New European Commentary


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Deeper Commentary

1:1 The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God- This may simply mean that Mark is beginning at the beginning, with the account of John the Baptist. Given the intensity attached to words used in the Gospels, which are highly abbreviated records anyway, that would appear somewhat superfluous. It's likely he also meant to suggest that the events of the Gospel record were only a beginning, and in the lives of all future disciples, the Gospel story continues. John begins his Gospel with the same word- "In the beginning was the word". Luke uses a related word when he says that his Gospel was the record of all that Jesus "began to do" (Acts 1:1), with the implication that it was not being continued. So we are to see the Gospel records as a beginning of the work and word of Jesus, which continues into our lives. Matthew uses the same word in saying that Jesus "began to preach" (Mt. 4:17). Indeed, this word is later used by Matthew concerning how Jesus 'began' to do and teach things (Mt. 11:7,20; 16:21; 18:24); we are to understand that this beginning implies a continuation, and that continuation is in our lives. Mark’s Gospel opens with Jesus going around preaching, appealing for people to repent and believe the Gospel (and this is described as “the beginning of the Gospel”). Mark concludes with us being asked to do the same, thereby directly continuing the work of the Lord, because we are in Him. The only other occurrence of the phrase "beginning of the Gospel" is in Phil. 4:15, where it means the beginning of the preaching of the Gospel. Mark's gospel is a transcript of how he or Peter used to teach the Gospel; it was written down under inspiration so that it would be preserved for future generations. We learn from this that the Gospel is in the gospels. The good news is essentially the biography and teachings of the Lord Jesus. The rest is interpretation.

The Greek text in Mark often has a rhythm and rhyme to it created by similar sounding words- because the early church aimed for new converts to memorize Mark’s Gospel. Just one example from Mk. 1:1:
Ar-khay tou you-ang-ge -lee-ou Yay-sou Khrees-tou whee-ou the -ou.
The 'ou' endings are somehow rhythmical. Especially do we see this rhythmical quality in the phrase used for "Jesus Christ the Son of God" in Mk. 1:1: "Ieso-u Christo-u huio-u Theo-u".


1:2 Just as it is written in Isaiah the prophet: Look, I send My messenger before your face- Both the MT and LXX in Mal. 3:1 have "before Me". The face of the Lord Jesus was the face of God. He was the man with the face of God. To meet Him, to spit upon that face, was to do so to the face of God. And in Judaism it was well known that not even Moses could see the face of God. But it was now revealed in the face of the Lord Jesus. 'Face' in Semitic thought refers also to the presence; the presence of Jesus can be felt today, and it is none less than coming before the face of God. “Behold, I send my messenger before your face, which shall prepare your way before you” is how Mk. 1:2 quotes Mal. 3:1; but “before your face” is added, as if to create a reference to the Angel sent before Israel in the wilderness, to find a resting place (Ex. 23:20). The parallel is set up between John and the Angel, and therefore between Jesus and the people of Israel. The Lord Jesus is His people. He personally is the vine, the one body- symbols of the whole community. He isn’t the trunk, and we the branches.  We are the branches, and He is the whole vine. We are Him to this world. Thus Eph. 3:20,21 and many other passages parallel Christ and the ecclesia. “The servant” of Isaiah’s prophecies is therefore both Israel and the Lord Jesus. The fact He was and is the representative of God’s people means that those in Him must act and witness as Him.

He will prepare your way- This was John's intended mission, and he certainly tried to achieve it. But ultimately his mission failed in that Israel were generally like the children sitting in the marketplace with John as it were weeping to them- and they didn't respond. There was the possibility that if John's mission had succeeded, then Messiah could have come to Zion in glory over the made up way or road. But they didn't respond as needed- despite being baptized and approving his message in crowds. This is a sobering thought- that such response alone is not the same as really responding to the call for radical preparation for the coming of the Christ.

In response to Israel's attitude of "Where is the God of judgment?", and a genuine failure to realize their sinfulness ("wherein have we...?"), God prophesied He would send His messenger and then His Christ; His Son was by His coming alone the manifestation of "the God of judgment", the supreme judge of men by His very being (Mal. 2:17; 3:1). In His coming, God "visited His people" (Lk. 7:16); but the OT image of Yahweh visiting His people was one of visiting in judgment (Ez. 32:34; Jer. 23:2; Hos. 2:13; 9:9). By His very being amongst men He would convict them of their sinfulness. His light would show up the shadows of their sins. Mark begins his Gospel by quoting this Malachi passage, as if to say that the appearance of Jesus was the coming of judgment for men (Mk. 1:2).  This judgment-coming of Jesus at His revelation to Israel 2000 years ago is then described as God coming near to men in judgment (Mal. 3:5). This is why a consideration of the Lord Jesus in bread and wine inevitably and naturally leads to self-examination; for He is, by His very being, our immediate and insistent judge.

1:3- see on Mt. 11:14.

The voice of one crying in the wilderness- The idea is of a radio play for voices. We are focused not upon the person of John, but upon his message, upon the voice crying in the wilderness. We likewise are to hear the message of the preacher rather than being sidetracked by his or her personality. For we preach not ourselves but Jesus Christ. But John didn't literally go into the desert and shout out his message with nobody listening but the wild camels and conies. The image is that actually it was a spiritual wilderness- it was as if there was nobody there listening, even though there were large crowds listening to his message with apparent approval. The hint is that actually he may as well have been shouting out in the desert with nobody listening. The same metaphor of a wilderness is used in speaking of how at this very time, the Lord Jesus arose as a tender green shoot out of a parched land (Is. 53:1). We might be able to infer from this that it was John who prepared the way for the personal emergence and spirituality of the Lord Jesus out of an environment which was otherwise unresponsive to his message. Or perhaps we are to make the connection with the fact that after John's preaching, the Lord Jesus went into that same barren wilderness, was tempted and emerged spiritually triumphant, for the same words are found in 1:12- Jesus went "immediately" (s.w. "straight" regarding his way) into the wilderness. It could be that His triumphant emergence from the wilderness was partly due to the inspiration he received there from John's preaching.

Make ready the way of the Lord, make his paths straight- The work of John was to prepare the way for Jesus (1:2), but this would be achieved insofar as individuals prepared themselves. But Israel generally were not prepared by John, they rejected the One whose road John tried to prepare. But the Greek word translated "prepare" is commonly used in the New Testament for how the Fathr and Son are 'preparing' our place in the Kingdom, of how the Lord Jesus was the Passover lamb 'prepared', and how on the cross, He prepared a place for us in His Father's Kingdom (Jn. 14:1,2). But this was all plan B. The potential and intended plan was that Israel would respond to John's message and repent, thus becoming a people prepared for the Lord Jesus (Lk. 1:17,76 are very clear about this). Failure to respond has never stopped the God of all grace; He takes over where human response fails. Such is His passion for our final salvation. This thought should calm the fearful hearts of all we who at times shake our heads at our own paucity of response and preparation.

That one purpose of our calling to the Gospel is to assist others is brought out by the way John the Baptist prepared a highway in the desert through baptizing repentant people (Mk. 1:3,4). This highway was to be a path to Christ as well as the one He would travel. And it's worth reflecting that Christ can only come once the way for Him is prepared- as if His coming depends upon a certain level of response to our preaching, especially to the Jews of the very last days.

