Mark gives us the ministry of the Lord. His account is brief; and there are few events which are not recorded by Matthew and Luke. Nevertheless, what a gap there would be in our view of the Saviour's life and work here below if we hid not Mark! In none have we a more characteristic manner of presenting what is given us. In none have we such graphic, vivid life-touches of our Master: not only what He said and did, but how He looked and felt. Besides, there is the evident design of drawing our attention to His Gospel service, and all the incidents chosen, and the peculiar mode in which they are handled, will be found to bear upon this weighty and affecting theme: the Lord God as the servant, in lowly, faithful ministration of the Gospel here below.
The very opening illustrates this. "The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ; 17 the Son of God†; as it is written in Isaiah the prophet‡: "Behold, I send My messenger before Thy face, who shall prepare Thy way.§ The voice of one crying," etc." We at once enter on the great business the Holy Ghost had in hand. There is no blowing of trumpets to usher in the King in due style and title. This has its just place in Matthew, where the descent traced from Abraham and David, along the chosen royal line of Solomon too, so admirably agree with God's object there. And the circumstances before and after His birth follow, all carrying out the same end of presenting Jesus as the true and blessed Messiah of Israel. Luke and John, it could be readily shown, were endowed by the Spirit with equally striking and suited wisdom for maintaining the aim of their Gospels respectively; but space forbids for the present our delaying to speak of these things particularly.
† B. Weiss, with corr and most uncials (ABDL, etc.), besides versions, retains "the Son of God," which Nestle, after Tischendorf, etc., omits with pm and cursives. See Westcott and Hort, Appendix, p. 23. As to what the lecturer understood by "Son of God" here, see his remarks on Mar_13:32.
‡"Isaiah the prophet." The Sinai, Vatican, Cambridge of Beza, Parisian (L), and St. Gall uncials, with some twenty-five cursives, the most ancient versions and express early citations, preserve the true text. "In the prophets," though given in the Alex. and most other manuscripts, is an evident correction made to ease the difficulty. Even on human ground it is absurd to suppose that the writer did not know that the first words quoted were from Mal_3:1, and if inspiration be allowed, the only question is as to the principle of thus merging a secondary in a primary quotation. Cf. the somewhat different use of Jeremiah (from that of Isa_40:3) in Mat_27:9-10. There is purpose in both, which cursory readers have not seen, and so they have been as quick to impute a slip as the later copyists were to eliminate it. But it is as irreverent as unwise and evil to obscure or deny the truth even in such points as these, because the modes of Scripture application differ from those of ordinary men, and we may not at a first glance be able to appreciate or clear up the profound wisdom of inspiration. Kuster's conjecture that the reading was originally "in the prophet" seems a mere effort to get rid of what he did not understand, which really, like such attempts generally, leaves the chief point where it was (B.T., vol. xiii., p. 300 ff.).
§ AΓΔ etc., syrhcl arm. goth., Origen here add "before thee." Edd. omit, as BDL, etc.
It is well, however, in noting the beautiful immediateness of the picture here brought before our eyes, to observe that there is no precipitancy, no omission of what was a most important preface for the account of Jesus thus ministering - the previous appearance and services of John the Baptist. To this there seems to be an allusion in the opening words. It was more than prophecy, though in accordance, as verses 2 and 3 prove, with the prophets. "The law and the prophets," we are told elsewhere, "were until John," (Mat_11:13) who took a great step in advance - "the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ." Such was the voice of one crying in the wilderness, after long silence had reigned as to God's testimony in Jerusalem.
Further, is it not touching to see that, if we are about to follow the steps of God's faithful and only perfect Servant, the change which the Holy Ghost, in sovereign wisdom, makes in His citation of Mal_3:1 attests the Divine glory of Jesus? In the prophecy it is Jehovah sending His messenger who would prepare the way before Him. In the Evangelist it is still Jehovah sending His messenger, but it is now before "Thy face" - i.e. the face of Jesus Christ. The truth is, Jesus, humble Himself as He might, was Jehovah. Matthew elicits the same truth from His name. "Thou shalt call His name Jesus; for it is He who shall save His people from their sins." Now, the Jews were the people of none but Jehovah. It is the more remarkable in the opening of our Gospel; for Mark, unlike Matthew, rarely quotes the Scriptures.* How perfectly it is in keeping with the Gospel, and its opening part also is evident. If the Lord of glory was coming or comes in the form of a servant and the likeness of men, it was most appropriate that prophecy should (not be broken, but) bend before Him, and that a new and still more blessed testimony should begin.
*As to quotations from the Old Testament, see "Lectures on Gospels," p. 162 ff. Cf. note 19 at end.
