if that going and these gifts do not produce in us an answering love and gratitude there is something tragically wrong. God is not someone to be used in the day of misfortune; he is someone to be loved and remembered every day of our lives.

THE QUIET HOUR AND THE CHALLENGE OF ACTION ( Mark 1:35-39 )

1:35-39 Very early, when it was still night, Jesus rose and went out. He went away to a deserted place and there he was praying. Simon and his friends tracked him down and said to him, "They are all searching for you," Jesus said to them, "Let us go somewhere else, to the nearby villages, that I may proclaim the good news there too, for that is why I came forth." So he went to their synagogues, all over Galilee, proclaiming the good news as he went, and casting out demons.

Simply to read the record of the things that happened at Capernaum is to see that Jesus was left with no time alone. Now Jesus knew well that he could not live without God; that if he was going to be forever giving out, he must be at least sometimes taking in; that if he was going to spend himself for others, he must ever and again summon spiritual reinforcements to his aid. He knew that he could not live without prayer. In a little book entitled The Practice of Prayer, Dr. A. D. Belden has some great definitions. "Prayer may be defined as the appeal of the soul to God." Not to pray is to be guilty of the incredible folly of ignoring "the possibility of adding God to our resources." "In prayer we give the perfect mind of God an opportunity to feed our mental powers." Jesus knew this; he knew that if he was to meet men he must first meet God. If prayer was necessary for Jesus, how much more must it be necessary for us?

Even there they sought him out. There was no way in which Jesus could shut the door. Once Rose Macaulay, the novelist, said that all she demanded from this life was "a room of her own." That is precisely what Jesus never had. A great doctor has said that the duty of medicine is "sometimes to heal, often to afford relief, and always to bring consolation." That duty was always upon Jesus. It has been said that a doctor's duty is "to help men to live and to die"--and men are always living and dying. It is human nature to try to put up the barriers and to have time and peace to oneself; that is what Jesus never did. Conscious as he was of his own weariness and exhaustion, he was still more conscious of the insistent cry of human need. So when they came for him he rose from his knees to meet the challenge of his task. Prayer will never do our work for us; what it will do is to strengthen us for work which must be done.

Jesus set out on a preaching tour of the synagogues of Galilee. In Mark this tour is dismissed in one verse, but it must have taken weeks and even months to do it. As he went he preached and he healed. There were three pairs of things which Jesus never separated.

(i) He never separated words and actions. He never thought that a work was done when that work was stated; he never believed that his duty was completed when he had exhorted men to God and to goodness. Always the statement and the exhortation were put into action. Fosdick somewhere tens of a student who bought the best possible books and the best possible equipment and got a special study chair with a special bookrest to make study easy, and then sat down in the chair--and went to sleep. The man who deals in words with no actions to follow is very like that.

(ii) He never separated soul and body. There have been types of Christianity which spoke as if the body did not matter. But man is both soul and body. And the task of Christianity is to redeem the whole man and not just part of him. It is indeed blessedly true that a man may be starving, living in a hovel, in distress and pain and yet have sweet times with God; but that is no reason at all for leaving him in such a case. Missions to primitive races do not only take the Bible; they take education and medicine; they take the school and the hospital. It is quite wrong to talk about the social gospel as if it were an extra, or an option, or even a separate part of the Christian message. The Christian message is one and it preaches and works for the good of a man's body as well as the good of his soul.

(iii) Jesus never separated earth and heaven. There are those who are so concerned with heaven that they forget all about earth and so become impractical visionaries. There are those who are so concerned with earth that they forget about heaven and limit good to material good. The dream of Jesus was a time when God's will would be done in earth as it is in heaven, ( Matthew 6:10) and earth and heaven be one.

THE LEPER IS CLEANSED ( Mark 1:40-45 )

1:40-45 A leper came to him, asking him to help him and kneeling before him. "If you are willing to do so," he said, "you are able to cleanse me." Jesus was moved with pity to the depths of his being. He stretched out his hand and touched him. "I am willing," Jesus said, "be cleansed." Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed. Immediately Jesus sent him away with a stern injunction. "See to it," he said to him, "that you tell no man anything about this; but go and show yourself to the priest, and bring the offering for cleansing which Moses laid down, so that you may prove to them that you really are healed." He went away and began to proclaim the story at length and to spread it all over. The result was that it was not possible for Jesus to come openly into any town, but he had to stay outside in the lonely places; and they kept coming to him from all over.

In the New Testament there is no disease regarded with more terror and pity than leprosy. When Jesus sent out the Twelve he commanded them, "Heal the sick, cleanse lepers." ( Matthew 18:8.) The fate of the leper was truly hard. E. W. G. Masterman in his article on leprosy in the Dictionary of Christ and the Gospels, from which we have drawn much of the information that follows, says, "No other disease reduces a human being for so many years to so hideous a wreck." Let us look first at the facts.

There are three kinds of leprosy. (i) There is nodular or tubercular leprosy. It begins with an unaccountable lethargy and pains in the joints. Then there appear on the body, especially on the back, symmetrical discoloured patches. On them little nodules form, at first pink, then turning brown. The skin is thickened. The nodules gather specially in the folds of the cheek, the nose, the lips and the forehead. The whole appearance of the face is changed till the man loses his human appearance and looks, as the ancients said, like a lion or a satyr. The nodules grow larger and larger; they ulcerate and from them comes a foul discharge. The eye-brows fail out; the eyes become staring; the voice becomes hoarse and the breath wheezes because of the ulceration of the vocal chords. The hands and the feet also ulcerate. Slowly the sufferer becomes a mass of ulcerated growths. The average course of the disease is nine years, and it ends in mental decay, coma and ultimately death. the sufferer becomes utterly repulsive both to himself and to others.

(ii) There is anaesthetic leprosy. The initial stages are the same; but the nerve trunks also are affected. The infected area loses all sensation. This may happen without the sufferer knowing that it has happened; and he may not realize that it has happened until he suffers some burning or scalding and finds that there is no feeling whatsoever where pain ought to be. As the disease develops the injury to the nerves causes discoloured patches and blisters. The muscles waste away; the tendons contract until the hands become like claws. There is always disfigurement of the finger nails. There ensues chronic ulceration of the feet and of the hands and then the progressive loss of fingers and of toes, until in the end a whole hand or a whole foot may drop off. The duration of the disease is anything from twenty to thirty years. It is a kind of terrible progressive death of the body.

(iii) The third kind of leprosy is a type--the commonest of all--where nodular and anaesthetic leprosy are mixed.

That is leprosy proper, and there is no doubt that there were many lepers like that in Palestine in the time of Jesus. From the description in Leviticus 13:1-59 it is quite clear that in New Testament times the term leprosy was also used to cover other skin diseases. It seems to have been used to include psoriasis, a disease which covers the body with white scales, and which would give rise to the phrase "a leper as white as snow." It seems also to have included ring-worm which is still very common in the East. The Hebrew word used in Leviticus for leprosy is tsara'ath ( H6883) . Now Leviticus 13:47 speaks of a tsara'ath ( H6883) of garments, and a tsara'ath ( H6883) of houses is dealt with in Leviticus 14:33. Such a blemish on a garment would be some kind of mould or fungus; and on a house it would be some kind of dry-rot in the wood or destructive lichen on the stone. The word tsara'ath ( H6883) , leprosy in Jewish thought, seems to have covered any kind of creeping skin disease. Very naturally, with medical knowledge in an extremely primitive state, diagnosis did not distinguish between the different kinds of skin disease and included both the deadly and incurable and the non-fatal and comparatively harmless under the one inclusive title.

Any such skin disease rendered the sufferer unclean. He was banished from the fellowship of men; he must dwell alone outside the camp; he must go with rent clothes, bared head, a covering upon his upper lip, and as he went he must give warning of his polluted presence with the cry, "Unclean, unclean!" We see the same thing in the Middle Ages, which merely applied the Mosaic law. The priest, wearing his stole and carrying a crucifix, led the leper into the church, and read the burial service over him. The leper was a man who was already dead, though still alive. He had to wear a black garment that all might recognize and live in a leper- or lazar-house. He must not come into a church service but while the service went on he might peer through the leper "squint" cut in the walls. The leper had not only to bear the physical pain of his disease; he had to bear the mental anguish and the heart-break of being completely banished from human society and totally shunned.

If ever a leper was cured--and real leprosy was incurable, so it is some of the other skin diseases which must be referred to--he had to undergo a complicated ceremony of restoration which is described in Leviticus 14:1-57. He was examined by the priest. Two birds were taken and one was killed over running water. In addition there was taken cedar, scarlet and hyssop. These things and the living bird were dipped in the blood of the dead bird and then the live bird was allowed to go free. The man washed himself and his clothes and shaved himself. Seven days then elapsed and he was re-examined. He had then to shave his hair, his head, his eye-brows. Certain sacrifices were made--two male lambs without blemish and one ewe lamb; three tenth deals of fine flour mingled with oil and one log of oil. The amounts were less for the poor. The restored sufferer was touched on the tip of the right ear, the right thumb and the right great toe with blood and oil. He was given a final examination and, if clear of the disease, he was snowed to go with a certificate that he was clean.

Here is one of the most revealing pictures of Jesus.

(i) He did not drive away a man who had broken the law. The leper had no right to have spoken to him at all, but Jesus met the desperation of human need with an understanding compassion.

(ii) Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him. He touched the man who was unclean. To Jesus he was not unclean; he was simply a human soul in desperate need.

(iii) Having cleansed him, Jesus sent him to fulfil the prescribed ritual. He fulfilled the human law and human righteousness. He did not recklessly defy the conventions, but, when need be, submitted to them.

Here we see compassion, power and wisdom all conjoined.

-Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT)

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Barclay, William. "Commentary on Mark 1:1". "William Barclay's Daily Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dsb/mark-1.html. 1956-1959.

Gann's Commentary on the Bible

Mark 1:1

Book Comments

Walking Thru The Bible

MARK

Introduction

AUTHOR: John, whose surname was Mark, is the writer (Acts 12:12, Acts 12:25). He was the son of a certain Mary of Jerusalem and cousin of Barnabas (Colossians 4:10).

    From the fact that the family had large facilities and servants attending the door, Mary appears well off and probably an influential member in the early Jerusalem church. It has been suggested that the upper room may have been at her home and that it continued as a meeting place for the apostles (Cf. Acts 1:13).

    Although Mark was a source of contention between Paul and Barnabas at the beginning of the second missionary journey, we see him working with Paul and highly favored a few years later (Colossians 4:10; Philemon 1:24). Mark also worked with Peter and is referred to as his "son" much like Timothy was by Paul. Many believe the young man of Mark 14:51-53 was none other than the young Mark himself.

BACKGROUND: One of the pupils of the apostle John said that Mark wrote down exactly, without mistake, the words and deeds of Christ though not in chronological order. He says that the Mark wrote down the substance of Peter’s preaching.

PURPOSE: From Mark 10:45 we can easily determine Mark’s object in writing his gospel account, "For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many."

CHARACTERISTICS: Mark is the briefest of the four gospel accounts. It is a narrative of dynamic action. Jesus is presented as "doing" rather than merely "saying."

1.    "Straightway" and "immediately" are used more than 40 times.

2.    Mark repeatedly speaks of the impact, the awe, and astonishment that Jesus made on the mind and heart of those who heard him. cf. Mark 1:22; Mark 1:27; Mark 4:41; Mark 6:51; Mark 10:24, Mark 10:26, etc.

3.    Mark tells us more about the emotions of Jesus than other writers. He pictures Jesus:

    a.    Sighing deeply in His spirit -- Mark 7:34; Mark 8:12.

    b.    Moved with compassion -- Mark 6:31.

    c.    Marvelling at their unbelief -- Mark 6:6.

    d.    Moved with righteous anger -- Mark 3:5; Mark 8:33; Mark 10:14.

    e.    Looking with love on the rich young ruler -- Mark 10:21.

    f.    Feeling the pangs of hunger -- Mark 11:12.

    g.    Becoming tired and needing rest -- Mark 6:31.

