Bede: John being put in prison, fitly does the Lord begin to preach: wherefore there follows, “Preaching the Gospel, &c.” For when the Law ceases, the Gospel arises in its steps.
Bede: Let no one, however, suppose that the putting of John in prison took place immediately after the forty days’ temptation and the fast of the Lord; for whosoever reads the Gospel of John will find, that the Lord taught many things before the putting of John in prison, and also did many miracles; for you have in his Gospel, “This beginning of miracles did Jesus;” [Joh_2:11] and afterwards, “for John was not yet cast into prison.” [Joh_3:24]
Now it is said that when John read the books of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, he approved indeed the text of the history, and affirmed that they had spoken truth, but said that they had composed the history of only one year after John was cast into prison, in which year also he suffered. Passing over then the year of which the transactions had been published by the three others, he related the events of the former period, before John was cast into prison.
Theophylact: Or else, the Lord means that the time of the Law is complete; as if He said, Up to this time the Law was at work; from this time the kingdom of God will work, that is, a conversation according to the Gospel, which is with reason likened to the kingdom of heaven. For when you see a man clothed in flesh living according to the Gospel, do you not say that he has the kingdom of heaven, which “is not meat and drink, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost?” [Rom_14:17] The next word is, “Repent.”
Pseudo-Jerome: For he must repent, who would keep close to eternal good, that is, to the kingdom of God. For he who would have the kernel, breaks the shell; the sweetness of the apple makes up for the bitterness of its root; the hope of gain makes the dangers of the sea pleasant; the hope of health takes away from the painfulness of medicine.
They are able worthily to proclaim the preaching of Christ who have deserved to attain to the reward of forgiveness; and therefore after He has said, “Repent,” He subjoins, “and believe the Gospel.” For unless ye have believed, ye shall not understand.
Bede: “Repent,” therefore, “and believe;” that is, renounce dead works; for of what use is believing without good works? The merit of good works does not, however, bring to faith, but faith begins, that good works may follow.
Mar_1:14.Preaching the Gospel of the kingdom of God.Matthew appears to differ a little from the other two: for, after mentioning that Jesus left his own city Nazareth, and departed to Capernaum, he says: from that time Jesus began to preach.Luke and Mark, again, relate, that he taught publicly in his own country. But the solution is easy; for the words which Matthew employs, ἀπὸ τότε, from that time, ought to be viewed as referring, not to what immediately precedes, but to the whole course of the narrative. Christ, therefore, entered into the exercise of his office, when he arrived at Galilee. The summary of doctrine which is given by Matthew is not at all different from what, we have lately seen, was taught by John: for it consists of two parts, — repentance, and the announcement of grace and salvation. He exhorts the Jews to conversion, because the kingdom of God is at hand: that is, because God undertakes to govern his people, which is true and perfect happiness. The language of Mark is a little different, The kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the Gospel. But the meaning is the same: for, having first spoken of the restoration of the kingdom of God among the Jews, he exhorts them to repentance and faith.
But it may be asked, since repentance depends on the Gospel, why does Mark separate it from the doctrine of the Gospel? Two reasons may be assigned. God sometimes invites us to repentance, when nothing more is meant, than that we ought to change our life for the better. He afterwards shows, that conversion and “newness of life” (Rom_6:4 ) are the gift of God. This is intended to inform us, that not only is our duty enjoined on us, but the grace and power of obedience are, at the same time, offered. If we understand in this way the preaching of John about repentance, the meaning will be:” The Lord commands you to turn to himself; but as you cannot accomplish this by your own endeavors, he promises the Spirit of regeneration, and therefore you must receive this grace by faith.” At the same time, the faith, which he enjoins men to give to the Gospel, ought not, by any means, to be confined to the gift of renewal, but relates chiefly to the forgiveness of sins. For John connects repentance with faith, because God reconciles us to himself in such a manner, that we serve him as a Father in holiness and righteousness.
Besides, there is no absurdity in saying, that to believe the Gospel is the same thing as to embrace a free righteousness: for that special relation, between faith and the forgiveness of sins, is often mentioned in Scripture; as, for example, when it teaches, that we are justified by faith,(Rom_5:1.) In which soever of these two ways you choose to explain this passage, it still remains a settled principle, that God offers to us a free salvation, in order that we may turn to him, and live to righteousness. Accordingly, when he promises to us mercy, he calls us to deny the flesh. We must observe the designation which Paul gives to the Gospel, the kingdom of God: for hence we learn, that by the preaching of the Gospel the kingdom of God is set up and established among men, and that in no other way does God reign among men. Hence it is also evident, how wretched the condition of men is without the Gospel.
Repent – Μετανοειτε. This was the matter of the preaching. The verb μετανοεω is either compounded of μετα, after, and νοειν to understand, which signifies that, after hearing such preaching, the sinner is led to understand, that the way he has walked in was the way of misery, death, and hell. Or the word may be derived from μετα after, and ανοια, madness, which intimates that the whole life of a sinner is no other than a continued course of madness and folly: and if to live in a constant opposition to all the dictates of true wisdom; to wage war with his own best interests in time and eternity; to provoke and insult the living God; and, by habitual sin, to prepare himself only for a state of misery, be evidences of insanity, every sinner exhibits them plentifully. It was from this notion of the word, that the Latins termed repentance resipiscentia, a growing wise again, from re and sapere; or, according to Tertullian, Resipiscentia, quasi receptio mentis ad se, restoring the mind to itself: Contra Marcion, lib. ii. Repentance, then, implies that a measure of Divine wisdom is communicated to the sinner, and that he thereby becomes wise to salvation. That his mind, purposes, opinions, and inclinations, are changed; and that, in consequence, there is a total change in his conduct. It need scarcely be remarked, that, in this state, a man feels deep anguish of soul, because he has sinned against God, unfitted himself for heaven, and exposed his soul to hell. Hence, a true penitent has that sorrow, whereby he forsakes sin, not only because it has been ruinous to his own soul, but because it has been offensive to God.