But where cries this voice of the herald, and where was he baptizing? "In the wilderness." What, then, was the state of Jerusalem and the people of God? They must go outside to John if they would take their right place before God. What he presented was the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. The effect was great; I say not savingly, but extensive, and not without touching the conscience. "There went out to him all the district of Judea, and all they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins." All this is here sketched by Mark, clearly, but rapidly and in brief, without stopping by the way to set before us, as was needful to the purpose of God in Matthew, the proud and false-hearted men who stood in the place of religious leaders of the day, objects of God's certain and scrutinizing judgment.
But if John had his own special place, and if his abode, and garb, and food witnessed his separation from the evil state of Israel, it was his happier task to testify the superiority of Christ's person, and of His ministry, as compared with his own. Nothing is here said of baptizing with fire, as in Matthew and Luke, to both of whose subject it was requisite. But Mark was inspired to speak only of that part of John's testimony which is directly associated with the Lord's Gospel work - namely, baptizing with the Holy Ghost. It is not, of course, that under Christ repentance ceased, and can ever but be, in a world of sin, the necessary pathway of a soul that is born of God. Still, the turning of a soul to God, in a sense of sin and self-judgment, is different from the Divine power which sets evil aside on the basis of a redemption accomplished by the grace of God. This is the characteristic blessing of Christianity.
Mat_3:13-17; Luk_3:21-22; Joh_1:31-34.
Yet was Jesus, the Baptizer with the Holy Ghost, Himself baptized by John in the Jordan, Himself receives the Holy Ghost! What a sight and truth! Infinitely above sin and sins (which He did not even know), yet was He baptized with water. He had no unrighteousness to confess, but thus it became Him to fulfil all righteousness. From Nazareth of Galilee came He, who was God over all, blessed for ever. There He dwelt, as Matthew tells us, so that the prophets' saying might be in this, as in all else, fulfilled. Could heaven behold unmoved such grace? Impossible: "And straightway going up from the water, He saw the heavens cleaving asunder, and the Spirit as a dove descending upon Him." What meaning had that act of baptism in the mind of God! "And there came a voice out of the heavens saying, Thou art My beloved Son, in Thee* I have found My delight."† Him," as St. John says, "hath God the Father sealed."‡ It is not merely the fact, but "He saw," etc., which is here recorded. Though truly God, He was man; though a Son, He became a servant, and was now about to enter on His ministry. He receives the Spirit as well as the recognition of His Sonship. He had justified God's sentence on, and call to, Israel - yea, He had in grace joined the souls who had bowed to it in the waters of Jordan; but this could not be without the answer of the Father for His heart's joy in the path He was about to tread. The one was the fulfilment of every kind of righteousness, and not legal only (this in grace, for there was no necessity of evil in His case), the other was His recognition thereon by the Father in the nearest personal relationship, over which His submission to baptism might have cast a cloud to carnal eyes.
*"In thee": so Edd. with BDL, etc., best cursives (33, 69), Old Latin, Syr., etc. "In whom" is the reading of A and later uncials with most cursives.
†Because of "His association with all in Israel who felt and owned their condition in the sight of God . . . the Saviour identifying Himself with the godly-feeling remnant" ("Lectures on the Gospels," p. 19 ff.). Cf. note 19.
‡Joh_6:27. Cf. note 30.
"And immediately the Spirit drives Him out into the wilderness; and He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and was with the wild beasts, and the angels ministered to Him." What a picture of His position in a few words of God! Moses, the lawgiver, had been with God on the mount forty days; Elijah, the prophet, had been in the wilderness with God for the same, sustained without the need of man's food. But what was either miracle compared with the position of Jesus? For Him, the Son, to be with God was, and had been from all eternity, His natural place, so to speak; but now He was come down to the earth, a man among men, and in the wilderness, to which sin had reduced this fair creation, He is for forty days tempted (So Luk_4:2) of Satan. Man was not there, but the wild beasts were, as our Evangelist so forcibly adds; and there, too, the angels were ministering to Him. It was all His wondrous preparation for a service no less wondrous.20
We have seen thus far in Christ the great preparatives for the service of God, the first of them, at least and of course, modified by His intrinsic and absolute sinlessness. And such I believe to be in measure true of everyone whom the Lord calls to follow in His own path. There is, first, the owning of our true place before God. And what real enjoyment of our spiritual relationship can there be till we bow before God in the truth of our condition? There may be a sort of joy arising from the thought of sins being forgiven; but forgiveness of sins, however sweet and important, is, after all, but an act - an immense, Divine act - of sovereign grace through the blood-shedding of the Saviour. It is not in itself the existence or the enjoyment of our new definite relationship of sons with the Father. This, along with the seal of the Spirit, is what is next given. We, too, led by the Spirit, have the happy witness that we are the children of God. But, following this, there must be the consciousness of what the power of Satan is, and of the wilderness too, before there can be the full ability to serve others in the power of God.