4.    Mark repeatedly inserts little vivid details which are the hall-marks of an eye-witness.

    a.    Cf. the added detail to Matthew 18:2 found in Mark 9:36;

    b.    Cf. Matthew 19:13-15, Luke 18:15-17 and Mark 10:13-16;

    c.    Mark alone tells how the 5000 were seated, and how they looked like plots of vegetable rows in a garden -- Mark 6:40;

    d.    Cf. Jesus and disciples on their last journey to Jerusalem -- Matthew 20:17; Luke 18:31; with Mark 10:32.

    e.    In the story of Jesus stilling the tempest Mark adds one little sentence that makes the picture vivid before our eyes -- Mark 4:38 a.

5.    Mark is very fond of the historic present. He speaks of events in the present tense instead of the past.

6.    Mark often gives us the very Aramaic words Jesus spoke. Indicative of an eye-witness. Mark always then gives the interpretation of those Aramaic words revealing to us he is writing for non-Hebrews (cf. Mark 5:41; Mark 7:34; Mark 7:11; Mark 14:36; Mark 15:34).

(These may have been times when Peter could hear again the very sound of Jesus’ voice, and could not help givin g in his sermons the very words that Jesus uttered.)

7.    Mark made more use of Latin loanwords than the other gospel accounts and some occur in the New Testament only in Mark. [Note also the evidence of Mark 15:21 and Romans 16:13 which ties his gospel to a Roman audience.]

8.    Mark presents Jesus as being addressed as Rabbi or Teacher whereas Matthew and Luke represent Jesus as being addressed by the title "Lord." Some say Matthew and Luke reflect the post-resurrection practice of speaking of Jesus while Mark is faithful to the pre-resurrection way of addressing Jesus.

DESIGN:

    Purpose -- The very first verse of Mark provides a clear indication of the writer’s purpose: to set forth "the good news" and to bear witness to Jesus as the Messiah and the Son of God.

    Outline -- MARK -- "The Miracle Working Servant"

I.    The Servant’s Coming     - 1:1-13

II.    The Servant’s Work - 1:14 - 13:37

    A. Beginning of Galilean Ministry - 1:14 - 3:6

    B. Later stages of Galilean Ministry - 3:7 - 6:13

    C. Jesus goes outside Galilee    - 6:14 - 8:26

    D. The way to Jerusalem - 8:27 - 10:52

    E. Ministry in Jerusalem - 11:1 - 13:37

III.    The Servant’s Death - 14:1 - 15:47

IV.    The Servant’s Resurrection - 16:1 - 20

    Miracles -- Mark shows Jesus as the miracle-working Servant of God attending to man. Mark’s picture is a motion picture showing Jesus in action moving men to God! The Gospel records 35 miracles that Jesus worked.

    17 miracles of physical healing

     9 miracles over forces of nature

     6 specific instances of expulsions of demons

     3 raised from the dead

Most of the Lord’s miracles, however, are unrecorded (cf. Matthew 14:23; Luke 4:40; Matthew 15:30-31; Matthew 19:1-2; Luke 6:17-19; Mark 1:32-34; and John 21:25, etc.) The purpose of His miracles were to authenticate the Servant as the Son of God (John 15:24; John 20:30-31; Mark 16:20; Hebrews 2:3-4).

SERMON OUTLINE

God’s Son Was A Teacher

"And when the sabbath day was come, he began to teach in the synagogue: and many hearing him were astonished, saying, From whence hath this man these things? and what wisdom is this which is given unto him, that even such mighty works are wrought by his hands?" Mark 6:2.

INTRODUCTION

1.    "Never man spake like this man" -- John 7:46; Mark 7:5-13.

2.    We may go back to the opening chapters of Genesis and read "And the Lord God commanded man, saying..." (Mark 2:16). Thus God became the first instructor and man the first pupil. God instructed man concerning His Will for him.

3.    An analysis of the Bible’s account of this first teaching situation reveals at least 3 things to us:

    1)    That God’s purpose was to maintain the perfect relationship that existed between man and Himself in the creation.

    2)    That His method was positive and authoritative. There was nothing obscure, indefinite, or uncertain about what God said. It was "The Lord God commanded the man, saying..."

    3)    That as long as man obeyed, God’s purpose was achieved. It was when man presumed to know more than his teacher that the hitherto happy relationship was dissolved.

4.    When man disobeyed God and fell into sin the situation between them was altered. God still loved man and continued to act as his Teacher, but his purpose was no longer to maintain a perfect relationship. It was to restore it.

THE FIRST TEACHERS --

    The early teachers --

        God -- The Patriarchs -- Moses

    The early centers of learning --

        The garden; the family; the kingdom; the synagogue

CHRIST The Master Teacher

    His Preparation -- As Mark informs us

    His Aim --    He was the Savior; His aim to bring men to God and to prepare them for the kingdom of Heaven.

    His Method --    He taught; He cared

        He WAS the Way, the Truth, and the Life

CONCLUSION -- Teaching for Eternity

- - - - - - - - - - - -

Verse Comments

The gospel is the good news of the fulfillment of God’s promises. In the OT (Isaiah 40:9; Isaiah 52:7; Nahum 1:15) “good news” is connected with the saving intervention of God to help his people.

gospel of Jesus Christ... Jesus may be either the one who proclaims the gospel (euangelion) or the subject matter of the gospel; Mark relates Jesus to the good news in both ways.

Jesus Christ ... The name Iesou is the Greek version of the name Joshua (yehoshua’ or yeshua), a common Jewish name in the first century AD. Christos is the Greek translation of the Hebrew title mashiach, both meaning the “Anointed [One].”

The title “Son of God” points to Jesus’ unique relationship to God. He is a Man (Jesus)—and God’s “Anointed One” (Messiah)—but He is also fully divine. As the Son He depends on and obeys God the Father (cf. Hebrews 5:8).

Son of God... Whether these words are original is debated (see second NIV text note on v. 1).

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Gann, Windell. "Commentary on Mark 1:1". Gann's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gbc/mark-1.html. 2021.

Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

Ver. 1. The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ,.... Not that the Gospel first began to be preached at this time, for it was preached by Isaiah, and other prophets before; and long before that, was preached unto Abraham; yea, it was preached as early as the times of our first parents, in Eden's garden; and is indeed that mystery, which was hid in God before the creation of the world; and was ordained before that was, to the glory of the saints: but the sense is, that this narrative Mark was about to write, began with the ministry of John the Baptist, and of Christ; which was a Gospel one, and was the beginning of the Gospel dispensation, in distinction from the legal one: the law and the prophets were until John, and they ceased and ended in him; when the עולם הבא, "the world to come", the kingdom of God, or Gospel state, took place. The design of this evangelist, is not to give an account of the genealogy of Christ, of his conception and birth, of what befell him in his infancy, or of any actions and sayings of his from thence, to his appearance in Israel; but to give an account of his ministry and miracles, sufferings and death: which is introduced with the preaching and baptism of John his forerunner, and which he chiefly intends by "the beginning of the Gospel": he first points out Christ, who is the author and substance, as well as the great preacher of the Gospel; the sum of which is, that he is Jesus, the Saviour and Redeemer of lost sinners; the Christ, the Messiah, that was to come; the Mediator between God and man, the prophet that has declared the whole mind and will of God; the great high priest, who has offered himself a sacrifice for his people, made peace, procured pardon, brought in everlasting righteousness, and obtained eternal redemption, and now lives to make intercession for them; and King of saints, who reigns over them, protects and defends them, and is no other than

the Son of God; equal with his Father; of the same nature with him, possessed of the same perfections, and enjoying the same glory; and which is a grand article of the Gospel, and without which he could not be an able Saviour, nor the true Messiah. Mark begins his account of the Gospel, and which he calls the beginning of it, with the same article of the divine sonship of Christ, as the Apostle Paul began his ministry with, Acts 9:20. Matthew began his Gospel with the humanity, Mark with the divinity of Christ: the one calls him the son of David, the other the Son of God, both true: Christ is the son of David according to his human nature, the Son of God according to his divine nature; so a testimony is bore to the truth of both his natures, which are united in one person.

Copyright Statement
The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on Mark 1:1". "Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/mark-1.html. 1999.

Henry's Complete Commentary on the Bible

The Ministry of John the Baptist.


      1 The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God;   2 As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.   3 The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.   4 John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.   5 And there went out unto him all the land of Judæa, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins.   6 And John was clothed with camel's hair, and with a girdle of a skin about his loins; and he did eat locusts and wild honey;   7 And preached, saying, There cometh one mightier than I after me, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose.   8 I indeed have baptized you with water: but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost.

      We may observe here,

      I. What the New Testament is--the divine testament, to which we adhere above all that is human; the new testament, which we advance above that which was old. It is the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God,Mark 1:1; Mark 1:1. 1. It is gospel; it is God's word, and is faithful and true; see Revelation 19:9; Revelation 21:5; Revelation 22:6. It is a good word, and well worthy of all acceptation; it brings us glad tidings. 2. It is the gospel of Jesus Christ, the anointed Saviour, the Messiah promised and expected. The foregoing gospel began with the generation of Jesus Christ--that was but preliminary, this comes immediately to the business--the gospel of Christ. It is called his, not only because he is the Author of it, and it comes from him, but because he is the Subject of it, and it treats wholly concerning him. 3. This Jesus is the Son of God. That truth is the foundation on which the gospel is built, and which it is written to demonstrate; for is Jesus be not the Son of God, our faith is vain.

      II. What the reference of the New Testament is to the Old, and its coherence with it. The gospel of Jesus Christ begins, and so we shall find it goes on, just as it is written in the prophets (Mark 1:2; Mark 1:2); for it saith no other things than those which the prophets and Moses said should come (Acts 26:22), which was most proper and powerful for the conviction of the Jews, who believed the Old-Testament prophets to be sent of God and ought to have evidenced that they did so by welcoming the accomplishment of their prophecies in its season; but it is of use to us all, for the confirmation of our faith both in the Old Testament and in the New, for the exact harmony that there is between both shows that they both have the same divine original.

      Quotations are here borrowed from two prophecies--that of Isaiah, which was the longest, and that of Malachi, which was the latest (and there were above three hundred years between them), both of whom spoke to the same purport concerning the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, in the ministry of John.

      1. Malachi, in whom we had the Old-Testament farewell, spoke very plainly (Malachi 3:1; Malachi 3:1) concerning John Baptist, who was to give the New-Testament welcome. Behold, I send my messenger before thy face,Mark 1:2; Mark 1:2. Christ himself had taken notice of this, and applied it to John (Matthew 11:10), who was God's messenger, sent to prepare Christ's way.

      2. Isaiah, the most evangelical of all the prophets, begins the evangelical part of his prophecy with this, which points to the beginning of the gospel of Christ (Isaiah 40:3); The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness,Mark 1:3; Mark 1:3. Matthew had taken notice of this, and applied it to John, Matthew 3:3; Matthew 3:3. But from these two put together here, we may observe, (1.) That Christ, in his gospel, comes among us, bringing with him a treasure of grace, and a sceptre of government. (2.) Such is the corruption of the world, that there is something to do to make room for him, and to remove that which gives not only obstruction, but opposition to his progress. (3.) When God sent his Son into the world, he took care, and when he sends him into the heart, he takes care, effectual care, to prepare his way before him; for the designs of his grace shall not be frustrated; nor may any expect the comforts of that grace, but such as, by conviction of sin and humiliation for it, are prepared for those comforts, and disposed to receive them. (4.) When the paths that were crooked, are made straight (the mistakes of the judgment rectified, and the crooked ways of the affections), then way is made for Christ's comforts. (5.) It is in a wilderness, for such this world is, that Christ's way is prepared, and theirs that follow him, like that which Israel passed through to Canaan. (6.) The messengers of conviction and terror, that come to prepare Christ's way, are God's messengers, whom he sends and will own, and must be received as such. (7.) They that are sent to prepare the way of the Lord, in such a vast howling wilderness as this is, have need to cry aloud, and not spare, and to lift up their voice like a trumpet.