The kingdom of heaven is at hand – Referring to the prophecy of Daniel, Dan_7:13,Dan_7:14, where the reign of Christ among men is expressly foretold. This phrase, and the kingdom of God, mean the same thing, viz. the dispensation of infinite mercy, and manifestation of eternal truth, by Christ Jesus, producing the true knowledge of God, accompanied with that worship which is pure and holy, worthy of that God who is its institutor and its object. But why is this called a kingdom? Because it has its laws, all the moral precepts of the Gospel: its subjects, all who believe in Christ Jesus: and its king, the Sovereign of heaven and earth. N. B. Jesus Christ never saved a soul which he did not govern; nor is this Christ precious or estimable to any man who does not feel a spirit of subjection to the Divine will.
But why is it called the kingdom of Heaven? Because God designed that his kingdom of grace here should resemble the kingdom of glory above. And hence our Lord teaches us to pray, Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. The kingdom of heaven is not meat and drink, says St. Paul, Rom_14:17; does not consist in the gratification of sensual passions, or worldly ambition; but is righteousness, peace, and joy, in the Holy Ghost. Now what can there be more than this in glory? Righteousness, without mixture of sin; peace, without strife or contention; joy, in the Holy Ghost, spiritual joy, without mixture of misery! And all this, it is possible, by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, to enjoy here below. How then does heaven itself differ from this state? Answer. It makes the righteousness eternal, the peace eternal, and the joy eternal. This is the heaven of heavens! The phrase, kingdom of heaven, מלכות שמים malcuth shamayim, is frequently used by the rabbinical writers, and always means, the purity of the Divine worship, and the blessedness which a righteous man feels when employed in it.
It is farther added, This kingdom is at hand. The dispensation of the glorious Gospel was now about to be fully opened, and the Jews were to have the first offers of salvation. This kingdom is also at hand to us; and wherever Christ crucified is preached, there is salvation to be found. Jesus is proclaimed to thee, O man! as infinitely able and willing to save. Believe in his name – cast thy soul upon his atonement, and enter into rest!
Jesus came into Galilee (elthen ho Iesous eis ten Galilaian). Here Mark begins the narrative of the active ministry of Jesus and he is followed by Matthew and Luke. Mark undoubtedly follows the preaching of Peter. But for the Fourth Gospel we should not know of the year of work in various parts of the land (Perea, Galilee, Judea, Samaria) preceding the Galilean ministry. John supplements the Synoptic Gospels at this point as often. The arrest of John had much to do with the departure of Jesus from Judea to Galilee (Joh_4:1-4).
Preaching the gospel of God (kerusson to euaggelion tou theou). It is the subjective genitive, the gospel that comes from God. Swete observes that repentance (metanoia) is the keynote in the message of the Baptist as gospel (euaggelion) is with Jesus. But Jesus took the same line as John and proclaimed both repentance and the arrival of the kingdom of God. Mark adds to Matthew’s report the words “the time is fulfilled” (peplerotai ho kairos). It is a significant fact that John looks backward to the promise of the coming of the Messiah and signalizes the fulfilment as near at hand (perfect passive indicative). It is like Paul’s fulness of time (pleroma tou chronou) in Gal_4:4 and fulness of the times (pleroma ton kairon) in Eph_1:10 when he employs the word kairos, opportunity or crisis as here in Mark rather than the more general term chronos. Mark adds here also: “and believe in the gospel” (kai pisteuete en toi euaggelioi). Both repent and believe in the gospel. Usually faith in Jesus (or God) is expected as in Joh_14:1. But this crisis called for faith in the message of Jesus that the Messiah had come. He did not use here the term Messiah, for it had come to have political connotations that made its use at present unwise. But the kingdom of God had arrived with the presence of the King. It does make a difference what one believes. Belief or disbelief in the message of Jesus made a sharp cleavage in those who heard him. “Faith in the message was the first step; a creed of some kind lies at the basis of confidence in the Person of Christ, and the occurrence of the phrase pistuete en toi euaggelioi in the oldest record of the teaching of our Lord is a valuable witness to this fact” (Swete).
The time is fulfilled – That is, the time appointed for sending the Messiah; and particularly the time specified by Daniel, Dan_9:24-27. Here are four points worthy of deep attention, in the preaching of the Son of God.
1. Every thing that is done is according to a plan laid by the Divine wisdom, and never performed till the time appointed was filled up.
2. That the kingdom and reign of sin are to be destroyed, and the kingdom of grace and heaven established in their place.
3. That the kingdom of God, and his reign by grace, begins with repentance for past sins.
4. That this reign of grace is at hand; and that nothing but an obstinate perseverance in sin and impenitence can keep any soul out of it; and that now is the accepted time to enter in.