Mat_4:12-22; Luk_4:14-15, Luk_5:1-11.
"But after John was delivered up, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the glad tidings [of the kingdom*] of God." This was the fitting moment for his public ministry. It was an hour little suited for nature, when Messiah's forerunner was tasting the enmity of the world; but Jesus came not to escape the sorrows of love in a hating world, but to make known what God is, in spite of - yea, because of - such a world. Therefore He says: "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God† has drawn nigh. Repent and believe in the glad tidings." There was no more delay for the testimony of grace. it was no question of the law, but of repentance and believing in the Gospel. But though it was now the time for Divine action, grace will have sharers of its own joy. Accordingly, we have Simon and Andrew, James and John, called to become fishers of men. They had known and believed in Jesus before, but now they must follow and be with Him. Boats, nets, father - their earthly property, their ordinary occupation, their natural relationship - must yield to the call of Jesus. Not that all are called to go after Jesus thus; but assuredly it is the Holy Ghost who leads the soul that is born again to call Him Lord. Is this confession to be real or is it unmeaning? By His blood we are redeemed to God. We are not our own; we are bought with a price. He is our Lord, not only in great things, but in the smallest matters of everyday life. And sure I am that a crisis comes in the history of believing souls, when they must be put to the proof how far this is true in their experience. For Satan does seek to tempt us, out of the happy place of the servants of Christ, to make ourselves lords, as it were. Are we seeking our own interests, our own pleasure, our own ease? Are we struggling for our own will? Are we seeking to be something in the world, or, at any rate, something in the Church? What is this but to be lords instead of His servants? But to own Him as Lord, to do His will, this is our own proper business. For this we are saved. This is what He died for, and this is what we ought to live for - to own Jesus Lord. To live for ourselves in anything is to defraud Him of His rights, and it is to deny, so far, the great price He paid to make us His.
*"Of the kingdom" disappears with good reason (BL, etc., 1, 33, 69, Syrsin Vulg.), though most uncials (AD, etc.) and cursives insert the words, the old versions being pretty evenly divided. It is an addition borrowed from Matthew, whose Gospel it suits perfectly (B.T., ubi supra).
†Matthew uses "kingdom of God" in a few passages where "kingdom of heaven" could not be used (Mat_6:33, Mat_12:28, Mat_21:43). Thus the kingdom of God was there when Christ the King was there; the kingdom of heaven began with Christ going to heaven. By-and-by, when Satan ceases to rule, it will be the kingdom of heaven (and of God too, of course), not in a mystery, but in manifestation. The kingdom of God has also a moral force which kingdom of heaven has not, and in this way is frequently used by St. Paul, and was peculiarly suitable to the Spirit's design in Luke (B. T., March, 18 5 8). See further note 21.
"And they go into Capernaum, and straightway on the Sabbath He entered into the synagogue and taught. And they were astonished at His doctrine, for He taught them as having authority, and not as the scribes."23 This is the first and essential point in the ministration of God's word, that it should be spoken with authority. Flesh may imitate it. The world thinks that self-will is the only thing that can avail to effect any end. But however strong man's will may seem in the things of men, the certainty of God's will is the one thing by which the Holy Spirit clothes the word with authority in Divine things. This was pre-eminently the case with Christ, for He alone as man had the Lord always before Him. But even with us there should be the speaking with assurance of God's mind and will (1 Peter 4), if we speak for God at all; otherwise it would be better to be silent. With the scribes it is not so. They may reason or they may dazzle, as argument or fancy preponderates. But for us it is better not to speak if we have not the certainty of that which God would have spoken at any given time. By speaking uncertainly we only communicate our own doubts or darkness to others. But if we have by grace the certainty of God's truth, let it be spoken with authority. It is as servant that Christ does so here. He was Himself the perfection of humility; for it is in no way inconsistent with a lowly mind to speak with the fullest authority where we have no doubt about the mind of God.