      III. What the beginning of the New Testament was. The gospel began in John Baptist; for the law and the prophets were, until John, the only divine revelation, but then the kingdom of God began to be preached,Luke 16:16. Peter begins from the baptism of John,Acts 1:22. The gospel did not begin so soon as the birth of Christ, for he took time to increase in wisdom and stature, not so late as his entering upon his public ministry, but half a year before, when John began to preach the same doctrine that Christ afterward preached. His baptism was the dawning of the gospel day; for,

      1. In John's way of living there was the beginning of a gospel spirit; for it bespoke great self-denial, mortification of the flesh, a holy contempt of the world, and nonconformity to it, which may truly be called the beginning of the gospel of Christ in any soul, Mark 1:6; Mark 1:6. He was clothed with camels' hair, not with soft raiment; was girt, not with a golden, but with a leathern girdle; and, in contempt of dainties and delicate things, his meat was locusts and wild honey. Note, The more we sit loose to the body, and live above the world, the better we are prepared for Jesus Christ.

      2. In John's preaching and baptizing there was the beginning of the gospel doctrines and ordinances, and the first fruits of them. (1.) He preached the remission of sins, which is the great gospel privilege; showed people their need of it, that they were undone without it, and that it might be obtained. (2.) He preached repentance, in order to it; he told people that there must be a renovation of their hearts and a reformation of their lives, that they must forsake their sins and turn to God, and upon those terms and no other, their sins should be forgiven. Repentance for the remission of sins, was what the apostles were commissioned to preach to all nations,Luke 24:27. (3.) He preached Christ, and directed his hearers to expect him speedily to appear, and to expect great things from him. The preaching of Christ is pure gospel, and that was John Baptist's preaching, Mark 1:7; Mark 1:8. Like a true gospel minister, he preaches, [1.] The great pre-eminence Christ is advanced to; so high, so great, is Christ, that John, though one of the greatest that was born of women, thinks himself unworthy to be employed in the meanest office about him, even to stoop down, and untie his shoes. Thus industrious is he to give honour to him, and to bring others to do so too. [2.] The great power Christ is invested with; He comes after me in time, but he is mightier than I, mightier than the mighty ones of the earth, for he is able to baptize with the Holy Ghost; he can give the Spirit of God, and by him govern the spirits of men. [3.] The great promise Christ makes in his gospel to those who have repented, and have had their sins forgiven them; They shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost, shall be purified by his graces, and refreshed by his comforts. And, lastly, All those who received his doctrine, and submitted to his institution, he baptized with water, as the manner of the Jews was to admit proselytes, in token of their cleansing themselves by repentance and reformation (which were the duties required), and of God's cleansing them both by remission and by sanctification, which were the blessings promised. Now this was afterward to be advanced into a gospel ordinance, which John's using it was a preface to.

      3. In the success of John's preaching, and the disciples he admitted by baptism, there was the beginning of a gospel church. He baptized in the wilderness, and declined going into the cities; but there went out unto him all the land of Judea, and they of Jerusalem, inhabitants both of city and country, families of them, and were all baptized of him. They entered themselves his disciples, and bound themselves to his discipline; in token of which, they confessed their sins; he admitted them his disciples, in token of which, he baptized them. Here were the stamina of the gospel church, the dew of its youth from the womb of the morning,Psalms 110:3. Many of these afterward became followers of Christ, and preachers of his gospel, and this grain of mustard-seed became a tree.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Bibliographical Information
Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on Mark 1:1". "Henry's Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhm/mark-1.html. 1706.

Kelly Commentary on Books of the Bible

It is remarkable how tradition has contrived to injure the truth in touching the question of the method of the gospel we now enter on; for the current view which comes down to us from the ancients, stamped too with the name of one who lived not long after the apostles, lays down that Mark's is that gospel which arranges the facts of our Lord's life, not in, but out of the order of their occurrence. Now, that order is precisely what he most observes. And this mistake, if it be one, which notoriously had wrought from the earliest days, and naturally, therefore, to a large extent since, of course vitiated the right understanding of the book. I am persuaded that the Spirit of God intended that we should have among the gospels one that adheres to the simple order of the facts in giving our Lord's history. Otherwise, we must be plunged in uncertainty, not merely as to one particular gospel, but as lacking the means of rightly judging departures from historic order in all the others; for it is plain, that if there be no such thing as a regular order in any one gospel, we are necessarily deprived of all power of determining in any case when the events did really occur which stand differently connected in the rest of the gospels. It is not in any way that one would seek what is commonly called a "harmony," which is really to obscure the perception of the special objects of the gospels. At the same time, nothing can be more certain than that the real author of the gospels, even God Himself, knew all perfectly. Nor, even to take the lowest ground, on the part of the different writers, is ignorance of the order in which the facts occurred a reasonable key to the peculiarities of the gospels. The Holy Ghost deliberately displaced many events and discourses, but this could not be through carelessness, still less through caprice, but only for ends worthy of God. The most obvious order would be to give them just as they occurred. Partly, then, as it seems to me, that we might be able to judge with accuracy and with certainty of the departures from the order of occurrence, the Spirit of God has given us in one of these gospels that order as the rule. In which of them is it found, do you ask? I have no doubt that the answer is, spite of tradition, In the gospel of Mark. And the fact exactly agrees with the spiritual character of his gospel, because this also ought to have great weight in confirming the answer, if not in deciding the question.

Any person who looks at, Mark, not merely piecemeal, though it is evident in any part, but, much more satisfactorily, as a whole, will rise from the consideration of the gospel with the fullest conviction that what the Holy Ghost has undertaken to give us in this history of Christ is His ministry. It is now so much a matter of common knowledge, that there is no need to dwell long upon a fact that is generally confessed. I shall endeavour to show how the whole account hangs together, and bears out this well-known and most simple truth how it accounts for the peculiarities in Mark, for what is given us, and for what is left out; and of course, therefore, for his differences from the others. All this, I think, will be made clear and certain to any who may not have thoroughly examined it before. Here I would only observe, how entirely this goes along with the fact that Mark adheres to the order of history, because, if he is giving us the service of the Lord Jesus Christ, and particularly His service in the word, as well as in the miraculous signs which illustrated that service, and which were its external vouchers, it is plain that the order in which the facts occurred is precisely that which is the most calculated of all to give us a true and adequate view of His ministry; whereas it is not so, if we look at the object of either Matthew or Luke.

In the former the Holy Ghost is showing us the rejection of Jesus, and that rejection proved from the very first. Now, in order to give us the right understanding of His rejection, the Holy Ghost groups facts together, and groups them often, as we have had occasion to notice, entirely regardless of the time at which they occurred. What was wanted was a bright vivid view of the shameless rejection of the Messiah by His own people. It was needed, thereupon, to make plain what God would undertake in consequence of that rejection, that is to say, the vast economic change that would follow. It was necessarily the weightiest thing that had ever been or that could be in this world, the rejection of a divine Person who was at the same time "the great King," the promised expected Messiah of Israel. For that very reason, the mere order of the facts would be entirely insufficient to give proper weight to the object of the Holy Ghost in Matthew. Therefore the Spirit of God does what even man has wit enough to do, where he has any analogous object before him. There is a bringing together, from different places, persons, and times in the history, the great salient facts which make evident the total rejection of the Messiah, and the glorious change which God was able to introduce for the Gentiles in consequence of that rejection. Such is the object in Matthew; and accordingly this accounts for the departure from mere sequence of events.

In Luke, again, there is another reason that we shall find, when we come to details, abundantly confirmed. For therein the Holy Ghost undertakes to show us Christ as the One who brought to light all the moral springs of the heart of man, and at the same time the perfect grace of God in dealing with man as he is; therein, too, the divine wisdom in Christ which made its way through this world, the lovely grace, too, which attracted man when utterly confounded and broken down enough to cast himself upon what God is. Hence, throughout the gospel of Luke, we have, in some respects, a disregard of the mere order of time equal to that which characterized Matthew. If we suppose two facts, mutually illustrating each other, but occurring at totally different times, in such a case these two facts might be brought together. For instance, supposing the Spirit of God desired in our Lord's history to show the value of the word of God and of prayer, He might clearly bring together two remarkable occasions, in one of which our Lord revealed the mind of God about prayer in the other, His judgment of the value of the word. The question whether the two events took place at the same time is here entirely immaterial. No matter when they occurred, they are here seen together; if put out of their occurrence, in fact, it is to form the justest order for illustrating the truth that the Holy Ghost meant us to receive.

This general observation is made here, because I think it is particularly in place in introducing the gospel of Mark.

But God has taken care to meet another point by the way. Man might take advantage of this departure from the historical order in some gospels, and the maintenance of it in others, in order to decry the writers or their writings. Of course, he is hasty enough to impute "discrepancy." There is no real ground for the charge. God has taken a very wise method to contradict and rebuke the credulous incredulity of man. As there are four evangelists, so He has arranged it that, of these four, two should adhere to historical order, and two should forsake it where it Was required. Further, of these two, one was, and one was not an apostle in each case. Of the two evangelists, Mark and John, who generally maintain historical order, the most remarkable thread of events was not given by an apostle. Nevertheless, John, who was an apostle, adheres to the historical order in the fragmentary series of facts, here and there, in the life of Christ, that he gives us. At the same time that the gospel of John does not undertake to present a sketch of the entire course of Christ, Mark describes the whole career of His ministry with more particularity than any other. Hence it is that John practically acts as a kind of supplement, not to Mark only, but to all the evangelists; and we have, ever and anon, a cluster of the richest events, yet keeping to historical order. Not to speak of its wondrous preface, there is an introduction that precedes the account given in the other gospels, filling up a certain space after His baptism, but before His public ministry. And then, again, we have a number of discourses which our Lord gave more particularly to His disciples after His public relations were over. These are all given, as it appears to me, in the exact order of their delivery, without any departure from it, save only that we find a parenthesis once or twice in John, which, if not seen there to be a parenthesis, wears an appearance of a departure from the succession of time; but of course a parenthesis does not come under the ordinary structure of a regular sentence or series of things.

