Mark makes us acquainted with the model Servant. It presents a scene of intense activity. No sooner is a deed done than "straightway" we are engaged with another. The Servant is introduced without a genealogy, for His deeds are sufficient credentials. His birth, His childhood, and His youth are passed over, for in them He was not equipped for service. The account begins with His induction into active ministry by the forerunner, John the baptist.
In Matthew His regal relation to the royal nation, Israel, is emphasized. They are to rule the other nations. Luke's account is wider in its sympathies, and brings blessing to all mankind through the favored people. The scope of Mark is still broader, for it reaches out to all creation. Whenever there is work to be done He is ready with untiring zeal and humble obedience. Seldom is He called "Lord", for here He is in the place of a servant.
We are not so much engaged with Him as with His work. We are told what He did, and why and how. His own feelings are directly related to the results of His acts.
It is generally supposed that Mark is the writer of this account. If so, it is a striking instance of God's grace and wisdom, for Mark himself, as a servant, was the most notable failure of our Lord's followers. Though the son of a very godly mother, in whose home in Jerusalem the disciples met for worship and prayer (Ac. 12:12), and the cousin of Barnabas (Col. 4:10), and probably a convert of Peter (1 Pt. 5:13), and once chosen to accompany Barnabas and Paul on their missionary journey, yet he deserted them at Perga and returned to Jerusalem. When he proposed to join their second journey, Paul would not have him and chose rather to separate from Barnabas than to take him along (Ac. 15:26-38). Thus the traitorous tax gatherer Matthew tells us of the King; the selfish John gives us the loving Son; the unsuccessful physician Luke portrays the sympathetic Healer; and the discredited servant Mark sets forth the true and faithful Servant of Jehovah.
But we must look beyond Mark's failure to see its true significance. It was used by God to separate Paul from association with Jerusalem. When again they became friendly, Mark represented the Circumcision body of believers (Col. 4:10-11) which were then joined to the Uncircumcision to form the joint body (Ephesians 3:6-13) which was introduced through Paul, which ignores all physical distinctions, and which is the truth for the present time.
This account, then, presents our Lord as a Servant of the Circumcision for the sake of the truth of God, to confirm the patriarchal promises (Ro. 15:8). He never leaves the land. He does not give the children's bread to puppies (7:27). Very few crumbs fall from the table for feeding those outside the narrow pale of Israel. And yet through them, after His resurrection, He reaches out with blessing for the whole creation.
Mark's account is characterized by some significant omissions. Except on two special occasions, the Servant is never addressed as Lord. Only after His resurrection is he so styled (16:19-20). The word "law" does not occur, for though His service conforms to the law it is not measured by it but exceeds all legal demands. The Servant does not set forth the manifesto of the kingdom as in Mt. 5-7, and has no "Lord's prayer". The parables are fewer. Passages which set forth the majesty and glory of the Lord are omitted or abbreviated.
The Servant's shrinking from public notice is very evident in Mark as in such passages as 1:38; 7:24,36; 8:26. This is exquisitely brought out in 9:16-25. From the adoration of the overawed throng who perceive some lingering glory of the transformation on the mount He turns in the unresting continuity of filial service to heal the boy before a great multitude gathers, and then speedily withdraws to the privacy of the house. In this account His greatest glory is His humility, making Him the perfect Servant of Jehovah.
2-3 Compare Mal.3:1; Isa.40:3; Mt.3:3; Lu.3:4-6; Jn.1:15-23.
4-8 Compare Mt.3:1-12; Lu.31-18.
4 John the baptist was the son of a priest, so that he was entitled to exercise the priestly office and enjoy all its privileges, which assured him a life of ease and comfort. Yet, under the urge of the holy Spirit, which filled him even before he was born, he gave up all this for the lowly and austere life of a Nazarite (Nu.6:2-7). He was not permitted to eat anything which came of the vine, the symbol of that which cheers the heart of God and man (Jud.9:13). Like Samson, he let his hair grow long, a symbol of weakness and dishonor (lCo.11:14). Instead of the linen ephod he wore coarse camel's hair. Instead of living of the altar and eating the best of the sacrifices, he subsisted on locusts and wild honey.
John the baptist was a continual contrast with the Lord. Christ was not a Nazarite. He drank wine, dressed as others did, never wore long hair, and dwelt with His parents until the time for His ministry arrived. John came in the spirit of Elijah, but when the Lord's disciples wished to call down fire from heaven and consume the Samaritans for offending them, as Elijah had done to the men who were sent against him (2Ki.1:10-12) , He rebuked them. Christ did not come in the spirit of Elijah at that time. Elijah was an austere proclaimer of righteousness. Christ's message mingled grace with truth. He came, not to condemn sinners, but to save them. In Him conviction was coupled with compassion.