1:4 John came and baptized in the wilderness, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins- The two clauses in this sentence appear to be the wrong way around. We would expect to read that John came preaching baptism, and then baptized people. One way around the problem is to imagine that the second clause ("preaching the baptism...") is as it were in brackets, explaining that the baptism he performed was not Christian baptism but simply a sign of repentance and request for remission of sins. But Mt. 3:11 makes it explicit that his baptism preceded the call for repentance. "Baptize... unto repentance" alludes to the Isaiah 40 passage which offered forgiveness in order to provoke repentance. John baptized in order to lead people to repentance, rather than baptizing only those who had repented and got their lives in order. Even the NET Bible's "baptize... for repentance" could be read the same way- baptism was for the end of provoking repentance, rather than being baptism only for the visibly repentant. This likelihood is strengthened once we realize that there is surely an allusion here to Wisdom 11:23: "You overlook the sins of men, unto repentance". Repentance in any case is an internal attitude (see on 3:6), and John as he stood in the Jordan River was totally incapable of judging whether or not in practice his hearers had actually changed their lives. He baptized them because they had confessed their sins and re-thought, re-pented. Not because they had actually changed in practical, ongoing lifestyle issues. Likewise the apostles who baptized 3000 people in Acts 2 had no way of measuring repentance in practice. Mk. 1:15 records John’s message as being: “Repent ye and believe the Gospel". This might seem to be in the wrong order- for we have come to think that surely belief of the Gospel comes before repentance. And so it does very often- but there is another option here- that the repentance is ongoing. Life after conversion is a life of believing the basic Gospel which led us to conversion and repentance in the first place.

The Greek metanoia ["repentance"] was used as a legal term describing the re-thinking of a sentence. Paul uses this figure in Romans to describe how we are condemned as guilty, but the sentence is re-thought because we are in Christ. Strong's lexicon claims that the word can mean "by implication, reversal of another's decision". Our re-thinking thus becomes God's re-thinking. In this we see something of the intimacy and connection between God and man achieved by human repentance. The legal metaphor continues in the word translated "remission"- the idea is of legal pardon or freedom from the accusation.

John the Baptist's audience responded to his preaching by being baptized "with the baptism of repentance" (Mk. 1:4); and yet the Lord Jesus built on this by appealing to people to repent because the Kingdom was at hand (Mk. 1:15; Mt. 3:2). Their repentance was therefore only surface level. The Lord cursed the fig tree (cp. Israel) because they had only leaves, an appearance of repentance and spiritual fruit, but actually there was not even the first sign of real fruit on that tree when it was really analyzed. Earlier, Israel had appeared to have fruit, when actually, they didn't have any at all (Hos. 10:1). The man in the parable built his spiritual house, but in fact he didn't get down to the real nitty-gritty of obedience to the Lord's words; and so it miserably, pathetically fell at judgment day. The seriousness of sin becomes de-emphasized in our lives, until repentance comes to mean a vague twinge of guilt. This, again, was the problem of Old Testament Israel. "They return, but not to the Most High" (Hos. 7:16); they had the sensation of regret, of turning back- but it wasn't real repentance. A few verses earlier God had commented: “They do not return to the Lord their God” (7:10); but they on a surface level did return to Him. Hosea continues his theme: “Israel is an empty vine, he bringeth forth fruit unto himself” (Hos. 10:1). Did they or did they not bring forth fruit? They did- but only in their own eyes. They felt they had repented, and brought forth spiritual fruit. But not in God’s estimation. And we too can have the sensation of spirituality and even spiritual growth, but only in our own eyes. “Though they called them to the Most High, none at all would exalt him” (Hos. 11:7) in the way which true repentance requires. "Judah hath not turned unto me with her whole heart, but feignedly" (Jer. 3:10). They did turn back to Yahweh- but not in their heart. Israel rejoiced in the light of John’s teaching- and he taught real, on-your-knees repentance. They thought they’d repented. But the Lord describes John as mourning, and them not mourning in sympathy and response (Lk. 7:32). They rejoiced in the idea of repentance, but never really got down to it.

Remember that this is in explanation of what the content of the Gospel was (1:1). The good news is not solely of a future political Kingdom to be established on earth at Christ's return. It is of forgiveness of sins right now.

1:5 And there went out to him all the country of Judea and all they of Jerusalem- The emphasis on "all" is perhaps to make the point that there was mass response to John's message about Jesus; and yet ultimately, his mission failed, because these large masses of people did not fully accept Christ despite their acceptance of John's teaching and baptism. "They of Jerusalem" are depicted as those who later refused or were at best agnostic towards the Lord Himself (e.g. "they of Jerusalem", Jn. 7:25 s.w.). We get the impression that the Galileans were more receptive of the Lord than "they of Jerusalem". They were eager enough to get caught up in a movement teaching that Messiah would soon come; but when He actually came, they didn't want Him. It can be that some are so enthused about "the signs of the times" that personal relationship with the Lord Jesus becomes subsumed beneath the interest in the search and expectation, rather than the finding. And that is observable in so many people today.

And they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins- Judaism at the time believed that the Elijah prophet must appear and baptize a repentant Israel, and then Messiah would come and save them from Roman domination. Their confession of sin was therefore unlikely to have been totally genuine; as noted above, these mass crowds later rejected the Lord Jesus as Messiah. Repentance can therefore be insincere, or surface level, tokenistic rather than from the heart. And yet despite being aware of this, John made no attempt to judge or assess the sincerity of repentance before baptism; and neither can we.

1:6 And John was clothed with camel's hair and had a leather girdle about his waist, and- John 'put on' [Gk.] this outfit, in conscious imitation of Elijah (2 Kings 1:8). He took his calling seriously and intentionally emulated the Bible character most relevant to his work, just as we should. John is presented as a cameo of all the faithful (Heb. 11:37 = Mk. 1:6 and 1 Cor. 15:47 = Jn. 3:31).

Ate locusts and wild honey- To 'eat' in Semitic terms can mean to dominate or absorb into oneself. Locusts are consistently used in the Old Testament as a symbol of Israel's enemies (Dt. 28:38; Jud. 6:5; 7:12; Jer. 46:23; 51:14; Joel 1:4). John's father Zacharias had incorrectly supposed that the herald of Messiah would be directly involved in bringing about the triumphant coming of that Messiah in order to destroy Israel's enemies (Lk. 1:71,74). It seems that John lived out parental expectation and thus made the same mistake, assuming that he as the herald of Messiah was effectively Messiah, and that Israel's locust enemies were therefore soon going to be subdued. It was Messiah who was to eat honey (Is. 7:15,22), and again John seems to see himself as effectively the Messiah figure, so close was his identity with Him. He knew that he was heralding Messiah, but he presented himself as Messiah, knowing that Messiah's representatives were effectively Him to the world. We are in the same position. What John failed to realize, just as his father had failed to, was that Messiah had the possibility of being rejected, and the promised salvation and Kingdom of God could well be long after His initial exposure to Israel.

1:7 He preached, saying: There comes after me- Gk. 'behind me', alluding to John as a herald, the one who went before the greater one. His message included up front that he was not preaching himself, but One far mightier and better than himself.

