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Verses of Mark 1

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Mark 1:1 Commentary - The Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary Edited by Joseph S. Exell

CRITICAL AND EXEGETICAL NOTES

Mar. 1:1. Beginning.—For best commentary on this see Luk. 16:16. Law and prophets ended with John, who heralded new régime. Gospel.—Good tidings, from God to man, of redemption and peace; purposed from before foundation of world; proclaimed from Fall onwards, as man could receive it; now fully unveiled and offered to all by Jesus Christ. The Son of God.—Probably genuine, although omitted by א and some Fathers.

Mar. 1:2. In the prophets.—Read, In Isaiah the prophet. Remainder of verse, quoted from Mal. 3:1, must be regarded as a parenthesis. “The Evangelist’s mind went rapidly through it, and fixed its attention on the contents of the earlier and more remarkable oracle lying behind.” Only here, and in chap. Mar. 15:28 (the genuineness of which is doubtful) does Mark himself cite from Old Testament. In chaps. Mar. 4:12; Mar. 7:6; Mar. 11:17; Mar. 14:27, he places on record quotations made by Jesus.

Mar. 1:7. One mightier.—He who is mightier; the Sovereign whose ambassador 1 am, the Potentate whose orders I carry out.

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Mar. 1:1-8

(PARALLELS: Mat. 3:1-12; Luk. 3:1-20; Joh. 1:19-28.)

The preparation for the gospel.—With trumpet-blast—short, sharp, triumphant—St. Mark introduces his Divine Hero, “the Lion of the tribe of Judah.” Wasting no time on preliminaries, he at once strikes the keynote of his theme—“the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” Well is he called “Marcus,” a hammer, who begins by aiming such a powerful blow at the inherent scepticism of the human heart, and then follows it up with the workmanlike skill observable throughout this book! Determined to leave no room for mistake concerning the person of his Master, he at once accords to Him His full title, “Jesus Christ, Son of God.” Jesus—the Saviour; Christ—the Divinely appointed Prophet, Priest, and King of men; Son of God, Revealer of the Father, Incarnate Deity. Peter’s great confession was in almost the same words (Mat. 16:16).

I. The origin of the gospel in heaven.—

1. Not man’s thought, but God’s. To destroy the works of the devil, and devise means that His banished ones should be restored to Him, was far beyond the conception of any but the Creator.
2. The mode of carrying out this grand scheme was equally Godlike. The Creator became Himself a creature—God came to us in man—hiding His glory under the tabernacle of human flesh, which He assumed, in order that we might realise His nearness, believe in His goodwill towards us, and be incorporated into Him.

II. The preparation for the gospel on earth.—

1. This began in the first promise to Adam and Eve, in their sacrificial offerings, in the bleeding lambs of Abel’s altar, and in the simple worship of the patriarchs.
2. It began afresh in the Mosaic legislation, in the ceremonial law, etc.
3. It began once more in the predictions of the prophets, who declared in words the gospel which the law shadowed forth in acts. And the last of these prophets was John, the greatest of them all, and the nearest to the kingdom.

III. The Forerunner of the gospel and his ministry.—

1. The Baptist’s mission had been foretold. The herald of Jesus had himself been heralded long before; and the appearance of one answering to the prophetic announcements was to be the sign that a Greater than he was at hand.
2. The Baptist’s preaching was suitable for the time—positive, straightforward, unmistakable. It could never be said of him, as was said of a certain modern minister, that he spent six days in the week asking himself, “What on earth shall I preach about?” and sent the people home on Sunday asking themselves, “What on earth did he preach about?” John stood boldly forth as a preacher of righteousness, in the midst of a perverse and crooked generation.

(1) In his stern, weird cry, “Repent ye,” he made a personal appeal for personal action, and a particular line of conduct—not simply general good behaviour. Whatever sin has hitherto reigned in the heart, the opposite virtue must now take its place; otherwise, the kingdom cannot be received.
(2) By baptism he pledged men to carry out in their life the discipline necessary to make them ready for the kingdom. This rite served to prepare them to accept a system in which sacramental means of grace were to hold a prominent place.
(3) Besides repentance and baptism, particular confession of sins was exacted by John. And this was doubtless private confession; for it is highly improbable that they publicly confessed sins, the knowledge of which would instruct others in all sorts of evil, pollute their minds with all sorts of filthiness, and in very many cases give the enemies of those so confessing the power of accusing them before the law as long as they lived.
3. The Baptist’s preaching proved a great success. Never before had the souls of the people been so stirred. And although comparatively few took the further step of enrolling themselves under Christ’s banner during His lifetime, yet amongst those few were several of the apostles; and we know not how much of the Church’s growth after Pentecost is to be attributed to the Baptist’s faithful ministry.
4. The personal appearance of the Baptist was in perfect harmony with the truths he proclaimed. Bede says he used a dress more austere than was usual, because he did not encourage the life of sinners by flattery, but chid them by the vigour of his rough rebuke; he had a girdle of a skin round his loins, for he was one who crucified his flesh with the affections and lusts.
5. The self-abnegation of the Baptist is the greatest proof of his real nobility. Such was his popularity, that he might easily have become the founder of a new religious sect; for his disciples could not bear to think of his ministry as merely the preface or introduction to that of Another. But John himself never wavered in his testimony, never dreamt of arrogating to himself any honour; but maintained, with unswerving fidelity, that he—though he could claim high rank among his countrymen, as the son of one of the heads of the courses of the priests—was but the messenger of One for whom he did not think himself worthy to perform the most menial service, One who would baptise not merely in the waters of Jordan, but in the fire of the Life-giving Spirit.