This explanation, I trust, will help to a general understanding of the relative place of the gospels. We have Matthew and Luke, one of them an apostle, and the other not, both of whom are wont to depart from historical order very largely. We have Mark and John, one of them an apostle, and the other not, both of whom likewise, as a rule, adhere to historical order. God has thus cut off all just reason on men's part for saying that it is a question of knowing or not knowing the facts as they occurred, some being eyewitnesses, and others learning the events, etc., otherwise. Of those that keep the order of history, one was, the other was not, an eye-witness; to those that adopt a different arrangement precisely the same remark applies. Thus it is that God has confuted all attempts of His enemies to cast the smallest discredit upon the instruments He has used. It is thus made apparent that (so far from the structure of the gospels being attributable in any way to ignorance on one side, or, on the other, to a competent knowledge of the facts), on the contrary, he was no eye-witness who has given us the fullest, minutest, most vivid, and graphic sketch of the Lord's service here below; and this in small particulars, which, as every one knows, is always the great test of truth. Persons who do not commonly speak the truth can nevertheless be careful enough sometimes about great matters; but it is in little words and ways where the heart betrays its own treachery, or the eye its lack of observation. And it is precisely in this that Mark triumphs so completely rather, let me say, the Spirit of God in His employment of Mark. Nor was it that Mark had earlier been a worthy servant himself. Far from it. Who does not know that, when he began his work, he was not always fervent in serving the Lord? We are told in the Acts of the Apostles that he deserted the great apostle of the Gentiles when he accompanied him and his cousin Barnabas; for such was the relationship, rather than that of uncle. He left them, returning home to his mother and Jerusalem. His associations were with nature and the great seat of religious tradition, which for a while, of course, ruined him, as it tends to ruin every servant of God who is similarly ensnared. Nevertheless, God's grace overcomes all difficulties. So it was in the personal ministry of Mark, as we gather from the glorious work Mark was afterwards given to do, both in other ministry (Colossians 4:10; 2 Timothy 4:11), and in the extraordinary honour of writing one of the inspired accounts of his Master. Mark had not possessed the advantage of that personal acquaintance with the facts which some of the other writers had enjoyed; yet is he the one through whom the Holy Ghost condescended to impart the minutest, and at the same time the most suggestive touches, if I may so say, that are found in any view vouchsafed us of the actual living ministry of our Lord Jesus. Indeed, such was the current of his own history, as forming him for the work he subsequently had to do; for while at first there was certainly that which looked uncommonly like a false start, afterwards, on the contrary, he is acknowledged by Paul most cordially, spite of early disappointment and rebuke; for his company had been absolutely refused, even at the cost of losing Barnabas, to whom the apostle had special grounds of personal attachment. Barnabas was the man who had first gone after Saul of Tarsus; for assuredly he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost, and thus the more willing to accredit the great grace of God in Saul of Tarsus, when the new convert was regarded with suspicion, and might have been left alone for a season. Thus Saul had known literally in his own history how little the grace of God commands confidence in a sinful world. After all this, then, it was that Mark, who had fallen under the censure of Paul, and had been the occasion of separating Barnabas from that apostle that very Mark afterwards completely retrieved his lost character, and the apostle Paul takes more pains by far to reinstate him in the confidence of the saints, than he had done personally to refuse association with him in the service of the Lord.

Who, then, so fit to give us the Lord Jesus as the true servant? Choose whom you like. Go over the whole range of the New Testament; find out one whose own personal career so adapted him to delight in, and to become the suited vessel for the Holy Ghost to show us, the perfect Servant of God. It was the man that had been the faulty servant; it was the man whom grace had restored and made to be a faithful servant, who had proved how ensnaring is the flesh, and how dangerous the associations of human tradition and of home; but who thus, unprofitable at first for the ministry, became afterwards so profitable, as Paul himself took care to declare publicly and for ever in the imperishable word of God. This was the instrument whom God employed by the Holy Ghost to give us the grand lineaments of the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ. Surely, as Levi the publican, the apostle Matthew was providentially formed for his task; and grace, condescending to look at all circumstances, uever deigns to be controlled by them, but always, while working in them, nevertheless retains its own supremacy above them. Even so in Mark's case there was just as great an appropriateness for the task God had assigned him, as there was in the call of the earlier evangelist from the receipt of custom, and the choice of one so despised of Israel to show the fatal course of that nation, when the Lord turned at the great epoch of dispensational change to call in Gentiles and the despised of Israel themselves. But if there was this manifest fitness in Matthew for his work, it would be strange if there were not as much in Mark for his. And this is what we find in his gospel. There is no parade of circumstance; there is no pomp of introduction even for the Lord Jesus Christ in this gospel, not even that style which is most rightly found elsewhere. It could not be that the Messiah of Israel was to enter among His chosen people, and be found in Israel's land, without due witness and clear tokens preceding His approach; and the God who had given promises, and who had established the kingdom, would surely make it manifest; for the Jews did require a sign, and God gave them signs in abundance before the coining of the greatest sign of all.

Thus it is that in the gospel of Matthew we have seen the amplest credentials from angels and among men of the Messiah, who then and there was born the King of the Jews, in Immanuel's land. But in Mark all this is with equal beauty absent; and suddenly, without any other preparation than John preaching and baptizing the voice of one crying in the wilderness, "Prepare ye the way of the Lord" at once, after this, the Lord Jesus is found, not born, not the subject of homage, but preaching, taking up the work which John not long after laid down, as it were, on going to prison. That setting aside of the Baptist (ver. 14) becomes the signal for the public service of the Lord; and, accordingly, the service of Christ is thenceforward pursued throughout our gospel; and first of all His Galilean service, which continues down to the end of chapter 10 I do not purpose tonight to look even at the whole of this Galilean ministry, but to divide the subject matter as my time requires, and therefore I do not now limit myself to the natural divisions of the gospel, but simply follow it according to chapters, as the occasion may require. We shall take it in two portions.

In the opening section or preface (of verses 1-13), then, we have here no genealogy whatever, but very simply the announcement of John the Baptist. We have our Lord then ushered into His public ministry, and, first of all, His Galilean labours. As He walks by the sea, He sees Simon, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea. These He calls to follow Him. It was not the first acquaintance of the Lord Jesus with these two apostles. At first sight it might seem strange that a word, even though it were the word of the Lord, should call these two men away from their father or their occupation; yet no one can call it unprecedented, as the call of Levi, already referred to, makes plain. Nevertheless, so it is that in the case of Andrew and Simon, as well as the sons of Zebedee, called about the same time, there was certainly previous acquaintance with the Saviour. Two disciples of the Baptist, one of them Andrew, preceded his brother Simon, as we know from John 1:1-51. But here it is not at all the same time or facts that are described in that gospel. In the call to the work, I have no hesitation in saying that Andrew and Simon were called before John and James; but in the personal acquaintance with the Saviour, which we find in the gospel of John, it is evident to me, that an .unnamed disciple (as I think, John himself) was before Simon. Both are perfectly true. There is not even the appearance of contradiction when the Scripture is rightly understood. Each of these is exactly in its proper place, for we have in our gospel Christ's ministry. That is not the theme of the gospel of John, but a far deeper and more personal subject; it is the revelation of the Father in the Son to man upon the earth. It is eternal life found by souls, and of course in the Son of God. This accordingly is the first point of contact which the Holy Ghost loves to trace in John's gospel. Why is all that entirely left out of Mark? Evidently because his province is not a soul acquainted for the first time with Jesus, the display of the wonderful truth of eternal life in Him. Another subject is in hand. We have the Saviour's grace, of course, in all the gospels; but the great theme of Mark is His ministry. Hence it is, that not the personal so much as the ministerial call is the one referred to here. In John, on the contrary, where it was the Son made known to man by faith of the Holy Ghost's operation, it is not the ministerial call, but the previous one the personal call of grace unto the knowledge of the Son, and eternal life in Him.

This may serve to show that weighty lessons lie under that which a careless eye might count a comparatively trivial difference in these gospels. Well we know that in God's word there is nothing trivial; but what might at first sight seem so is pregnant with truth, and also in immediate relation to God's aim in each particular book where these facts are found.

All things, then, they now forsake at the call of the Lord. It was not a question simply of eternal life. The principle, no doubt, is always true; but we do not in fact find all things thus forsaken in ordinary cases. Eternal life is brought to souls in the Christ who attracts them; but they are enabled to glorify God where they are. Here it is all abandoned in order to follow Christ. The next scene is the synagogue of Capernaum. And there our Lord shows the objects of His mission here in two particulars. First there is teaching "He taught them," as it is said, "as one that had authority, and not as the scribes." It was not tradition, it was not reason, not imagination, or the persuasible words of man's wisdom. It was the power of God. It was that, therefore, which was equally simple and sure. This necessarily gives authority to the tone of him who, in a world of uncertainty and deceit, utters with assurance the mind of God. It is a dishonour to God and His word to pronounce with hesitation the truth of God, if indeed we know it for our own souls. It is unbelief to say "I think," if I am sure; nay, revealed truth is not only what I know, but what God has made known to me. It is to cloud and weaken the truth, it is to injure souls, it is to lower God Himself, if we do not speak with authority where we have no doubt of His word. But then it is plain that we must be taught of God before we are at liberty to speak thus confidently.

But it is here to be noted, that this is the first quality mentioned in our Lord's teaching. This, I need not say, has a voice to us. Where we cannot speak with authority, we had better not speak at all. It is a simple rule, and abundantly short. At the same time it is clear that it would lead to great deal of searching of heart; but, I am no less persuaded, it would be with immense profit to ourselves and to our hearers.

The second thing was not authority in teaching, but power in action; and our Lord deals with the root of the mischief in man the power of Satan, now so little believed in the power of Satan over human spirits or bodies, or both. There was then in the synagogue the very place of meeting, where Jesus was a man with an unclean spirit. The demoniac cried out; for it was impossible that the power of God in the person of Jesus could be there without detecting him that was under the power of Satan. The bruiser of the serpent was there, the deliverer of the enthralled sons of Adam. The mask is thrown off; the man, the unclean spirit, cannot rest in the presence of Jesus. "He cried out, saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth?" In the most singular way he blends together the action of the evil spirit with his own "What have we to do with thee? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee, who thou art, the Holy One of God." Jesus rebukes him. The unclean spirit tore him; for it was right that there should be the manifestation of the effects of the evil power, restricted as it was before Him who had defeated the tempter. It was a profitable lesson, that man should know what the working of Satan really is. We have on the one side, then, the malignant effect of Satan's power, and on the other the blessed benignant might of the Lord Jesus Christ, who compels the spirit to come out, amazing all that saw and heard, insomuch that they questioned among themselves, saying, "What thing is this? what new doctrine is this? for with authority commandeth he even the unclean spirits, and they do obey him." There was, we thus see, both the authority of truth, and also the power that wrought in outward signs accompanying.

The next scene proves that it was not merely displayed in such acts as these: there was the misery and the maladies of man apart from the direct possession of the enemy. But virtue goes out of Jesus wherever there was an appeal of need. Peter's wife's mother is the first who is presented after he leaves the synagogue; and the marvellous grace and power blended in His healing of Peter's mother-in-law attracts crowds of sick with every evil; so that we know all the city was come together at the door. "And he healed many that were sick of divers diseases, and cast out many devils; and suffered not the devils to speak, because they knew him."

Thus, then, the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ is fully come. It is thus that he enters upon it in Mark. It is clearly the manifestation of the truth of God with authority. Divine power is vested in man over the devil, as well as over disease. Such was the form of the ministry of Jesus. There was a fulness in it naturally, one need scarce say, which was suitable to Him who was the head of ministry as well as its great pattern here below, no less than, as He is now, its source from His place of glory in heaven. But there is another notable feature in it, too, as contributing to fill this instructive introductory picture of our Lord's ministry in its actual exercise. Our Lord "suffered not the devils to speak, because they knew Him." He refused a testimony that was not of God. It might be true, but He would not accept the testimony of the enemy.

But positive strength is also requisite in dependence on God. Hence we are told, "In the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed." There, just as there is the rejection of the enemy's testimony, so there is the fullest leaning upon God's power. No personal glory, no title to power that attached to Him, was the smallest reason for relaxing in entire subjection to His Father, or for neglecting to seek His guidance day by day. Thus He waited on God after the enemy was vanquished in the wilderness, after He had proved the value of that victory in healing those oppressed of the devil. Thus engaged it is that Simon and others follow and find Him. "And when they had found him, they said unto him, All men seek for thee."

But this public attraction to the Lord Jesus was a sufficient ground for not returning. He did not seek the applause of man, but that which comes from God. Directly it came to be published, so to speak, the Lord Jesus retires from the scene. If all men sought Him, He must go where it was a question of need, not of honour. Accordingly He says, "Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there; for therefore came I forth." He ever abides the perfect, lowly, dependent servant of God here below. No sketch can be more admirable, nowhere else can we see the perfect ideal of ministry completely realized.