He that is mightier than I- The Greek is that translated 'stronger' and the idea of Jesus as the one 'stronger / mightier than' recurs in Lk. 11:22, where Jesus is 'mightier than' the 'strong man' who had previously posessed the house of Israel. That there is a connection of thought here cannot be denied, but the existence of such a connection doesn't of itself mean that there is a detailed semantic connection. Perhaps John's words had simply left a subconscious impression upon the word choice of the Lord.

Whose shoelaces I am not worthy to- The idea of untying sandals was an idiom for being a herald of a person. John was doing this, untying the sandals, for he was the herald; but he is saying that he is unworthy to do the job he was doing. This must be a feature of our proclamation- a clear statement of our own inadequacy.

Stoop down- Gk. 'to bend toward'. John saw himself as bowing at the feet of Jesus in his work of witnessing about Him; and this should be our attitude. All self-presentation and self-exaltation through preaching is the very opposite of what the work of witness is all about. It is a bowing at our Lord's feet in unworthiness.

And untie- The same word used about Moses unloosing his sandals at the beginning of his public ministry, at the burning bush (Acts 7:33). John surely felt that the Lord Jesus was the second Moses, but so exalted, so higher than Moses, that the Lord should not unloose His own shoes, but rather John as His servant would unloose them for Him. To see anyone, Messiah included, as greater than Moses was a paradigm breaker within Jewish thought.

1:8 I baptized you in water, but he shall baptize you in the Holy Spirit- The Greek grammar could just as well mean 'I baptize you with water, but He will baptize you with that as well as with the Holy Spirit'. The structure 'I [this], but He [that]' is used in a number of languages in this way- meaning effectively 'He [this + that]'. Indeed the Greek de translated "but" is also translated "also". For water baptism was clearly practiced by those following Jesus in the early church; they understood His baptism to involve water baptism. John's version of this material is in the record of the discussion with Nicodemus, where He says we must be "born of water and of the Spirit" (Jn. 3:3-5- this is one of many examples of where John repeats the essence of the material chosen by the other Gospel writers). If John the Baptist's words here apply generally and not just to the disciples, then we note that every baptism is therefore effectively the Lord Jesus baptizing the person. The human baptizer who holds our shoulders as we are immersed is therefore irrelevant- we are baptized by none less than the Lord Jesus. Just as literally as John baptized people, so Jesus baptizes us to this day. The reference to water and spirit is repeated, with the same Greek words being used, when just two verses later we read of the Lord Jesus arising from the baptismal water and the Spirit descending (1:10). This cannot be incidental. The idea is clearly that the baptism of water and Spirit is the baptism Jesus Himself experienced, and His baptismal experience becomes ours in Christian baptism- for the act identifies us with Him, with His death and resurrection. It cannot be denied, however, that the reference to a future baptism in Spirit has reference to the specific experience of the disciples; Acts 1:5 records the Lord Jesus stating clearly to them that John had truly baptized them with water, but soon they were to be baptized by the Holy Spirit. And this was fulfilled at Pentecost, when the Spirit as tongues of fire fell upon them. Matthew and Luke add that the Lord's baptism was to be of Spirit and fire (Mt. 3:11; Lk. 3:16)- which was clearly fulfilled at Pentecost. But the impression is given that the general principle remains for all time- Christian baptism is a participation in the baptism of Jesus, which involved water and Spirit. Peter reasoned that if people had received the Spirit then they must also be baptized in water (Acts 10:47), suggesting he understood the promise of water-and-spirit baptism as relevant to believers of all ages. Indeed, in explaining his actions here Peter says that he was inspired by the Lord's own teaching that John baptized with water, but His followers were to be baptized by the Spirit (Acts 11:16). This means that Peter's insistence that there must be water baptism too shows that he didn't believe that water baptism had been superceded by a Spirit-only baptism. Rather did he understand John's words and those of the Lord as suggested above- that John baptized with water, but Jesus would baptize not only with water but also with the Spirit.

It must be remembered throughout this discussion that the Greek and Hebrew words for 'spirit' and 'wind' are the same. The teaching about baptism in wind / spirit and fire has to be understood in the context of the metaphor of winnowing which follows immediately in Mt. 3:12 and Lk. 3:17, whereby the Lord Jesus is pictured as threshing His people by casting them into the wind, and thus separating out the chaff, which He then burns in fire. The above evidence must be given its due weight- that baptism in Spirit refers to later Christian experience in baptism. But it cannot be denied that there is connection to the metaphor of winnowing in wind and condemnation in fire, speaking of the condemnation of the wicked at the last day. Christian baptism is a symbolic death, an acceptance of condemnation for sin- and yet at the same time a connection with resurrection and hope of life eternal. Or it could be that the baptism in Spirit and fire speaks of two separate things- the acceptance of the faithful and destruction of the wicked in fire. But this is hard to square with the Lord's usage of the prediction of fire baptism with His baptism of the disciples with fire and Spirit at Pentecost.

1:9 And it came to pass in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee- The idea is that the Lord Jesus came forth from the obscure, despised north of Israel and began His public ministry at His baptism. John’s Gospel puts this in more abstract, spiritual terms in saying that Jesus came down or came forth from God. This language, therefore, does not speak of any literal descent from Heaven to earth of a pre-existent being.

And was baptized by John in the river Jordan- The Greek hupo ("by") speaks of being beneath another. He was baptized under John’s ministry and authority. Here we see the Lord’s humility in submission, and we can better understand John’s reticence at baptizing Him. We would rather expect to read of the Lord’s baptism by John, but hupo doesn’t mean simply ‘by’. The validity of baptism doesn’t of itself depend upon the baptizer, but we do also have a sense in the New Testament that the baptizer often had some sense of responsibility for their converts.

1:10 And immediately coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens open and the Spirit - The contrast is with how as the Lord came up, so the Spirit came down upon Him. There was a meeting of Heaven and earth, of God and man, in the man Christ Jesus. This ascending and descending was associated with “the heavens opened”. These three concepts are to be found in Jn. 1:51: “Hereafter you will see Heaven opened, and the Angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man”. The context of Jn. 1:51 is that John has just spoken of how he had seen the Spirit descending upon Jesus and remaining upon Him [at His baptism], proving that He was indeed the Messianic figure who would baptize with the Holy Spirit (Jn. 1:32,33). The Lord Jesus is surely alluding to this, teaching that “hereafter” the disciples would also see what John had just said he had seen. And they would not just see it once, but would perceive that Heaven was now permanently open, and the ascent and descent of God’s Spirit in the Angels [“He makes His Angels spirits”, Heb. 1:7) was not just a one-time incident at the Lord’s baptism, but was ongoing in His life. The comment that they would “see” this must be understood in the context of how John’s Gospel uses the idea of ‘seeing’. It refers to spiritual perception rather than literally seeing a specific incident. The only other time Mark uses the Greek word translated “opened” is in describing how the veil of the temple was “rent” at the Lord’s death (Mk. 15:38), thus making the way into the most Holy [‘Heaven’, in the tabernacle symbology] open to all (Heb. 9:8). The opening of the Heavens at the Lord’s baptism therefore looked forward to what would happen at His death; for He understood His baptism as also having an ongoing dimension, culminating in His death (Lk. 12:50). At His death, the Spirit would freely ascend and descend on Him, through the ministry of the Angels (Jn. 1:51), and the book of Acts records how this happened in the history of the body of Christ, the church. And in this we see the sense of the obvious connection to the experience at Bethel, the house of God, which represents the church- the Angels ascended and descended upon that place.

