Preface to Mark
Of Mark, the writer of this Gospel, little is certainly known. He is commonly supposed to be the same that is several times mentioned in the New Testament. He was not an apostle, or companion of the Lord Jesus, during his ministry, though some of the fathers affirm that he was one of the seventy disciples. This is improbable, as he is mentioned by Peter 1 Peter 5:13 as "his son;" from which it is supposed that he was converted by the instrumentality of Peter.
From the New Testament we learn that he was sister's son to Barnabas Colossians 4:10; and that his mother's name was Mary, a pious woman in Jerusalem, at whose house the apostles and primitive Christians often assembled, Acts 12:12.
His Hebrew name was John Act 12:12, and it is probable that he adopted a name better known or more familiar when he visited the Gentiles, a practice not uncommon in that age. He was at first the companion of Paul and Barnabas in their journeys to propagate Christianity, Acts 12:25; Acts 13:5; Acts 15:37. He chose not to attend them through their whole journey, but left them in Pamphylia, and probably returned to Jerusalem, Acts 15:38. Probably at this time he was the companion of Peter, and traveled with him to Babylon, 1 Peter 5:13. Afterward he went with Barnabas to Cyprus, Acts 15:39. Subsequently he went to Rome, at the express desire of Paul, in company with Timothy, 2 Timothy 4:11. He remained at Rome while Paul was a captive there, but how long is uncertain, Colossians 4:10; Plm 1:24. From Eusebius, Epiphanius, and Jerome we hear that Mark went from Rome to Alexandria, in Egypt, where he planted a church, and died in the eighth year of the reign of Nero, 64 ad
The time when this Gospel was written is not certainly known. It is supposed to have been between the years 56 and 63 a.d. It is allowed by all that it was written at Rome; of course it was during the latter years of his life, after the apostles had left Judea, Mark 16:20. Mark was for a considerable time the companion of Peter. Though he had not himself been with the Saviour in his ministry, yet, from his long acquaintance with "Peter," he was familiar with the events of his life, and with his instructions. The uniform testimony of the fathers is that he was the "interpreter" of Peter, and that he wrote this Gospel under the eye of Peter and with his approbation. It has come down to us, therefore, with the sanction of Peter's authority. Its right to a place among the inspired books has never been questioned. That it was written by Mark, that it was with Peter's approbation, that it was a record of the "facts" which Peter stated in his ministry, and that it was therefore an inspired book, has never been questioned.
The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God;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.
As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.As it is written in the prophets - Mark mentions "prophets" here without specifying which. The places are found in Malachi 3:1, and in Isaiah 41:3. See the notes at Matthew 3:3.
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.See the notes at Matthew 3:3, Matthew 3:5-6, Matthew 3:11.
And there went out unto him all the land of Judaea, 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 a 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 the Holy Ghost.
And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in Jordan.See the notes at Matthew 3:13-17.
And straightway 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.
And immediately the Spirit driveth him into the wilderness.Here Mark relates concisely what Matthew has recorded more at length in Mark 4.
The Spirit driveth - The word "driveth" does not mean that he was compelled forcibly against his will to go there, but that he was inclined to go there by the Spirit, or was led there. The Spirit of God, for important purposes, caused him to go. Compare Matthew 9:25, where the same word is used in the original: "And when they were all put forth" in Greek, "all driven out."
And was with the wild beasts - This is added to show the desolation and danger of his dwelling there. In this place, surrounded by such dangers, the temptations offered by Satan were the stronger. Amid want and perils, Satan might suppose that he would be more easily seduced from God. But he trusted in his Father, and was alike delivered from dangers, from the wild beasts, and from the power of temptation, thus teaching us what to do in the day of danger and trial.
And the angels ministered unto him - From Luke 4:2 we learn that in those days he did eat nothing. When Mark says, therefore, that the angels ministered to him, it means after the days of temptation had expired, as is said by Matthew 4:11.
And he was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted of Satan; and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered unto him.
Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God,Now after that John was put in prison - John was imprisoned by Herod, Matthew 14:3.
Jesus came into Galilee - He left Judea and went into the more retired country of Galilee. He supposed that if he remained in Judea, Herod would also persecute him and attempt to take his life. His time of death had not come, and he therefore prudently sought safety in retirement. Hence, we may learn that when we have great duties to perform for the church of God, we are not to endanger our lives wantonly. When we can secure them without a sacrifice of principle, we are to do it. See Matthew 24:16.
And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.The time is fulfilled - That is, the time for the appearance of the Messiah, the time so long foretold, has come. "The kingdom of God is at hand." See the notes at Matthew 3:2.
Repent ye - Exercise sorrow for sins, and turn from them.
And believe the gospel - Literally, trust in the gospel, or believe the good tidings - to wit, respecting salvation. See the notes at Matthew 4:17.
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.See the notes at Matthew 4:18-22.
And Jesus said unto them, Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men.
And straightway they forsook their nets, and followed him.
And when he had gone a little further thence, he saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who also were in the ship mending their nets.
And straightway he called them: and they left their father Zebedee in the ship with the hired servants, and went after him.
And they went into Capernaum; and straightway on the sabbath day he entered into the synagogue, and taught.See also Luke 4:31-37.
And they went into Capernaum - For the situation of Capernaum see the notes at Matthew 4:13.
Straightway - Immediately. On the following Sabbath.
The synagogue - See the notes at Matthew 4:23.
And taught - In the synagogue, the presiding elder, after reading the Scriptures, invited anyone who chose to address the people, Acts 13:15. Though our Saviour was not a "priest" of the Levitical order or an "officer" of the synagogue, yet we find him often availing himself of this privilege, and delivering his doctrines to the Jews.
And they were astonished at his doctrine: for he taught them as one that had authority, and not as the scribes.He taught them as one that had authority ... - See the notes at Matthew 7:29.
And there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out,A man with an unclean spirit - See Matthew 4:24. It is probable that this man had lucid intervals, or he would not have been admitted into the synagogue. When there, one of his fits came on, and he suddenly 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.Let us alone - Though only one impure spirit is mentioned as possessing this man, yet that spirit speaks also in the name of others.
They were leagued together in the work of evil, and this one knew that if he was punished, others would also share the same fate.
What have we to do with thee? - See the notes at Matthew 8:29. By this the spirit meant to say that, if Jesus cast him out, he would use an improper interference. But this was untrue. The possession of the man was a direct assault upon God and his works. Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil, and Jesus had a right, therefore, to liberate the captive, and to punish him who had possessed him. So Satan still considers it an infringement of his rights when God frees a "sinner" from bondage and destroys his influence over the soul. So he still asks to be let alone, and to be suffered to lead people captive at his will.
Art thou come to destroy us? - Implying that this could not be the intention of the "benevolent" Messiah; that to be cast out of that man would, in fact, be his destruction, and that therefore he might be suffered still to remain. Or it may imply, as in Matthew 8:29, that the time of their destruction had not come, and that he ought not to destroy them before that.
I know thee who thou art - Evil spirits seem to have been acquainted at once with the Messiah. Besides, they had learned from his miracles that he was the Messiah, and had power over them.
The Holy One of God - The Messiah. See Daniel 9:24. Jesus is called "the Holy One of God" because:
1. Jesus was eminently pure.
2. Because Jesus was the only begotten Son of God - equal with the Father. And,
3. Because Jesus was anointed (set apart) to the work of the Messiah, the mediator between God and man.
And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace, and come out of him.And Jesus rebuked him - Chided him, or commanded him, with a threatening.
This was not the man that Jesus rebuked, but the spirit, for he instantly commanded the same being to come out of the man. In all this, Jesus did not once address the man. His conversation was with the evil spirit, proving conclusively that it was not a mere disease or mental derangement - for how could the Son of God hold converse with "disease" or "insanity?" - but that he conversed with a "being" who also conversed, reasoned, cavilled, felt, resisted, and knew him. There are, therefore, evil spirits, and those spirits have taken possession of human beings.