But next we find "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, Jesus Nazarene? Art Thou come to destroy us? I know Thee who Thou art, the Holy One of God. And, Jesus rebuked Him, saying, Hold thy peace, and come out of him. And When the unclean spirit had torn him, and cried with a loud voice, he came out of him."24 How strikingly these demoniacal possessions appeared in the presence of Jesus! One might almost think, as we read the Gospels, that all then existing and possible cases had been crowded around Him. But the truth is, there may have been as many before, but the presence of Divine light brought it all out then; the presence of Jesus, the Son of God, drove Satan to bay, and withdrew the mask which may previously have covered his victims. And in a degree this may be observed wherever the power of God's truth and holiness are at work. Does He raise a standard? There opposition will at once be felt, and the enemy will declare himself. The unclean spirit would gladly be left alone, but owns the power of the despised Jesus of Nazareth. The power of Satan could but feel the presence and supremacy of the despised of men, but Holy One of God. Jesus, however, rebukes him, and delivers the possessed, to the astonishment of all, who own the new doctrine by reason of the power which judged and expelled the enemy.‡
*"And there was": so ACD and later uncials, Lat. Syrr. (including sin.), Arm. Go. AEth. Edd. with BL, 1, 33 insert "immediately" after "and."
†"Let us alone (Ah!)." Edd. omit, as BD, Lat. Syrsin pesch, but the words are in A C L, etc., Syrhcl, etc.
‡On verses 23-28, cf. B.T., vol. xxiii., p. 148.
Nor is this all. The Divine word was felt, and demons were forced out. Sickness, too, flees before His touch; and this not only in the individual case of Simon's wife's mother,25 but in crowds of others, miserable and distressed in every form. As to this, indeed, we have but to humble ourselves before God; for the Church was once the seat of this same wondrous energy of rebuking diseases and casting out devils. They were the powers of the age to come. But God has stripped the Church of her ornaments to our shame, and it becomes us to be humbled for it. Let us, however, turn to Jesus. Unwearied with His day of toil and service for others, at even it was still the same. He evermore carries on His work of love; for "when the sun had gone down, they brought to Him all that were suffering, and those that were possessed by demons, and the Whole city was gathered together at the door, and He healed many suffering from various diseases, and cast out many demons,26 and did not stiffer the demons to speak, because they knew Him." He refused that mixed testimony. It must be Divine, in order to be accepted of Him.
But what is so blessed for us and so instructive, too, is the next lovely feature that we find in the Lord as the servant on earth. "In the morning, rising up a great while before day, He went out and departed into a desert place, and there prayed." Occupied though He had been, early and late, with the sorrows of others, yet here we find Him long forestalling the dawn, while it was yet the dark of night, in order to hold intercourse with His Father. And what were the communications between such a Father and such a Son? The Old Testament tells us The Lord Jehovah hath given Me the tongue of the instructed, that I should know how to succour by word him that is weary. He wakeneth morning by morning, He wakeneth Mine ear to hear as the instructed." (Isa_50:4) The New Testament tells us how He went a great while before day into a desert place, and there He prayed. And if He thus retired to be with God, Himself the Lord God, before He entered upon the work of the day, can we wonder that we fail so much in outward labour, who fail yet more in this inward intimacy with our Father? Be assured, the secret of holy strength and endurance in service is found there alone.
Before we speak of the cleansing of the leper, let us consider a little the structure of our Gospel* as compared with the others. A close inspection will soon satisfy the reader that Mark follows the order of the facts,† as does John, with a very slight exception, so far as he gives us a historical account. Neither Luke nor Matthew adheres to the obvious successional order of events: the former, with a view to developing the moral bearings of the facts, recorded the real condition of man and the admirable resources of Divine grace; the latter, so as to manifest more vividly the change of dispensation consequent on the rejection of the Messiah. This I believe to have been the aim of the Holy Spirit in their Gospels respectively, without pretending to say how far the authors may have entered into the far-reaching purposes of God in their own inspired writings. In general, the character of the New Testament inspiration is intelligent communion with the mind of God, and not an instrumental medium only, as was the case ordinarily with the Jewish prophets (1 Peter 1). The great question, however, is as to God's intention; and He looked to the permanent instruction and blessing of His Church through the written word.
*Cf. "Lectures on the Gospels," pp. 39-43; on "Matthew," pp. 9, 10, 190-196.
†See note 4 to Introduction.
Difference there is, frequent and grave, between the various presentations of the Lord in the Gospels, and this both in the order of the narratives and in the manner in which the separate circumstances and discourses are brought before us. To what are we to attribute these constantly varying shades? Is it to the mere infirmity of good men, who did as well as they could, but could not be expected absolutely to tally, as even the best and ablest will disagree in their thoughts, feelings, apprehensions, and judgments? Or, on the contrary, are we to attribute these seeming discrepancies, not to man's weakness, but to God's wisdom? And are we reverently to ponder their every divergence from one another, as no less fraught with truth than their evident unisons? Not that we would for a moment forget that in the books of Scripture we have the beautiful maintenance of the individual style and manner of the writers. But let us all and always remember that individuality sustained is a very distinct thing from error allowed, and that Divine inspiration neither admits error nor destroys individuality.