As a dove descending upon him- The Greek can equally refer to a pigeon. The hovering of the Spirit over the waters of creation can be read as an allusion to the hovering of a dove; in which case, seeing water is also present at the Lord's baptism, we can see the theme of a new creation being developed. What arose from the waters with a dove's presence was not a new planet, but the man Christ Jesus- the apex and quintessence of the new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). I consider it unlikely that John saw a literal dove fly down. Therefore the comparison with a dove is intentional; and surely to recall some earlier Biblical allusion. Noah's dove likewise was associated with water, and the flood water is also understood by Peter as representative of baptism; and again there is the theme of a new creation and God's loving goodwill toward men being developed. It's tempting to accept a variant manuscript reading of the Messianic prophecy of Is. 11:1,2: "A shoot will come out of the stump of Jesse... like a dove the Spirit of the Lord will rest upon him" (see George Johnston, The Spirit-Paraclete in the Gospel of John (Cambridge: C.U.P., 2005 p. 20)). In any case, the idea of the descent of the Spirit was predicted as being a sign of Messiah, and John therefore felt confirmed in saying that he had seen with his own eyes the confirmation that Jesus was Messiah (Jn. 1:32).


1:11 And a voice came out of the heavens: You are my beloved Son; in you I am well pleased- See on 2 Pet. 1:17. The voice had the same intonation as the voice on the mount of transfiguration; it was the voice of God Himself in person. The Father's 'pleasure' spoke also of His 'will'. His will was done, and His pleasure thereby achieved, "in" His Son; because of the Lord's internal state of mind. And this sets the path toward understanding our own status "in Christ".

1:12 And the Spirit immediately drove him into- The Greek ekballo means to cast out, to drive out from one place to another. But Matthew and Luke both say He was "led" by the Spirit into the wilderness. There were therefore both push and pull factors. He was led by the Spirit, perhaps in the form of an Angel. The allusion is to Israel at their baptism at the Red Sea (1 Cor. 10:1,2); immediately afterwards, they too entered the wilderness, for 40 years instead of 40 days. we note that the Lord's quotations against temptation were all from the Deuteronomy passages concerning Israel's experiences in the desert. They were led out of Egypt, and yet they were also cast out of Egypt. The Lord's 'driving out' could therefore refer to opposition which forced the Lord to leave that area, as if there were some who strongly reacted against the declaration that He was God's Son; we read the same of how He was cast or driven out from Nazareth. Yet Israel's experience was typical of that of all God's people. And that experience is being made the prototype for what happened to the Lord at His baptism. Whilst the Lord's baptism differed in some dimensions from ours, clearly we are to see our baptisms as a participation in His; or rather, the other way around. His baptism enabled Him to enter into ours. See on 1:13 took care.

Note how Legion was 'driven' by 'the demon' into a wilderness (Lk. 8:29)- as if to imply that the Lord's wilderness experience enabled Him to identify with the episodes of mental illness experienced by the man. So many of His experiences were likewise to enable Him to enter into the essential experiences of us His people.

The wilderness- There is an intended connection with the fact that John had been living in and preaching in "the wilderness" (1:3,4). Clearly the same "wilderness" is in view. The very place where John had preached about Jesus' Messiahship and Kingdom was where He was now being tested. It follows that His temptations were therefore related to the things which John had preached about Him there, and the fact that in that very same place, the crowds had apparently agreed to follow this new Messiah. All the temptations were concerning these things and the Lord's temptations were to misuse them. This is more ground for considering the temptations to have been internal to the thought processes of Jesus, as argued in our comments on the wilderness temptations on Matthew 4. But perhaps we can also speculate that we are intended to think of "the wilderness" as the location of persons who believed in Jesus as Messiah and wished to see His Messianic Kingdom. So there's no reason why the satan / adversary could not have been a Jewish person or persons suggesting to Jesus these ideas of immediate Messianic rule. The temptations departed from the Lord for a period, implying they returned (Lk. 4:13). And elsewhere we read of Him going out into deserted places [s.w. "wilderness"] and praying (1:35,45; Lk. 5:16) or struggling with crowds who wanted an immediate Messianic Kingdom (Mt. 14:13,15; Mk. 6:31; Jn. 11:54)- perhaps suggesting that the same temptations returned later in His ministry.

1:13- see on 1 Cor. 15:45.
And he was in the wilderness forty days- See on 1:12 Drives Him.

Tempted by Satan- see more detailed commentary on Matthew 4.

And he was with the wild beasts- Suggesting He was as it were in Eden, and is compared favourably against Adam who failed his test when amongst the wild beasts. Paul in Philippians 2 and 1 Cor. 15 likewise compares the Lord's strength against temptation against Adam's weakness. Yet therion is the word repeatedly used in Revelation about the Lord's struggle with "the beast", and again we there encounter the motif of the wilderness. Indeed, the parallel between 'beast' and 'satan', the adversary, is found both here in Mk. 1:13 and in Revelation- and hardly anywhere elsewhere. The Lord's struggle and victory against the beasts in the desert was therefore what is being repeated now in His struggle against the various beasts of political and spiritual opposition to His work, and His victory in the desert looks ahead to His final victory against the beast in the last day.

The ‘devil’ of the Lord’s own thoughts tempted Him to apply Ps. 91:11 in a wrong context, and jump off the pinnacle of the temple. But if the Lord had gone on, as surely He did, He would have found the words: “Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet” (Ps. 91:13). This promise would have been of wonderful comfort, as throughout the wilderness temptations the Lord “was with the wild beasts” (Mk. 1:13).

And the angels took care of him- AV "ministered". This is alluded to in Heb. 1:14, where we learn that Angels are spirits [He was led of the Spirit] who 'minister' unto us. Again we find the hint that His baptismal experience was a participation in ours; see on 1:12 drives Him. I would therefore conclude that the purpose of the Lord's baptism was not in order to obtain forgiveness of sins, but to enable Him in essence to be able to participate in our baptisms- the driving out of Egypt, the leading into the desert, the ministration of Angels afterwards. And this was surely the reason for so many of His experiences.

1:14 Now after John was delivered up- The same word used about the betrayal / handing over of the Lord Jesus. He must have seen John's sufferings as a precursor of His own, as He makes explicit in Mt. 17:12: "Elijah came already and they knew him not, but did to him whatever they would. Likewise shall the Son of Man suffer by their hands".