Lessons.—

1. Thank God for His mercy in the gospel.
2. Attend to God’s message by the lips of men.
3. Make diligent and reverent use of the means of grace.
4. Illustrate and exalt the gospel by your life. So you may be the means of preparing others to welcome Christ.

Mar. 1:4-8. John’s baptism, and Christ’s.—The question which perplexed the chief priests and scribes and elders (Mar. 11:30-33) need cause us no difficulty, because Christ Himself acknowledged and sanctioned His forerunner, and set His seal on the legitimacy of John’s baptism, by submitting to it Himself. We find, moreover, in the preaching of John a strong circumstance in his favour. For who ever heard of an enthusiast, a self-inspired prophet, studiously disparaging himself, and seeking to fix the attention of the world on some greater Person who should come after him?

I. John’s account of his own baptism.—

1. He baptised “with water”—a well-understood sign of moral purification (Isa. 1:16; Eze. 36:25; Psa. 51:2; Psa. 51:7).

2. He baptised with water “unto repentance” (Mar. 1:4 : cf. Mat. 3:11), i.e. to the end that men should repent, amend their lives, and “bring forth,” etc. (Mat. 3:8).

3. Was there any inward and spiritual grace in the baptism of John, of which the washing with water might be considered as a sign? We are obliged to answer in the negative. The ceremony itself was well calculated to make an impression upon those who submitted to it; but the same may be said of many other rites, which have nothing spiritual or supernatural about them. Such impressions may easily be accounted for, and furnish no proof that there has been any extraordinary exertion of Divine influence.
4. The baptism of John, though (like the law of Moses) it “made nothing perfect,” yet prepared the way for “the bringing in of a better hope,” and of a more efficacious baptism.

II. John’s prophecy concerning Christ’s baptism.—

1. He states the manner of Christ’s baptism—“with the Holy Ghost.” Not that “water” should not also be employed in this greater baptism; without this there can be no baptism at all. But here is the difference. John baptised with water only: Christ should baptise with water and the Spirit (Joh. 3:5). The Holy Ghost is unsubstantial and invisible; we can no more be baptised with the Spirit alone than we can with “the wind, which bloweth where it listeth.” If this operation is to be visibly performed on us, there must be some vehicle through which the Holy Ghost is communicated to our souls; and water, the emblem of purity, is the most convenient and natural sign of that spiritual grace which cleanses and purifies the heart.

2. Consider now the effects of Christ’s baptism.

(1) It washes away all past sins and defilements in him who is baptised (Act. 22:16). This is the first grace of baptism; and even if it were the only one, who would not be astonished at the powerful operation of so simple a rite! Who would not confess that He in whose name, and by faith in whose name, water is made to wash away sins, must indeed be mightier than John or any other mere human interpreter of the will of God! Above all, since the effect is as beneficial as it is astonishing, who would not wish to partake of this inestimable gift of God in Christ Jesus!

(2) It not only washes away all former pollutions, but it cleanses the heart itself, and purifies that turbid fountain out of which flow all the issues of life. A physician turns his attention, in the first place, to the immediate relief of his patient, and endeavours by suitable remedies to check the progress of the disorder; but when that is done, then comes the glory of his art, which is, to improve the general state of the patient’s health, and get rid of those causes and tendencies which might bring on the complaint afresh. Even so has Jesus Christ, the Great Physician of the soul, invented this remedy of baptism, by which He not only cures the present disease, but renews, as it were, the moral constitution of man. By the “washing of regeneration” we are “born again, not of corruptible seed,” etc. (1Pe. 1:23).

(3) What baptism necessarily confers on all who are the subjects of it—whether old or young, hackneyed in the ways of sin or as yet innocent of it—is not actual holiness, but only the capacity of becoming holy. The man who is thus regenerated may, if so disposed, return to his former courses and become as dead in sin as before. But now it is no longer the fault of his nature. He can no longer exclaim with the unregenerate, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me,” etc. (Rom. 7:24). He has been delivered. Before baptism he was incapable of pleasing God; now he is not incapable. Before baptism there was “a law in his members, warring against the law of his mind, and bringing him into captivity to the law of sin, which was in his members.” Now there is no such law, and no such captivity. In short, before baptism, whatever evil he may have done, he had this excuse to plead: “It is no more I that do it, but sin which dwelleth in me.” Now he has no such excuse.

(4) If any one be disposed to think that it is a small thing to be made capable of becoming holy unless we be actually established in holiness, let him consider this: What must it be to labour under a positive incapacity of working out our salvation; to know that if we should exert ourselves ever so much we could never, by any possibility, please God; that our best actions and intentions would be infected with the taint of our nature, and, instead of being acceptable to God, must necessarily be offensive to Him, as partaking of the nature of sin?
3. From all this there arise two inducements to holiness and righteousness of life.

(1) The former things are forgiven thee; go, and sin no more. What does it profit a man to have his debts cancelled, if he begin immediately to run up a fresh score, and to involve himself in heavier liabilities than those from which he has been delivered? Shall not the last state of that man be worse than the first? See Eze. 24:13.