That there are numerous and striking differences in the Gospels is plain to all but the most careless reader; that these differences are divinely given, and not the flaws of oversight, is equally certain to the believer. To confess the inspiration of the Evangelists, and withal to attribute to the Gospels mistake of any kind, is to deceive oneself as well as sin against God. Inspiration is no more inspiration if it be compatible with error. To account for the shades of difference, to show how necessary, and reasonable, and divinely perfect they all are, is another matter, and depends on our measure of spiritual understanding and power; but no Christian ought to hesitate for an instant as to resenting every impeachment of the word of God. Now, God has taken care that of the writers of the Gospels, two (Matthew and John) should be Apostles, and two (Mark and Luke) not, though all, of course, are alike inspired. Further, His wisdom has arranged that, of these two classes, one of each (Mark and John) should adhere to chronological order, and the others (Matthew and Luke) should adopt, to a certain extent, a grouping of facts necessarily different from the simple transcription of the facts as they occurred. It is remarkable that to our Evangelist, though not an Apostle, we are indebted for the clearest view of the historical line of our Saviour's ministry, followed by that which closed and crowned it, from the cross to the ascension. The proofs that Mark, in his brief, rapid, but most graphic sketch, preserves the series intact will appear from time to time as we pursue its course. The fact is stated here, the importance of which, if accepted as true, is manifest; for we thus have a standard of sequence whereby we can measure, as on an absolutely perfect scale, the displacements of Matthew and Luke. We have, then, to consider in detail the principle and objects which the Holy Ghost had in view when He led these Evangelists to gather together certain incidents, miracles, or discourses, taken out of their place, but according to an order quite as real as that of Mark, and, of course, still more proper for their own specific design.
The omission or insertion of particular points in one or more Gospels, not in the rest, is due to the same cause. For example, the first dawning of the true light on the hearts of Andrew, John, Peter, etc., is given nowhere but in John 1. "He calleth His own sheep by name, and leadeth them out" (Joh_10:3). On the other hand, not John, but the other Evangelists, show us their official summons to follow Christ and become fishers of men; but of these Luke only (Luke 5) furnishes, and this out of its actual date, the details of the miraculous draught of fishes which the Lord caused to act with such searching power on the soul of Peter, as well as on his partners. Otherwise the succession of events in Luke coalesces with that of Mark, save that the former alone opens with the scene in the synagogue at Nazareth (Luk_9:16-27), which so livingly portrayed the intervention of Divine goodness, Jesus anointed with the Holy Ghost and with power; and, on His rejection by His own people, the overflowing of grace to the Gentiles. Matthew here (Mat_4:23-25) has no details, but dwells on His preaching and miracles throughout all Galilee, and its widespread fame and effects; after which broad outline follows the Sermon on the Mount, transplanted from its place as to date, so as to give at the outset a fuller exposition of the principles of the kingdom. Mark has not the sermon; his task was not to unfold the character of the kingdom of heaven in contradistinction to the law (as the prophet like unto and greater than Moses does in Matthew), but to recount the works and Gospel ministry of the Lord. Its place, if it had been inserted there, would have been, I believe, in the middle of chapter 3. Thus, the comparison of the chronological line of things in Mark, as being, so to speak, a fixed scale, greatly facilitates our perception of the displacements in Matthew or Luke and our consideration of the Divine wisdom which, in either case, so ordered their accounts.
To return. "There comes a leper to Him, beseeching Him, and kneeling down to Him, and saving to Him, If Thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean." What a picture of helpless misery this leper kneeling before Jesus! not, therefore, without hope, for he besought the Saviour in his deep distress. There was no cure for leprosy; if God cured, there were offerings for cleansing. "Am I God, to kill and make alive," said the alarmed King of Israel, "that this man sends to me to cure a man of his leprosy?" (2Ki_5:7) In truth, to be a leper was to be "as one still-born, half of whose flesh is consumed when he comes out of his mother's womb." (Num_12:12) Yet was this leper importunate with Jesus, of whose power he had no doubt. "If Thou wilt, Thou canst cleanse me." This was the only question in a heart broken down to feel his real condition, his urgent and extreme need. Was Jesus willing? And what an answer came to feeble faith! For God will be God evermore, and surpass even our truest thoughts of Himself. "But Jesus,* moved with compassion, stretched out His hand and touched him, and says to him, I will; be thou cleansed." What new thing was this on earth? A man most surely, yet as surely infinitely more than man: a heart touched with exquisite feelings of pity; a hand stretched to touch a leper! Was this law? Had it been only law, and a mere man in question, there would have been, not the cleansing of the unclean, but the defilement of him who ventured into contact with that loathsome, forbidden object. But descend ever so low as He might in grace, Jesus was the Son of God, a Divine person, who alone of all men could sinlessly say, "I will; be thou cleansed." No exertion of power could have so met the leper's wants, his wants of soul as well as of body. The tenderness, the perfect, unselfish love that touched him - what should not this be to our hearts? Assuredly, it revealed the heart of Jesus as no words alone could have done; and yet the words revealed One who was God on earth. It was Divine grace in man, in Jesus, the perfect servant of God, and the more blessedly serving man's necessities because thus perfectly serving God. Hence immediate cleansing followed, the very reverse of contamination contracted. "And as He spoke,† immediately the leprosy departed from him, and he was cleansed."