Jesus came into Galilee- He had come down from Nazareth to be baptized by John near Jerusalem at the Jordan, and now He returns into Galilee. He took John's imprisonment as the cue to begin His public ministry. His 'coming' can be understood as the fulfilment of the idea of Messiah as 'He that shall come' (Lk. 7:19; Jn. 6:14; 7:28); Legion likewise speaks with that perception of His 'coming' (Lk. 4:34). The many references in John to the Lord's 'coming down' from Heaven would therefore refer not to any literal descent of a pre-existent being from Heaven to earth, but of His 'coming' in the sense of His public manifestation to Israel as their Messiah. Jn. 4:54 seems to describe the beginning of His public ministry as when He 'came' [s.w.] out of Judea into Galilee, which is precisely the same moment being described here by Mark. The Lord 'came' because He had been 'sent' (Jn. 7:28); that sending was therefore into Galilee to begin His public ministry, rather than a sending from Heaven to earth. He was sent from Heaven, i.e. from God, in that His sending was Divine; not in any literal sense. It would be literalism's last gasp to read this as meaning that Jesus personally was in Heaven and was literally sent all the way 'down' to earth. He 'came' [s.w.] into the Jewish world not at His birth but at the beginning of His public ministry (Jn. 9:39); this was when light 'came' into the Jewish world (Jn. 3:19). He 'came' when He 'spoke' the word of the Gospel to Israel (Jn. 15:22 "If I had not come and spoken unto them..."). He came into the Jewish world in order to publically bear witness (Jn. 18:37)- that bearing of public witness was when He 'came into the world'. John the Baptist had repeatedly taught that Jesus would 'come' after him (Jn. 1:15,27,30)- proof enough that His 'coming' was not at His birth but at the start of His open ministry. Jewish thought expected Messiah to 'come into the world', not through a literal descent from Heaven, but through public manifestation to the Jewish world (Jn. 6:14) and 'coming' from the family of David (Jn. 7:42 "Christ comes of the seed of David  and out of the town of Bethlehem"). We can helpfully note how often we read of men 'coming' to Jesus in response to His 'coming' to them (e.g. Jn. 3:19,20- the light comes into the world, and men come to that light; Jn. 4:5,7- Jesus came to Sychar and the Samaritan woman came to Him; Jn. 5:40,43- "I am come... come to Me"; Jn. 11:20,29,30,32- when Jesus came, Martha and Mary came to Him; Jn. 12:1,9- Jesus came to Bethany and the people came to Him). This is the ultimate meeting between God and man- when we respond to His having 'come' to us in His Son. For He 'comes' to us today in knocking on the door of our hearts (Jn. 14:3,18,23).

Preaching the Gospel of God- The same word is used of how John 'preached' (Mt. 3:1), emphasizing the continuity between John's activity and that of the Lord Jesus whom he heralded. Mk. 1:15 and Mt. 4:17 say that the preaching of Jesus about the Kingdom was a preaching of repentance- and that is in fact good news. The good news of the Kingdom is therefore not simply information about a future good time to come on this earth, but [as the Lord's parables of the Kingdom make clear] the good news of a repentant life which can be lived right now in preparation for the future Kingdom on earth.

Mark's truncated term "The Gospel of God" perhaps intends to get over the idea that God is good news. For in so many religions, Judaism included, "God" or 'the gods' are generally bad news for sinful man. But the true God is good news for sinners.

1:15 And saying: The time is fulfilled- But later on in His ministry, the Lord taught that His time was not yet fulfilled (Jn. 7:8- the same words are used). The words are used in Lk. 1:20 concerning how each prophetic word has a time for its fulfilment. But as we learn from the prophetic word against Nineveh in Jonah's time, those times for fulfilment can be changed. The Kingdom could have come in the first century had Israel accepted Jesus as Messiah. But instead they refused Him. And so the time of fulfilment was changed; and the content of the fulfilment likewise changed. The "time" shifted from being the time of the Kingdom to the time of their crucifixion of their Messiah. We see how God's purpose is in some ways open-ended, such is His respect of human freewill decisions.

And the kingdom of God is at hand- In the sense that Jesus as King of the Kingdom could be called "the Kingdom of God". His life was the Kingdom life; to accept the offer of His life was therefore, in John's gospel, to receive the eternal life, the kind of life we shall eternally live in God's Kingdom. John's message was that the Lord was about to be revealed; "the Kingdom" was therefore "at hand". This was good news for all men because this message was of the forgiveness of sins; the imminent arrival of God's political Kingdom on earth is not good news for sinners, nor for anyone unprepared for it. The essential good news is of forgiveness in the Lord Jesus. Thus the good news of potential deliverance from Babylon is quoted as the good news of salvation from sin (Is. 52:7-10 = Mk. 1:15; Mt. 10:7,8; Rom. 10:15; Eph. 6:15; Is. 61:1,2 = Lk. 4:16-21). Therefore the response to this good news was intended to be repentance.

Repent and believe in the Gospel- This might seem to be in the wrong order- for surely belief of the Gospel comes before repentance. And so it does. But the point is, life after conversion is a life of believing the basic Gospel which led us to conversion and repentance in the first place. Thus Rom. 6 teaches that we were once servants of sin... and we expect the sentence to conclude: 'But now you are servants of righteousness'. But it doesn't. We were once servants of sin but now we have obeyed the form of doctrine delivered to us... and are therefore servants of righteousness. Or we could have here an example of where teaching and belief of the Gospel in its fuller sense comes after conversion; this is stated explicity in the great commission, which tells us to take the good news of the resurrection to people, to baptize them into the risen Christ, and then to teach them all things the Lord commanded (Mt. 28:19,20). We might expect 'repent and you will be forgiven'. Instead we read that repentance is to lead to believing in the Gospel; the good news of sin forgiven and that we can really have a place in God's eternal Kingdom on earth. The Gospel of the Kingdom is not therefore simply that the Lord shall come and establish an eternal Kingdom on earth. It is that we can really be forgiven and given the life eternal in that Kingdom which He shall establish at His return.

Mark gives no prior definition of what the Gospel of the Kingdom is (:14). And the LXX only contains the word once (2 Sam. 4:10). Is this an example of Mark assuming that his readers know what 'the Gospel' is? Or did the Lord speak in this way in order to beg the question from His audience: 'And what is your good news?'- and the rest of the Gospel record is the answer to that question. Another approach is possible; although the Greek euangelion is not used, the LXX of Is. 40:9; 52:7 and 60:1,2 clearly envisage a Messianic figure proclaiming the "good news" of Israel's freedom from oppression and sin. The Lord seems to assume that His audience would know what 'good news' He had in view. Perhaps He was alluding to those Servant Songs in Isaiah, and saying that the good news is of "the Kingdom of God". And He goes on in Matthew to explain that this good news is of the life of forgiveness and grace lived out now, under the rulership of God, and coming to its material climax in His second coming and the literal establishment of God's Kingdom on earth.

1:16 And passing along by the sea of Galilee- The Greek could mean that He walked around the entire lake. But He waited to call them, it seems, until the most inconvenient moment, just as the nets were in mid-air. And His call likewise comes to us in the midst of daily life.

He saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen- Literally, 'salty ones'. The Greek can equally mean 'sailors'. The Lord must have had this in mind when He said that they were "the salt of the earth" (Mt. 5:13). If we are likewise the salt of the earth in our influence upon others, we will find ourselves as the modern counterpart to those 'salty ones' who followed the Lord in His Galilee days.

1:17 - see on Lk. 9:59.

And Jesus said to them- It was whilst Simon and Andrew were in the very act of casting their net into the sea, snap shotted in a freeze-frame of still life, silhouetted against the sea and hills of Galilee, that the Lord calls them to go preaching (Mk. 1:17). The Lord surely intended them to [at least later] figure out His allusion to Jer. 16:14-16, which prophesied that fishermen would be sent out to catch Israel and bring them home to the Father. And He called them to do that, right in the very midst of everyday life.

Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men- The Lord had a program of education in view; their following of Him would mean that they would naturally reach out to save others. One aspect of our discipleship is likewise that we might bring others to salvation; otherwise, they swim off to their death in the sea of nations. We are saving people out of the world; for the sea refers to the Gentile world. And in that connection we see how the Lord considered the Jews to be no better than the sea of the Gentile world, and His disciples were initially to save Jewish people out of it. Separation from the world is therefore an essential part of our message and the result of our work with people. This was exemplified by the way the disciples themselves forsook their nets and [s.w.] also their own father (:18,20).

1:18- see on Mk. 10:28.

And immediately they left the nets and followed him- Mark uses this kind of word often, especially in his opening chapters, to create the impression of speed and urgency associated with the Lord Jesus. Immediacy of response is likewise a theme in Matthew. If our lives are in the realm of the Spirit, we will likewise experience the Lord's fast moving activity in our lives and hearts. Whilst each day can seem much like the previous day, the speed of His activity is incredible. And we are to respond immediately to it.

1:19 And going on a little further, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who also were in the boat- The reference to a specific boat suggests that they had been in the boat from which Simon and Andrew had been casting their nets (:16).

Mending the nets- Which were presumably damaged. The implication was that the Lord would give them nets which would not break- the work of the Gospel will always succeed, ultimately. Hence the later acted parable of the nets which did not break despite the 153 fishes caught (Jn. 21). We can assume that they had just had a good catch, hence the need to mend their nets. It was at the peak of their career success, as it were, when they were feeling good about their work... that the Lord asked them to leave it all for Him.

1:20 And immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and went after him- The fishermen disciples were not, therefore, of the lowest social class. They owned a boat and a business large enough to employ workers. Their speed of response and forsaking it all is therefore all the more commendable, a challenge indeed to the middle class. And it is a witness to the power of the seed of the Gospel which John the Baptist had sown in them. Our preaching of the same message may likewise elicit radical response in people quite some time after we first sowed the seed in them. The middle class are uncomfortably, inconveniently challenged by the real call of Jesus; but it's worth reflecting that the majority of the people brought before us in the Bible as examples of faith and commitment were in fact not the poorest of the poor; they were from the middle class of their day. But much was expected of them.

1:21  And they went into Capernaum; and immediately on the Sabbath day he entered into the synagogue and taught- The synagogue minister gave the lesson or sermon, but invited members of the congregation to contribute their thoughts. The Lord's message would therefore have been brief, but so powerful that it astonished people (:22).

1:22 And they were astonished at his teaching, for- The "they" may refer to the newly called disciples. They had not had previous exposure to His teaching; all they had received was the message of John the Baptist. Their immediate response was therefore on a fairly slender knowledge base. The Gospel records twelve times record astonishment at the Lord's teaching. How could the passage of mere ideas from the larynx of a Palestinian Jew be so utterly astonishing, no matter how profound the content of the message? The Old Testament prophets likewise spoke God's word, but they were met with cynicism and mocking. Surely there was another factor which elicited such astonishment at His teaching, and I suggest it was in the way that His person was so perfectly congruent with the amazing ideas He was teaching. He was after all the word made flesh.

He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes- As noted above, this authority was based upon something. And I suggest it was not His miracles, but rather the congruence between His person and His word. The scribes indeed claimed authority. But the teaching of Jesus somehow had that authority within itself. It was not therefore just the nature or profundity of the ideas and content itself which were authoritative. The astonishment at the Lord's teaching in :27 was because of the actions of Jesus, in that case, in curing a man. The emphasis is perhaps to be placed on the word "having". He really did have authority, and He didn't need to make any claim to having it. The amazing challenge is in the parable of Mk. 13:34, where the Lord gives His authority to us His servants... We are not merely standing on a street lamely holding out tracts, offering them to anyone willing to come up and take one. We have an element of His authority if we are teaching His word in His Name; and thus Paul uses the word when speaking of his 'authority in the [preaching of] the Gospel' (1 Cor. 9:18; 2 Cor. 10:8; 13:10; 2 Thess. 3:9). And in our personal standing before the Father, we likewise have been given authority by the Lord Jesus to be the sons of God (Jn. 1:12). Paul realized we have each been given this authority, and uses the same word when warning believers not to let their "authority" (AV "this liberty of yours") cause others to stumble (1 Cor. 8:9).

1:23 And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out- As John speaks of the "synagogue of the Jews" and a "feast of the Jews". The Old Testament spoke of the feasts of Yahweh and His house; but Israel had hijacked God's religion and made it their own, just as we can in our day. And indeed the established churches appear to have done just that. "And immediately" suggests the camerman as it were suddenly introducing a new person to us, with a jolt, "immediately". The impression is being created by the record of a fast moving ministry.

1:24 Saying: What have we to do with you, Jesus, you Nazarene? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are- the Holy One of God- Notice the changes of pronouns from plural to singular. The supposedly spirit-possessed man was what we would call a man suffering from multiple personality disorder or a schizophrenic. Perhaps the dominant personality of the man was that which could say "I know who you are- the Holy One of God". "You Nazarene" may suggest this man had met the Lord previously, and was one of the few who during the Lord's carpenter years had perceived that He was God's Holy One. Despite his affliction, in his deepest heart and most fundamental personality, the mentally ill man perceived what few others did- that Jesus was the Son of God. The man's less dominant personalities feared condemnation and destruction from this Son of God, and wanted Him to leave. The dominant personality recognized Him as Son of God, and maybe we are to imagine him saying "I know who you are..." said in a totally different tone of voice, as if another person was speaking compared to the ones who feared condemnation and didn't want closer engagement with Jesus. That same struggle, in essence, goes on in the mind of every person as they come to Jesus; a desire to pull back before it gets too serious and risky, and yet another desire to accept Him for who He is, the saviour Son of God. The Lord's apparent exorcism of the other personalities therefore left the man with who he really was in his heart of confused hearts- a believer in Jesus as God's Holy Son.

1:25 And Jesus rebuked him, saying: Hold your peace and come out of him- If as suggested on :24, the man had multiple personalities, the Lord is rebuking the less dominant personality. He speaks of course in terms which the man would have related to- of demon possession. The language of "rebuke" is appropriate to rebuking a personality; for one could hardly "rebuke" a person for being mentally disturbed. That is not a moral issue.

1:26 And the unclean spirit, tearing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him- This and :27 are recorded from the perspective of the onlooking crowd, with their beliefs and observations coloured by those beliefs. The video camera of the Gospel writer is as it were focused on them, and therefore the language of demon possession is used. The Greek for "tearing" is literally 'to make gasp'. It is appropriate to an epileptic convulsion or fit. But these incidents are not the work of indwelling demons; for they can be managed by medication today. The convulsion is described in the language of the day, as if there was a struggle within the man, and then in the man's panting afterwards we are invited to imagine a spirit departing from him. There was no actual "unclean spirit" involved; the cure was of personality, as noted on :24, it was as if one of the man's less dominant personalities now left him. And that is the kind of healing which the Lord through the Spirit can work today.

1:27 And they were all amazed, so much so they questioned each other, saying: What is this? What a new teaching! With authority he commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him!- See on 1:22 He taught them as one having authority. We can see here one reason why the Lord 'went along' with their misunderstanding about evil spirits. They were left with the impression, within their albeit incorrect worldview, that His teaching had the power to change radically, and to cause a spirit or mindset to depart from a person permanently. They thereby perceived that His words had power; the ideas in His teaching were of themselves powerful.