6 See Lev.11:22.
7 Compare Jn.1:15,26,27.
9-11 Compare Mt.3:13-17; Lu.3:21,22; Jn.1:32-34.
10 The dove is a symbol of peace, of judgment past (Gen.8:12) and of sacrifice. (Wherever we read "pigeon" in the versions of Leviticus it should read "dove" as in all the other occurrences.) This is an index of the ministry to which it was the introduction. In contrast to John's fierce denunciations of judgment, He went about a meek, harmless, unresisting victim, until He is finally offered up to God. It was in this that God could delight. He was His Son, not merely by birth, but in His likeness to His Father.
12-13 Compare Mt.41-11; Lu.4:1-13.
12 The wilderness trial was especially intended to test His loyalty to God in connection with His royal claims to David's throne and as the obedient Man. Hence Matthew and Luke enlarge upon it. As it is not a record of service for others, Mark mentions it most briefly.
14-15 Compare Mt.412-17.
14 Before this our Lord had performed miracles, such as that at the wedding in Cana of Galilee, and had gathered a following of disciples, but He waited until John's ministry was ended by his imprisonment before beginning His first evangelistic tour.
15 The era of the nations' rule over Israel was nearing its end, as foretold by Daniel the prophet. Nearly four hundred and eighty years had run their course since Daniel had predicted that four hundred and ninety years should be "cut out" before the fulfillment of his vision (Dan.9:24). Normally, not much more than ten years would bring them into the Kingdom, but this depended on the attitude of the nation.
It is true that Daniel cut the era into periods, and that there is very evidently some delay after the sixty-ninth heptad, in which Messiah was to be cut off. But no intimation is given that this would be any considerable length of time. So that we may consider that our Lord's ministry as a whole was, from the prophetic viewpoint, within something over seven years of the kingdom. This is the force of the oft-repeated expression which was the burden of His proclamation, "The kingdom of God has drawn near." The sixty-ninth heptad of Daniel ended with His triumphal entry (11:8). Only seven more prophetic years remained, which begin with the confirmation of the covenant with the coming prince (Dan.9:27). That it did not come does not in the least disprove the fact that it was near. Epaphroditus draws near unto death (Phil.2:30) but he did not die at that time. This word is very carefully chosen. The Lord did not predict positively that the kingdom was "at hand" so that it must come in a short time, but relatively, that it needed little time to make it a reality.
16-20 Compare Mt.4:18-22; Lu.5:1-11.
19 Before a net is used it is important that it is not badly tangled or snarled. The work of these fishermen is a graphic commentary on the word "adjust," which has been rendered by such a variety as mend, perfect, fit, perfectly join, restore, prepare, and frame. We have used adjust, adapt, and attune.
21-23 Compare Mt.4:13-16; Lu.4:31-32.
24 It is usually supposed that evil spirits would be the last to acknowledge the Lord, or make Him known and that we should welcome any agencies if they only bear witness to the truth. But our Lord would not have the testimony of demons and bids them be still. It is no test of an evil spirit if he knows and acknowledges Him. A little later (34) we are told that He did not let the demons talk not because of their ignorance of Him, but because they were aware that He is the Christ.
It is astonishing how much of demon possession was in the land in our Lord's day. We are tempted to suppose that there was unusual activity in the unseen world because of His presence and the nearness of the kingdom. A special outburst of demonism is due in the last days, and is undoubtedly present with us now. Their tactics are the same. They do not deny Christ, but seek rather to associate themselves with Him. Hence they have made marked inroads into the household of faith, under the guise of the holy Spirit of God. Let us beware of every revelation or leading which displaces the Word of God or is in the slightest degree out of harmony with His written revelation.
23-28 Compare Lu.4:33-37.
27 The Lord's authority over unclean spirits, even more than His control of disease, was the marvel of the people and the means of spreading His fame throughout Galilee. None of their teachers had done anything like this.
29-34 Compare Mt.8:14-17Lu.4:38-41.
32 The intense heat of an Eastern day was quickly over once the sun had set. Then it is that the town springs into life, the women go to the well for water and the men come in from work On this occasion they probably waited until the sabbath was over at sunset before carrying the sick to Him.
35-39 Compare Lu.4:42-44.
38 Curiosity probably drew many to see Him on the morrow after He did so many wonderful deeds. Yet our Lord did not come to be gazed at but to serve. Hence He eludes them. While it is yet night He leaves the town for private communion with God in preparation for the duties of the day. Nor does He return thither to receive the plaudits of the multitude. He goes on to new fields of labor.
40-45 Compare Mt.8:2-4; Lu.5:12-16.
40 It would be natural to suppose that the Lord's first efforts to proclaim the kingdom would be among the priests in Jerusalem. They were the religious leaders, and were of great political influence as well. Having gained their support He might hope to reach the lesser lights and the common people. Such would be man's way. But our Lord began with the people. He seemed almost to ignore the priests. But this incident shows the way in which He testified to them. Many lepers were cleansed by Him and His disciples. They would all report to the priests and tell the story of their cleansing.