Are we, then, to assume that all this was set down at random? How are we to account without a definite purpose for these various particulars and no others swelling the picture of ministry? Very simply. It was what God inspired Mark for. It was the Spirit's object by him. It is owing to a different design that we find other topics introduced elsewhere. No other gospel presents even the same facts after such a sort, because no other is thus occupied with the Lord's ministry. Thus the reason is most plain. It is Mark, and he alone, who was led of God to put the facts together that bear upon Christ's ministry, adhering to the simple natural order of the facts related, omitting of course what did not illustrate the point, but among those which did, keeping the events as they followed one another. Christ is thus seen as the perfect servant. He was Himself showing what service of God is at the beginning of His ministry. He was forming others. He had called Peter, and James, and Andrew, and John. He was making them fishers of men-servants, too. And so it is that the Lord presents before their eyes, before their hearts, before their consciences, these perfect ways of grace in His own path here below. He was forming them after His own heart.

Then, at the close of the chapter, the leper comes and, at the beginning of the next chapter, the paralytic man is brought (Mark 2:1-28). These we have had in Matthew, and we shall find the same in Luke. But here you will observe that the two cases are closer together. It is not so in Matthew, but in Luke. Matthew, as we saw, gave us the leper at the beginning of Matthew 8:1-34, and the paralytic man at the beginning ofMatthew 9:1-38; Matthew 9:1-38. Mark, who simply relates facts as they occur, introduced nothing between these two cases. They were, as I conceive, not long apart. The one followed soon after the other. and they are so introduced to us here. In the one, sin is viewed as the great type of defilement; in the other, sin is viewed as guilt accompanied by utter weakness. Man, utterly unfit for the presence of God, needs to be cleansed from his loathsome impurity. Such is the representation in leprosy. Man, utterly powerless for walk here below, needs to be forgiven as well as strengthened. Such is the great truth set forth in the paralytic case. Here too, with singular fulness, we have the picture of the crowds that were gathered round the door of the house, and the Lord, as usual, preaching to them. We have then a graphic picture of the palsied man brought in, borne by four. All the particulars are brought before our eyes. More than that: as they could not come nigh to Jesus for the press, the roof was uncovered, and the man is let down before the Lord's eyes. Jesus, seeing their faith, addresses the man, meets the unbelieving blasphemous thoughts of the scribes that were there, and brings out His own personal glory as Son of man, rather than as God. This latter was the great point in curing the leper; for it was an axiom that God alone could cure a leper. Such was the acknowledgment of Israel's king at a remarkable point in their history; such would have been the common confession of any Jew "Am I God?" This was the point there. God must act directly or by a prophet, as every Jew would allow, in order to cure leprosy; but, in the case of the palsied man, our Lord asserted another thing altogether, namely, that "the Son of man had power on earth to forgive sins." Then He proved His power over the most hopeless bodily weakness as a witness of His authority here below to forgive. It was the Son of man on earth that had power. Thus the one proved God had come down from heaven, and had really, in the person of that blessed Saviour, become a man without ceasing to be God. Such is the truth apparent in the cleansing of the leper; but in the paralytic healed, it is a different side of the Lord's glory. The servant of God and man in every case, here He was the Son of man that had power on earth to forgive the guilty, and prove its reality by imparted strength to walk before all.

Then follows the call of the publican. "As he passed by, he saw Levi, the son of Alphaeus, sitting at the receipt of custom, and said unto him, Follow me. And he arose, and followed him." Next, the Lord is seen at a feast in the house of him who was thus called by grace, which excites hatred in the slaves of religious routine. "When the scribes and Pharisees saw him eat with publicans and sinners, they said unto his disciples" not to Him; they 'had not honesty enough for that "How is it that he eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners? When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of a physician, but they that are sick." It gave the Lord an opportunity to explain the true character and suited objects of His ministry. To sinners, as such, went forth the call of God. It was not the government of a people now, but the invitation of sinners. God had delivered His people once; He had called them His son too, and called His son out of Egypt; but now it was a question of calling sinners, even if the words "to repentance" be given up as an interpolation derived from the corresponding passage in Luke, where its propriety is evident. The Lord gloried in the grace which He was ministering here below.

As the disciples of John and of the Pharisees used to fast, this is the next scene, raising the question of the character of those whom Jesus was sent to call. The narrative presents all this in a very orderly manner, but still adhering simply to the facts. Then comes the question of mingling the new principles with the old. This the Lord pronounces quite impossible. He shows that it was inconsistent to expect fasting when the Bridegroom was there. It would argue an entire unbelief in His glory, a total want of right feeling in those who owned His glory. It was all very well for people who did not believe in Him; but if the disciples recognised Him as the Bridegroom, it were utterly incongruous to fast in His presence.

Hence, our Lord takes the opportunity of pursuing the subject more deeply in the observation that "no man also seweth a piece of new cloth on an old garment, else the new piece that filleth it up taketh away from the old, and the rent is made worse." The forms, the outward manifestation of that which Christ was introducing, will not suit, and cannot mingle with the old elements of Judaism, still less will their inner principles consent. This He enters on next: "And no man putteth new wine into old bottles; else the new wine doth burst the bottles, and the wine is spilled, and the bottles will be marred: but new wine must be put into new bottles." Christianity demands an outward expression, agreeable to its own intrinsic and distinctive life.*

* Here is found one of the few exceptional dislocations, if not the only one, in Mark; for it would appear fromMatthew 9:18; Matthew 9:18, that while the Lord was speaking of the wine and the bottles the jailor Jairus came about his daughter. This is only given (in Mark 5:1-43) by Mark.

Mark 3:1-35. This theme is followed up by the two sabbaths, the first of these sabbath days bringing clearly out to view that God no longer owned Israel, and this because that Jesus was as much despised in this day as David had been of old. Such is the point referred to here. The disciples of Christ were starving. What a position! No doubt David and his men suffered lack in that day. What was the effect then as to the system which God had sanctioned? God would not maintain His own ordinances in presence of the moral wrong to His anointed, and those that clave unto Him. His own honour was at stake. His ordinances, however important in their place, give way before the sovereign dispositions of His purpose. The application was evident. The Lord Jesus Christ was a greater than David; and were not the followers of Jesus quite as precious as those of Jesse's son? If the bread of priests became common, when they of old were hungry, would God now hold to His sabbath when the disciples of Jesus lacked ordinary food? Besides, He adds, "The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath. Therefore the Son of Man is Lord also of the sabbath." Thus He asserts the superiority of His own person, and this as the rejected man; and therefore the title, "Son of Man," is especially brought in here.

But, then, there is more which comes out on the second sabbath day. There was the presence of bitter helplessness among men. It was not merely, that the disciples of Jesus were in want, the witness of His own rejection, but in the synagogue He enters next was a man with a withered hand. How came this to pass? What was the feeling that could plead the law of the sabbath to keep from healing a miserable human sufferer? Had Jesus no heart, because their eyes were only open to find in His love an occasion to accuse Him who felt for every sorrow of man upon the earth? He was there with adequate power to banish all sorrow with its source. And therefore it is that our Lord Jesus, in this case, instead of merely pleading the case of the guiltless, goes boldly forward; and in the midst of a full synagogue as He sees them watching that they might accuse Him, He answers the wicked thought of their heart. He gives them the opportunity they desired. "And he said to the man which had the withered hand, Stand forth." There was no concealment for a moment. "He saith unto them, Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life, or to kill?" Was He not the perfect servant of God, that knows so well the times? Here, then, instead of merely defending disciples, He challenges their wicked and evil thoughts in open congregation, and bore His witness that God's delight is not in holding to rules, when it would be for the hindrance of the displays of His goodness. Contrariwise, His act declares that no rules can bind God not to do good: His nature is goodness; let man pretend ever such zeal for His own law to keep man wretched and hinder the flow of grace. God's laws were never intended to bar His love. They were intended, no doubt, to put a restriction upon man's evil, never to forbid God from doing His own good will. Alas! they had no faith that God was there.

And it is remarkable, though not noticed at the beginning ofMark 1:1-45; Mark 1:1-45, that Mark does not enter upon the service of our Lord Jesus before presenting Him in verse 1 as the Son of God, followed by the application of the prophetic oracle, that He was really Jehovah. The only true servant was truly divine. What an illustrious testimony to His glory! At the start this was well, and rightly ordered, and in place most suitable; the more so as it is an unusual thought in Mark. And here let me make the remark in passing, that we have hardly any quotation of Scripture by the evangelist himself I am not aware that any positive case can be adduced, except in these prefatory verses of the gospel; forMark 15:28; Mark 15:28 rests on too precarious authority to be fairly regarded as an exception. There are some not infrequent quotations either by our Lord or to our Lord; but the application of Scripture about our Lord by the evangelist himself, so frequent in the gospel of Matthew, is almost, if not entirely, unknown to the gospel of Mark. And the reason, I think, is very plain. What he had in hand was not the accomplishment of Scriptural marks or hopes, but the fulfilment of the Lord's ministry. What he therefore dwells on was not what others had said of old, but what the Lord Himself did. Hence it is that application of Scripture, and accomplishments of prophecy, naturally disappear where such is the theme of the gospel.

However, again returning to the conclusion of the second sabbath day. Our Lord looks round about on these Sabbatarians with anger, being distressed, as it is said, at the hardness of their hearts. and then bids the man stretch forth his hand, which was no sooner done than 'it was restored. This goodness of God, so publicly and fearlessly witnessed by Him who thus served man, at once goads on to madness the murderous feeling of the religious leaders. It is the first point where, according to Mark's account, the Pharisees, taking counsel with the Herodians, conceived the design of killing Jesus. It was not fit that One so good should live in their midst. The Lord withdraws to the sea with His disciples; and subsequent to this it is that, while He heals many, and casts out unclean spirits, He also goes up into a mountain, where He takes a new step. It is one point of change in Mark's gospel, a step in advance of all He had hitherto done. Following upon the design of the Pharisees with the Herodians to destroy Jesus, the new measure He adopts is the sovereign call and appointment of the twelve, that He might in due time send them forth. Thus, He not merely calls them to be with Him, but He appoints them in a formal manner to the great mission on which they were to be sent out. The Lord now takes the conspiracy of two great enemies in Israel, the Pharisees and the Herodians, as an opportunity to provide for His work. He sees well in their hatred what was before Him; indeed, He knew it from the first, it need hardly be said. Still, the manifestation of their murderous hatred becomes the signal for this fresh step, the appointment of those that were to continue the work when the Lord should be no longer here in bodily presence Himself to carry it on. And so we have the twelve; He ordains them, "that they might be with Him, and that He might send them forth to preach," etc. Ministry in the word has always the highest place in Mark not miracles, but preaching. The healing of sickness and the casting out of the devils were signs accompanying the preached word. Nothing could be more complete. There is not only evidence that we see the servant depicted here, but that the servant was the Lord Himself, even as we saw in the beginning of this gospel.

Thus there was the appointment of those He pleased to call for the due execution of His mighty work on the earth. At this juncture it is that we find His relatives so greatly moved when they heard of all the crowds no time to eat, etc. It is a remarkable and characteristic fact mentioned by Mark only. "When his friends heard it, they went out to lay hold of him: for they said, He is beside himself." It was mainly, I suppose, because of an entire devotedness which they could not appreciate; for just before we are told, that "the multitude cometh together again, so that they could not so much as eat bread." To His friends it was mere infatuation. They thought He must be out of His mind. It must be so, more particularly to one's relatives, where the powerful grace of God calls out and abstracts its objects from all natural claims. Such it always is in this world, and the Lord Jesus Himself, as we find, had no immunity from the injurious charge on the part of His friends. But there is more; we have His enemies now, even the scribes that came from Jerusalem. "He hath Beelzebub," say they, "and by the prince of the devils casteth he out devils." The Lord condescends to reason with them "How can Satan cast out Satan? And if a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand."