Hold thy peace - Greek, "Be muzzled." "Restrain thyself." "Cease from complaints, and come out of the man." This was a very signal proof of the power of Jesus, to be able by a word to silence an evil angel, and, against his will, to compel him to leave a man whom he delighted to torment.
And when the unclean spirit had torn him, and cried with a loud voice, he came out of him.And when the unclean spirit ... - Still malignant, though doomed to obey - submitting because he was obliged to, not because he chose - he exerted his last power, inflicted all the pain he could, and then bowed to the Son of God and came out.
This is the nature of an evil disposition. Though compelled to obey, though prevented by the command and providence of God from doing what it "would," yet, in seeming to obey, it does all the ill it can, and makes even the appearance of obedience the occasion for increased crime and mischief.
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 they were all amazed ... - The power of casting out devils was new to them.
It was done by a word. Jesus did it in his own name and by his own authority. This proved that he was superior to all the unclean spirits. In consequence, Jesus' fame spread throughout all the country, and the impression became prevalent that he was the Messiah.
And immediately his fame spread abroad throughout all the region round about Galilee.
And forthwith, when they were come out of the synagogue, they entered into the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John.See the notes at Matthew 8:14-15.
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.
And at even, when the sun did set, they brought unto him all that were diseased, and them that were possessed with devils.See the notes at Matthew 8:16-17.
And at even, when the sun did set - See the notes at Matthew 8:16.
And all the city was gathered together at the door.All the city - A great part of the city. A great multitude from the city.
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.And suffered not the devils to speak, because they knew him - They knew that he was the Messiah.
If they had spoken, they would have made that known to the people. Jesus was not desirous at that time that that should be publicly known, or that his name should be blazoned abroad. The time had not come when he wished it to be promulgated that he was the Messiah, and he therefore imposed silence on the evil spirits.
And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.And in the morning, rising up a great while before day - Luke says Luke 4:42, "when it was day." The passage in Mark means, in the original, not literally "a great while before day," but very early, or while there was yet "much appearance of night." The place in Luke means "at daybreak," at the beginning of day. Then, also, there is much appearance of night; and Luke and Mark therefore refer to the same time before it was fully light, or just at daybreak.
And departed into a solitary place, and there prayed - Observe here:
1. that the Saviour, though perfectly holy, regarded the duty of secret prayer as of great importance.
2. that he, sought a solitary place for it - far away from the world and even from his disciples.
3. that it was early in the morning - always the best time, and a time when it should not be omitted.
4. if Jesus prayed, how much more important is it for us!
If Jesus did it in the morning, how much more important is it for us, before the world gets possession of our thoughts; before Satan fills us with unholy feelings; when we rise fresh from beds of repose, and while the world around us is still! David also thus prayed, Psalm 5:3; Psalm 119:147. He that wishes to enjoy religion will seek a place of secret prayer in the morning. If that is omitted, all will go wrong, our piety will wither. The world will fill our thoughts. Temptations will be strong. Through the day, we shall find it impossible to raise our feelings to a state of proper devotion. It will be found to be true universally, "that the religious enjoyment through the day will be according to the state of the heart in the morning, and can therefore be measured by our faithfulness in early secret prayer." How different, too, was the conduct of the Saviour from those who spend the precious hours of the morning in sleep! He knew the value of the morning hours; he rose while the world was still; he saw the light as it spread abroad in the east with fresh tokens of his Father's presence, and joined with the universal creation in offering praise to the everywhere present God.
And Simon and they that were with him followed after him.And Simon - Simon Peter.
They that were with him - The other apostles.
And when they had found him, they said unto him, All men seek for thee.All men seek for thee - That is, many men, or multitudes. The inquiry after him was general. They told him this, evidently, with a view to induce him to leave his place of retirement, and to prevail upon him to appear publicly to instruct the multitudes.