Repent ye – Repentance implies sorrow for past offences 2Co_7:10; a deep sense of the evil of sin as committed against God Psa_51:4; and a full purpose to turn from transgression and to lead a holy life. A true penitent has sorrow for sin, not only because it is ruinous to his soul, but chiefly because it is an offence against God, and is that abominable thing which he hates, Jer_44:4. It is produced by seeing the great danger and misery to which it exposes us; by seeing the justice and holiness of God Job_42:6; and by seeing that our sins have been committed against Christ, and were the cause of his death, Zec_12:10; Luk_22:61-62. There are two words in the New Testament translated “repentance,” one of which denotes a change of mind, or a reformation of life; and the other, sorrow or regret that sin has been committed. The word used here is the former, calling the Jews to a change of life, or a reformation of conduct. In the time of John, the nation had become extremely wicked and corrupt, perhaps more so than at any preceding period. Hence, both he and Christ began their ministry by calling the nation to repentance.
The kingdom of heaven is at hand – The phrases kingdom of heaven, kingdom of Christ, kingdom of God, are of frequent occurrence in the Bible. They all refer to the same thing. The expectation of such a kingdom was taken from the Old Testament, and especially from Daniel, Dan_7:13-14. The prophets had told of a successor to David that should sit on his throne 1Ki_2:4; 1Ki_8:25; Jer_33:17. The Jews expected a great national deliverer. They supposed that when the Messiah should appear, all the dead would be raised; that the judgment would take place; and that the enemies of the Jews would be destroyed, and that they themselves would be advanced to great national dignity and honor.
The language in which they were accustomed to describe this event was retained by our Saviour and his apostles. Yet they early attempted to correct the common notions respecting his reign. This was one design, doubtless, of John in preaching repentance. Instead of summoning them to military exercises, and collecting an army, which would have been in accordance with the expectations of the nation, he called them to a change of life; to the doctrine of repentance – a state of things far more accordant with the approach of a kingdom of purity.
The phrases “kingdom of God” and “kingdom of heaven” have been supposed to have a considerable variety of meaning. Some have supposed that they refer to the state of things in heaven; others, to the personal reign of Christ on earth; others, that they mean the church, or the reign of Christ in the hearts of his people. There can be no doubt that there is reference in the words to the condition of things in heaven after this life. But the church of God is a preparatory state to that beyond the grave – a state in which Christ pre-eminently rules and reigns and there is no doubt that the phrases sometimes refer to the state of things in the church; and that they may refer, therefore, to the state of things which the Messiah was to set up his spiritual reign begun in the church on earth and completed in heaven.
The expression “the kingdom of heaven is at hand” would be best translated, “the reign of God draws near.” We do not say commonly of a kingdom that it is movable, or that it approaches. A reign may be said to be at hand; and it may be said with propriety that the time when Christ would reign was at hand. In this sense it is meant that the time when Christ should reign, or set up his kingdom, or begin his dominion on earth, under the Christian economy, was about to commence. The phrase, then, should not be confined to any period of that reign, but includes his whole dominion over his people on earth and in heaven.
In the passage here it clearly means that the coming of the Messiah was near, or that the time of the reign of God which the Jews had expected was coming.
The word “heaven,” or “heavens,” as it is in the original, means sometimes the place so called; and sometimes it is, by a figure of speech, put for the Great Being whose residence is there, as in Dan_4:26; “the Heavens do rule.” See also Mar_11:30; Luk_15:18. As that kingdom was one of purity, it was proper that the people should prepare themselves for it by turning from their sins, and by bringing their hearts into a state suitable to his reign.
Theophylact: As the Evangelist John relates, Peter and Andrew were disciples of the Forerunner, but seeing that John had borne witness to Jesus, they joined themselves to him; afterwards, grieving that John had been cast into prison, they returned to their trade. Wherefore there follows, “casting nets into the sea, for they were fishers.”
Look then upon them, living on their own labours, not on the fruits of iniquity; for such men were worthy to become the first disciples of Christ; whence it is subjoined, “And Jesus said unto them, Come ye after Me.”
Now He calls them for the second time; for this is the second calling in respect of that, of which we read in John. But it is shewn to what they were called, when it is added, “I will make you become fishers of men.”
Bede, in Marc., 1, 6: Now fishers and unlettered men are sent to preach, that the faith of believers might be thought to lie in the power of God, not in eloquence or in learning. It goes on to say, “and immediately they left their nets, and followed Him.”
Theophylact: For we must not allow any time to lapse, but at once follow the Lord. After these again, He catches James and John, because they also, though poor, supported the old age of their father.
Wherefore there follows, “And when He had gone a little farther thence, He saw James, the son of Zebedee, &c.”
But they left their father, because he would have hindered them in following Christ. Do thou, also, when thou art hindered by thy parents, leave them, and come to God. It is shewn by this that Zebedee was not a believer; but the mother of the Apostles believed, for she followed Christ, when Zebedee was dead.
Bede: It may be asked, how he could call two fishers from each of the boats, (first, Peter and Andrew, then having gone a little further, the two others, sons of Zebedee,) when Luke says that James and John were called to help Peter and Andrew, and that it was to Peter only that Christ said, “Fear not, from this time thou shalt catch men;” [Luke 5:!0] he also says, that “at the same time, when they had brought their ships to land, they followed Him.”