As leprosy is a type of sin, and the priests were continually occupied with the typical covering of sin, it would require but little spiritual insight for them to recognize the One Who cleansed the lepers as the true Sacrifice Which could eliminate sin altogether. The Lord did not by any means leave the priests without a witness, even if He did not personally perform many miracles in Jerusalem.
44 See Lev. 14:1-32.
44 We cannot help sympathizing with the mistaken zeal of the healed leper. He knew Christ as his Saviour but hardly as his Lord. He has many followers, who have zeal without knowledge. They say "How can we help telling abroad what is so precious to us? Surely the Lord will not be displeased even if He has forbidden it! " What was the result? The Lord could not enter the cities as He had planned, but had to remain outside, to their inconvenience and His discomfort. Alas, that we serve Him so stupidly in return for His grace!
1-12 Compare Mt.9:1-8; Lu.5:17-26.
4 Eastern houses have flat roofs with battlements, easily accessible from the ground, and a place of resort, especially in the evening. The roof usually was covered with quite a thickness of earth, laid on wooden supports. All this could readily be replaced. The point in this story seems to lie in the contrast between the physical weakness of the paralytic and the efficacy of faith. A strong man might not have been able to force his way into the Lord's presence, but the faith of his friends is sufficient to bring him to a most favorable audience with Him. In response to this, the Lord seems to ignore the feebleness of his physical frame, and proposes a blessing in correspondence with their faith. Hitherto He had proven His power over demons and disease; now He first proclaims the pardon of sins. The scribes are quick to note this advance. They had not grasped the significance of His power over the spirits or over the ills of humanity, and did not see that they necessarily involved the operation of God's spirit, or they would have been prepared for the next step, the pardon of sins. It is not enough to bind Satan and remove ill health to establish the millennium. Sin must also be quelled. So long as sin separates man from God, the kingdom of God cannot come.
7 See Isa. 43:25.
10 Therefore, the Lord announces His authority as the Son of Mankind, to pardon sins. Sin paralyzes. The best sign that He can offer of His power to pardon it is to remove the physical paralysis, which the scribes can see with their physical eyes, and thus, if possible, open their spiritual eyes to the pardon of sins. No wonder that all were amazed and glorified God, for they had never perceived anything like this before. Let us note, then, that the pardon of sins followed the faith of the paralytic.
13-17 Compare Mt.9:9-13; Lu.5:27-32.
14 The previously chosen apostles, Peter and Andrew, James and John, were ordinary fishermen. After the pardon of sins is first proclaimed our Lord goes lower in the social scale, and chooses Levi Alpheus, who is usually named Matthew, a collector of tribute for the Roman government. Patriotic, respectable citizens would have no connection with him or his kind, so he is forced to be friendly with sinners. It is impossible for us to apprehend the intense dislike of the Jews for those of their own nation who debased themselves by collecting tribute from their fellow countrymen for the Roman power which oppressed them. Besides, under these conditions, no patriotic and self-respecting Jew would do this work, so that, as a class, they were truly contemptible, though their extortionate methods made them well-to-do. Their only motive for engaging in this opprobrious occupation was sordid avarice.
The choice of Levi and the subsequent feast is a well-considered effort on the part of our Lord to gradually introduce the great truth that the nation needed a Sacrifice more than a King. To the religious heart His announcement that He came to call sinners, not the just, was incomprehensible. Only the just will have a place in the kingdom, according to the prophets. Sinners will be destroyed in the judgments that precede it. Yet the Lord seemed to teach the opposite. He seeks to open their hearts to see this by comparing sin with disease. He was not needed by the strong. On the part of those who think themselves just there is no conscious desire for the pardon of sins. The kingdom will not come until the whole nation has learned to say (Isa.53:6):
All we, as sheep, are straying;
We countenance our own way to a man,
And Jehovah intercedes in Him for the lawlessness of us all.
18-22 Compare Mt. 9:14-17; Lu. 5:33-39.
18 The general impression that John's ministry was the same in spirit and method as that of our Lord has no foundation in the Scriptures. It was right for his disciples to hunger. But it was most unfitting for the Lord's disciples to fast while He was with them. John came in the spirit of stern Elijah (Lu.1:17), but the Lord did not come in the spirit of Elijah (Lu.9:54).
21 This is used to press home the difference between John's ministry and that of our Lord. But it may be applied with far more force to the futility of seeking to combine the truth for the present with that for the past.
23-28 Compare Mt.12:1-8; Lu.6:1-5.