*"Jesus": so ACΓΔ etc. Edd. ("Workers' New Testament" not following Nestle) omit, as BD.
†"As soon as He had spoken": ACΓΔ most cursives, Vulg. Syrhcl. Edd. omit, as BDL, a few cursives (including 69), Old Latin, Memph., etc.
"And He sharply charged him, and straightway sent him away, and says to him, See thou say nothing to anyone," etc.27 It was of importance that the priest, at the sight of the leper cleansed, should be compelled to own and witness and, as it were, formally take cognizance of the proof that the hand of God was there at work, not now writing judgment on the proud profanity of man, but in the might, and withal deepest condescension, of grace working the cure of abject and otherwise hopeless wretchedness and suffering, the standing type of a sinner. Besides, grace respects and maintains law till death and resurrection bring in another and surpassing and abiding glory for those who have their portion in it by faith; neither does it seek its own credit, but that God in all things should be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
"But he went out and began to proclaim it much, and to spread the matter abroad, so that He could no more openly enter into the city, but was without in desert places; and they came to Him from every quarter." Jesus sought not His own things; and just as in the previous scene (verse 37) human applause was but the occasion of His turning away from the éclat of miracles to other and more despised work, so here He avoids town for neglected wilds, though ever open to the appeal of need, come whence it may.
We have seen the Lord formally introduced and entering on His public Gospel ministry, endowed with the power of the Spirit and tempted in vain, though to the uttermost, by the devil. We have seen Him, after calling chosen witnesses, expose and expel the unclean spirit which possessed a man. There was the power of God, no less than the authority of the Word. Extreme violent sickness fled and strength was ministered - strength to minister - at His hand; diseases and. demons alike yielded to this Minister of good in an evil day, who sought not their testimony, but the face of His Father, in secret, while men slept. But if preaching the Gospel and driving out devils was His main service, His compassionate heart and hand were open to every cry of need, as the leper proved who came in the abject confession of his misery, whose healing He subjects rigorously to the Levitical law of cleansing, and thus compels the priests themselves to behold, in this very subjection to the law, the evidence of the presence and power of One who was above it.
NOTES ON MARK 1.
17 Mar_1:1 - "Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God." Some, as Meyer and Wellhausen, treat this as a title, corresponding to that in the beginning of Matthew, which view H. J. Holtzmann discredits because of the "according as." "Gospel" here is not used in the literary sense of "book," a meaning which it did not bear until well into the second century, when Justin Martyr, writing about the year 150, speaks of the Gospels as "Memoirs" (ἀπομνημονεύματα Some writers - the Germans, misled by Luther's version (kept up in the joint critical translation of 1899) - take Mark's words to mean "Gospel concerning Jesus Christ." Zahn, however, sees that the real force is "beginning of the Gospel" as ministered, good news brought, by Him. Cf. Act_1:1, Heb_2:3, Rev_19:10 ("testimony of Jesus Christ"). It is a portraiture of His service, a model for His workmen (cf. 1Pe_2:20 ff. with 8: 35, 10: 29 here). Zahn well says that for doctrine about Him the Biblical manner of expression would show περί as in Act_28:31, Rom_1:3. See also Hos_1:2, referring likewise to W. Kelly's "Exposition of the Epistles of Timothy," p. 4.
18 Mar_1:2. - With regard to the quotation, Klostermann points out that "prepare the way" in Malachi is, in fact, characteristic of the latter part of Isaiah, and that the absence of "and" is significant - that Mark meant a single prediction (p. 176). Large use of "and" (parataxis) is certainly peculiar to this Gospel, for which, besides the opening chapter (passim), see in particular Mar_3:13-16 and Mar_10:32.