We must therefore understand that the transaction which Luke intimates happened first, and afterwards that they, as their custom was, had returned to their fishing. So that what Mark here relates happened afterwards; for in this case they followed the Lord, without drawing their boats ashore, (which they would have done had they meant to return,) and followed Him, as one calling them, and ordering them to follow.
Theophylact: We must know also, that action is first called, then contemplation; for Peter is the type of the active life, for he was more ardent than the others, just as the active life is the more bustling; but John is the type of the contemplative life, for he speaks more fully of divine things.
Andrew his brother – Instead of the common reading, αδελφον αυτου, his brother, the best MSS. and versions have αδελφου του Σιμωνος, the brother of Simon, which should be received into the text. The most eminent critics approve of this reading.
Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother – Why did not Jesus Christ call some of the eminent Scribes or Pharisees to publish his Gospel, and not poor unlearned fishermen, without credit or authority? Because it was the kingdom of heaven they were to preach, and their teaching must come from above: besides, the conversion of sinners, though it be effected instrumentally by the preaching of the Gospel, yet the grand agent in it is the Spirit of God. As the instruments were comparatively mean, and, the work which was accomplished by them was grand and glorious, the excellency of the power at once appeared to be of God, and not of man; and thus the glory, due alone to his name, was secured, and the great Operator of all good had the deserved praise. Seminaries of learning, in the order of God’s providence and grace, have great and important uses; and, in reference to such uses, they should be treated with great respect: but to make preachers of the Gospel is a matter to which they are utterly inadequate; it is a, prerogative that God never did, and never will, delegate to man.
Where the seed of the kingdom of God is sowed, and a dispensation of the Gospel is committed to a man, a good education may be of great and general use: but it no more follows, because a man has had a good education, that therefore he is qualified to preach the Gospel, than it does, that because he has not had that, therefore he is unqualified; for there may be much ignorance of Divine things where there is much human learning; and a man may be well taught in the things of God, and be able to teach others, who has not had the advantages of a liberal education.
Men-made ministers have almost ruined the heritage of God. To prevent this, our Church requires that a man be inwardly moved to take upon himself this ministry, before he can be ordained to it. And he who cannot say, that he trusts (has rational and Scriptural conviction) that he is moved by the Holy Ghost to take upon himself this office, is an intruder into the heritage of God, and his ordination, ipso facto, vitiated and of none effect. See the truly apostolic Ordination Service of the Church of England.
Fishers – Persons employed in a lawful and profitable avocation, and faithfully discharging their duty in it. It was a tradition of the elders, that one of Joshua’s ten precepts was, that all men should have an equal right to spread their nets and fish in the sea of Tiberias, or Galilee. The persons mentioned here were doubtless men of pure morals; for the minister of God should have a good report from them that are without.
Sea of Galilee – This was also called the Sea of Tiberias and the Lake of Gennesareth, and also the Sea of Chinnereth, Num_34:11; Deu_3:17; Jos_12:3. Its form is an irregular oval, with the large end to the north. It is about 14 miles in length, and from 6 miles to 9 miles in width. It is about 600 feet lower than the Mediterranean, and this great depression accounts for some of its special phenomena. There is no part of Palestine, it is said, which can be compared in beauty with the environs of this lake. Many populous cities once stood on its shores, such as Tiberias, Bethsaida, Capernaum, Chorazin, Hippo, etc. The shores are described by Josephus as a perfect paradise, producing every luxury under heaven at all seasons of the year, and its remarkable beauty is still noticed by the traveler. “Seen from any point of the surrounding heights, it is a fine sheet of water a burnished mirror set in a framework of surrounding hills and rugged mountains, which rise and roll backward and upward to where hoary Hermon hangs the picture on the blue vault of heaven.” The lake is fed mainly by the Jordan; but besides this there are several great fountains and streams emptying into it during the rainy seasons, which pour an immense amount of water into it, raising its level several feet above the ordinary mark. See The Land and the Book (Thomson), vol. ii. p. 77. Lieutenant Lynch reports its greatest ascertained depth at 165 feet. The waters of the lake are sweet and pleasant to the taste, and clear. The lake still abounds with fish, and gives employment, as it did in the time of our Saviour, to those who live on its shores. It is, however, stormy, probably due to the high hills by which it is surrounded.
Simon called Peter – The name “Peter” means a rock, and is the same as “Cephas.” See the Mat_16:18 note; also Joh_1:42 note; 1Co_15:5 note.
With the hired servants (meta ton misthoton). One hired for wages (misthos), a very old Greek word. Zebedee and his two sons evidently had an extensive business in co-operation with Andrew and Simon (Luk_5:7, Luk_5:10). Mark alone has this detail of the hired servants left with Zebedee. They left the boat and their father (Mat_4:22) with the hired servants. The business would go on while they left all (Luk_5:11) and became permanent followers of Jesus. Many a young man has faced precisely this problem when he entered the ministry. Could he leave father and mother, brothers and sisters, while he went forth to college and seminary to become a fisher of men? Not the least of the sacrifices made in the education of young preachers is that made by the home folks who have additional burdens to bear because the young preacher is no longer a bread-winner at home. Most young preachers joyfully carry on such burdens after entering the ministry.
Theophylact: For this end the Law commanded them to give themselves up to rest on the sabbath day, that they might meet together to attend to sacred reading. Again, Christ taught them by rebuke, not by flattery as did the Pharisees; wherefore it says, “And they were astonished at His doctrine; for He taught them as one having power, and not as the Scribes.”