23 In the law it was written, "For you shall come into that which was raised by your associate and pluck snips with your hand, yet you shall not swing a scythe on that which your associate raises" (Deut.23:25). The disciples were perfectly justified in plucking the grain and eating it. What the Pharisees objected to was that they did this work on the sabbath. They had innumerable traditional by-laws as to what could or could not be done on a sabbath, making it a day of restraint rather than repose. The sabbath is for man's benefit, not man for the benefit of the sabbath. The Son of Mankind is Lord of the sabbath.
25 See 1 Sam.21:1-6.
25 It is notable how little the letter of the law was observed in the presence of God. The priests in the sanctuary profane the sabbath in their ministrations, yet are faultless (Mt.12:5) .
David took the show-bread, fresh from the holy place. All this makes it evident that the law was not meant for those in His presence. It was not meant for the righteous, but sinners. Now the Pharisees are standing in the presence of the Lord of the temple and the Lord of the sabbath. It is they who are at fault with their impudent importation of the law into the precincts of the living Temple of Jehovah.
26 See Lev.24:5-9.
1-6 Compare Mt.12:9-14; Lu.6:6-11.
1 As the Pharisees are blind to His glories, He chooses another and a simpler method of enforcing the truth as to the sabbath. Here is a man who cannot work on the sabbath or any other day, for his hand is withered. Such was the sabbath keeping of the Pharisees, a withered, shrunken, spiritless, soulless form, of no benefit to either God or man. As the great miracle of the restoration of Israel takes place in the great sabbatism of a thousand years, of which all other sabbaths were but a type, and thus it is vital to the kingdom that Jehovah should do good on the sabbath, the Pharisees should have known and believed on Him because so many of His signs were done on that day.
6 See Mt. 22:15-16.
6 Now that the Pharisees had made up their minds to destroy Him, they are reminded of their own impotence. The governor would never countenance an assassination on purely theological grounds. The Jews were always quarrelling about their religious differences, and it would hardly do to make heresy a capital offense, for the various parties all hated one another. The Pharisees were against the Herodians, who were loyal to the base Idumean usurpers, who were foreigners quite as much as the Romans so far as their right to reign was concerned.
But what they needed was a political charge. If they could prove Him to be opposed to the powers in possession of the government, it would not be difficult to get Him out of the way. So they lay aside their differences with the Herodians and consult with them how best to accomplish His destruction. Just as Pilate and Herod were reconciled by their common condemnation of Christ, so those who were at enmity among themselves make common cause against Him.
7-12 Compare Mt.12:15-21; Lu.6:17-19.
13-19 Compare Mt.10:1-4; Lu.6:12-16.
14 This first kingdom commission should be carefully compared with the creation commission at the close of this account. As twelve is the number of administration or government, there are just twelve chosen to proclaim the coming kingdom. And, when Judas Iscariot is deprived of his place, Matthias must be chosen to keep the full number (Ac.1:26). But the creation commission is given to the eleven (16:14). The kingdom heralds are limited to the land and the nation of Israel, the preachers of the creation message go into all the world (16:15). The former was confined to the apostles. In the latter the signs followed in the case of all who believed (16:17). The first was never completed. The last was proclaimed everywhere (16:20).
14 The chief and foremost object of choosing the apostles is usually overlooked, yet it was deemed essential when a new one was to be chosen to take Judas' place. It was that they might be with Him.
16 See John 1:42.
16 See the various lists of the twelve apostles given in the note on Mt. 10:2.
18 Simon was called "the Cananite" or "the Zealot" (which means the same) in order to distinguish him from Simon Peter. The term "Cananite" is easily confounded with "Canaanite", an inhabitant of Canaan. But no alien could possibly have been chosen to be an apostle.
19 The choice of Judas Iscariot seems to be a mystery to many. But it is merely one manifestation of the wider problem of evil. Some have supposed that the Lord did not know at the time how he would turn out. But the Scriptures assure us that the Lord was not ignorant and knew from the beginning that Judas was to be His betrayer (Jn.13:21). It must needs be that offenses come. It was part of God's plan that Christ should be betrayed, for it had already found a place in the prophetic Scriptures. Why, then, should He not choose the instrument?
22-27 Compare Mt.12:24-30; Lu.11:14-23.
22 It is significant that scribes from Jerusalem commit the "unpardonable sin", or, as it is also called, the eonian sin. This consists in ascribing the casting out of unclean spirits to their head, the chief of the demons. In the evangel of the kingdom, there is not the appeal to pure, unsupported faith which characterizes the evangel of God or the conciliation, which is the evangel for today. A foretaste is given of the powers of the coming eon, by means of signs, which prove the ability of Christ to cope with the powers of darkness and disease, which must be overthrown before the kingdom can come. But if these are ascribed to the unclean spirits themselves, there is no possibility of repentance and pardon because of its very nature. The sin is eonian. It cannot be corrected for the eons. Such as committed it will have no place in the millennial reign or the subsequent kingdom of the Son in the new earth during the last eon. Their salvation waits until the eons are past. The "unpardonable sin" is not one of such enormity as to be beyond the ability of grace. In this economy, grace has no limits. Where sin increases, grace superexceeds (Ro. 5:21). Grace reigns, and no sin is sufficiently heinous to dethrone it. Its character is what determines the "unpardonable", eonian sin.