(2) When thou art baptised, thou art “born again” of the Spirit: see that the rest of thy life be answerable to this beginning. The old man is put off: put off his deeds also. Thou hast purified thy soul through the Spirit; ask thyself, therefore, what qualities should spring out of a cleansed and renewed heart. The works of the flesh are manifest; the fruit of the Spirit should be so also.

OUTLINES AND COMMENTS ON THE VERSES

Mar. 1:1. Beginnings.—

I. Human life is full of beginnings.—St. Mark is constantly drawing attention to this. See chap. Mar. 1:45; Mar. 4:1; Mar. 5:17; Mar. 6:7; Mar. 14:65; Mar. 15:18.

II. All beginnings are full of interest.—They afford great scope for speculation as to the progress and end.

III. The gospel is the greatest beginning the world has ever seen.—It is God’s crowning work and supreme revelation.

IV. The gospel is a beginning without an end.—The “Sun of Righteousness” will never set. But though without end, the gospel is not without completion. See Isa. 53:11; 1Co. 15:28.

A wonderful beginning.—What a wonderful beginning of things is here! The gospel! Had he recorded the beginning of the work of justice and wrath to make an end of sinners, we should not have been surprised, after reading the story of sin and ingratitude recorded in the Old Testament; but instead we have the beginning of the dispensation of love and mercy to sinners—a beginning which was the end of the old dispensation of law, types, and shadows, and the bringing in of the substance of all that God had promised man in grace from the foundation of the world. What a humble beginning it was! One man, one voice—and both man and voice in the wilderness. Not a mighty prince, but a prophet-man, clad in camel’s hair, with a leathern girdle about him. How differently from the coming of an earthly prince did Jesus appear to take up His ministry! Yet as we proceed we shall see the reason for this strange and simple “beginning of the gospel.” It was because it was the beginning of the gospel, not of the kingdom; the beginning of the grace of God, not of the ceremonial pomp of a formal worship; the beginning of a dispensation which was to reign in the hearts of men, not in external paraphernalia of worship.—G. F. Pentecost, D.D.

The strong Son of God.—The first words of In Memoriam might be taken to describe the theme of Mark’s Gospel. It is the “strong Son of God” whom he sets forth in his rapid, impetuous narrative, which is full of fiery energy; he delights to paint the unresting continuity of Christ’s filial service.—A. Maclaren, D.D.

The title “Son of God,” besides here, is given—

1. By Gabriel (Luk. 1:35).

2. By the devil (Mat. 4:3; Mat. 4:6).

3. By demons (Mat. 8:29).

4. By apostles (Mat. 14:33).

5. By Peter (Mat. 16:16). By John (Joh. 20:31; 1Jn. 3:8; Rev. 2:18).

6. By Paul (Rom. 1:4; 2Co. 1:19; Gal. 2:20; Eph. 4:13).

7. By author of Hebrews (Heb. 4:14, and whole argument of chap. 1).

8. By the Ethiopian eunuch (Act. 8:37). A fair deduction from Philip’s teaching, even if the words are spurious.

9. By Christ Himself (Joh. 10:36; Luk. 22:70).

Mar. 1:2-3. Preparation for Divine visitation.—

I. The two dispensations are in reality one.—John is the connecting link between them.

II. The Divinity of Messiah was plainly foretold.—See Isa. 40:3; Mal. 3:1.

III. The function of a prophet is here clearly stated.—“A voice”—God’s messenger and mouthpiece, going only where God sends him, saying only what God bids him. Dedicate your lips to God, and He will fill them with grace and truth.

IV. The willingness of God to visit man is evident.—He only waits for the obstacles to be removed—hardness of heart, and contempt of His word and commandment (Rev. 3:20). A readiness to have Him come into our lives and straighten them is the preparation of heart needed to receive Him

Mar. 1:3. John a voice, not an echo.—Goethe has said in one of his pregnant sentences, “There are many echoes in the world, but few voices.” John Baptist’s power lay in this—that he was a voice, and not an echo. The people of Israel had long been accustomed to religious teachers who were only echoes—echoes of the more distant past when Moses and the prophets spake the word of the Lord with living voice, and yet more frequently echoes of the teaching of some recent rabbi, himself an echo and unreal. Their temple courts in which they disputed the law, their synagogue in which Moses was expounded, were but as whispering-galleries in which men, surrounded with shadows, listen to sounds that belong not to the living world at all. But at length the accents of a living voice fell upon the nation’s ear. A religious teacher appeared who dealt with realities, and not with semblances. He spoke as a living man to living men in an actual world.—Jas. Brown, D.D.

The need of our time is for voices,—voices which are not echoes, living voices speaking the living truth, out of the depths of a living experience, and in the living language of living men; voices preaching mercy and not sacrifice, righteousness and not burnt offerings, faith and not outward cleansing; voices bringing good tidings of blessed possibilities for a sin-stricken world, of the coming of a kingdom in mercy and in judgment, which are not two, but eternally and for ever one; voices bearing witness for the Christ—the Incarnation of divinest righteousness and divinest compassion, the Redeemer of the fallen, the Helper of the helpless, the Brother of us all; voices whose accents are not hard and dogmatic and pitiless, but as of men who have wrestled, nay, who perchance are wrestling still, with sorrow and doubt and fear.—Ibid.

