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Commentaries For Mark 1

  • Chapter 1

    Mark was a sister's son to Barnabas, ( Colossians 4:10 and Acts 12:12 ) shows that he was the son of Mary, a pious woman of Jerusalem, at whose house the apostles and first Christians ( 1 Peter. 5:13 ) evangelist is supposed to have been converted by that apostle. Thus Mark was closely united with the followers of our Lord, if not himself one of the number. Mark wrote at Rome; some suppose that Peter dictated to him, though the general testimony is, that the apostle having preached at Rome, Mark, who was the apostle's companion, and had a clear understanding of what Peter delivered, was desired to commit the particulars to writing. And we may remark, that the great humility of Peter is very plain where any thing is said about himself. Scarcely an action or a work of Christ is mentioned, at which this apostle was not present, and the minuteness shows that the facts were related by an eye-witness. This Gospel records more of the miracles than of the discourses of our Lord, and though in many things it relates the same things as the Gospel according to St. Matthew, we may reap advantages from reviewing the same events, placed by each of the evangelists in that point of view which most affected his own mind.

    The office of John the Baptist. (1-8) The baptism and temptation of Christ. (9-13) Christ preaches and calls disciples. (14-22) He casts out an unclean spirit. (23-28) He heals many diseased. (29-39) He heals a leper. (40-45)

    Verses 1-8 Isaiah and Malachi each spake concerning the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, in the ministry of John. From these prophets we may observe, that Christ, in his gospel, comes among us, bringing with him a treasure of grace, and a sceptre of government. Such is the corruption of the world, that there is great opposition to his progress. When God sent his Son into the world, he took care, and when he sends him into the heart, he takes care, to prepare his way before him. John thinks himself unworthy of the meanest office about Christ. The most eminent saints have always been the most humble. They feel their need of Christ's atoning blood and sanctifying Spirit, more than others. The great promise Christ makes in his gospel to those who have repented, and have had their sins forgiven them, is, they shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost; shall be purified by his graces, and refreshed by his comforts. We use the ordinances, word, and sacraments without profit and comfort, for the most part, because we have not of that Divine light within us; and we have it not because we ask it not; for we have his word that cannot fail, that our heavenly Father will give this light, his Holy Spirit, to those that ask it.

    Verses 9-13 Christ's baptism was his first public appearance, after he had long lived unknown. How much hidden worth is there, which in this world is not known! But sooner or later it shall be known, as Christ was. He took upon himself the likeness of sinful flesh; and thus, for our sakes, he sanctified himself, that we also might be sanctified, and be baptized with him, ( John 17:19 ) . See how honourably God owned him, when he submitted to John's baptism. He saw the Spirit descending upon him like a dove. We may see heaven opened to us, when we perceive the Spirit descending and working upon us. God's good work in us, is sure evidence of his good will towards us, and preparations for us. As to Christ's temptation, Mark notices his being in the wilderness and that he was with the wild beasts. It was an instance of his Father's care of him, which encouraged him the more that his Father would provide for him. Special protections are earnests of seasonable supplies. The serpent tempted the first Adam in the garden, the Second Adam in the wilderness; with different success indeed; and ever since he still tempts the children of both, in all places and conditions. Company and conversation have their temptations; and being alone, even in a wilderness, has its own also. No place or state exempts, no business, not lawful labouring, eating, or drinking, not even fasting and praying; often in these duties there are the most assaults, but in them is the sweetest victory. The ministration of the good angels is matter of great comfort in reference to the malignant designs of the evil angels; but much more does it comfort us, to have the indwelling of God the Holy Spirit in our hearts.

    Verses 14-22 Jesus began to preach in Galilee, after that John was put in prison. If some be laid aside, others shall be raised up, to carry on the same work. Observe the great truths Christ preached. By repentance we give glory to our Creator whom we have offended; by faith we give glory to our Redeemer who came to save us from our sins. Christ has joined these two together, and let no man think to put them asunder. Christ puts honour upon those who, though mean in this world, are diligent in their business and kind to one another. Industry and unity are good and pleasant, and the Lord Jesus commands a blessing on them. Those whom Christ calls, must leave all to follow him; and by his grace he makes them willing to do so. Not that we must needs go out of the world, but we must sit loose to the world; forsake every thing that is against our duty to Christ, and that cannot be kept without hurt to our souls. Jesus strictly kept the sabbath day, by applying himself unto, and abounding in the sabbath work, in order to which the sabbath rest was appointed. There is much in the doctrine of Christ that is astonishing; and the more we hear it, the more cause we see to admire it.