Lee (p. 339), after Hengstenberg ("Christology of the Old Testament," iii., p. 608), supposes that Malachi used Isaiah - that is, not to have given an independent prediction (cf. note 12 above).
"Thy [for My] way." J. Weiss (p. 197f.) remarks that "the Christology of Mark is related to that of John more closely than is generally supposed." As to this, reference may be made to Mark 2: 10: 41, 44, (see note there), Mar_3:15, Mar_6:7, and to note 3 above. The "priority" of Mark lends no assistance to the theories of writers like Martineau about growth of "mythological attributes of the person of Jesus" ("The Seat of Authority in Religion," ii. 360).
18a In ἐβάπτισα we have a good instance of the flexibility of the later aorist, scarcely differing here from the present. It is not a mere Hebraism.
19 Mar_1:11. - "I have found my delight." That is, in the self-humiliation of JESUS, seen in His submission to the baptism; not excluding the Lord's earlier life on earth (Gould), nor reference to His preincarnate condition (Swete). Wellhausen strangely renders εὐδόκησα by "I have chosen." If that he intended to conform to Isa_42:1, Theodotion's version of which Swete mentions as "probable" reference, the connection (Mat_12:17 ff.) of the prophet's words is missed - Christ's rejection by the nation, and God's then taking up the Gentiles. We have here the objective attestation of the sonship (Sanday) for the Lord's own enjoyment. So in Luk_3:22, whereas in Mat_3:17 (cf. Joh_1:33) the Spirit records the voice as to the Baptist. See, further, note on Mar_8:38.
20 Mar_1:13-14. - Between these two verses a position may very well be found for the early Judean ministry of the Lord recorded by the fourth Evangelist. Greswell supposes that it lasted six months at least (p. 19). Cf. Joh_3:24, Joh_4:13, and Act_10:37, with Mar_3:7-8. In Luk_4:44 there is a striking variant reading - "the synagogues of Judea" - which finds place in the text of the "Workers' New Testament" and in the margin of the R.V.
21 Mar_1:15. - Intelligent habitual readers in general of the Gospels suppose that they understand such familiar phrases as "kingdom of heaven," "kingdom of God," without being aware of the extent to which the meaning or bearing of these expressions is canvassed by professional expositors of Scripture. Some scholars (as Schürer, 2, p. 453; Stalker, "Christology," p. 138; and O. Holtzmann, p. 160 ff.) can find no difference between them. Such commonly rely on the acknowledged fact that "heaven," in Jewish usage, may stand sometimes for "God" (H. J. Holtzmann, "New Testament Theology," p. 50), as in Mat_5:34 (cf. Mat_23:22), Mar_11:30, Luk_15:18, Joh_3:27. So Bishop Robertson, Bampton Lectures, p. 62f. (cf. Dalman on "Phraseology, of the Mishna," p. 179). But "used as a name of God, we always have the singular (οὐρανός and never the plural" (Cremer, "Lexicon of New Testament Greek," edited by Urwick, p. 662 f.). It is so in the passages just quoted from each of the Gospels. Writers who so blend the two expressions have no adequate explanation to offer of Matthew's phrase "kingdom of God" in Mat_12:28, Mat_19:24, Mat_21:31. See also Fairbairn, "Studies in the Life of Christ," p. 104.
As to the connection between "kingdom" and "Church," A. B. Bruce says: "The two categories do not entirely coincide. The kingdom is the larger category. It embraces all who by the key of a true knowledge of the historical Christ are admitted within its pale" ("The Kingdom of God," p. 266). Cf. Principal Fairbairn: "The kingdom created the Church, not the Church the kingdom. The parables that explain and illustrate the one are inapplicable to the other. . . . The Church and the kingdom may be more properly contrasted than compared" (op. cit., p. 108), and "the Church began to exist after the Ascension" (p. 110). Dr. Hort wrote helpfully on this subject. "Since Augustine's time," he says, "the kingdom has been simply identified with the Christian Ecclesia. This is a deduction from some of our Lord's sayings taken by themselves, but it cannot, I think, hold its ground when the whole range of His teaching about it is examined. We may speak of the Ecclesia as the visible representation of the kingdom of God, or as the primary instrument of its sway. . . . But we are not justified in identifying the one with the other, so as to be able to apply directly to the Ecclesia whatever is said in the Gospels about the kingdom of heaven or of God" ("The Christian Ecclesia," p. 19). Cf. Dorner, "The Future State," American translation, p. 73 ff. Wellhausen has not advanced beyond Augustine's idea. See his "Introduction," p. 106. The passage has been paraphrased by Burkitt (p. 192 ff.). He, too, treats the kingdom as equivalent to the Church, and misapprehends the distinctive character of the first Gospel. In the volume on Matthew's Gospel (p. 113f.) W. Kelly has: "There is not in all Scripture a single passage where the kingdom of heaven is confounded with the Church, or vice versa."