He taught them also in power, transforming men to good, and He threatened punishment to those who did not believe on Him.
Bede: The Scribes themselves taught the people what was written in Moses and the Prophets; but Jesus as the God and Lord of Moses, himself, by the freedom of His own will, either added those things which appeared wanting in the Law, or altered things as He preached to the people; as we read in Matthew, “It was said to them of old time, but I say unto you.” [Mat_5:27]
And taught (edidasken). Inchoative imperfect, began to teach as soon as he entered the synagogue in Capernaum on the sabbath. The synagogue in Capernaum afforded the best opening for the teaching of Jesus. He had now made Capernaum (Tell Hum) his headquarters after the rejection in Nazareth as explained in Luke 4:16-31 and Mat_4:13-16. The ruins of this synagogue have been discovered and there is even talk of restoring the building since the stones are in a good state of preservation. Jesus both taught (didasko) and preached (kerusso) in the Jewish synagogues as opportunity was offered by the chief or leader of the synagogue (archisunagogos). The service consisted of prayer, praise, reading of scripture, and exposition by any rabbi or other competent person. Often Paul was invited to speak at such meetings. In Luk_4:20 Jesus gave back the roll of Isaiah to the attendant or beadle (toi huperetei) whose business it was to bring out the precious manuscript and return it to its place. Jesus was a preacher of over a year when he began to teach in the Capernaum synagogue. His reputation had preceded him (Luk_4:14).
And they were astonished at his doctrine. The meaning of the Evangelists is, that the power of the Spirit shone in the preaching of Christ with such brightness, as to extort admiration even from irreligious and cold hearers. Luke says, that his discourse was accompanied with power, that is, full of majesty. Mark expresses it more fully, by adding a contrast, that it was unlike the manner of teaching of the Scribes. As they were false expounders of Scripture, their doctrine was literal and dead, breathed nothing of the power of the Spirit, and was utterly destitute of majesty. The same kind of coldness may be now observed in the speculative theology of Popery. Those masters do indeed thunder out whatever they think proper in a sufficiently magisterial style; but as their manner of discoursing about divine things is so profane, that their controversies exhibit no traces of religion, what they bring forward is all affectation and mere drivelling: for the declaration of the Apostle Paul holds true, that the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power, (1Co_4:20.) In short, the Evangelists mean that, while the manner of teaching, which then prevailed, was so greatly degenerated and so extremely corrupted, that it did not impress the minds of men with any reverence for God, the preaching of Christ was eminently distinguished by the divine power of the Spirit, which procured for him the respect of his hearers. This is the power, or rather the majesty and authority, at which the people were astonished.
Mar 1:22 And they were astonished at his doctrine,…. The nature and importance of it, it being what they had not been used to hear; only at best the doctrine of the law, and sometimes only the traditions of the elders, or an allegorical and traditional sense of the Scriptures, and things very trifling and unedifying: and also they were amazed at the manner of his preaching, which was with so much gracefulness, gravity, and majesty, and was attended with so much evidence and power:
for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the Scribes; or “their Scribes”, as the Syriac, Persic, and Ethiopic versions read. He did not go about to establish what he said by the authority of the Rabbins, as the Scribes did; saying, Hillell says so, or Shammai says thus, or such a doctor says thus and thus; but he spoke as from himself, as one sent of God, that had an authority from him, and was independent of man; and this was what they had not observed in others, and wonder at it; See Gill on Mat_7:28. See Gill on Mat_7:29.
His doctrine – His teaching.
As one having authority, and not as the scribes – The scribes were the learned people and teachers of the Jewish nation, and were principally Pharisees. They taught chiefly the sentiments of their Rabbis, and the traditions which had been delivered; they consumed much of their time in useless disputes and “vain jangling.” Jesus was open, plain, grave, useful, delivering truth as “became” the oracles of God; not spending his time in trifling disputes and debating questions of no importance, but confirming his doctrine by miracles and argument; teaching “as having power,” as it is in the original, and not in the vain and foolish manner of the Jewish doctors. He showed that he had authority to explain, to enforce, and to “change” the ceremonial laws of the Jews. He came with authority such as no “man” could have, and it is not remarkable that his explanations astonished them.
They were astonished (exeplessonto). Pictorial imperfect as in Luk_4:32 describing the amazement of the audience, “meaning strictly to strike a person out of his senses by some strong feeling, such as fear, wonder, or even joy” (Gould).
And not as their scribes (kai ouch hos hoi grammateis). Luk_4:32 has only “with authority” (en exousiai). Mark has it “as having authority” (hos echon exousian). He struck a note not found by the rabbi. They quoted other rabbis and felt their function to be expounders of the traditions which they made a millstone around the necks of the people. By so doing they set aside the word and will of God by their traditions and petty legalism (Mar_7:9, Mar_7:13). They were casuists and made false interpretations to prove their punctilious points of external etiquette to the utter neglect of the spiritual reality. The people noticed at once that here was a personality who got his power (authority) direct from God, not from the current scribes. “Mark omits much, and is in many ways a meagre Gospel, but it makes a distinctive contribution to the evangelic history in showing by a few realistic touches (this one of them) the remarkable personality of Jesus” (Bruce). See note on Mat_7:29 for the like impression made by the Sermon on the Mount where the same language occurs. The chief controversy in Christ’s life was with these scribes, the professional teachers of the oral law and mainly Pharisees. At once the people see that Jesus stands apart from the old group. He made a sensation in the best sense of that word. There was a buzz of excitement at the new teacher that was increased by the miracle that followed the sermon.