The voice of the Baptist was a voice of severity.—His doctrine was as stern as his raiment was rough. He proclaimed repentance—the axe to the root, the fan to the corn, the chaff to fire. He must, by plainness and boldness of speech, level mountains and exalt valleys, and so prepare a way for the approach of the Messiah. The corruption of human nature was a wound of long standing, that must be lanced before it could be healed. Sharpness of speech, like a ploughshare, must cleave deep and break up the stubborn ground of human pride, and make the heart soft and tender to receive the blessed seed of Divine love.

Highways through the hearts of men.—Crossing this mighty continent of ours not long ago, by means of that last marvel of our American engineering, whose daily track-laying, as I have been told, was wont to beat the slow-moving waggon-trains of emigrants that marched beside it, I found myself again and again exclaiming “What grander calling could there be than thus to write one’s name in iron across the unsullied page of those virgin western prairies, as part-builder of the highway that shall bind together Pekin and Paris, London and San Francisco, the commerce of Calcutta and the manufactures of Manchester, in one bright zone, whose central gem shall be our own American metropolis!” And yet there is a grander calling. May it be yours and mine to braid it in with whatsoever toil or study is ours; to build those other highways through the stony hearts and desert lives of men, over which the Master Builder shall at last come back again, to claim this world and all its treasures for His own; to bear along the paths that Christian labour has cast up the saving message of God’s love, and so, by steadfast conquest of all sin and ignorance, to open wide the gates for His enduring sunshine!—Bishop H. C. Potter.

The Lord’s pathway.—If I can only place one little brick in the pavement of the Lord’s pathway, I will place it there, that coming generations may walk thereon to the heavenly city.—Bishop Phillips Brooks.

Mar. 1:4. Repentance.—To sum up the business of repentance in a word, the wise man (Pro. 28:13) has reduced it to two heads—to confess and forsake our sins. St. Bernard almost as short and not much unlike, Dolere præterita, Cavere futura; to grieve and be displeased with ourselves for what is past, and to take better heed for the time to come. It must be a repentance from sin as well as for sin; it must be of thoughts as well as deeds, of errors in judgment as well as miscarriages of life; finally, it must bring forth fruits, and be accompanied with works meet for repentance. To repent, to cry peccavi, and go on still in the same sin, to be always craving God’s mercy, and never stand in fear of His justice, is in short but to mock God and our own souls to boot. Further, our repentance must be proportionable to our offences. Greater sins must be taken to heart with greater regrets. The more scandalous and notorious any one’s faults have been, the more signal must his conversion be, and the more exemplary his conversation. The longer we have continued in any ill practice, the more lasting must our exercise of repentance be. Chronical and habitual distempers must be put into a course of spiritual physic. To shut up all: repentance, as ’tis a necessary duty, so ’tis a great privilege. None so perfect but need it; none so bad but may attain it: witness the penitent thief, the publican, the prodigal.—A. Littleton, D.D.

Mar. 1:4-5. A rite, message, and reception.—

I. A great message.—

1. The duty urged: repentance.
2. The motive: the nearness of the kingdom, with righteous laws and heavy penalties.
3. The privilege proclaimed: setting free from sin.

II. A novel rite.—

1. John’s baptism—far superior to the ritual lustrations of the Jews—foretold the purification of heart and mind which would result from the washing away of sin in the blood of Christ (cp. 1Pe. 3:21).

2. It expressed a backward look at guilt, and a forward look to mercy.

III. A striking reception.—There was that about him which attracted the attention not merely of the common people, but also of the political and religious leaders (Mat. 3:7).

1. His prophetic voice broke a silence of three hundred years.
2. His announcement of the kingdom kindled Messianic expectations.
3. His manifest sincerity induced searchings of heart. If, like John, we would “reach the masses,” we must first have something worthy to say, and then say it straight out.
4. We must recollect that this was the great Sabbatical year of the Jews; the people were less busy than usual; the whole land was at rest; a religious atmosphere was breathing around them; and so the awakened multitudes swept forth from their homes on every hand. Bethabara, the little fording-place north of Jericho, was thronged with excited listeners out of all classes and social conditions, eagerly jostling each other in defence of truth or tradition.

The character of the Baptist’s ministry.—There can be no doubt concerning the general character of the Baptist’s ministry. It departed in every particular from the ordinary and orderly ministries of the time. Judged by our standards, or by those then prevailing, it was distinctly sensational. It aimed to arouse, alarm, denounce, scourge. And its effects were in accordance with its aims. If we should describe them in the phraseology of our own time, we should say that there was in that part of Syria a great religious awakening, and it would be to misrepresent the whole situation if we did not go on to say that the greatest religious movement that the world has seen turned, as its first hinge, upon this same religious awakening. There have been repetitions of it all the way along. Whether it is Peter the Hermit, or Francis of Assisi, or Savonarola, or John Huss, or John Wesley, the thing is too familiar to be ignored or wholly disesteemed; and no effort to distinguish between great national or ecclesiastical movements, occurring at long intervals, and an agency to be employed in connection with the ordinary on-going of parish life, though such a distinction is one which we are bound to recognise, can dismiss from our rightful consideration such agencies as the latter. In one sense the case of a parish and the case of a Church or a nation are widely different; but in another they are identical. The same slumbrous torpor, the same deadness to spiritual truths, the same triumph of the spirit of worldliness over the Spirit of Christ, exist in the one as in the other. It is, after all, only a question of extent or degree; and the exigencies of parochial life in particular communities often make that necessary, in some single congregation, which, under other circumstances, may widely, if not universally, be necessary.—Bishop H. C. Potter.