    Verses 23-28 The devil is an unclean spirit, because he has lost all the purity of his nature, because he acts in direct opposition to the Holy Spirit of God, and by his suggestions defiles the spirits of men. There are many in our assemblies who quietly attend under merely formal teachers; but if the Lord come with faithful ministers and holy doctrine, and by his convincing Spirit, they are ready to say, like this man, What have we to do with thee, Jesus of Nazareth! No disorder could enable a man to know Jesus to be the Holy One of God. He desires to have nothing to do with Jesus, for he despairs of being saved by him, and dreads being destroyed by him. See whose language those speak, that say to the Almighty, Depart from us. This unclean spirit hated and dreaded Christ, because he knew him to be a Holy One; for the carnal mind is enmity against God, especially against his holiness. When Christ by his grace delivers souls out of the hands of Satan, it is not without tumult in the soul; for that spiteful enemy will disquiet those whom he cannot destroy. This put all who saw it upon considering, What is this new doctrine? A work as great often is wrought now, yet men treat it with contempt and neglect. If this were not so, the conversion of a notorious wicked man to a sober, righteous, and godly life, by the preaching of a crucified Saviour, would cause many to ask, What doctrine is this?

    Verses 29-39 Wherever Christ comes, he comes to do good. He cures, that we may minister to him, and to others who are his, and for his sake. Those kept from public ordinances by sickness or other real hinderances, may expect the Saviour's gracious presence; he will soothe their sorrows, and abate their pains. Observe how numerous the patients were. When others speed well with Christ, it should quicken us in seeking after him. Christ departed into a solitary place. Though he was in no danger of distraction, or of temptation to vain-glory, yet he retired. Those who have the most business in public, and of the best kind, must yet sometimes be alone with God.

    Verses 40-45 We have here Christ's cleansing of a leper. It teaches us to apply to the Saviour with great humility, and with full submission to his will, saying, "Lord, if thou wilt," without any doubt of Christ's readiness to help the distressed. See also what to expect from Christ; that according to our faith it shall be to us. The poor leper said, If thou wilt. Christ readily wills favours to those who readily refer themselves to his will. Christ would have nothing done that looked like seeking praise of the people. But no reasons now exist why we should hesitate to spread the praises of Christ.


    Mark 1:1-8 . THE PREACHING AND BAPTISM OF JOHN. ( = Matthew 3:1-12 Luke 3:1-18 ).

    1. The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God--By the "Gospel" of Jesus Christ here is evidently meant the blessed Story which our Evangelist is about to tell of His Life, Ministry, Death, Resurrection, and Glorification, and of the begun Gathering of Believers in His Name. The abruptness with which he announces his subject, and the energetic brevity with which, passing by all preceding events, he hastens over the ministry of John and records the Baptism and Temptation of Jesus--as if impatient to come to the Public Life of the Lord of glory--have often been noticed as characteristic of this Gospel--a Gospel whose direct, practical, and singularly vivid setting imparts to it a preciousness peculiar to itself. What strikes every one is, that though the briefest of all the Gospels, this is in some of the principal scenes of our Lord's history the fullest. But what is not so obvious is, that wherever the finer and subtler feelings of humanity, or the deeper and more peculiar hues of our Lord's character were brought out, these, though they should be lightly passed over by all the other Evangelists, are sure to be found here, and in touches of such quiet delicacy and power, that though scarce observed by the cursory reader, they leave indelible impressions upon all the thoughtful and furnish a key to much that is in the other Gospels. These few opening words of the Second Gospel are enough to show, that though it was the purpose of this Evangelist to record chiefly the outward and palpable facts of our Lord's public life, he recognized in Him, in common with the Fourth Evangelist, the glory of the Only-begotten of the Father.

    2, 3. As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee--( Malachi 3:1 , Isaiah 40:3 ).

    3. The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight--The second of these quotations is given by Matthew and Luke in the same connection, but they reserve the former quotation till they have occasion to return to the Baptist, after his imprisonment ( Matthew 11:10 , Luke 7:27 ). (Instead of the words, "as it is written in the Prophets," there is weighty evidence in favor of the following reading: "As it is written in Isaiah the prophet." This reading is adopted by all the latest critical editors. If it be the true one, it is to be explained thus--that of the two quotations, the one from Malachi is but a later development of the great primary one in Isaiah, from which the whole prophetical matter here quoted takes its name. But the received text is quoted by IRENÆUS, before the end of the second century, and the evidence in its favor is greater in amount, if not in weight. The chief objection to it is, that if this was the true reading, it is difficult to see how the other one could have got in at all; whereas, if it be not the true reading, it is very easy to see how it found its way into the text, as it removes the startling difficulty of a prophecy beginning with the words of Malachi being ascribed to Isaiah). For the exposition,

    Mark 1:9-11 . BAPTISM OF CHRIST AND DESCENT OF THE SPIRIT UPON HIM IMMEDIATELY THEREAFTER. ( = Matthew 3:13-17 Luke 3:21 Luke 3:22 ).

    mark 1:12 mark 1:13 . TEMPTATION OF CHRIST. ( = Matthew 4:1-11 Luke 4:1-13 ).