But thereon our Lord most solemnly pronounces their doom, and shows that they were guilty not of sin, as men say, but of blasphemy against the Holy Ghost. There is no such phrase as sin against Him in this sense. People often speak thus, Scripture never. What the Lord denounces is blasphemy against the Holy Ghost. Keeping that distinctly in view would save many souls a great deal of needless trouble. How many have groaned in terror through fear of being guilty of sin against the Holy Ghost! That phrase admits of vague notions and general reasoning about its nature. But our Lord spoke definitely of blasphemous unforgivable sin against Him. All sin, I presume, is sin against the Holy Ghost, who has taken His place in Christendom, and, consequently, gives all sin this character. Thus, lying in the Church is not mere falsehood toward man, but unto God, because of the great truth that the Holy Ghost is there. Here, on the contrary, the Lord speaks of unforgivable sin (not that vague sense of evil which troubled souls dread as "sin against the Holy Ghost," but blasphemy against Him). What is this evil never to be forgiven? It is attributing the power that wrought in Jesus to the devil. How many troubled souls would be instantly relieved, if they laid hold of that simple truth! It would dissipate what really is a delusion of the devil, who strives hard to plunge them into anxiety, and drive them into despair, if possible. The truth is, that as any sin of a Christian may be said to be sin against the Holy Ghost, what is especially the sin against the Holy Ghost, if there be anything that is so, is that which directly hinders the free action of the Holy Ghost in the work of God, or in His Church. Such might be said to be the sin, if you speak of it with precision. But what our Lord referred to was neither a sin nor the sin, but blasphemy against the Holy Ghost. It was that which the Jewish nation was then rapidly falling into, and for which they were neither forgiven then, nor will ever be forgiven. There will be a new stock, so to speak; another generation will be raised up, who will receive the Christ whom their fathers blasphemed; but as far as that generation was concerned, they were guilty of this sin, and they could not be forgiven. They began it in the lifetime of Jesus. They consummated it when the Holy Ghost was sent down and despised. They still carried it on persistently, and it is always the case when men enter upon a bad course, unless sovereign grace deliver. The more that God brings out of love, grace, truth, wisdom, the more determinedly and blindly they rush on to their own perdition. So it was with Israel. So it ever is with man left to himself, and despising the grace of God. "He that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness." It is the final stage of rebellion against God. Even then they were blaspheming the Son of Man, the Lord Himself; even then they attributed the power of the Spirit in His service to the enemy, as afterwards still more evidently when the Holy Ghost wrought in His servants; then the blasphemy became complete.

And this is, I suppose, what is referred to in principle inHebrews 6:1-20; Hebrews 6:1-20. Hebrews 10:1-39 seems to be different. Then it is the case of a person who had professed the name of the Lord utterly abandoning Him, and giving loose rein to sin. This is another form of sin and destruction.

In the case before us in the gospel of Mark, the enemies had shown their uncontrollable fury and hatred after the fullest evidence, and cast the worst imputation on the power they could not deny, but endeavoured to discredit to others by attributing it to Satan. It was clear that any, all other testimony after this was utterly vain. Hence, our Lord then turns to introduce the moral ground for a new call and testimony. The real object of God, the ulterior object in the service of Jesus, comes out. There was a testimony, and righteously, to that people in the midst of whom the Lord had appeared, where His ministry had displayed the mighty power of God in grace here below. Now our Lord intimates that it must be no longer a question of nature, but of grace, and this because of His mother and His brethren, who had been pointed out by some. "Behold," said they, "thy mother and thy brethren without seek thee. He answered them, saying, Who is my mother, or my brethren? And he looked round about on them that sat about him, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother." In short, He owns no one henceforth because of any connection with Himself after the flesh. The only ground of relationship is the supernatural tie in new creation. Doing the will of God is the point. For this only grace avails: "the flesh profiteth nothing."

Therefore, in the next chapter, we are given a sketch of His ministry from that time down to the very end. Such is the bearing of this chapter. It is the Lord's ministry in its great principles under that aspect, and viewed not only as a fact going on (as we have had ministry in general before this), but now in its connection with this special work of God. "Of his own will begat he us by the word of truth." Hence we see Him forming a people, founded upon submission to the will of God, and therefore by the preached word of God; and this pursued to the very close of all, with a view of the difficulties of those engaged in that work, or in the midst of the trials from this world which always attend such a ministry. Such is the Mark 4:1-41. Accordingly the first parable (for He speaks in parables to the multitude) is of a sower. This we have very fully given us with its explanation. Then follow some moral words of our Lord. "Is a candle," He says in the twenty-first verse, "brought to be put under a bushel, or under a bed? and not to be set on a candlestick?" It is not only that there is a word that acts upon the heart of man, but there is a light given (that is, a testimony in the midst of darkness). The point here is not merely the effect on man, but the manifestation of the light of God. This therefore should not be put under a bed to be concealed. God does not in ministry merely consider the effect upon the heart of man; there is much besides done for His own glory. There is the need not only of life, but of light; and this is what we have first of all light that germinates far and wide, and seed producing fruit. Part of the scattered seed was picked up by the enemy, or in some other way less openly hostile it comes to nothing. But after the necessity of life is shown in order to fruit-bearing, we have then the value of light; and this not only for God's glory though the first consideration, but also for man's guidance in this dark world. "Take heed what ye hear." Not only is there thus the word of God sown everywhere, but "take heed what ye hear." There is a mingling of what is dark and what is light, a mingling of a false testimony with a true, more particularly to be remembered when the question is raised whether there is a light from God. These Christians in particular have need to take care what they hear. They only have discerning power, and this therefore is brought in most appropriately after the first foundation is settled.

In the next place comes a parable peculiar to Mark. There is no part of his gospel which more thoroughly illustrates it than this: "So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground; and should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how. For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear. But when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come." It is the Lord manifesting Himself at the beginning of the work of God in the earth, and then coming at the end of it, all the intermediate state where others appear being left out. It is the perfect servant inaugurating and consummating the work. It is the Lord Jesus at His first advent and at His second, in connection with ministry. He commences and crowns the work that had to be done. Where is anything like this to be found in other gospels? Turn to Matthew, for instance, and what a difference! There we have, no doubt, the Lord represented as sowing (Matthew 13:1-58); but when in the next parable the harvest at the end of the age is brought before us, He says to the reapers, etc. It is not Himself who is said to do this work, but in that gospel the design requires us to hear of the authority of the Son of man. He commands His angels. They are all under His orders. He gives them the word, and they reap the harvest. Of course, this is perfectly true, as well as in keeping with God's aim in Matthew; but in the gospel of Mark the point is rather His ministry, and not authority over angels or others. The Lord is viewed as coming, and He does come; so that the one is just as certain as the other. Supposing, then, you take this parable out of Mark and put it into Matthew, what confusion! And suppose you transplant what is in Matthew into Mark, evidently there would not only be the rent of the one, but also the introduction of that which never would amalgamate with the other. The fact is, that all, as God has written it, is perfect; but the moment these portions are confounded, you lose the special bearing and appropriateness of each.

After this we hear of the grain of mustard seed, which was merely to show the great change from a little beginning into a vast system. That intimation was all-important for the guidance of the servants. They were thereby taught that material magnitude would be the result, instead of the work of the Lord retaining its primitive simplicity and small extent, spiritual power being the real greatness and the only true greatness in this world. The moment anything, no matter what it may be, in the Lord's work becomes naturally striking before men's eyes, you may rely on it that false principles have somehow got a footing within. There is more or less that which savours of the world. And therefore was it of great importance that, if their worldly greatness was to come, there should be a sketch of the great changes to follow; and this you find given in such an orderly manner in Matthew. This was not Mark's object, but just enough for the guidance of the servants, that they should know that the Lord would surely accomplish His work, and do it perfectly; as He began it well, so would He end it well. But at the same time there would be no small change effected here below, when the little sowing of the Lord should grow into an aspiring object before men, as man loves to make it. "And he said, Whereunto shall we liken the kingdom of God? or with what comparison shall we compare it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when it is sown in the earth, is less than all the seeds that be in the earth: but when it is sown, it groweth up, and becometh greater than all herbs, and shooteth out great branches; so that the fowls of the air may lodge under the shadow of it." This, therefore, is the only parable that is added here; but the Spirit of God lets us know that the Lord on the same occasion spoke a great many more. Others we have in Matthew, where full dispensational light was specially called for. It was sufficient for the object of our gospel to give what we have seen here. Not even the leaven follows, as in Luke.

But then, in the end of the chapter, we have another instructive appendix. It is no new thing for man's work to mar, as far as can be, the Lord's work to turn service into a means of lordship here below, and make great that which at the present time has its worth in refusing to part from the scorn and reproach of Christ. For the flock is not great, but little: till He return, it is a despised work of a despised Master. We have the dangers to which those engaged in His work would be exposed. This, I think, is the reason why the record is here given of the tempest-tossed vessel in which the Lord was, and the disciples, full of anxiety, trembled at the winds and the waves around them, thinking of themselves much more than of their Master. Indeed, they reproachfully turn to Him, and say, "Master, carest thou not that we perish?" Such, alas! are the servants apt to be heedless of His honour, abundantly careful for themselves. "Master, carest thou not that we perish?" It was little faith; but was it not little love too? It was an utter forgetfulness of the glory of Him who was in the vessel. It did, however, bring out the secret of their hearts they at least cared for themselves: a dangerous thing in the servants of the Lord. Oh, to be self-sacrificing! to care for nothing but Him! At any rate the comfort is this He does care for us. The Lord accordingly rises at that call, selfish as it might be, of glaring unbelief; yet His ear heard it as the call of believers, and He pitied them. "He arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still." The wind ceased, and there was a great calm; so that even the shipmen feared exceedingly in the presence of such power; and said one to another, "What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?"

The next chapter (Mark 5:1-43) opens with a highly important incident connected with ministry. Here it is a single case of a demoniac, which makes the details all the more striking. In point of fact, we know from elsewhere that there were two. The gospel of Matthew, not in this only, but in various other cases, speaks of two persons; as, I suppose, because this fact fell in with his object. It was a recognized principle in the law, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word should be established; and he among the evangelists on whom, so to speak, the mantle of the circumcision fell, he it was who, speaking in view of the circumcision, gives the required testimony for the guidance of those in Israel that had ears to hear. Nothing of the kind was before Mark. He wrote not with any special aim of meeting Jewish saints and Jewish difficulties; but, in truth, rather for others that were not so circumscribed, and might rather need to have their peculiarities explained from time to time. He evidently had humanity before him as wide as the world, and therefore singles out, as we may fairly gather, the more remarkable of the two demoniacs. There is again no thought here of delineating the destinies of Israel in the last days, without denying an. allusion typically here to that which is fully drawn out there. But I apprehend the special object of this chapter is to trace the moral effects of Christ's ministry, where it is brought home in power to the soul. We have, therefore, the most desperate case possible. It is neither a leper nor a paralytic; nor is it simply a man with an unclean spirit. Here is the minute specification of a case more appalling than any we can find elsewhere in the gospels, and none describes it with such power and intense naturalness, or so circumstantially, as our evangelist.

"When he was come out of the ship, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no man could bind him, no, not with chains." All human appliances but proved the superior might of the enemy. "Because that he had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the chains had been plucked asunder by him, and the fetters broken in pieces: neither could any man tame him." What a picture of dreary wretchedness, the companion of desolation and of death! "And always, night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones." Utter degradation, too, weighed him down, the cruelty of degradation such as Satan loves to inflict upon man that he hates. "But when he saw Jesus afar off, he ran and worshipped him, and cried with a loud voice, and said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of the most high God? I adjure thee by God, that thou torment me not. For he said unto him, Come out of the man, thou unclean spirit. And he asked him, What is thy name? And he answered, saying, My name is Legion: for we are many." Again the same trait, one may just remark, appears here as before a most singular identifying of the evil spirit with the man. Sometimes it would seem as if it was but one, sometimes a kind of manifold personality. "He besought him much that he would not send them away out of the country." And the Lord accordingly casts the unclean spirits into the swine, which were destroyed.