Mar. 1:5. Confession of sin.—There is a twofold confession of sins necessary in the practice of repentance.

I. To God.—

1. It must come from a feeling heart, touched with sense of sin and grieved for it; not verbal, or from the teeth outward.
2. It must come from a hatred and loathing of the sins confessed, not from fear of punishment merely: Saul, Pharaoh.

3. From hope of mercy, else we witness against ourselves: Jud. 1:4. Free and voluntary, not forced from us; else it is not pleasing to God.

5. It must not be only in general terms, but there must be a laying open of our particular known sins, so far as we can remember them.

II. To men.—Not always necessary, but in some cases only.

1. When by our sins we have offended and scandalised men—either the Church in general, or some particular persons.
2. When any sin lies heavy on our conscience, so that we cannot find ease or comfort. In this case it is necessary to open our hearts, and to acknowledge that sin which troubles us, to some faithful pastor, or other Christian brother, who may minister spiritual advice and comfort to us.—G. Petter.

Confession of sin hindered by Satan.—God knoweth all, saith Ambrose, but yet He looketh for thy confession. God is never more ready to cover than when we lay open. The fox, say our books, taketh his prey by the throat, so to stop all noise; and the devil, that fox, by all means hindereth holy confession, and bringeth men to deal with their souls as men use to deal with old rusty armour, either never or once in a year or two formally and superficially to scour it over. But as a thorn in your finger will grieve you still till it be had out, so will sin in your conscience still vex till it be acknowledged and confessed. If we have offended man, reconciliation to him is necessary. But to thy God speak all, saith Chrysostom, even whatsoever thou art ashamed to speak unto man, for He expecteth thy voice, although He knew it before, and He will never upbraid thee as man will.—Bishop Babington.

Mar. 1:6. The habits of the Baptist.—

1. The Baptist’s habits were thoroughly in harmony with his surroundings in the wilderness, also with the absorption of a man with such a mission.

2. His unusual style of dress was probably adopted with the deliberate intention of sending men’s thoughts back to Elijah (2Ki. 1:8 : cp. Zec. 13:4).

3. His manner of living was a protest against the prevalent worldliness and luxury, especially of the religious leaders (Mar. 12:38; Luk. 7:25).

4. One inured to such a life could afford to be perfectly fearless and independent, having little to lose by opposition of the great, or to gain from their favour.
5. John’s outward appearance fitly symbolised the rigour and austerity of the old dispensation. Jesus, the Mediator of the new and better covenant, as fitly “came eating and drinking,” etc.

Mar. 1:7. The humility of the Baptist.—The highest buildings have the lowest foundations. As the roots of a tree descend, so the branches ascend. The lower the ebb, the higher the tide. Those upon the mountains see only the fog beneath them, whilst those in deep pits see the stars above them. The most fruitful branches bow the lowest.—John Trapp.

Christ is “mightier” than John.—

I. In essential being.—Son of God, and God the Son, as well as Son of Man.

II. In word.—John was but “a voice”: Christ is the Eternal Word (Joh. 1:1).

III. In works.—Joh. 10:41.

IV. In spiritual efficiency.—The Baptist’s success was all due to Christ’s power working with and in him (Joh. 1:16; Joh. 3:27).

V. In ministerial rites.—The baptism in water was but a faint foreshadowing of the cleansing fire of the Holy Spirit.

Mar. 1:8. A symbol of moral purification.—The Baptist started from the Messianic hope as the one thing remaining to the nation promising a better future; but he perceived what had to be immediately done in connection with it, according to the requirements of the true religion, and he was the first man consistent and daring enough actually to do it.… Every individual had to prepare himself for the true kingdom, and as a regenerate man, receptive simply for everything that is pure and good—as a man who will not start back from the Highest One should He come—look for the mysterious but certain coming of the Lord.… The submersion in the depth of the flowing water by the hand of the Baptist became the most effective, visible, and sensible symbol of the moral purification of this generation.… And this deep submersion, by the hand of a confessor, with this strict confession of sin, this vow and this absolution, of which it was meant to be the symbol, and this whole preparation for the Messiah, was something which had never before existed, and was the most striking sign of that mighty change of mind which was now about to be wrought in Israel more fully than before.—H. G. A. Ewald.

The Holy Spirit’s baptism.—The nature of the Spirit’s baptism.—

1. As the Spirit of truth, He enlightens the soul (Joh. 16:13; 1Co. 2:10-11).

2. As the Spirit of holiness, He purifies the soul (2Th. 2:13; 1Co. 6:11; Tit. 3:5).

3. As the Spirit of life and power, He imparts spiritual life, and animates the soul with strength to resist temptation.

II. How the Spirit’s baptism is communicated to us.—“Except one be born of water and the Spirit,” says Christ, “he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” Thus He links together the outward visible sign and the inward spiritual grace. Holy baptism, then, as practised in the Christian Church, is not a mere rite or ordinance, a door, so to speak, admitting into a state of grace, but that, and something much more, even a sacrament, a medium or vehicle of conveying Divine grace itself. At “the font of regeneration” the person baptised is made a member of Christ, and by virtue of that membership a child of God, and by virtue of that adoption into Divine sonship an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven.

III. The results that should follow the Spirit’s baptism.—

1. Careful instruction of the neophyte. “Disciple all the nations.” How? “Baptising them.” What next? “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” (Mat. 28:19-20). Human agency in the Church must develop and translate into life the Divine energy implanted in baptism.