    21. And they went into
    and straightway on the sabbath day he entered into the synagogue, and taught--This should have been rendered, "straightway on the sabbaths He entered into the synagogue and taught," or "continued to teach." The meaning is, that as He began this practice on the very first sabbath after coming to settle at Capernaum, so He continued it regularly thereafter.

    22. And they were astonished at his doctrine--or "teaching"--referring quite as much to the manner as the matter of it.
    for he taught them as one that had authority, and not as the

    23. And there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit--literally, "in an unclean spirit"--that is, so entirely under demoniacal power that his personality was sunk for the time in that of the spirit. The frequency with which this character of "impurity" is ascribed to evil spirits--some twenty times in the Gospels--is not to be overlooked.
    and he cried out--as follows:

    24. Saying, Let us alone--or rather, perhaps, "ah!" expressive of mingled astonishment and terror.
    what have we to do with thee--an expression of frequent occurrence in the Old Testament ( 1 Kings 17:18 , 2 Kings 3:13 , 2 Chronicles 35:21 , &c.). It denotes entire separation of interests:--that is, "Thou and we have nothing in common; we want not Thee; what wouldst Thou with us?" For the analogous application of it by our Lord to His mother,
    thou Jesus of Nazareth--"Jesus, Nazarene!" an epithet originally given to express contempt, but soon adopted as the current designation by those who held our Lord in honor ( Luke 18:37 , 16:6 , Acts 2:22 ).
    art thou come to destroy us?--In the case of the Gadarene demoniac the question was, "Art Thou come hither to torment us before the time?" ( Matthew 8:29 ). Themselves tormentors and destroyers of their victims, they discern in Jesus their own destined tormentor and destroyer, anticipating and dreading what they know and feel to be awaiting them! Conscious, too, that their power was but permitted and temporary, and perceiving in Him, perhaps, the woman's Seed that was to bruise the head and destroy the works of the devil, they regard His approach to them on this occasion as a signal to let go their grasp of this miserable victim.
    I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God--This and other even more glorious testimonies to our Lord were given, as we know, with no good will, but in hope that, by the acceptance of them, He might appear to the people to be in league with evil spirits--a calumny which His enemies were ready enough to throw out against Him. But a Wiser than either was here, who invariably rejected and silenced the testimonies that came to Him from beneath, and thus was able to rebut the imputations of His enemies against Him ( Matthew 12:24-30 ). The expression, "Holy One of God," seems evidently taken from that Messianic Psalm ( Psalms 16:10 ), in which He is styled "Thine Holy One."

    25. And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace, and come out of him--A glorious word of command. BENGEL remarks that it was only the testimony borne to Himself which our Lord meant to silence. That he should afterwards cry out for fear or rage ( Mark 1:26 ) He would right willingly permit.

    26. And when the unclean spirit had torn him--Luke ( Luke 4:35 ) says, "When he had thrown him in the midst." Malignant cruelty--just showing what he would have done, if permitted to go farther: it was a last fling!
    and cried with a loud voice--the voice of enforced submission and despair.
    he came out of him--Luke ( Luke 4:35 ) adds, "and hurt him not." Thus impotent were the malignity and rage of the impure spirit when under the restraint of "the Stronger than the strong one armed" ( Luke 11:21 Luke 11:22 ).

    27. What thing is this? what new doctrine--teaching
    is this?--The audience, rightly apprehending that the miracle was wrought to illustrate the teaching and display the character and glory of the Teacher, begin by asking what novel kind of teaching this could be, which was so marvellously attested.

    28. And immediately his fame spread abroad throughout all the region round about Galilee--rather, "the whole region of Galilee"; though some, as MEYER and ELLICOTT, explain it of the country surrounding Galilee.

    29. And forthwith, when they were come out of the synagogue--so also in Luke 4:38 .
    they entered into the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John--The mention of these four--which is peculiar to Mark--is the first of those traces of Peter's hand in this Gospel, of which we shall find many more. The house being his, and the illness and cure so nearly affecting himself, it is interesting to observe this minute specification of the number and names of the witnesses; interesting also--as the first occasion on which the sacred triumvirate of Peter and James and John are selected from among the rest, to be a threefold cord of testimony to certain events in their Lord's life being present on this occasion, as the occurrence took place in his own house.

    30. But Simon's wife's mother lay sick of a fever--Luke, as was natural in "the beloved physician" ( Colossians 4:14 ), describes it professionally; calling it a "great fever," and thus distinguishing it from that lighter kind which the Greek physicians were wont to call "small fevers," as GALEN, quoted by WETSTEIN, tells us.
    and anon--immediately.
    they tell him of her--naturally hoping that His compassion and power towards one of His own disciples would not be less signally displayed than towards the demonized stranger in the synagogue.