Bede, in Marc., 1, 7: Since by the envy of the devil death first entered into the world, it was right that the medicine of healing should first work against the author of death; and therefore it is said, “And there was in their synagogue a man, &c.”
Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: The word, Spirit, is applied to an Angel, the air, the soul, and even the Holy Ghost. Lest therefore by the sameness of the name we should fall into error, he adds, “unclean.” And he is called unclean on account of his impiousness and far removal from God, and because he employs himself in all unclean and wicked works.
Augustine, City of God, 21: Moreover, how great is the power which the lowliness of God, appearing in the form of a servant, has over the pride of devils, the devils themselves know so well, that they express it to the same Lord clothed in the weakness of flesh. For there follows, “And he cried out, saying, What have we to do we Thee, Jesus of Nazareth, &c.”
For it is evident in these words that there was in them knowledge, but there was not charity; and the reason was, that they feared their punishment from Him, and loved not the righteousness in Him.
Bede: For the devils, seeing the Lord on the earth, thought that they were immediately to be judged.
Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: Or else the devil so speaks, as if he said, ‘by taking away uncleanness, and giving to the souls of men divine knowledge, Thou allowest us no place in men.’
Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: As if he said, Methinks that Thou art come; for he had not a firm and certain knowledge of the coming of God. But he calls Him “holy” not as one of many, for every prophet was also holy, but he proclaims that the was the One holy; by the article in Greek he shews Him to be the One, but by his fear he shews Him to be Lord of all.
Augustine: For He was known to them in that degree in which He wished to be known; and He wished as much as was fitting. He was not known to them as to the holy Angels, who enjoy Him by partaking of His eternity according as He is the Word of God; but as He was to be made known in terror, to those beings from whose tyrannical power He was about to free the predestinate.He was known therefore to the devils, not in that He is eternal Life, [see 1Jo_5:20, Joh_17:3] but by some temporal effects of His Power, which might be more clear to the angelic senses of even bad spirits than to the weakness of men.
Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: Further, the Truth did not wish to have the witness of unclean spirits.
Wherefore there follows, “And Jesus threatened him, saying, &c.” Whence a healthful precept is given to us; let us not believe devils, howsoever they may proclaim the truth. It goes on, “And the unclean spirit tearing him, &c.”
For because the man spoke as one in his senses and uttered his words with discretion, lest it should be thought that he put together his words not from the devil but out of his own heart, He permitted the man to be torn by the devil, that He might shew that it was the devil who spoke.
Theophylact: That they might know, when they saw it, from how great an evil the man was freed, and on account of the miracle might believe.
Bede: But it may appear to be a discrepancy, that he should have gone out of him, tearing him, or, as some copies have it, vexing him, when, according to Luke, he did not hurt him. But Luke himself says, “When He had cast him into the midst, he came out of him, without hurting him.” [Luk_4:35] Wherefore it is inferred that Mark meant by vexing or tearing him, what Luke expresses in the words, “When He had cast him into the midst;” so that what he goes on to say, “And did not hurt him,” may be understood to mean that the tossing of his limbs and vexing did not weaken him, as devils are wont to come out even with the cutting off and tearing away of limbs. But seeing the power of the miracle, they wonder at the newness of our Lord’s doctrine, and are roused to search into what they had heard by what they had seen. Wherefore there follows, “And they all wondered, &c.”
For miracles were done that they might more firmly believe the Gospel of the kingdom of God, which was being preached, since those who were promising heavenly joys to men on earth, were shewing forth heavenly things and divine works even on earth. For before (as the Evangelist says) “He was teaching them as one who had power,” and now, as the crowd witnesses, “with power He commands the evil spirits, and they obey Him.” It goes on, “And immediately His fame spread abroad, &c.”
A man with an unclean spirit – This demoniac is only mentioned by Mark and Luke, Luk_4:33. It seems the man had lucid intervals; else he could not have been admitted into the synagogue. Unclean or impure spirit – a common epithet for those fallen spirits: but here it may mean, one who filled the heart of him he possessed with Lascivious thoughts, images, desires, and propensities. By giving way to the first attacks of such a spirit, he may soon get in, and take full possession of the whole soul.
Much difficulty exists, and much has been written respecting those in the New Testament said to be possessed with the devil. It has been maintained by many that the sacred writers only meant by this expression to denote those who were melancholy or epileptic, or afflicted with some other grievous disease. This opinion has been supported by arguments too long to be repeated here. On the other hand, it has been supposed that the persons so described were under the influence of evil spirits, who had complete possession of the faculties, and who produced many symptoms of disease not unlike melancholy, madness, and epilepsy. That such was the fact will appear from the following considerations:
1. Christ and the apostles spoke to them and of them as such; they addressed them, and managed them, precisely as if they were so possessed, leaving their hearers to infer beyond a doubt that such was their real opinion.
2. Those who were thus possessed spake, conversed, asked questions, gave answers, and expressed their knowledge of Christ, and their fear of him things that certainly could not be said of diseases, Mat_8:28; Luk_8:27.
3.The devils, or evil spirits, are represented as going out of the persons possessed, and entering the bodies of others, Mat_8:32.
