Mark 1:1 Commentary - Biblical Illustrator Edited by Joseph S. Exell
The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ
I. In John’s way of living there was the beginning of a gospel spirit.
(b) Nonconformity to the world.
II. In John’s preaching and baptizing there was the beginning of the gospel doctrines and ordinances.
(a) Remission of sin upon a true repentance.
(b) Christ-His preeminence, power, and promises.
III. In John’s success there was the beginning of a gospel church. (M. Henry.)
The beginning of the gospel
This expression suggests-
I. Unexampled love.
II. A glorious epoch. To it all the old converge, from it all the old radiate. It was the planting of a moral sun in man’s heavens, the opening of a living fountain in man’s desert.
III. A magnificent progress. The beginning seemed very unpropitious and unpromising. For remedial truth was shut up in the breast of one lonely man, and He the son of a Jewish peasant. But what has it become? The solitary seed covers many acres with precious grain, the little spring has swollen into a majestic river, bearing on its bosom the soul of the world to a higher civilization, a purer faith, and a diviner morality. (Anon.)
The beginning of the gospel
I. A wonderful thing here begun. The gospel-good news, etc. One might have expected justice and wrath to make an end of sin and sinners, instead of a beginning of a new dispensation of mercy and love.
II. A wonderful beginning of this wonderful thing. So unostentatious-one man preaching in a wilderness; so solemn-one voice disturbing the silence; so novel-a way prepared for another man; so strangely answering to ancient prophecy.
III. This wonderful beginning of the wonderful new, was the beginning of the end of the wonderful old. Yet no one thought that a dispensation so solemnly inaugurated, marked by prophets, sustained by miracles, was having its death knell tolled by that one man in the wilderness. (J. C. Gray.)
The gospel of Jesus Christ
I. Our first theme is the gospel.
1. What is the gospel?
(1) That the word, both in Greek and English, originally means good news, glad tidings. Gospel is good news in the same sense that it was good news when you heard of the recovery of a parent or child.
(2) That it is good news from God to man-from heaven to earth-from the infinitely holy to the lowest depths of human wretchedness and sin. It is not good news from America to Europe; it is a voice from heaven, breaking through the silence or discord of our natural condition. Oh, could the tumult of this life cease to fill our ears, we might hear another sound-good news from God to each of us.
(3) That it is good news in relation to your sins, salvation, and eternity. It remedies the greatest evils and supplies the deepest wants of man.
2. Whose gospel it is. It is not an impersonal or abstract gospel; it is not the gospel of a man, nor yet of a distant God; it is the gospel born of God and man; it is described as the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God.
(1) It is “the gospel of Jesus,” that is, the good news of a Saviour.
(2) But it is also the gospel of Christ: the anointed Prophet, Priest, and King of His people.
(3) But who is sufficient for these things, or who is equal to the great work shadowed forth by these titles? The necessity of a Divine Person to assume this trust is evident from the nature of the trust itself; the Son of God is the Saviour and Prophet.
II. The beginning of the gospel.
1. Where did it begin of old?
(1) That the gospel as a message of salvation may be said to have begun in the eternal counsel of the Divine will; in the eternal purpose of the God who sent it. We must not regard the gospel as a sort of after thought to make good the failure of another method of salvation.
(2) That the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ was not in the New Testament, but in the Old; it began in the simple first promise to our first parents.
(3) The gospel may be said to have had a new beginning in the preparatory ministry of John the Baptist.
2. Where does this gospel begin now?
(1) That it begins for the most part in religious education-in the simple teaching at maternal knees.
(2) In the moving of the Holy Spirit.
(3) There are providential recommencements of the gospel both to communities and to individuals. (J. A. Alexander, D. D.)
The great scheme started
I. The most wonderful epoch in the annals of time.
II. The most wonderful production in the realm of literature. All the Bible is inspired: both Old and New Testaments:
1. By the meaning of the language used in the Bible when speaking of itself.
2. From the unity of idea underlying the entire record.
3. From the teaching of Christ in regard to it.
This gospel is the most wonderful production in the realm of literature.
1. Because of the age of the book.
2. Because of the number of men who took part in its authorship.
3. The scope and spirit of its teaching.
4. Because of its universal adaptation.
5. Because of the effects it produces. (T. Kelly.)
The origin of the gospel
This short verse contains four great wonders.