And he said unto them, Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also: for therefore came I forth.And he said unto them ... - This was said in answer to their "implied" request that he would go and meet the multitudes. "Since the anxiety to hear the truth is so great, since such multitudes are waiting to hear the word, let us go into the next towns," etc.
Next towns - Towns in the neighborhood or vicinity of Capernaum. He proposed to carry the gospel to them, rather than that multitudes should leave their homes and attend him in his ministry. The word here rendered "towns" denotes places in size between "cities" and "villages," or large places, but without walls.
For therefore came I forth - That is, came forth from God, or was sent by God. Luke, says Luke 4:43, "for therefore am I sent." Compare John 16:28; "I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world." The meaning of this verse therefore is, "Since multitudes press to hear the word, let us not remain here, but go into the neighboring towns also: for I was sent by God not to preach at Capernaum only, but "throughout Judea," and it is therefore improper to confine my labors to this place."
And he preached in their synagogues throughout all Galilee, and cast out devils.And he preached in their synagogues - See Matthew 4:23.
All Galilee - See Matthew 1:22.
And cast out devils - See Matthew 4:24.
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 there came a leper ... - See the notes at Matthew 8:1-4.
Kneeling down to him - He kneeled and inclined his face to the ground, in token of deep humiliation and earnest entreaty. Compare Luke 5:12.
If thou wilt - This was an acknowledgment of the almighty power of Jesus, and an appeal to his benevolence.
Make me clean - You (Jesus) can heal me of this loathsome and offensive disease, in the eye of the law justly regarded as "unclean," and render me "legally" clean, and restore me to the privileges of the congregation.
And Jesus ...touched him - It was by the law considered as unclean to touch a leprous man. See Numbers 5:2. The fact that Jesus touched him was evidence that the requisite power had been already put forth to heal him; that Jesus regarded him as already clean.
I will - Here was a most manifest proof of his divine power. None but God can work a miracle; yet Jesus does it by his "own will" - by an exertion of his own power. Therefore, Jesus is divine.
See thou say nothing to any man - The law of Moses required that a man who was healed of the leprosy should be pronounced clean by the priest before he could be admitted again to the privileges of the congregation, Leviticus 14. Christ, though he had cleansed him, yet required him to be obedient to the law of the land - to go at once to the priest, and not to make delay by stopping to converse about his being healed. It was also possible that, if he did not go at once, evil-minded men would go before him and prejudice the priest, and prevent his declaring the healing to be thorough because it was done by Jesus. It was of further importance that "the priest" should pronounce it to be a genuine cure, that there might be no cavils among the Jews against its being a real miracle.
Offer for thy cleansing those things ... - Two birds, and cedar-wood, and scarlet, and hyssop; and after eight days, two he-lambs, without blemish, and one ewe-lamb, and fine flour, and oil, Leviticus 14:4, Leviticus 14:10.
For a testimony unto them - Not to the priest, but to the people, that they may have evidence that it is a real cure. The testimony of the priest on the subject would be decisive.
And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth his hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou clean.
And as soon as he had spoken, immediately the leprosy departed from him, and he was cleansed.
And he straitly charged him, and forthwith sent him away;
And saith unto him, See thou say nothing to any man: but go thy way, shew 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 in desert places: and they came to him from every quarter.Began to publish it much - That is, he made known his own cure. He was so deeply affected with it, and so much rejoiced, that he followed the natural dictates of his own feelings rather than the command of the Saviour.
Jesus could no more enter openly into the city - The word "could," here, does not refer to any natural inability, or to any physical obstacle in his way, but only denotes that there was difficulty, inconvenience, or impropriety in his doing it then; that he judged it best not then to enter into the city. The difficulty was, probably, that his being in the city drew such crowds of people as rendered it difficult to accommodate them, or so as to excite the opposition of civil rulers.
The city - The city or large town where the leper was cured. The same reason for not entering that city applied also to others, so that he remained in the deserts, where the multitudes could come to him without any difficulty or opposition.