4. Jesus spake to them, and asked their name, and they answered him. He threatened them, commanded them to be silent, to depart, and not to return, Mar_1:25; Mar_5:8; Mar_9:25.
5. Those possessed are said “to know Christ; to be acquainted with the Son of God,” Luk_4:34; Mar_1:24. This could not be said of diseases.
6. The early fathers of the Church interpreted these passages in the same way. They derived their opinions probably from the apostles themselves, and their opinions are a fair interpretation of the apostles’ sentiments.
7. If it is denied that Christ believed in such possessions, it does not appear why any other clearly-expressed sentiment of his may not in the same way be disputed. There is, perhaps, no subject on which he expressed himself more clearly, or acted more uniformly, or which he left more clearly impressed on the minds of his disciples.
Nor is there any absurdity in the opinion that those persons were really under the influence of devils. For:
1. It is no more absurd to suppose that an angel, or many angels, should have fallen and become wicked than that so many people should.
2. It is no more absurd that Satan should have possession of the human faculties, or inflict diseases, than that people should do it a thing which is done every day. What is more common than for a wicked man to corrupt the morals of others, or, by inducing them to become intemperate, to produce a state of body and mind quite as bad as to be possessed with the devil?
3. We still see a multitude of cases that no man can prove not to be produced by the presence of an evil spirit. Who would attempt to say that some evil being may not have much to do in the case of madmen?
4. It afforded an opportunity for Christ to show his power over the enemies of himself and of man, and thus to evince himself qualified to meet every enemy of the race, and triumphantly to redeem his people. He came to destroy the power of Satan, Act_26:18; Rom_16:20-21.
With an unclean spirit (en pneumati akathartoi). This use of en “with” is common in the Septuagint like the Hebrew be, but it occurs also in the papyri. It is the same idiom as “in Christ,” “in the Lord” so common with Paul. In English we speak of our being in love, in drink, in his cups, etc. The unclean spirit was in the man and the man in the unclean spirit, a man in the power of the unclean spirit. Luke has “having,” the usual construction. See Mat_22:43. Unclean spirit is used as synonymous with
demon (daimonion). It is the idea of estrangement from God (Zec_13:2). The whole subject of demonology is difficult, but no more so than the problem of the devil. Jesus distinguishes between the man and the unclean spirit. Usually physical or mental disease accompanied the possession by demons. One wonders today if the degenerates and confirmed criminals so common now are not under the power of demons. The only cure for confirmed criminals seems to be conversion (a new heart).
What have we to do with thee – Or, What is it to us and to thee? or, What business hast thou with us? That this is the meaning of the original, τι ημιν και σοι, Kypke has sufficiently shown. There is a phrase exactly like it in 2Sa_16:10. What have I to do with you, ye sons of Zeruiah? מה לי ולכם בני צרויה ma li v’lacem beney Tseruiah, What business have ye with me, or, Why do ye trouble me, ye sons of Tseruiah? The Septuagint translate the Hebrew just as the evangelist does here, τι εμοι και υμιν; it is the same idiom in both places, as there can be no doubt that the demoniac spoke in Hebrew, or in the Chaldeo-Syriac dialect of that language, which was then common in Judea. See on Mat_8:29 (note).
Art thou come to destroy us? – We may suppose this spirit to have felt and spoken thus: “Is this the time of which it hath been predicted, that in it the Messiah should destroy all that power which we have usurped and exercised over the bodies and souls of men? Alas! it is so. I now plainly see who thou art – the Holy One of God, who art come to destroy unholiness, in which we have our residence, and through which we have our reign in the souls of men.” An unholy spirit is the only place where Satan can have his full operation, and show forth the plenitude of his destroying power.
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 Mat_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 Mat_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 Dan_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.
Mar 1:25 Christ would not suffer the devils to be produced as witnesses of his divinity; the author of truth could not bear the father of lies to bear testimony of him. Hence Jesus threatened him, in order to teach us never to believe or put our trust in demons, whatever they may foretell. (St. John Chrysostom)
Ver. 25,26. It is both here and in many other places observable, that when the devils made a confession of Christ, yet neither Christ nor his apostles would ever take any notice of it. Truth is never advantaged from the confession of known liars, as the devil was from the beginning. Christ needed not the devil’s testimony, either to his holiness, or his being the Son of God, nor would he have people allow the least faith to the devil’s words. Nor was he to be imposed upon by the devil’s good words; he was to make no truce with him, but to destroy him and his works, he therefore charges him to hold his peace, and to come out.
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.
Hold thy peace (phimotheti). First aorist passive imperative of phimoo. “Be quiet,” Moffatt translates it. But it is a more vigorous word, “Be muzzled” like an ox. So literally in Deu_25:4, 1Co_9:9; 1Ti_5:18. It is common in Josephus, Lucian, and the lxx. See Mat_22:12, Mat_22:34. Gould renders it “Shut up.” “Shut your mouth” would be too colloquial. Vincent suggests “gagged,” but that is more the idea of epistomazein in Tit_1:11, to stop the mouth.
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.
Tearing him (sparaxan auton). Margin, convulsing him like a spasm. Medical writers use the word for the rotating of the stomach. Luk_4:35 adds “when the demon had thrown him down in the midst.” Mark mentions the “loud voice” (phonei megalei), a screech, in fact. It was a moment of intense excitement.
They questioned among themselves (sunzetein autous). By look and word.