However, it is not only deliverance, as we saw in Matthew, but there is the moral result on the soul. The people of the country come for now it is the testimony of the effects of ministry; they come to Jesus, and seeing him that was possessed of the devil and had the legion, sitting and clothed and in his right mind, they were afraid; and they that saw it told them how it befell him that was possessed of the devil, and also concerning the swine. Mark their unbelief! Man showed that he cared less for Jesus than for Satan or the swine. "When he was come into the ship, he that had been possessed with the devil prayed him that he might be with him" the natural impulse of a renewed heart, true of every saint of God. There is no believer, I care not how feeble he may be, who does not know this desire, unless he lose the sweet simplicity of truth, or, it may be, stifled by bad doctrine, such as putting him under law, which always produces fear and anxiety. But when a man is not poisoned by misuse of law, or other corrupt teaching, the first simple impulse of him who knows the love of Jesus is to be with Him. This is one reason why all Christians are spoken of as loving His appearing. (2 Timothy 4:1-22) Nor is it only a desire to be with Him, but that His glory should be made good everywhere. The soul right well knows that He who is so precious to the heart only needs to be known to others, only needs to be manifested before the world, to bring in the only power of blessing that can avail for such a world as this.

In the case before us, however, our Lord suffers him not. He shows that, no matter how true and right and becoming might be this sentiment of grace in the heart of the delivered man, still there is a work to be done. Those that are delivered are themselves to be deliverers. Such is the beneficent character and aim of the ministry of Jesus. If Jesus does His work, if He breaks the power of Satan that none else can touch, it is not merely that the delivered one should have his heart with Him, and forthwith desire to go and be with Him. In itself, indeed, it is due to his love, and it could not but be that he who has been taught of God what Jesus is, should long to be where He is. But as Jesus pleased not Himself, coming to serve God here below, so his sphere of service is in the place where he could tell others the great things which had been done for him. Accordingly the Saviour meets him with the words, "Go home to thy friends."

Mark it well, dear brethren; we are apt to forget the injunction. It is not merely, Go to the world, or, Go to every creature; but, "Go home to thy friends." How comes it that there is such difficulty, often, in speaking to our friends? Why is it that persons who are bold enough with strangers, are so timid before their household, relatives, connections? It often tells a tale which it is well to bear in mind. We shrink from the comparison which our friends are so apt and sure to make; who test our words -however clear, and good, and sweet by that which they have such abundant means of ascertaining in our daily ways. An inconsistent walk makes a coward, at least, before "our friends." It would be well if it really had the effect of humbling us before all. Were there genuine lowliness with fidelity before God, there would be courage, not only before strangers, but before "our friends." Here, however, the point simply amounts to this: The Lord would spread the message of grace, would send him to make it known to his friends; for it was clearly they who had best known in his case the awful and degrading power of Satan. They would, of course, be most interested in the men who were his familiars; and therefore there were special reasons, I doubt not, for it. For us, too, it is a good thing to bear it in mind. Not that a saved soul should only go to his friends; but it remains ever true and good that the secret of grace in the heart should send us to our friends, to make it known to those who have known our folly and sins, that they may hear of the mighty Saviour we have found. "Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee. And he departed, and began to publish in Decapolis how great things Jesus had done for him."

How sweet this identification of "Jesus" with "the Lord." "How great things the Lord hath done for him." The Saviour put it forth in the most general way, I believe, in uttering these words without special allusion to Himself. The man, on the other hand, I cannot doubt, was perfectly right. How often, when it may appear that there is a want of literal exactitude, in interpreting "the Lord" of "Jesus," there is in truth a better carrying out of the mind of God. Mere literalism would have held slavishly to the letter of the Lord's language. But oh how much deeper, and, withal, more glorifying to God it was, when the man saw underneath that great mystery of godliness the Lord in the servant's garb. He who was pleased to take the form of a servant was none the less the Lord. "He went and told how great things Jesus had done for him."

Then follows the account of the Jewish ruler of the synagogue, who fell at the feet of Jesus, and besought Him greatly to heal his dying daughter. Having dwelt on the scene elsewhere, I need say the less here. The Lord goes with him, intimating His specified ministry in Israel a work which goes down to the reality of death, under which they would be shown really to lie. But the Shepherd of Israel could raise from the dead. This seems to be the bearing of the case before us, and not a mere general inroad upon Satan's power, which became the occasion and justification, if one may so speak, of carrying victoriously the glad tidings of God's kingdom and goodness to man. This was true of the Lord's ministry even while on the earth, the place where Satan reigns. His temptation in the wilderness proved Him stronger than the strong man, and therefore He spoils his goods, delivering the poor victims of Satan, and making them to be the captors of him whose captives they were. But here we find that his heart, far from being turned away from Israel, yearned over their need, deep as it was. The call of Jairus is no sooner made than He goes to answer it. He alone could wake out of death's sleep the daughter of Zion; yet, ineffable grace! while on the road He is open to everybody. In the throng through which He had to pass was a woman having an issue of blood. It was a desperate case; for she had suffered much, and tried many physicians in vain. Such is the hapless lot of man away from God; human aid avails not. Where is the man who has had to do with what is in the world, and would not at once acknowledge the justice of the picture, the powerlessness of man in the presence of the deepest wants? But this was just the opportunity for One who, even as man ministering here below, wielded the power of God in His love. Jesus was the true and unfailing servant of God; and the woman, instead of seeking good from man as he is, and thus suffering more and more by the very efforts made to benefit her, unseen in the press behind, touches the garment of Jesus. "For she said, If I may touch but his clothes, I shall be whole. And straightway the fountain of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she wad healed of that plague." To have banished her ailment would have been too little for Jesus; for He is a perfect Saviour, and therefore is a Saviour not only for the body that had suffered so long, but for the soul's affections and peace. She got a better blessing than she sought. He not only staunched the issue of blood, but filled her trembling heart with confidence instead of the fear that had possessed her before. Nothing would have been morally right had she gone away with the reflection that she had stolen some virtue from Jesus. Emphatically banishing, then, all dread from her spirit, He says to her, "Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace, and be whole of thy plague." That is, He seals to her with His mouth the blessing which, as it were, her hand would else have seemed to have taken surreptitiously from Him.

Then, in the end of the chapter, the Lord is in the presence of death; but He will not allow death to abide His presence. "The damsel," said He, (and how true it was!) "is not dead, but sleepeth." Just so the Spirit says believers are asleep; as, "Those that sleep in Jesus God brings with him." Here typically Israel is viewed according to the mind of God. Unbelief may weep, and wail, and create all sorts of tumult, and with little feeling after all; for it can equally even then laugh Jesus to scorn. But as for Him, He suffers none to enter but chosen ones Peter, and James, and John, alone, with the parents. "And when he was come in, he saith unto them, Why make ye this ado, and weep? the damsel is not dead, but sleepeth. And they laughed him to scorn." So the Lord takes the damsel by the hand, after He had turned the others out, and straightway at His word she arises, and walks. "And they were astonished with a great astonishment. And he charged them straitly that no man should know it; and commanded that something should be given her to eat." Why in this gospel more than any other does the Lord Jesus thus enjoin silence? I conceive it is because Mark's is the gospel of service. The truth is, brethren, service is not a thing to be trumpeted by those engaged in it, or their friends. Whatever is from God, and is done toward God, may be safely left to tell its own tale. It is what God gives and does, not what man says, that is the real point of holy service. Observe here, too, how the Lord, at least, perfect in every thing, not only does the work, but besides tenderly cares for her. There is the considerate goodness of the Lord to be remarked, that "something should be given her to eat." In every matter, even in what might seem the smallest, Jesus took an interest. Thus He bore in mind that the maiden had been in this state of trance, and was exhausted. Whatever be the occasion that calls it forth, is it not the greatest of all things for our hearts to know how Jesus cares for us?

In Mark 6:1-56 we have our Lord again now thoroughly despised. Here He is "the carpenter." It was true; but was this all? Was it "the truth?" Such was man's estimate of the Lord of glory; not merely the carpenter's son, but here, and here only, He is Himself the carpenter, "the son of Mary, and the brother of James, and Joses, and Judah, and Simon. Are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him." Beautifully, too, you may remark that, where there was this unbelief, our Lord would not remove it by dazzling feats of power, because there would have been no moral worth in a result so produced. He had given already abundant signs to unbelief; but men had not profited by them, neither was the word that He spake mixed with faith in them that heard it. The consequence is, that "He could there do no mighty work;" as here only it is recorded yes, of the man before whom no power of Satan, no disease of man, nothing above, or below, or beneath, could prove the very smallest difficulty. But God's glory, God's will governed all; and the display of perfect power was in perfect lowliness of obedience. Therefore this blessed One could there do no mighty work. It is needless to say that it was no question of power as to Himself. It was not in any wise that His saving arm was shortened; not that there was no virtue in Him longer, but there was the lovely blending of the moral glorifying of God with all that was wrought for man. In other words, we have not here the mere setting forth of the power of Jesus, but the gospel of His ministry. Therefore it is a weighty part of this, that because of unbelief He could do no mighty work there. He was really serving God; and if man only was seen, not God, no wonder that He could do no mighty work there. Thus, that which at first sight seems strange, the moment you take it in connection with the object of God in what He is revealing, all becomes striking, plain, and instructive.

And now He proceeds to act upon that appointment of the twelve, whom we saw, in Mark 3:1-35, He had ordained. "He called unto him the twelve, and began to send them forth." It was in presence of the thorough contempt which had just shown itself that He gives them their mission. It was only when the extremest scorn fell on Him, so that He could do no mighty work there. He replies, as it were, in the most gracious and also conclusive manner, that it was from no lack of virtue, because He sends them two and two on their new and mighty errand. He that could communicate power, then, to a number of men the twelve to go forth and do any mighty work, certainly did not Himself want intrinsic energy, nor was it from any want of power to draw upon in God. Jesus invests them with His own power, as it were, and sends them out in all directions as witnesses, but witnesses of the ministry of Jesus. They were servants called after His own fashion; and so He commanded them that they should take nothing for their journey, save a staff only; they were to go forth in the faith of His resources. Therefore, anything of human means would have been contrary to the very intention. In a word, we must remember that this was a special form of service suitable to that moment, and, in point of fact, rescinded by our Lord afterwards in very important particulars. In the gospel of Luke, we have carefully given us the change that takes place when the Lord's hour was come. It was not only that it was an hour come for Him, but it was a crisis for them, too. They had thenceforward to encounter a great change, because of the character of utter rejection, and, indeed, of suffering, on which the Lord was entering. He therefore cast them upon the ordinary resources of faith, using such things as they had; but as yet it was not so. On the contrary, the witnesses of Jesus to Israel were then going forth. It was in the face of unbelief against Himself, but unbelief answered by the fresh outflow of grace on His part, sending out messengers with extraordinary powers from Himself all over the land. And so He told them where to go, and "what place soever ye enter into an house, there abide till ye depart from that place. And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear you, when ye depart thence, shake off the dust under your feet for a testimony against them. Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city. And they went out, and preached that men should repent" a very important feature here added. John preached repentance; Jesus preached repentance, as did these apostles. And be assured, beloved friends, that repentance is an eternal truth of God for this time as much as for any other. There is no greater mistake than to suppose that the change of dispensation weakens (I will not say merely the place of repentance for every soul that is brought to God, but) the duty of preaching repentance. We are not to leave it after a perfunctory sort, contenting ourselves with the assurance, that if a person believes, he is sure to repent; we ought to preach repentance, as well as to look for repentance in those who profess to have received the gospel. At any rate, it is equally clear that the Lord preached it, and that the apostles were to do and did the same. "They preached that men should repent, and they cast out many devils, and anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them."