28-30 Compare Mt.12:31-32.
29 Compare Lu.12:10,
31-35 Compare Mt.12:46-50; Lu.8:19-21.
32 The Lord's brothers would hardly have summoned Him had they believed on Him, or recognized His true dignity. We are not even told that He met them. Instead, He turns our thoughts to others who are summoning Him, and whose call He cannot but hear. He claims kinship with all who serve God and is too busy serving them to be drawn aside by natural ties.
1-9 Compare Mt.13:1-9; Lu.8:4-8.
1 We now come to a distinct change in our Lord's ministry. He begins to use parables in speaking to the throngs. It is erroneous to suppose that He does this in order to illustrate and simplify the truth. The parable is used in order to put the truth into such veiled and obscure form that those who are not spiritual can never comprehend it. Even His disciples could not understand His parables until He explained them.
3 The parable of the sowing is a resume of His ministry hitherto. He Himself was the Sower. The four classes were those in Israel who heard His word.
The usual trinity of evil, Satan, the flesh and the world, hinder its fruitfulness. Only one class out of the four, represented by His disciples, was really fruitful, and only a few of these in abundant measure. A farmer would say that this was a very poor crop. The proclamation of the kingdom has failed to produce the effect necessary for its realization.
His miracles and signs now take on a new note. There is often delay or danger, to indicate that the kingdom is no longer so near, and that it will not be established for some time, and then only after suffering on the part of the disciples.
9 The formula "who has ears to be hearing, let him be hearing! " is also significant. Though openly and apparently He speaks to all, it is couched in such language that only those who have spiritual perception will apprehend what He is saying. The rest hear the sound but do not grasp the sense. Parables are puzzles which only they can solve who have the key.
10-13 Compare Mt.13:10-17; Lu.8:9-10.
11 The kingdom of God had been foretold and typified in their sacred Scriptures, but now the Lord is unfolding a phase of its history which was unknown to the prophets. It is not a mystery, in the sense of something mysterious or inexplicable, but merely a secret, easily understood once we are initiated into it. The disciples imagined that the Lord's proclamation of the kingdom would continue until He would gain the support of the populace and then seize the sovereignty for Himself. He could not keep on proclaiming the kingdom and at the same time openly teach that the proclamation would be rejected, so He conveys this important fact to His disciples and those spiritual enough to understand, yet conceals it from the multitude by speaking in parables.
12 It cannot be reiterated too often that parables were not used by our Lord in preaching the evangel that they might receive the pardon of sins, but for the very opposite end. He spoke in parables lest the penalty of their sins should be pardoned. It is not gospel, but judgment. To "apply" it to the evangel for this day of grace is utterly contrary to the spirit of the conciliation which we should preach (2Co.5:19). We seek to assure men that God is not imputing their offenses to them. We do not veil our message in figures which they cannot understand. The Spirit of God has told us explicitly, not in veiled figures, that this economy will end in apostasy (lTi.4:1).
13 The twelve apostles themselves did not perceive the significance of the parable, so He explains its symbols to them. Every detail of the picture He paints was most familiar to them all. In the East there are no fences and the roads go right through the fields or grain. There is but one Sower, the Lord Himself. The figure is important, for it postpones the kingdom until the harvest. He has not been reaping, as the apostles supposed. The end is still far off. By that time three classes who have heard the word will fail of fruition. It is the old kingdom refrain: those who endure to the consummation shall be saved.
14-20 Compare Mt. 13:18-23; Lu. 8:11-15.
21-23 Compare Mt. 5:14-16; Lu. 8:16,17; 11:33.
21 It is evident that the light He has just given them is the lamp of which He speaks. He would not have them hide the light beneath self-satisfaction or indolence, which are suggested under the figure of a measure or couch. It would be very fine for them to enjoy the measure which had been given to them and repose in the illumination which had been granted to them, but that is not the purpose for which He had given them the light.
24-25 Compare Lu.8:18. See Mt.7:2; Lu.6:38, 19:26.
24 In this parable He carries on the previous thought concerning the measure. As they impart to others what they had received their own measure will be increased. Spiritual blessings, unlike the physical, increase the more they are distributed.
25 This enigmatical statement can only be understood in the light of the circumstances in which it was spoken. Those who had received spiritual blessing from Christ were to receive more: those who received none would lose even the physical privileges which they had as Jews.