    31. And he came and took her by the hand--rather, "And advancing, He took her," &c. The beloved physician again is very specific: "And He stood over her."
    and lifted her up--This act of condescension, most felt doubtless by Peter, is recorded only by Mark.
    and immediately the fever left her, and she ministered unto them--preparing their sabbath-meal: in token both of the perfectness and immediateness of the cure, and of her gratitude to the glorious Healer.

    32. And at even, when the sun did set--so Matthew 8:16 . Luke ( Luke 4:40 ) says it was setting.
    they brought unto him all that were diseased, and them that were possessed with devils--the demonized. From Luke 13:14 we see how unlawful they would have deemed it to bring their sick to Jesus for a cure during the sabbath hours. They waited, therefore, till these were over, and then brought them in crowds. Our Lord afterwards took repeated occasion to teach the people by example, even at the risk of His own life, how superstitious a straining of the sabbath rest this was.

    33. And all the city was gathered together at the door--of Peter's house; that is, the sick and those who brought them, and the wondering spectators. This bespeaks the presence of an eye-witness, and is one of those lively examples of word-painting so frequent in this Gospel.

    34. And he healed many that were sick of divers diseases, and cast out many devils--In Matthew 8:16 it is said, "He cast out the spirits with His word"; or rather, "with a word"--a word of command.
    and suffered not the devils to speak, because they knew him--Evidently they would have spoken, if permitted, proclaiming His Messiahship in such terms as in the synagogue; but once in one day, and that testimony immediately silenced, was enough. account of His miracles of healing, we have in Matthew 8:17 this pregnant quotation, "That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying ( Isaiah 53:4 ), Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses."

    35. And in the morning--that is, of the day after this remarkable sabbath; or, on the first day of the week. His choosing this day to inaugurate a new and glorious stage of His public work, should be noted by the reader.
    rising up a great while before day--"while it was yet night," or long before daybreak.
    he went out--all unperceived from Peter's house, where He slept.
    and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed--or, "continued in prayer." He was about to begin His first preaching and healing circuit; and as on similar solemn occasions ( Luke 5:16 , 6:12 , Luke 9:18 Luke 9:28 Luke 9:29 , 6:46 ), He spent some time in special prayer, doubtless with a view to it. What would one not give to have been, during the stillness of those grey morning hours, within hearing--not of His "strong crying and tears," for He had scarce arrived at the stage for that--but of His calm, exalted anticipations of the work which lay immediately before Him, and the outpourings of His soul about it into the bosom of Him that sent Him! He had doubtless enjoyed some uninterrupted hours of such communings with His heavenly Father ere His friends from Capernaum arrived in search of Him. As for them, they doubtless expected, after such a day of miracles, that the next day would witness similar manifestations. When morning came, Peter, loath to break in upon the repose of his glorious Guest, would await His appearance beyond the usual hour; but at length, wondering at the stillness, and gently coming to see where the Lord lay, he finds it--like the sepulchre afterwards--empty! Speedily a party is made up to go in search of Him, Peter naturally leading the way.

    36. And Simon and they that were with him followed after him--rather, "pressed after Him." Luke ( Luke 4:42 ) says, "The multitudes sought after Him"; but this would be a party from the town. Mark, having his information from Peter himself, speaks only of what related directly to him. "They that were with him" would probably be Andrew his brother, James and John, with a few other choice brethren.

    37. And when they had found him--evidently after some search.
    they said unto him, All men seek for thee--By this time, "the multitudes" who, according to Luke ( Luke 4:42 ), "sought after Him"--and who, on going to Peter's house, and there learning that Peter and a few more were gone in search of Him, had set out on the same errand--would have arrived, and "came unto Him and stayed Him, that He should not depart from them" ( Luke 4:42 ); all now urging His return to their impatient townsmen.

    38. And he said unto them, Let us go--or, according to another reading, "Let us go elsewhere."
    into the next towns--rather, "unto the neighboring village-towns"; meaning those places intermediate between towns and villages, with which the western side of the Sea of Galilee was studded.
    that I may preach there also; for therefore came I forth--not from Capernaum, as DE WETTE miserably interprets, nor from His privacy in the desert place, as MEYER, no better; but from the Father. Compare John 16:28 , "I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world," &c.--another proof, by the way, that the lofty phraseology of the Fourth Gospel was not unknown to the authors of the others, though their design and point of view are different. The language in which our Lord's reply is given by Luke ( Luke 4:43 ) expresses the high necessity under which, in this as in every other step of His work, He acted--"I must preach the kingdom of God to other cities also; for therefore"--or, "to this end"--"am I sent." An act of self-denial it doubtless was, to resist such pleadings to return to Capernaum. But there were overmastering considerations on the other side.

    Mark 1:40-45 . HEALING OF A LEPER. ( = Matthew 8:1-4 , Luke 5:12-16 ).

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