A new teaching (didache kaine). One surprise had followed another this day. The teaching was fresh (kaine), original as the dew of the morning on the blossoms just blown. That was a novelty in that synagogue where only staid and stilted rabbinical rules had been heretofore droned out. This new teaching charmed the people, but soon will be rated as heresy by the rabbis. And it was with authority (kat’ exousian). It is not certain whether the phrase is to be taken with “new teaching,” “It’s new teaching with authority behind it,” as Moffatt has it, or with the verb; “with authority commandeth even the unclean spirits” (kai tois pneumasin tois akathartois epitassei). The position is equivocal and may be due to the fact that “Mark gives the incoherent and excited remarks of the crowd in this natural form” (Swete). But the most astonishing thing of all is that the demons “obey him” (hupakouousin autoi). The people were accustomed to the use of magical formulae by the Jewish exorcists (Mat_12:27; Act_19:13), but here was something utterly different. Simon Magus could not understand how Simon Peter could do his miracles without some secret trick and even offered to buy it (Act_8:19).
And immediately his fame spread abroad – The miracle which he had performed was –
2. evidenced much benevolence in the worker of it; and
3. was very public, being wrought in the synagogue.
The many who saw it published it wherever they went; and thus the fame of Christ, as an incomparable teacher, and unparalleled worker of miracles, became soon spread abroad through the land.
The word, ευθεως, immediately, occurs more frequently in this evangelist than in any other writer of the new covenant: it is very often superfluous, and may often be omitted in the translation, without any prejudice to the sense of the passage in which it is found. It seems to be used by St. Mark, as our ancient writers used forsooth, and such like words.
Bede, in Marc., 1, 7: First, it was right that the serpent’s tongue should be shut up, that it might not spread any more venom; then that the woman, who was first seduced, should be healed from the fever of carnal concupiscence. Wherefore it is said, “And forthwith, when they were come out of the synagogue, &c.”
Theophylact: He retired then as the custom was on the sabbath-day about evening to eat in His disciples’ house. But she who ought to have ministered was prevented by a fever. Wherefore it goes on, “But Simon’s wife’s mother was lying sick of a fever.”
Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc., 1, 32: But the disciples, knowing that they were to receive a benefit by that means, without waiting for the evening prayed that Peter’s mother should be healed. Wherefore there follows, “who immediately tell Him of her.”
Bede: But in the Gospel of Luke it is written that “they besought Him for her.” [Luk_4:38] For the Saviour sometimes after being asked, sometimes of His own accord, heals the sick, shewing that He always assents to the prayers of the faithful, when they pray also against bad passions, and sometimes gives them to understand things which they do not understand at all, or else, when they pray unto Him dutifully, forgives their want of understanding; as the Psalmist begs of God, “Cleanse me, O Lord, from my secret faults.” [Psa_19:12] Wherefore He heals her at their request; for there follows, “And He came and took her by the hand, and lifted her up.”
Theophylact: By this it is signified, that God will heal a sick man, if he ministers to the Saints, through love to Christ.
Bede, in Marc., 1, 6: But in that He gives most profusely His gifts of healing and doctrine on the sabbath day, He teaches, that He is not under the Law, but above the Law, and does not choose the Jewish sabbath, but the true sabbath, and our rest is pleasing to the Lord, if, in order to attend to the health of our souls, we abstain from slavish work, that is, from all unlawful things. It goes on, “And immediately the fever left her, &c.”
Bede, in Marc., 1, 8: The health which is conferred at the command of the Lord, returns at once entire, accompanied with such strength that she is able to minister to those of whose help she had before stood in need.
Again, if we suppose that the man delivered from the devil means, in the moral way of interpretation, the soul purged from unclean thoughts, fitly does the woman cured of a fever by the command of God mean the flesh, restrained from the heat of it concupiscence by the precepts of continence.
They came, with James and John, into the house of Simon and Andrew.There is reason to conjecture, that Matthew does not relate this history in its proper order: for Mark expressly states, that there were only four disciples who attended Christ. Besides, when he left the synagogue, he went straight to Peter’s house; which also shows clearly, that Matthew did not observe, with exactness, the order of time. The Evangelists appear to have taken particular notice of this miracle; not that, in itself, it was more remarkable, or more worthy of being recorded, than other miracles, — but because, by means of it, Christ gave to his disciples a private and familiar illustration of his grace. Another reason was, that the healing of one woman gave occasion to many miracles, so that they came to him in great numbers, from every direction, to implore his assistance. A single word, in Luke’s narrative, presents to us more strikingly the power which Christ displayed; for he says, that Simon’s mother-in-law was held by a GREAT fever. It was a clearer and more affecting proof of divine power, that, in a moment, and by a single touch, he removed a strong and violent disease. He might have done it by the slightest expression of his will; but he touched her hand,(Mat_8:15 ,)either to mark his affection, or because he was aware that this sign was, at that time, advantageous: for we know, that he freely used outward signs, when the time required them.
Mar 1:30 It appears from St. Mark and St. Luke, that the cure of Peter’s mother-in-law and the other sick, here mentioned, happened after the preceding narrative, and probably on the same day. But St. Matthew does not observe this order; for having related that Jesus, after the sermon on the mount, entered Capharnaum, and healed the centurion’s servant, he hence takes occasion to mention this and the other miracles, which he had omitted, and which Jesus had wrought at his first coming to Capharnaum. (Rutter)