1:28 And the report of him went out immediately everywhere into all the region of Galilee and thereabout- "Report" in Greek is literally the hearing; as noted on :27, the Lord performed this miracle in terms of their understanding of 'spirits' in order that the hearing about Him might spread. And so it did.

'Galilee' literally means a circle or ring; the Greek here is a play in words, developing the idea that the Lord's fame spread around around Galilee, the circle, as if in concentric circles rippling out from a lake. This kind of literary device would be an aid to memorization, and is understandable if indeed tradition is correct in claiming that first century Christian converts were required to learn the Gospel of Mark by heart.

1:29 And immediately, when they had come out of the synagogue- "Come out" translates the same Greek word used in :28, "went out". This kind of repetition of original words is common in Mark, and was an aid to memorization. This word occurs seven times in Mark 1 alone (:25,26,28,29,35,38,45). An alternative word or method of expression could have been used in most of those cases, so the repetition is purposeful. See on :28.

They came into the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John- Perhaps we are intended to see a movement of the Spirit out of the houses of organized religion and into domestic homes, which became the house churches upon which the Christian faith was originally built. See on :33 Gathered together at the door.

1:30 Now Simon's wife's mother lay sick of a fever- Gk. 'on fire'. Clearly the unscientific language of the day being used to describe medical conditions, as was the language of demon possession.

And immediately they told him about her- He obviously knew about her condition already. For He is portrayed in the Gospels as the one who knew all things. The gospel records feature often this way they had of telling Him about things which we now can imagine the Lord already knew. The gospel writers are witnessing to their own immaturity, and this admission of personal lack of perception and weakness made their message attractive and compelling to their hearers. It is the same today.

1:31 And he came and took her by the hand and raised her up- Most of the other 46 uses of krateo in the NT imply an exertion of significant energy, as if hauling her up; rather than a graceful touch of her hand. There was an expenditure of effort by the Lord in order to heal a person (Mk. 5:30).

And the fever left her, and she served them- The response to the Lord's healing was and must still be to serve Him through serving His people. Again we note her immediacy of response, such a theme in the gospels [Mark especially] and the Acts. The healing had been done on a Sabbath, and so they only carried their sick to the Lord after sunset. We see here the power of religious tradition and fear of religious leaders and infringement of their traditions. There would have been urgently sick people, who needed healing as soon as possible. The people believed the Lord could heal them; but their fear of infringing sabbath traditions was even greater. And we see the same in essence today.

1:32 When evening came, and when the sun had set, they brought to him all that were sick and those possessed with demons- This is saying the same thing twice. The point being made is surely that these sick people and their relatives waited with impatience until the Sabbath was ended before being healed. The contrast is with Simon's mother-in-law, who was healed on the Sabbath, within the dwelling place of Jesus, and worked in service immediately. There was no need for them to wait; and they must surely have reflected on that, having heard that the woman had been healed that Sabbath afternoon.

1:33 And all the city was gathered together at the door- The Greek episunago is related to the word for "synagogue"; see note on :29. A new synagogue had been formed in a house- that surely is the idea.

1:34 And he healed many that were sick with various diseases and cast out many demons- The Greek for "healed" is defined by some as meaning "to wait upon menially". The Lord performed His healings in a spirit of humble service. Another form of the word is found in Heb. 3:5, where Moses is described as a "servant". This is a far cry from the arrogance and self-glory of faith healers today. All that we do for others is to be done in a spirit of menial service; and this means that when they are deeply thankful to us, we will not in any sense be proud. It's just part of what we are called to do on the Lord's behalf, as His servants, doing His work in His power. To the glory of God. The "various diseases" demonstrated His wide ranging power; for healers tended to specialize in specific diseases, claiming power over particular [supposed] demons. But the Lord could heal all kinds of diseases.

And he did not permit the demons to speak- The same word translated "send forth". The idea could simply be that the Lord didn't send out these converts as 'sent forth' missionary apostles. "The demons" are put for the [supposedly] 'demon possessed' people. The focus is ultimately upon the person and not upon whatever was thought to be possessing them. Note how it was the Egyptian people who were judged (Gen. 15:14); their idols (“gods”) are used by metonymy to stand for those who believed in them. Likewise “demons” is sometimes put by metonymy for those who believed in them.

Because they knew Him- It was the mentally sick who were the main group to 'know him to be the Christ' (Mk. 1:34 RVmg.). And it was a woman, and one with a history of mental illness, who was chosen as the first and leading witness of His resurrection. And women had no legal power as witnesses. The Greek here can be translated to the effect that the Lord did not allow them to preach, which they wanted to do because they knew / recognized Him. In this case, knowing Him naturally leads to a desire to witness to Him. It's the kind of knowledge which cannot be merely theoretical. The Lord had to command those who knew Him not to speak out that knowledge (Mk. 1:34 cp. 44)- because people knew Him, they quite naturally wanted to preach it. One cannot truly know the Lord and not tell others of Him. This is the power of true knowledge, believed as it should be believed. But at this stage the Lord did not wish for yet further mass publicity. His focus was upon training the twelve and others who wished to understand His teachings. The miracles were it seems largely done when people came to the Lord for them, or when in the course of His preaching work, He encountered need [such as the hugry crowds who had listened to Him and were starving, even fainting, from lack of food].

1:35 And in the morning, a great while before daybreak, he rose up and went out, and departed into a deserted place; and there prayed- Is. 50:4 prophesies of the Lord Jesus that morning by morning, God awoke His ear "to learn as a disciple". That last phrase is surely to signal the intended similarities between the Lord's path of growth, and that of all disciples. The next two verses go on to predict that because of this morning-by-morning teaching process, "I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair; I hid not my face from shame and spitting" (Is. 50:5,6). Thus we come to the cross, the life of cross carrying, as the end result of our morning reflections. It was from His own experience that the Lord could bid us take up our cross- His cross- each morning. The Lord's attitude to prayer was radical in itself. The observant Jew prayed three times / day, the first and last prayers being merely the recital of the shema. Yet Jesus spent hours in those morning and evening prayers (Mk. 1:35; 6:46). Perhaps He was motivated in His prayers by the lengthy implications of the fact that Yahweh is indeed one, and this demands so much of us.  

1:36 And Simon and they that were with him followed after him- The Greek means to search for, implying they found Him on His knees in some discreet corner or behind a bush.

1:37 And they found him, and said to him: All are seeking you- Lk. 4:42 says that the crowd, "the people", were seeking Him. But so were Simon and the disciples- and they found Him, whereas the people did not. And that was an acted parable of how they sought and found, but the masses did not 'find' the Lord because they didn't really seek Him properly. The contrast, therefore, is between how the masses were 'seeking' the Lord; but the disciples "followed after Him" (:36), using the Greek word usually translated 'persecute'. Passing fascination level interest, mere religious curiosity, is not the real seeking for Jesus which will result in finding Him. The contrast between the crowds and the disciples seems to be that they found Him because they searched for Him more passionately.