1. The greatest wonder of heaven-“the Son of God.”
2. The greatest wonder of humanity-“Jesus Christ the Son of God.”
3. The greatest wonder of all knowledge-“the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
4. The most wonderful era-“the beginning of the gospel.”
I. There was an abstract or absolute beginning to the gospel in the Divine mind. The love, pity, wisdom of God were the sources of the gospel.
II. The gospel had a prophetic beginning in the first revelations made to Adam, the patriarchs and prophets. “To Him gave all the prophets witness.”
III. The gospel had its actual beginning in the ministry of John and the incarnation of Jesus.
IV. The gospel had an efficacious beginning which is to be dated from the death of Christ. Until then nothing efficient was done.
V. The gospel had an operative or practical beginning in the commission given to the apostles after the resurrection-“Beginning at Jerusalem.”
VI. The gospel viewed in its whole history, hitherto is but yet at its beginning. It has only begun to bless and save mankind.
VII. When the great consummation of its triumph is come we shall only be at the beginning of the gospel. It will have no end. Has it had a beginning in you? (The Evangelist.)
Unity and progress of Divine dispensations
I. The gospel has had three beginnings, yet each of them may be spoken of as the beginning.
1. In the Divine counsels, when it was but a thought.
2. In the incarnation, when it became a Person.
3. In believers, when it becomes a new creation.
II. One beginning of the gospel is always introductory to another.
1. The thought.
2. The agent or representative.
3. The result. Divine revelation is always consistent and progressive.
III. No beginning of the gospel can be true and effectual except as it leads to a spiritual consummating. The prophets pointed to John, John to Jesus, Jesus to the Holy Ghost. This shows
(1) The transitoriness of all mere ceremony;
(2) the uselessness of all mere knowledge;.
(3) the possibility of the highest fellowship with God.
IV. Lesson to pioneers. A man only works well in proportion as he knows the measure of his power and the limit of his mission. When the frame maker mistakes himself for the painter, art is degraded. It does not follow that because a man knows the alphabet, he can write a book. The pioneer must never go in the king’s clothes. April cannot do the work of August. (J. Parker, D. D.)
The commencement of the gospel
I. Contemplate the gospel as a progressive revelation.
II. This commencement of the gospel was important
(1) As the only true revelation of God;
(2) as the only true revelation of man.
III. The commencement of the gospel was happy.
1. Because the commencement of the gospel delivered from the tyranny of the law.
2. Because it provided an escape from the dire consequences of sin.
3. Because it unfolded the happy destiny of the race.
IV. The commencement of the gospel was hopeful. Learn-
1. God’s consideration for the need of man.
2. The self-consistency of a gospel thus gradually unfolded.
3. That it should be our continued endeavour to reproduce the gospel in our lives. (Joseph S. Exell, M. A.)
The first sentence of this gospel is the title to the whole of it-“The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” Here again is a characteristic form of expression. This evangelist uses the word “began” over and over again, a score of times at least. Jesus “began to teach” (Mar 4:1); the multitude “began to implore Him to depart” (Mar 5:17); the leper “began to publish” the miracle (Mar 1:45); Christ “began to send out” the twelve (Mar 6:7); the soldiers “began to mock Him” (Mar 15:18); revilers “began to spit on Him” (Mar 14:65). The tale is just full of “beginnings” all through to the end.
I. It began first in the purpose of the Almighty Father. See how Mark brings this out by his double quotation from the old and long-dead prophets. There was certainly a plan of redemption before a man was redeemed-“Known unto God are all His works from the beginning of the world.” We cannot help thinking Mark knew in the outset what wonderful matters he had to record. For here, all driven up compactly together, is found the finest group of first things in the New Testament: the first sermon on repentance, the first baptism of a convert, the first sensible manifestation of the Holy Ghost, the first voice from heaven in recognition of Jesus’ office and glory, the first fight with Beelzebub, and the first victory over temptation. This did not happen so; it must have been ordered so. Thus the gospel began in God’s purpose.