26 Here they have an even more emphatic hint that the kingdom would not come immediately, but by a gradual process like the growing of grain. Later on in His ministry, He postpones the harvest to the conclusion of the eon (Mt.13:39). The disciples were anxious to put their sickle to the grain while it was in the blade. Even after His resurrection, when the grain was in the ear, the pentecostal era showed that it was not yet ripe. The kernels will not be full until the end time.
30-32 Compare Mt.13:31; Lu.13:18-19.
30 Ordinarily, wild mustard does not assume such dimensions, but, under favorable conditions, it might well grow into a tree. It was the smallest seed sown by the farmer and became the greatest of all his garden greens. This quick growth is quite in contrast to the previous parable, and the pungent mustard is not food, like grain. The flying creatures of heaven have a sinister significance, being interpreted as Satan in the parable of the sowing. Is not this a forecast of that false premature phase of the kingdom spoken of under the figure of great Babylon?
33-34 Compare Mt. 13:34-35.
35-41 Compare Mt.8:18-27; Lu.2:22-25.
37 The lake of Galilee is subject to sudden squalls when the wind sweeps down from the mountains on the east. In a short time, it changes from a placid mirror-like surface to a leaping, boiling cauldron, in which a small ship could hardly live. There must have been a marvelous calm in His own heart or He would have been roused by the pitching of the ship, or at least He would have been disturbed by the terror of His disciples. No mere man could have preserved his calmness in such danger. And how foolish for a mortal to take the wind to task and talk to the sea! But the wind and the waters were obedient to His will!
Again we have a picture of the career of the kingdom, now that its proclamation has not been received. The sea speaks of the nations (Un.17:15), the storm of the time of the great affliction, the wind of the spiritual powers which will stir up the nations at the time of the end to persecute and destroy the people of the kingdom. When He comes to rescue His saints then He will say again, "Be still! " And there will be the millennial calm.
1-17 Compare Mt.8:28-34; Lu.8:26.37. This thrice-told story shows the fiercest display of the enemy's power entirely subject to the Lord. Mark dwells more fully than Matthew on the desperate condition of the man, in accord with the scope of this account in which service rendered to man is portrayed.
1 The name of this place is so variously given in the MSS. that we have appealed to the topography of the country to settle it, and come to the same conclusion as the editor of Sinaiticus (S2), Alexandrinus has it Gadarenes, Vaticanus has Gerasenes, as also Sinaiticus, before being edited. This is probably a variant of Gergesenes. Gadara was a well-known Greek city, celebrated for its temples, its theater, and its warm baths, but it was several hours distant from the southern shore of lake Galilee. The little town of Gergesa, the ruins of which the Arabs call Chersa, is "on the other side" from Galilee, and is the only part of the shore line which combines all the features necessary to the narrative. A steep mountain dips almost immediately into the lake, with hardly any beach, Tombs are cut in the rock above the city. Every natural feature accords with the inspired account. Hence we have chosen Gergesenes as the true reading.
8 It is the unusual which should strike us in each of our Lord's signs and miracles, for therein lies the special lesson each of His recorded acts is intended to teach. Here we find a man obsessed with many demons, who do not come out at His first command, and they are sent into the sea. On another occasion, the Lord speaks of Israel at the end time as possessing seven times as many demons as formerly (Mt.12:43-45). Their last state will be much worse than their first. This is suggested here by the legion of demons who infested the unfortunate demoniac. A Roman legion was about six thousand strong. Israel has kept herself from idolatry for many a century, but when the great image is set up, many will worship the wild beast (Un.13:8). The first proclamation of the kingdom is unheeded even as His first charge to the legion who were in the demoniac. But subsequently, they find their way into the sea, just as Satan will be sent into the abyss.
15 The previous condition of the demoniac, restless, insubordinate, and self-torturing, corresponds to their history under the law. The chains and fetters of the law never were strong enough to hold them. They were often engaged in insane internecine wars among themselves. Judah was fighting against Israel, one party was pitted against another, and to this very day, they are inclined to torture themselves. What a change when they, like the demoniac, find rest and righteousness and reason at His feet in the day of the Lord!
16 It is quite probable that there were other herds of hogs being kept contrary to the law, and that their owners feared that they, also, would be destroyed if the Lord remained in that country. It will be noted that the Lord's purpose was to send the demons into the abyss, but they begged to go into the hogs. He only gave His permission, for it was not a part of His mission at this time to enforce the law of Moses. Yet, by that inscrutable law of God which always conspires to carry out His will, both the keepers of the hogs and the demons were judged in accord with His purpose.
18-20 Compare Lu. 8:38-39.
18 Though they did not desire the Lord's presence in that region, He did not leave them without a witness, but sends the demoniac back among them to bear testimony to His mercy. Decapolis was a considerable district in the allotment of Manasseh, reaching as far as Syria, embracing ten cities of some size, the largest, according to Josephus, being Scythopolis (Wars of the Jews, 3, 9, 7). Gadara, Hippo, and Pella were also of the number.
