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Jamieson, Fausset & Brown :: Commentary on Mark 1

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The Gospel According to Mark

Commentary by DAVID BROWN


Mar 1:1-8. THE PREACHING AND BAPTISM OF JOHN. ( = Mat 3:1-12 Luk 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-- ( Mal 3:1 Isa 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 ( Mat 11:10 Luk 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 IRENAEUS, 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, see on JF & B for Mt 3:1-6, 11; JF & B for Mt 3:11.


      See on JF & B for Mt 3:13-17.

      Mar 1:12, 13. TEMPTATION OF CHRIST. ( = Mat 4:1-11 Luk 4:1-13 ).

      See on JF & B for Mt 4:1-11.


      See on JF & B for Mt 4:12-22.


      21. And they went into Capernaum--(See on JF & B for Mt 4:13).
      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 scribes--See on JF & B for Mt 7:28, 29.

      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 ( 1Ki 17:18 2Ki 3:13 2Ch 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, see on JF & B for Joh 2:4.
      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 ( Luk 18:37 Mar 16:6 Act 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?" ( Mat 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 ( Mat 12:24-30 ). The expression, "Holy One of God," seems evidently taken from that Messianic Psalm ( Psa 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 ( Mar 1:26 ) He would right willingly permit.

      26. And when the unclean spirit had torn him--Luke ( Luk 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 ( Luk 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" ( Luk 11:21, 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 Luk 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 (see on JF & B for Mr 5:37) --Andrew 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" ( Col 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 Mat 8:16. Luke ( Luk 4:40 ) says it was setting.
      they brought unto him all that were diseased, and them that were possessed with devils--the demonized. From Luk 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 Mat 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. See on JF & B for Mr 1:24. After this account of His miracles of healing, we have in Mat 8:17 this pregnant quotation, "That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying ( Isa 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 ( Luk 5:16 6:12 9:18, 28, 29 Mar 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 ( Luk 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 ( Luk 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" ( Luk 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 Jhn 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 ( Luk 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.

      Mar 1:40-45. HEALING OF A LEPER. ( = Mat 8:1-4 Luk 5:12-16 ).

      See on JF & B for Mt 8:1-4.

Introduction to Matthew ← Prior Book
Introduction to Luke Next Book →
Introduction to Mark ← Prior Chapter
Commentary on Mark 2 Next Chapter →

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.


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