II. It had a second beginning in the advent of our Saviour Jesus Christ.
III. It had another also in the work of the Holy Ghost. See how Mark shows this clearly by the witness of the dove on the head of Christ as He comes up from the Jordan, and by the use of the energetic word “drive” when describing the urgency with which our Lord was constrained to endure the temptation. The good news of salvation began to be told in the moment when Satan received his defeat; it was the Spirit of God which here brought on the conflict and crowned the Victor with success. It is at this special point that the admonition reaches ourselves. The question above all others for us to ask and to answer is this: How does the work of the Holy Ghost effect the beginning of the gospel in the soul of an unregenerate man? The reply to this is not difficult. Sometimes by a strange disturbance, a sovereignly wrought uneasiness in the heart and conscience; the sinner does not know, perhaps, the explanation of his restlessness, but he becomes sure that his peace is not made, and that it ought to be made, with an offended God. Then also sometimes the Spirit uses the quiet communication of truth. By the slower processes of patient education a child is led on up into the knowledge of God. Then the Holy Ghost moves that awakened life, and unites it savingly to Jesus Christ as the Redeemer. And sometimes this same Divine Agent of regeneration employs dispensations of providence, prosperous or adverse. Some practical lessons are taught us here, and they will be remembered better if they are stated in order.
1. Every good and great thing originates in a purpose as certainly as God’s gospel did in God’s purpose. Every enterprise exists as a thought before it exists as a realization. No man ever became a Christian without as definite a purpose to begin the gospel in his heart as Mark had when he commenced to write his gospel in the Bible.
2. So there is a second lesson to learn: every true life must have a plan. Christ’s life had God’s plan. Any life will accomplish more if it finds the Divine plan and accepts it. If an author is compelled to plan a story with characters in it, in order to even moderate success in managing the unities, must he not likewise be forced to plan a career which he proposes to live out?
3. Put alongside of this another lesson: eminence and excellence come from consistency in matching ends to beginnings. Human beings are reached and moved best by long and steady forces, rather than by those which are intermittent.
4. Now for the best lesson of all: when once the gospel has had its real beginning in any energetic life, nothing can take it away at the end. Heaven is the end. (C. S. Robinson, D. D.)
The Genesis of the New Kingdom
Intense interest fastens upon “beginnings.” There is large scope for the play of imagination. We gaze with exquisite pleasure on the laughing face of a royal babe, or on the launch of a mail ship, or on the babbling rise of some historic river. Human life is fall of “beginnings.”
I. Christ’s incarnation was a great beginning for humanity.
II. This beginning had its hidden roots in the past.
III. This new creation is both like and unlike the old. It is like, in that it opens with a voice. It is unlike in the fiat uttered. Attention here is challenged for the message, not for the man: it is a voice. The man is a cipher, the doctrine everything.
IV. Beginnings are often attended with pain. The desert life of John, with its ascetic austerities, was painful. It was painful to the natural man-to his social tendencies. Each day begins in midnight darkness. Each year is born in wintry cold and gloom. The life of the plant opens with the fracture of the seed. And the beginning of the gospel’s life in individual souls is attended with sorrow and mortification.
V. The gospel of Christ is a beginning without an end. In the kingdom of Messiah, the prophecy becomes fact-“Thy sun shall no more go down.” Prophets foresaw the fall of the earthly Jerusalem; no prophet has ever foreseen the decay of the heavenly. The gospel is power-infinite power. Is there no limit to man’s development? None. By virtue of Christ’s gospel, we are always beginning. (D. Davies, M. A.)
Of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The author and subject of the gospel
I. Christ Jesus is the author of this gospel. How great, then, is the sin of those who despise, or refuse to believe and obey the gospel. They reject Christ Himself. Take heed we be not guilty of this sin, for God will severely punish it. Yet, how common is this contempt of the gospel nowadays! How little do some care to hear it unfolded in the public ministry: a small matter hinders them. One cause of such contempt is this, that men are not yet thoroughly persuaded that the doctrine, delivered by a frail man like themselves, is, and can be, the doctrine of Christ Himself; they neither see nor feel any Divine power of Christ working in and by this doctrine when it is delivered; therefore they think it to be the word of a man, not the word of Christ Jesus the Son of God. But know this, that Christ Jesus uses the ministry of weak men, yet the word and message which they bring is the message of Christ Himself. And what if we bring this treasure to you in earthen vessels? Yet the treasure is not the less worth.
II. Christ is also the chief subject matter, and argument of the gospel. Whatever is taught in the gospel is either
(1) concerning the Person of Christ; or
(2) concerning His offices, as He is our Priest, Prophet and King; or
(3) concerning the benefits we have by Him, synch as justification, salvation, etc.; or
(4) touching the means of enjoying these benefits from Christ, as faith and repentance. So that Christ Jesus is the sum and main scope of the doctrine of the gospel. (G. Petter.)