21-24 Compare Mt.9:1,18,19; Lu.8:41,42.
22 Again we are treated to a delightful presentation of the course of the kingdom proclamation in an aspect hitherto untouched. The redemption of Israel in Egypt was by blood and by power. They were shielded from God's judgments by the blood on the door posts (Ex.12:7). They were delivered from Pharaoh by the waters of the Red Sea. It is possible to have one without the other. The lack of response has made it evident that there will be some delay in the setting up of the kingdom. This is pictured by the time it took Him to reach the home of Jairus. But during the interval, He gives us a type of blood redemption. While Israel as a nation lies dead, awaiting His coming, a remnant from among them, who, by faith, come into vital contact with His righteousness, receive the salvation of their souls long before His return in power to raise the nation from death.
25-34 Compare Mt.9:20-22; Lu.8:43-48 Lev.15:19-27.
26 Israel had many physicians that promised to cure her. The various sects, such as the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes, all claimed to have a sovereign remedy for her ills. Time after time a saviour arose to deliver her from her enemies, but it always led to more bloodshed and severer tyranny.
The difference between this woman and the crowd which jostled Him and crowded Him on all sides was a conscious knowledge of her uncleanness according to the law and her faith. They could come into violent collision with Him and receive no benefit. She barely came into contact with His cloak and instantly received the boon which she craved. So today, His grace abounds to those who know their need.
The time and method and character of her salvation are most significant at this juncture in our Lord's ministry. It is, perhaps, the clearest intimation yet given that, while the nation will linger and die, and cannot be raised until His return, a remnant among them will have faith for the salvation which comes by blood, and know the blessedness and power of a personal contact with the Christ Who has not yet arrived at His intended goal-the resurrection of Israel.
Meanwhile, as in Lazarus' case, the delay is fatal. All hope of saving the life of the little girl is gone. He told His disciples that Lazarus was reposing. So here He tells them she is drowsing. He views it from the divine side, but they from the human. To the God of resurrection, death is no more than sleep. His voice can as easily rouse the dead as we can awaken those who are slumbering.
There is a sharp contrast between these two miracles in all their details, all of which are suggestive of the differences between the salvation which comes to the faithful before His future advent and that which He will bring with Him when He comes. In one case there was diffident yet insistent faith, and the salvation is definitely founded on it. In the other, the little girl was beyond believing, and her father's faith was feeble, while the attendants were plainly dubious. In the former, the woman pressed through the throng to reach Him. She comes to Christ.
In the latter, He goes to the little girl. Christ comes to her. In the former the healing is instantaneous. Such was the salvation by faith through His blood which His disciples enjoyed even though the kingdom did not come. In the latter, the blessing was delayed until His arrival. Such will be the case when Christ comes again to restore all that the prophets have foretold.
We do not in the least lose our appreciation of His power and mercy as displayed in these signs when we see in them an intimation of much greater and more glorious achievements. To "apply" them to His present work of grace can only lead to confusion. Much of the action can have no proper parallel in His dealings with sinners today. He does not expect the sinner to come to Him. He actually prays the sinner to be conciliated (2 Co.5:20). He does not delay conferring salvation until His coming. All these things are significant only when we associate them with the future course of the kingdom proclamation which He was then preaching.
35-37 Compare Lu. 8:49-50.
38-43 Compare Mt.9:23-36; Lu.8:51-56.
1-4 Compare Mt. 13:53-57; Lu.4:16-30.
1 On a former occasion (Lu. 4:16) He had gone to Nazareth to speak, and found His old neighbors and friends actually hostile to Him, so that they sought to push Him over the precipice near which the city was built. At that time He simply walked away through the midst of them. Now He returns.
They have doubtless heard of His fame and marvel at His wisdom. Yet such is the perversity of human nature that they could not bring themselves to believe that their townsman and relative could possibly be the Elect of God. It is even so with others who seek to speak the word of God. Spiritual values are at an enormous discount among familiars.
3 See Jn.6:42; Ga.1:19.
3 There is a delightful contrast between our Lord, the Servant of the Circumcision (Ro.15:8), and Paul, His minister for the nations ( Ro. 15:16). Christ was a carpenter, Who built permanent habitations on earth, since the Circumcision, to whom He ministered, will have their eonian dwellings on the earth. Paul was a tent maker, for those to whom he was sent have no allotment down here, but are merely camping, waiting for their eonian dwelling in the heavens. In fullest harmony with this is the fact that we do not know Christ according to the flesh. We are not related to Him by physical ties (as the Circumcision were) nor do we enter any but a purely spiritual association, not on earth, but in the heavens. How fitting, then, that we should make His acquaintance, not on earth, in humiliation, but in the heavens, whither we shall go to meet Him. God has wisely planned that all of these physical details shall be counterparts of spiritual truths.