The phrase "kingdom of heaven," derived from the Old Testament (Dan_4:26), meant primarily the visible sovereignty of God established in power and glory (cf. Mar_9:1). The rejection of Christ has postponed that, and has imparted to the kingdom the form of "mystery" (Matt. 13) which it now takes. The present is the time of the King's "patience" (Rev_1:9). In Mat_28:18 we find "all power is given unto Me in heaven." Here is the inauguration of the "kingdom of heaven" which, as "kingdom of God," had already affected the earth (Luk_17:21).
22 Mar_1:21. - Capernaum (cf. Mat_9:1, "His own city"). Trench quotes Chrysostom ("Homily on Matthew"): "Bethlehem bare Him, Nazareth nurtured Him, Capernaum had Him continuously as inhabitant."
23 Mar_1:22. - For the scribes, see art. s. tit. in the American "Jewish Encyclopaedia," vol. xi. A stupendous fact of the Lord's life on earth is that He had no education commonly so called, although Josephus ("Contra Apion," ii. 25) tells us that "Moses gave commandment to instruct children in the elements of knowledge (γράμματα Graetz ("History of the Jews," ii. 148) quotes from the Talmud that "a fatherless child was not brought to be taught" in any synagogue school. Indeed, "there is no evidence," writes Fairbairn, "that in the time of Jesus any schools existed in Nazareth. The wonder both at Nazareth (Mar_6:2) and Jerusalem (Joh_7:15) how He knew His letters proves that He had not been educated in any school" ("Studies in the Life of Christ," p 52; cf. his "City of God," p. 226). The Lord spoke the Aramaic dialect of a Galilean peasant, but Fairbairn goes probably too far in saying that He did not know Greek ("Manchester Lectures on the Miracles of Christ," p. 17). If so, how did He communicate with the Greek woman of Mar_7:26? Sepphoris, a Greek city, was within five miles of Nazareth, and Greek was spoken throughout that region. Even so, His would be only colloquial Greek, like that which we meet with in the Gospel of Mark. See, further, note 56.
H. J. Holtzmann ("New Testament Theology," p. 129 f.) speaks of the importance of students of the Gospels being acquainted with the vernacular of JESUS. Cf. Burkitt, p. 5 f., where reference is made to Wellhausen's application of such knowledge to the interpretation of the Gospel records, the Cambridge Professor stating that things imperfectly understood by students knowing only Hellenistic Greek are "immediately clear" to those so further equipped. As far as the German Professor's "Commentary on Mark" is concerned, we are not struck with the result as profitable. His treatment of "Son of man" is based on a view of the Aramaic background which Dalman, the leading expert in this branch, rejects (see note on Mar_2:10). Is it helpful to anyone to be told by Wellhausen (on Mar_1:4) that the Aramaic equivalent of a Greek passive is an active intransitive (reflexive), illustrated in baptism by "the one baptized" of the classical language being equivalent to "the one dipping (himself)" in the vernacular of Christ? Leaving eccentricities or tricks of language alone, we may recall a solemn question of the Lord at Jerusalem, and His own answer (Joh_8:43): "Why do ye not know My speech (λαλίαν Because ye cannot hear My word (λόγον
As to the scribes (Sir A. F. Hort, "Divinity Professors"), reference may be made to Edersheim, "Life of Jesus the Messiah," if not to Schürer, "History of the Jewish People in the Time of Jesus Christ," § 25. As to Christian "theology," see note 35.
24 Mar_1:24. - This incident is vividly exhibited in Delitzsch, "A Day in Capernaum," p. 99.
25 Mar_1:29. - Klostermann makes use of this verse in illustration of the process of Peter's supposed connection with the second Gospel. The Apostle's "we" and "me" (my) Mark is considered to have simply converted into "they" and "Simon." Klostermann treats 3: 16 similarly.
26 Mar_1:34. - For the difference between "devil" and "demon," see Trench, "On the Miracles," p. 166f.
27 Mar_1:43-44. - Harnack ("What is Christianity?") uses this passage in support of his idea that the Lord "did not assign that critical importance to His miraculous deeds which even the Evangelist Mark attributed to them." On the miraculous, see note 58.
"Say nothing to anyone": lest the priests, hearing of it by anticipation, should discredit the hand of JESUS in it (J. Wesley).