1:38 And he said to them: Let us go elsewhere, into the next towns, so that I may preach there also; for this is why I came- This could imply the Lord was unimpressed by the crowds searching for Him; see on 37 All are seeking you. The Lord's focus is presented as being upon preaching, teaching His ways, rather than upon meeting human need through miracles. This strongly impacts our thinking as to whether a purely social gospel is Biblical or even any kind of 'gospel'. The reason for His 'coming' was to preach- not to heal. Otherwise He would have remained where He was, seeing He had attracted droves of sick folks and likely more were now on the way to Him, to be bitterly disappointed that He had abruptly left first thing that morning. His 'coming [forth]' was not from heaven to earth; the same word is used of how He 'came forth' from Bethlehem (Mt. 2:6). It refers to His coming to Israel in His ministry. However, we can note that "I came" is the same Greek used in :35: "He went out". He may simply be saying: 'This is why I went out of the house early in the morning; because I must be on My way to take the Gospel further to other towns'.

1:39 And throughout all Galilee he went into their synagogues, preaching and casting out demons- See on 1:23 Their synagogue. The miracles, the 'casting out of demons', were to back up His preaching; hence "preaching" is mentioned first; see on :38.

1:40 And a leper came to him, begging him as he knelt down before him, saying to him- "Begging" is the Greek parakleo; and John's Gospel records at length the Lord's promise to be our parakletos, doing the work of comfort and entreaty, parakleo, for us. We see here the mutuality between a man and his Lord; both relate to each other in the same passionate way, in prayer [from our side] and in the Lord's gracious response [from His side]. The parakleo group of words are appropriate to both sides of the relationship.

If you will- The man recognized that it was within the Lord's power to heal him, but he also recognized that the Lord's will is not always ours, as His longer term plan may require Him not to respond to our request in the immediate term. This is a great example to us. For he would have been aware that the Lord did not heal all human need which He encountered; He had just left Simon's house, apparently because He didn't want to cure all the crowds surely gathering there for healing.

Faith is inculcated by an appreciation of the height of Christ’s exaltation. He now has all power in Heaven and in earth, and this in itself should inspire us with faith in prayer and hope in His coming salvation. On the basis of passages like Ex. 4:7; Num. 12:10-15; 2 Kings 5:7,8, “leprosy was regarded as a “stroke" only to be removed by the Divine hand which had imposed it" (L.G. Sargent,The Gospel Of The Son Of God, p. 28). The leper of Mk. 1:40 lived with this understanding, and yet he saw in Jesus nothing less than God manifest. Inspired by the height of the position which he gave Jesus in his heart, he could ask him in faith for a cure: “If You will, You can [as only God was understood to be able to] make me clean".

You can make me clean- The man realized the spiritual dimension of his affliction; for he asks not merely fur healing but specifically to be made clean. The Lord replied that this was indeed His will. This coincidence of human will with that of our Lord is what fellowship with Him and answered prayer is all about. The phrase "If You will, You can..." is recorded identically in all three of the synoptics (Mt. 8:2; Mk. 1:40; Lk. 5:12), as if they all wished to draw attention to the man's attitude and make an example of it- accepting that the Lord has all power ("can" = dunamai), but that our will is not always His.

1:41 And being moved with compassion- It has been observed that oral performance of texts like e.g. the Gospel of Mark was designed towards producing an emotional impact upon the hearers. We who read the same text and seek [quite rightly] to understand from it doctrine and practical commands for living somehow miss much of this; we inevitably subject the text to intellectual analysis, whereas the first century audience would have felt from their performance an appeal to convert, to accept, to feel something in response towards the Man Jesus who was presented there. Perhaps this is why a reading of the Gospels produces less response in us than that from a first century group hearing the same Gospels read / performed to them. Thus a first century reciter / listener would have paid special attention to the way Mark indicates the emotional state of Jesus as He said His words- angry (Mk. 3:5), compassionate (Mk. 1:41), snorting like a horse (Mk. 1:43 Gk.), troubled and distressed (Mk. 14:33). Likewise Mark's constant use of the term "immediately..." in his early chapters would've created a sense of urgency, fast flowing narrative, perhaps matched by the reciter speaking quickly.

He stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him: I will. Be cleansed- The Lord responds within the terms of the man's request: "If You will, You can make me clean". We note the man sought cleansing above mere healing; his spiritual need for cleansing was paramount in his mind. We likewise should ask for material blessings motivated by spiritual concerns. The Lord could have cured the man in multiple ways, but he chose to touch the man, making Himself technically unclean; although it could be argued that the cure was so immediate that it was therefore debatable as to whether the Lord had actually touched a leper or not. Surely He did it the way He did to provoke such questions; for the process of questioning led to them becoming the more aware of the fact that the Lord's touch had indeed cleansed the man. And the whole question of ritual uncleanness was of course put in the spotlight. The Lord was and is unafraid to associate with the very dirtiest of human conditions and situations. There was no revulsion from them, as there is not today. The Lord is described a staggering 28 times in the synoptics as touching people. This was a studied rejection of the false teaching of 'guilt by association' or 'contamination by contact'. More than that, the Lord was at such lengths to identify Himself with suffering people.

1:42 And immediately the leprosy departed from him and he was made clean; and- For this whole incident, see commentary on Mt. 8:1-4. The immediacy of the cure upon touching the Lord raised all kind of questions for the legalistic mind, as to whether the Lord was made unclean or not (see on :41).

In Mt. 10:8 the Lord told the disciples to likewise "cleanse the lepers". Again the Lord is giving the disciples the work of the priests to do. For it was their job to pronounce lepers cleansed. But He is asking them to do what He Himself had done here. His work was to be theirs. The later NT references to our being cleansed by the Lord Jesus (Eph. 5:26; Tit. 2:14; 1 Jn. 1:7,9 etc.) perhaps look back to how the historical Jesus cleansed lepers in Galilee. We are to see ourselves in that isolated and rejected man.

The Greek literally means 'scales' and the same word is used of scales falling from Saul's eyes in Acts 9:18. It could've been any skin disease rather than Hansen's disease.

1:43- see on Mk. 1:41.

He immediately sent him away with a stern warning- As noted on :45, the stampede of people wanting healing meant that the Lord was unable to perform His most important ministry, which was to preach rather than to heal; see on :39.

1:44 Saying to him: See you say nothing to anyone, but go show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing the things which Moses commanded, for a testimony to them- The Lord had told the cured leper to tell no other man but go and offer for his cleansing, in order to make a witness to the priests. All three synoptics record this, as if it made a special impression on everyone (Mt. 8:4; Mk. 1:44; Lk. 5:14). It could be that the Lord is using an idiom when He told the leper to tell nobody: ‘Go and make a witness first and foremost to the priests as opposed to anybody else’. Such was His zeal for their salvation. And the fact that “a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith” (Acts 6:7) shows how this apparently hope-against-hope desire of the Lord for the conversion of His enemies somehow came true. We noted on Mt. 8:3 that the work of the priests was to cleanse the leper- but this had been done by the Lord. The man was therefore to show himself to the priests- in order to demonstrate to them that another priest and priesthood was already coming into operation.

1:45 But he went out and began to proclaim it freely and to spread the news, so much so that Jesus could no more openly enter into a city, but stayed in deserted places- If we put the stress on the word "openly", we are left imagining Jesus somehow disguising Himself in order to enter the towns. This is the reason why the Lord so sternly charged the healed man not to spread the news (:43); the stampede of people wanting healing meant that the Lord was unable to perform His most important ministry, which was to preach rather than to heal; see on :39.

But still they came to him from every quarter- This was a small foretaste of people from every direction coming to Messiah. The Lord's life experiences, like ours, were a living exemplification of the future Kingdom experience.