How to receive the gospel
How gladly do we entertain good news touching our body, goods, friends, or outward estate! How welcome is it to us! (Pro 25:25.)
And shall not this blessed tidings of the salvation of our souls by Christ, which is brought to us in the gospel, be much more welcome to us? Is not the news of liberty welcome to the prisoner; the news of a pardon from the prince, welcome to the condemned malefactor? And what are we by nature, but prisoners under the bondage of sin and Satan-malefactors and traitors before God, guilty of eternal damnation? Oh, then, let us joyfully embrace the doctrine of the gospel, which brings to us the news of spiritual freedom from sin and Satan, purchased by Christ, and of the pardon of our sins procured for us by Him. How highly should we prize this doctrine; how happy should we think ourselves, when we may enjoy the preaching of it; and how tar should we be from despising or neglecting so great salvation! (G. Petter.)
The substance and design of the gospel
I. Its substance.
1. Jesus Christ is the Great Teacher.
2. The Great Atoner.
3. The Great Example.
His life was in harmony with His teaching; reflecting, like a stainless mirror, the purity and benevolence of His precepts.
II. Its design.
1. To reveal the heavenly world.
2. To prepare us for that world.
Enlightenment, forgiveness, and sanctity, are the antecedents of glorification. These things come to us through the teaching, atonement, and example of Jesus. Thus the gospel makes us meet for joyful fellowship with holy angels, before the throne of God and the Lamb. (P. J. Wright.)
The gospel is an anthem from the harps of heaven; the music of the River of Life washing its shores on high, and pouring in cascades upon the earth. Not so cheerful was the song of the morning stars; nor the shout of the sons of God so joyful. Gushing from the fountains of eternal harmony, it was first heard on eateth in a low tone of solemn gladness, uttered in Eden by the Lord God Himself. This gave the keynote of the gospel song. Patriarchs caught it up, and taught it to the generations following. It breathes from the harp of the Psalmist, and rang like a clarion from tower and mountain top, as prophets proclaimed the year of Jubilee. Fresh notes from heaven have enriched the harmony as the Lord of Hosts and His angels have revealed new promises, and called on the suffering children of Zion to be joyful in their King. From bondage and exile, from dens and caves, from bloody fields and fiery stakes, and peaceful deathbeds, have they answered, in tones which have cheered the disconsolate, and made oppressors shake upon their thrones; while sun, and moon, and all the stars of light, stormy wind fulfilling His words, the roaring sea and the fulness thereof, mountains and hills, fruitful fields, and all the trees of the wood, have rejoiced before the Lord, and the coming of His Anointed for the redemption of His people, and the glory of His holy Name. (Dr. Hoge.)
There is only one gospel. There are many religions amongst men: almost all of them are Laws-codes of precepts for the guidance of life; but Christianity is pure gospel-glad tidings of great joy. The angels gave it that name (Luk 2:10), and the experience of multitudes that none can number has approved it. (R. Glover.)
The Bible without Christ
Take Christ away from the Bible and it is immediately destroyed. In ancient times a celebrated artist made a most wonderful shield, and worked his own name into it so that it could not be removed without destroying the shield. It is just so with the Bible and Christ. (Foster)
The Son of God.-
Christ’s Divinity practically proved
The Deity of the Son of God is, to me, not proved merely in propositions. I believe that he who believes in the Godhead of Jesus Christ has all history, all etymology, all philosophy, and all true reading of the case entirely on his side. But I do not look to propositions, to logical formulae, to any bare statements, however exact, for the proof and confirmation that this claim is founded in righteousness. Do you think that I build my hopes of eternity upon some little etymological technicality? Do you suppose that my dependence is founded altogether upon the construction of a phrase or the mood and tense of a verb? We have nothing to fear from that side of the argument, so far as I have been able to collate the testimonies of competent men. But I do not rely upon it in preaching the Deity of the Son of God, and in committing myself to the great claim which Jesus makes on behalf of His own nature. What do I trust then? The moral reach, the spiritual compass, the indefinable and inexpressible sympathy of the Man. When he touched my heart into life, I did not say, “Hand me down the Greek grammar and the Hebrew lexicon, and three volumes of the encyclopaedia, to see how this really stands.” I knew it to be a fact. Nobody ever did for me what He has done. Once I was blind; now I see. I go to other men-writers, speakers, teachers-hear what they have to say, and, behold, they are broken cisterns that can hold no water. I go to