2. Perseverance in the faith. This includes—
(1) Diligent and continuous effort to attain “the knowledge of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
(2) Earnest endeavour to correct and abandon all that is wrong in action, word, and thought.
(3) Ready compliance with the will of God in all things, with vigour and resolution of mind to speak, work, and suffer for the truth.
(4) Complete reliance on Christ alone—and not on any external apparatus or means of grace—for all that we need to make us “meet for the inheritance of the saints in light.”

ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 1

Mar. 1:1. The beginning of the gospel.—In the old days of the South, a negro slave and preacher bad an infidel master. The master said to the slave one day, “You are a preacher, Sam?” “Well, I tells about Jesus some, massa.” “Well, if you are a preacher you ought to understand the Bible. Now tell me what does this mean?” And he opened the Bible and read, “And whom He did foreknow, them He did predestinate”—words that have puzzled wiser heads than the poor slave. “Well,” said the slave, “massa, where is it?” “It’s in Romans,” said the master. “Oh, my dear massa! I will explain dis ’ole business to you. It is very simple. You begin with Matthew, and do all the dear Lord tells you to do there; and then you go on to Mark, and Luke, and John; and when you get to that place it is easy enough, but you can’t begin there.”

The gospel seen, though never heard.—A poor Chinaman came to a missionary to ask for baptism. When asked where he had heard the gospel, he answered he had never heard the gospel, but he had seen it. He then told of a poor man at Ning-po who had once been a confirmed opium-smoker, and a man of violent temper. This man had learned about the Christian religion, and his whole life was altered; he gave up the opium, and became loving and amiable. “Oh,” said the candidate for baptism, “I have not heard the gospel, but 1 have seen it.”

Mar. 1:2. Eastern roads.—The Western traveller who first sees the wretched, difficult, dangerous tracts which answer for Eastern roads, will wonder, first, that they are passable at all, and, second, that they can be as frequently travelled as they are, and yet show so little trace of the animal’s feet. Long after he has ceased to think that he must dismount at any passage seemingly impassable on the back of his animal, long after he has become accustomed to mounting and descending places far more difficult and dangerous than going up and down stairs on horseback, he will wonder whether he can be really on the road, since t ere are so few signs of travel. Loose stones which certainly ought to be thrust out of the way persistently keep their impertinent place; larger stones are wedged in for a few feet, just as if a brook had made its way along and washed away the earth, so that a succession of slips and stumblings meet the traveller for ages, where a half-hour’s work would have left a good passage for ever. It is only when going over smooth rocks, where the horses’ feet have worn an actual gutter, scarcely twice the width of a hoof, and that often by just sliding, that one realises that he is on the beaten road. Beaten: the very Oriental word for a road means just that very thing—something beaten; and the word has just about as exact a coincidence with the English word as can be in all its other uses. The horses know it.

Mar. 1:4-8. John Baptist the model prophet and ambassador.—Of timidity he knew no thing. He had the fear of God within him and no other fear: the Divine honour and glory, with a singular abnegation of all self-honour and self-glory. Stranger and enemy to all tortuous ways and sinister policy: loyal to principle, without deflection or compromise. He said what he meant, and meant what he said—undeterred by frowns and sneers, false etiquette and conventionalisms: his one thought and aim to unmask hypocrisy, and vindicate the cause and claims of righteousness. He felt it his special mission to expose the degenerate and effete forms of religious life. In doing so he spared neither regal purple, nor hierarchal robe, nor rabbinical phylactery, if underneath these lurked iniquity and vice. It was like the réveille which wakes up at sunrise the sleeping camp; or like the trumpet-blast or beat of drum preparatory to the battle-charge.—J. R Macduff, D. D.

The Baptist in advance of his age.—John was in the kingdom of grace, like those gifted men in the world of thought, or in the world of practical life, who are always ahead of the mass of people around them; they have the inspiration not of supernatural grace, but of natural genius, itself a gift of God, but of a different order of value and of power. They are like lofty mountains whose summits the sun has already lit up, while he has not yet risen to shine upon the plain beneath. Truth has come to them before it has come to the mass of men around them. It has come to them as to its predestined forerunners. The speculative truth which everybody will recognise ten years hence they see now; but then they are alone on their watchtower, and if they say what they think, it is only to be smiled down as enthusiasts. The practical discoveries of which everybody will proclaim the high importance in another generation these men advocate now amid the discouraging criticisms of friends who advise them not to risk capital upon a wild venture. The social improvement or the public reform which nobody will think of challenging when it has become at no distant date law or custom they plead for now, when it is denounced either as reaction or revolution, when it is generally unpopular.—Canon Liddon.

Artistic representations of the Baptist.—Artists who have attempted to paint a picture of the Baptist, getting their idea of his appearance from a profound study of his character, have represented him as a man having a supernatural look on his face, with eyes that seem as if they saw far away, and the countenance of one who carries at the same time a great burden and a great joy. Perhaps more nearly than any other who has ever lived he answers our ideal of a messenger of God.

Socrates preparing the may for Christ.—Marsilius Fiscinus bestowed on Socrates the title of the John the Baptist of the Old World. To go still further, as some have done, and compare the Greek philosopher to the great Ensample of perfect love and perfect holiness, the Lamb of God, the Son of Man, seems to us, to say the least, scarcely reverential or Christian. But the mission of Socrates, like the mission of the greatest of prophets, was to prepare the way, to make straight the paths for Him who brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.