Then we have Herod appearing upon the scene; and Herod, I take it, represents in Israel the power of the world its usurping power, if you please. However this be, there he was in point of fact, the holder of the world's power in the land, and ever, though not without qualms and struggles in the end, thoroughly opposed to the testimony of God. He was really hostile to it, not merely in its fullest forms, but at bottom also, in its first appearance and most elementary presentation. He had no love for the truth; he might like the man who preached it well enough, and at first hear him gladly; he might have many anxieties about his soul before God, and know perfectly well that he was doing wrong in his ordinary life; but, still, the devil managed to play the game so well, that although there was personal affection, or respect, at least, for the servant of God, the disastrous end comes, as it always will, when there is a fair trial in this world. No respect, no kindly feeling for any one or anything that is of God, will ever stand when Satan is allowed to work, and is thus free to accomplish his own deadly plan of ruining or thwarting the testimony of God. This is what those engaged in the ministry of Christ must expect to see attempted, and will do well to resist. If this be the point, as I apprehend, the reason of its introduction here is not obscure. The Lord was sending out these chosen vessels. In the presence of this new action of His in the work, we learn how the world feels about it; not merely the ignorant world, nor the religious parties with their chiefs, but the highly cultivated profane world. And this is the way in which they treat it. They have the outward power which Satan finds means to make them use. They kill the witness of God. It may be only a wicked woman who stirs them up to do the deed; but be not deceived. It was not a question of Herodias merely. She was but the tool by which the devil brought it about: he has his own particular way; and in this case we have not only the circumstances, solemn as they are, but the spring of all in the opposition of Satan to God's testimony. The issue of it is, that if wicked men have power to kill, even if reluctant, he whose they are somehow compels them to use their power, when the opportunity arises. Fear of man, and notions of honour, are strong where God is unheeded: what may not follow where there is no conscience? That old serpent can manage to entrap the most prudent, just as Herod here fell into the trap. For his word to a wicked woman, passed in presence of his lords, John's head was struck off, and produced in a charger.

The apostles come to our Lord after their mission, and tell Him the result of their mission; or as it is said here, "told him all things, both what they had done, and what they had taught." It was not very safe ground: it were better to have spoken of what He had taught, and what He was doing. As, however, the Lord corrects all most graciously, He takes them away into a desert place, and there He is found unwearied in His love. A hungry multitude was there. These disciples, only a little while before so full of what they had taught, and what they had done was it not a worthy emergency for their labours now? Could they not help in the present distress? They seem not so much as to have thought of it. Alone, at any rate, in this scene, our Lord Jesus brings out in the plainest possible manner their utter failure. Mark the lesson well. It is especially, when there was somewhat of boastfulness, after they had been occupied with their own doings and teachings. Then it is that we find them thus powerless. They were at their wits' ends. They did not know what to do. Strange to say, they never thought of the Lord; but the Lord thought of the poor multitudes, and in His richest grace not only spread a table and fed the people, but makes the feeble disciples themselves to be the dispensers of His bounty, as afterwards they must gather up what remained.

After this, again, we find them exposed to a storm, and the Lord, joining them in their troubles, brings them safely, and at once, to the desired haven. Therein follows the scene of joy where Jesus is recognized, and the abundant blessing that attended His every footstep where He moved. As surely as Jesus thus blessed the poor world then, such and far more will He prove Himself at His return after the world will have done its worst. I do not doubt that this carries us to the end, when the Lord Jesus will rejoin His people after their manifold and sore troubles, after all their proved weakness, as well as exposure to outward storms. As He was in the place He had visited, so He will be in the universal diffusion of power and blessing, when the tempest-tossed disciples shall have come safe to land.

Mark 7:1-37. But then there is another view necessary also in connection with ministry; we need to learn the prevalent feeling of the religious powers. Accordingly we have the traditionist in collision with Christ, as we had in the last chapter Herod with John the Baptist. Here it is the accredited leaders from Jerusalem, the scribes, before whom our Lord brings the most convincing evidence, that the principle and practice of their cherished traditions demoralise man and dishonour the word of God. The reason of the evil is manifest it is from man. This is enough; for man is a sinner. There is nothing really good but what is from God. Show me anything from fallen man which is not evil. Tradition, as being man's supplement, is always and necessarily evil. The Lord puts it together with what He afterwards brings out the condemnation of man's heart in all its depravity. There it is not only the mind of man, but the working of his corrupt feelings. This is not the time to dwell on this well known chapter, and the contrast it furnishes of Christ's display of God's all-perfect grace toward the greatest possible need the woman who came to Him on account of her demoniac daughter. The woman was a Greek, a Syrophoenician by nation, who besought Him to cast forth the devil out of her daughter. But the Lord, trying her faith in order to give her a richer blessing, not only accomplishes what she desires, but puts the seal of His approval in the most striking manner upon her personal faith. "And he said unto her, For this saying go thy way; the devil is gone out of thy daughter. And when she was come to her house, she found the devil gone out, and her daughter laid upon the bed."

Next we come to another tale, finishing the chapter, and strikingly characteristic of our gospel the case of one deaf and dumb, whom Jesus met as He departed from these quarters into Galilee. "And they bring unto him one that was deaf, and had an impediment in his speech; and they beseech him to put his hand upon him." Here again the Lord shows us a beautiful sample of considerateness and tender goodness in the manner of His cure. It is not only the cure, but the manner of it, that we have so strikingly brought out here. Our Lord takes the man aside from the multitude. Who could intermeddle with that scene between the perfect servant of God and the needy one? "He puts his fingers into his ears." What would He not do to prove His interest? "And he spit, and touched his tongue; and looking up to heaven, he sighed." As He weighed the distressing results of sin, what a burden was upon His heart! It is a particular instance of the great truth we saw in Matthew the other night. With Jesus it was never bare power relieving man, but always His spirit entering into the case, feeling its character in God's sight, and its sad consequences for man too. The whole was borne upon His heart, and so, as here, He sighs, and bids the ears be opened. "And straightway his ears were opened, and the string of his tongue was loosed, and he spake plain. And he charged them that they should tell no man: but the more he charged them, so much the more a great deal they published it; and were beyond measure astonished, saying, He hath done all things well." Such might be the motto of Mark. The utterance of the multitude, of those that saw the fact, is just what is illustrated throughout the entire gospel. "He hath done all things well." It was not only that there was the power fully adequate to accomplish all He undertook, but "He hath done all things well." He is the perfect servant everywhere, and under all circumstances, whatever may be the need. "He hath done all things well: he maketh both the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak."

The next (Mark 8:1-38) must be our last chapter now, on which I will just say a word or two before closing. We have once more a great multitude fed; not the same, of course, as before. Here, not five thousand were fed, but four thousand; not twelve baskets of fragments remained over, but seven. There were outwardly less limits, and a less residue; but observe that seven, the normal number of perfection spiritually, is here. I consider, therefore, that contrariwise, and viewed as a figure, this was still more important than the other. There is no greater mistake in Scripture and, indeed, it is true in moral questions than to judge of things by their mere appearances. The moral bearing of anything you please is always of more importance than its physical aspect. In this second miracle the number fed was less, while the original supply was greater, yet the remainder gathered up was less. Apparently, therefore, the balance was greatly in favour of the former miracle. The truth is really this, that in the former case the intervention of men was prominent; here, though He may employ men, the great point is the perfectness of His own love, sympathy, and provision for His people, no matter what the need. It appears, therefore, that the seven has a deeper completeness than the twelve, both being significant in their place.

After this our Lord rebukes the disciples for unbelief, which comes out strongly now. The greater His love and compassion, the more perfect His care, the more painfully, alas! unbelief betrays itself even in the disciples, and yet more in others. But our Lord performs another cure, the record of which is peculiar to Mark. At Bethsaida, a blind man was brought. The Lord, for the express purpose, it seems to me, of showing the patience of ministry according to His mind, first touches his eyes, when partial sight follows. The man confesses in reply, that "he saw men like trees walking;" and the Lord applies His hand a second time. The work is done perfectly. Thus, not only did He heal the blind, but He did it well a further illustration of what has been already before. us. If He puts His hand to accomplish, He does not take it away until all is complete, according to His own love. The man then saw with perfect distinctness. Thus all is in season. The double action proved the good Physician; as His acting so effective, whether by word or hand, whether by one application or by two, proved the great Physician.

The close of the chapter begins to open the faith of Peter in contrast with the unbelief of men, and even with what had been working among the disciples before. Now, things were hurrying on rapidly to the worst. Peter's confession was therefore the more seasonable. The account differs very strikingly from what is found in Matthew. Peter is represented by Mark as saying simply, "Thou art the Christ;" while in Matthew the words are, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God" "Hence you have no such thing in Mark as, "Upon this rock I will build my church." The Church is built not exactly on the Christ or Messiah as such, but on the confession of "the Son of the living God." Hence we may see how beautifully the omissions of Scripture hang together. The Holy Ghost inspired Mark to notice no more than a part of the confession of Peter, and thus there is only a part of the blessing mentioned by our Lord. The highest homage to our Lord in Peter's confession being omitted, the great change then at hand, which displays itself in the building of the Church, is consequently quite left out of Mark. There our Lord simply charges them that they were not to tell any man of Him,. the Christ. What an end of the testimony of His presence! The reason, too, is most affecting: "The Son of man must suffer many things," etc. Such is the portion of Him, the true servant. He is the Christ, but it is no use to tell the people so any more; they have heard often, and will not believe it. Now He is going to enter upon another work: He is going to suffer. It is His portion. "The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again."

After this point, He begins, in view of the transfiguration, to announce His approaching death. He gives it most circumstantially. He would guard His servants from supposing that He was in any wise taken by surprise by His death. It was an expected thing. It was what He knew, perfectly and circumstantially, before the elders and scribes did. The very people that were going to cause it knew nothing about it. They planned rather the reverse of the actual circumstances of His death. Still less did they know anything about His resurrection; they did not believe it when it came to pass; the Jews covered it up by a lie. But Jesus knew all about both, and now first breaks the tidings to His disciples, intimating that their path must lie through the same pathway of suffering. Christ's suffering is here viewed as the fruit of the sin of man, which accounts for the fact, that there is not a word said about atonement here. There never was a greater misconception in looking at Scripture than to limit our Lord's sufferings to atonement: I mean upon the cross, and in death. Certainly, atonement was the deepest point in the sufferings of Christ, and one can understand how even Christians are apt to overlook all else in atonement. The reason why believers make atonement everything is because they make themselves everything. But if they were not unbelieving believers, they would see that there is a great deal more in the cross than the atonement; and surely they would not think less of Jesus if they were to see more the extent of His grace, and the profundity of His sufferings. Our Lord does not speak of His death here as. expiating sins. In Matthew, where He speaks of giving His life a ransom for many, of course there is atonement substantially. Christ expiates their sins, and this I call atonement. But here, where He speaks of being killed by men, is that atonement? It is painful that Christians should be so shut up and confused. Were not God dealing in judgment with the Saviour of sinners, there would have been no atonement. His rejection by men, though taken from God, is not the same thing. And, beloved friends, this is a more important and more practical question than many might be apt to think; but I must defer further remarks for the present. We have before us a new subject the glory which our Lord immediately after speaks of in connection with His rejection and sufferings.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Kelly, William. "Commentary on Mark 1:1". Kelly Commentary on Books of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wkc/mark-1.html. 1860-1890.