the Son of God, whose teaching is written in the New Testament, and it gets into the deep places of my life; it redeems me; it goes further than any other influence, and does more for me than any other attempt that ever was made to recover and bless nay life. It is, therefore, in this great sweep of His, in this reply to every demand that is made upon His resources, this infinite sufficiency of His grace, that I find the exposition and the defence of His Godhead. Some things must be felt; some things must be laid hold of by sympathy, affection, sensibility. The heart is in some cases a greater interpreter than the understanding. There is a time when logic has to say, “I can do no more for you; do the best you can for yourself!” Then love goes forward, and necessity feels it; and it is in that further insight and penetration that the Godhead of the Nazarene, as it appears to me, is vindicated and glorified … As I looked upon the sun this November morning, shining through some beautiful blue clouds, a man called upon me to prove that that sun was, in his judgment, as far as he could make out by “the tables,” about sufficient to light the world. He turned over long pages of logarithms, and tables of various kinds, fractions and decimals, and long processions of figures; he asked me for a slate and a pencil, and he was going to make it out to any satisfaction that the sun was just about sufficient to enlighten a hemisphere at a time. I ordered him off! Why? I saw it; I felt it; the whole thing was before me, and if that man had never been born, and the slate had never been made, I should have known that this great sun poured light upon the earth until there was not room enough to receive it, and that the splendour ran off at the edges and flamed upon other stars! And yet sometimes men call upon us with slates, pencils, sponges, for the purpose of showing us by their calculations that Jesus Christ cannot be God the Son. I have lived long enough to know that He is God enough for me. What more can I want? He raises the dead; He redeems my life from destruction; He fills the mouth with good things; He numbers the hairs of my head; He carries me up hill many a time when I am weary and the wind is bleak; He visits me in my distress and my affliction. My Lord! my God! I will not receive Thee merely through grammars and technical discussions. I will receive Them because when Thou dost come into my heart, I know that all the heaven that I can contain is already within me when Thou art near. My Lord! and my God! (Joseph Parker, D. D.)
The Son of God
The Son of God is no voluntary effect of the Father’s power and wisdom, like the created universe, which once did not exist, and might never have existed, and must necessarily be ever confined within the bounds of time and space. He is the natural and necessary, and therefore the eternal and infinite, birth of the Divine fecundity, the boundless overflow of the Eternal Fountain of all existence and perfection, the infinite splendour of the Eternal Sun, the unspotted mirror, and complete and adequate image in Whom may be seen all the fulness of the Godhead. (R. Watson.)
Christ not A Son, but THE Son
This implies something other than that general fatherly relation which God sustains to all His intelligent creatures. Even among the heathen, great kings, heroes, lawgivers, and patriots are thought to be somehow sons of God. There was also the Oriental mystic, who, imagining himself a part of the universal all, a drop in the great ocean of being, was fond of calling himself a son of God. But Jesus is “the Son.” And one has not to read far, in either of the Gospels, to be able to discover that here the phrase is used in a very definite sense. He is not so named as one who, like other men, bears the Divine image; nor as the object of special affection; nor as the greatest being in the universe next to God. He bears to the Father a more intimate relation. Together with the Father, He is the object of trust, love, and worship; the same in power and glory; to be honoured of all men, even as they honour the Father. The evangelist starts with this view. He whose story he is now to relate, is the incarnate Son of God. (H. M. Grout, D. D.)
The Divinity of Christ
A Divine Christ is the central sun of Christianity; quench it, and all is confusion worse confounded. (J. Cumming, D. D.)
Consult other comments:
Biblical Illustrator Edited by Joseph S. Exell
Rev. Joseph S. Exell (1849 - 1910), was a 19th and early 20th century minister, editor and writer. He served as the Editor of Clerical World, The Homiletical Quarterly and the Monthly Interpreter.
Excell was the editor of some of the most trusted commentary sets used regularly by ministers for nearly 100 years. He served (with Henry Donald Maurice Spence-Jones) as editor of the enduring Pulpit Commentary, the 56 volume Biblical Illustrator, with its hundreds of contributors and tens of thousands of illustrations, and The Preacher’s Homiletic Commentary, also a popular and comprehensive preaching resource. In addition, he authored numerous other works.