Treofold aspect of repentance.—Like Janus Bifrons, the Roman god looking two ways, a true repentance not only bemoans the past but takes heed to the future. Repentance, like the lights of a ship at her bow and her stern, not only looks to the track she has made, but to the path before her.

A startling message.—The message “repent,” in the state in which he found men, was like a peal of thunder at midnight. The nation was like a suddenly awakened city, in fixed terror gazing upon black window-spaces fitfully and incessantly ablaze with lightning-bursts, awaiting in quivering dread each frightful following peal. It was midnight. The light was coming; but John was not that light. He came to waken men. To awaken he was a voice.

Repentance implies change of mind and life.—One of Luther’s happiest moments was when, reading in his Greek Testament, he found that repentance meant a change of mind rather than penance-doing. A captain at sea discovers that by some mistake the steersman is steering the ship directly for the rocks. How is the danger to be avoided? By scrubbing the decks or setting the men to the pumps? No! these things are good enough in their own time; but if the ship is to be saved, one thing must be done—her course must be changed. So the captain utters a few quick words, and the ship turns and speeds away from the danger. John’s preaching was in like manner a call to men to turn from the dangerous rocks of sin, and to make for the only safe haven. Repentance results in change of action. Just as the whole ship turns in obedience to the helm, so the change of mind produces a change of life. Here comes in the well-known story of the storekeeper who could not recollect the sermon; she only knew that after it she went straight home and destroyed all her light weights. A Hindu candidate for Christian baptism was asked what evidence he had to offer of his conversion. “Formerly,” he said, “I was proud and delighted in evil, but since I heard the words of Jesus I delight in these things no more.’

Repentance the way to heaven.—In the neighbourhood of Hoddam Castle, Dumfriesshire, Scotland, there was once a tower called the “Tower of Repentance.” What gave the tower its name we are not told, but it is said that an English baronet, walking near the castle, saw a shepherd lad lying upon the ground, reading attentively. “What are you reading, lad?” “The Bible, sir.” “The Bible, indeed!” laughed the gentleman; “then you must be wiser than the parson. Can you tell me the way to heaven?” “Yes, sir, I can,” replied the boy, in no way embarrassed by the mocking tone of the other; “you must go by way of yonder tower.” The gentleman saw that the boy had learned right well the lesson of his book, and, being rebuked, he walked away in silence.

Mar. 1:6. The girdle.—The girdle was useful in many ways. The soldier carried his scimitar, his dagger, and in later days his pistols—the merchant his money—the scribe his writing implements, in his girdle. It served to keep the garment together, and enabled the wearer to tuck it up short when engaged in any active operation; so we read of Elijah that he girded up his loins before he ran (1Ki. 18:46), and our Lord impressed it upon His disciples that they should be always girded, i.e. active, ready, and prepared for any emergency (Luk. 12:35 : cp. Eph. 6:14; 1Pe. 1:13).—W. F. Shaw.

Power of self-denial—John came to denounce luxury, and soft clothing, and sumptuous fare, and he was a living example of the austerity which he called for. And how many preachers have been prompted to imitate him! SS. Martin and Dominic, Anselm and Borromeo, and a host of others, have themselves worn the same externals of severity, as the surest way of recommending the self-denial they sought to inculcate. And though such asceticism is deprecated in the nineteenth century, history bears abundant witness to its power in the past. It was from a hard life in the desert that SS. Gregory Nazianzen and Basil came forth to preach with such success; and Simon Stylites was by no means a solitary instance to show men of active lives and varied occupations, how even kings, burdened with imperial cares, were eager to seek counsel and direction from a lonely and austere ascetic.—Dean Luckock.

Mar. 1:7. John’s inferiority to Jesus.—We have seen on some beautiful morning the sun rising in glory out of the east, and the moon still fair and bright in the west. This is what I think of when I think of Jesus and the Baptist. The rising sun, the setting moon. One increaseth, the other decreaseth. Not because they antagonise each other, but because the inferior fades before the superior splendour. One closes the dispensation to which it belongs—the night. The other opens the dispensation which belongs to it—the day. One has the beauty of a recluse; the other comes to mingle with the activities and sorrows and joys of men. One gives borrowed light; the other is light in its essence. One gives light that is transient; the other stores light and heat in everything that it touches. The one is negative—preaching repentance; the other is constructive and productive—founding a kingdom.

Mar. 1:8. The soul without the Spirit.—A modern writer compares the Church, or the soul, without the gift of the Spirit, to—

1. Iron wire laid for a telegraph. It is powerful only when attached to the battery. The later invention of the electric light would make the comparison still stronger. The points, or the fine wire of the lamp, are dark and cold till the connected battery makes them give forth a light which suggests the sun itself.
2. He compares them also to water, which, when cold, is solid, brittle ice: “gently warmed, it flows; further heated, it mounts to the sky”; and he might have added that, with still greater heat, it becomes steam—the greatest working force known.
3. So, “an organ filled with the ordinary degree of air which exists everywhere is dumb. Throw in, not another air, but an unsteady current of the same air, and sweet, but imperfect and uncertain, notes immediately respond to the player’s touch; increase the current to a full supply, and every pipe swells with music.”

Need of the Spirit.—Here is a noble ship.… The forests have masted her; in many a broad yard of canvas a hundred looms have given her wings. Her anchor has been weighed to the rude sea-chant; the needle trembles on her deck; with his eye on that Friend, unlike worldly friends, true in storm as in calm, the helmsman stands impatient by the wheel. And when, as men bound to a distant shore, the crew have said farewell to wives and children, why, then, lies she there over the self-same ground, rising with the flowing and falling with the ebbing tide? The cause is plain. They want a wind to raise that drooping pennon and fill these empty sails. They look to heaven; and so they may; out of the skies their help must come. At length their prayer is heard.… And now, like a steed touched by the rider’s spur, she starts, bounds forward, plunges through the waves, and, heaven’s wind her moving power, is off and away, amid blessings and prayers, to the land she is chartered for. Even so, though heaven-born, heaven-called, heaven-bound, though endowed with a new heart and new mind, we stand in the same need of celestial influences.—T. Guthrie, D. D.

Verses of Mark 1

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Consult other comments:

Mark 1:1 - Abbott's Illustrated New Testament

Mark 1:1 - The Greek Testament

Mark 1:1 - Barclay Daily Study Bible

Mark 1:1 - Albert Barnes' Notes on the Bible

Mark 1:1 - Joseph Benson’s Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

Mark 1:1 - Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament

Mark 1:1 - Calvin's Complete Commentary

Mark 1:1 - The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges

Mark 1:1 - B.H. Carroll's An Interpretation of the English Bible

Mark 1:1 - Through the Bible Commentary

Mark 1:1 - Adam Clarke's Commentary and Critical Notes on the Bible

Mark 1:1 - Commentary on the Holy Bible by Thomas Coke

Mark 1:1 - College Press Bible Study Textbook Series

Mark 1:1 - Companion Bible Notes, Appendices and Graphics

Mark 1:1 - James Gray's Concise Bible Commentary

Mark 1:1 - Expository Notes of Dr. Constable (Old and New Testaments)

Mark 1:1 - John Darby's Synopsis of the New Testament

Mark 1:1 - Mr. D's Notes on Selected New Testament Books by Stanley Derickson

Mark 1:1 - Expositors Bible Commentary

Mark 1:1 - Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers (Old and New Testaments)

Mark 1:1 - Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures

Mark 1:1 - The Expositor’s Greek Testament by Robertson

Mark 1:1 - Expositor's Dictionary of Text by Robertson

Mark 1:1 - F. B. Hole's Old and New Testaments Commentary

Mark 1:1 - F.B. Meyer's Through the Bible Commentary

Mark 1:1 - Discovering Christ In Selected Books of the Bible

Mark 1:1 - Gaebelein's Annotated Bible (Commentary)

Mark 1:1 - Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary

Mark 1:1 - McGarvey and Pendleton Commentaries (New Testament)

Mark 1:1 - John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible

Mark 1:1 - Gnomon of the New Testament

Mark 1:1 - Grant's Commentary on the Bible

Mark 1:1 - The Great Texts of the Bible

Mark 1:1 - Henry Alford's Greek Testament

Mark 1:1 - Smith's Writings on 24 Books of the Bible

Mark 1:1 - Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary (Old and New Testaments)

Mark 1:1 - Matthew Henry's Whole Bible Commentary

Mark 1:1 - International Critical Commentary New Testament

Mark 1:1 - Biblical Illustrator Edited by Joseph S. Exell

Mark 1:1 - Commentaries on the New Testament and Prophets

Mark 1:1 - Jamieson, Fausset and Brown's Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

Mark 1:1 - The Gospel According to St. Mark: A Devotional Commentary

Mark 1:1 - William Kelly Major Works (New Testament)

Mark 1:1 - The Popular Commentary on the Bible by Kretzmann

Mark 1:1 - A Commentary on the Holy Scriptures, Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical by Lange

Mark 1:1 - Cornelius Lapide Commentary

Mark 1:1 - Lightfoot Commentary Gospels

Mark 1:1 - Neighbour's Wells of Living Water

Mark 1:1 - Expositions Of Holy Scripture by Alexander MacLaren

Mark 1:1 - Heinrich August Wilhelm Meyer's New Testament Commentary

Mark 1:1 - An Exposition on the Whole Bible

Mark 1:1 - Church Pulpit Commentary

Mark 1:1 - Grant's Numerical Bible Notes and Commentary

Mark 1:1 - The People's Bible by Joseph Parker

Mark 1:1 - Peake's Commentary on the Bible

Mark 1:1 - Commentary Series on the Bible by Peter Pett

Mark 1:1 - English Annotations on the Holy Bible by Matthew Poole

Mark 1:1 - The Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary Edited by Joseph S. Exell

Mark 1:1 - The Complete Pulpit Commentary

Mark 1:1 - Old and New Testaments Restoration Commentary

Mark 1:1 - Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

Mark 1:1 - Ryle's Expository Thoughts on the Gospels

Mark 1:1 - A Popular Commentary on the New Testament

Mark 1:1 - Scofield Reference Bible Notes

Mark 1:1 - The Sermon Bible

Mark 1:1 - Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

Mark 1:1 - John Trapp's Complete Commentary (Old and New Testaments)

Mark 1:1 - The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

Mark 1:1 - You Can Understand the Bible: Study Guide Commentary Series by Bob Utley

Mark 1:1 - Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament

Mark 1:1 - Whedon's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

Mark 1:1 - Combined Bible Commentary

The Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary Edited by Joseph S. Exell