Even Paul's own career changed from an itinerant ministry to an epistolary, spiritual one.
4 See Jn.4:44.
5-6 Compare Mt.13:58.
7-13 Compare Mt.10:5-15; Lu.9:1-6.
8 See Lu. 22:35.
8 The wisdom of these instructions is not apparent to us of the West. They were going to their fellow countrymen in the neighboring villages, and it would be much the best way to get to their hearts and gain their confidence to throw themselves wholly on their hospitality. It was a point of honor to entertain wayfarers. The villagers would gladly provide them all with bread, they were not to collect anything by begging, and even small sums of money would be refused for such hospitality as they would receive.
An extra pair of sandals would only be a burden, and, as they slept in the same tunic which they wore during the day, one would suffice. Their main equipment was the lack of encumbrances which we regard as necessities.
10 Indeed so hospitable were the villagers, that each one wanted the privilege of entertaining a guest, and so much time would be wasted in useless entertainment, as each new host would insist on some special token of hospitality. So the Lord limited them to a single home in each village. Later, our Lord asked them if they had wanted anything, and they answered, "Nothing" (Lu. 22:35)
11 See Ac. 13:51; 18:6.
13 See Ja. 5:14.
14 Compare Mt.14:1-2; Lu.9:7-9.
14 John the baptist did not perform miracles or wonders. He came in the spirit and power of Elijah. Now, if he was empowered to perform mighty deeds such as Elijah did, Herod might well be afraid. In that case, fifty men might be sent to behead him and lose their lives in the attempt. It was well for Herod that John did no mighty deeds, since the baptist had not been slow to denounce him for his sins, and would not have hesitated to judge him accordingly. It seems that John himself was disappointed in the outcome of his work, especially that he should be imprisoned by the man whom he had denounced. He was an intermediate between the sternness of the prophet and the grace of Christ.
15 Compare Mt.16:14.
15 Even the disciples did not distinguish His gracious spirit from Elijah's stern and destructive ministry. No wonder some thought Him the greatest prophet of their history.
17 Compare Mt.14:3-5; Lu.3:19,20.
18 It was contrary to the plainest precepts of the law to marry the wife of a brother (Lev. 18:16; 20:21). This Herod was usually surnamed Antipas, being the son of Herod the great and a Samaritan woman named Malthace. First, he married a daughter of Aretas, king of Arabia, but he repudiated her, which brought on a war with Aretas. His marriage to Herodias, the wife of his half-brother Philip, and granddaughter of Herod the Great brought on him the denunciation of the baptist. This woman caused his ruin, for she induced him to go to Rome to obtain the title of king, for he was only called king by courtesy, being the tetrarch of Galilee and Perea. Instead of receiving added honors he lost his office and was banished by the emperor Caligula to Gaul, where he probably died.
21 Compare Mt. 14:6-9. See Gen. 40:20.
23 See Esther 5:3-6, 7:2.
21 This is a royal scene. The tetrarch and the government of Galilee are present. It is doubtless inserted here to provide a contrast to the rightful King Who had been gathering His aides about Himself, and Who was proclaiming the kingdom of God. Herod demeans himself to such an extent as to have his own daughter dance before them. Such entertainment was usually provided by low class girls, for a self-respecting woman was not supposed to be seen in a company of men. The dancing consisted largely in a series of postures and attitudes which were often indecent. And, because this pleased the coarse taste of his guests, he promised the half of his kingdom! That kingdom could not have been worth much! Nor was the king worth any more. Instead of ruling his realm in righteousness, he himself was ruled by his passions and his pride. On account of his bombastic boast, he is afraid to do what is right. What a coward! What a contrast to that uncrowned King Who walks about his realm, unspotted, unafraid! He provides no entertainment but the truth. He attracts by His holiness. Instead of sacrificing a righteous man on the altar of His folly, He becomes the great Sacrifice for sinners.
23 This was only a vain-glorious boast. He could not dispose of the least part of his kingdom, for he was a vassal of Rome.
27-29 Compare Mt.14:10-12.
30 Compare Lu. 9:10.
30 As Mark is especially concerned with service, it is in keeping with its character to give some details that particularly pertain to the servants' work. They acknowledged their Lord, as all good servants should, by giving Him a full account of their actions. He, as a reward for their labors, suggests retirement and rest. He and they would leave the multitude, and seek seclusion and refreshment in the wilderness. It is most significant to follow this thought, and see that, when they came to the private place, there were about five thousand men there, and, instead of finding leisure to eat, they feed this vast throng, and, rather than rest themselves, the people repose on the grass and the disciples wait on them. The Lord found rest and refreshment in serving others. Typically, this takes us to the time when the labors of the apostles will be over, and when they, as good shepherds, not only rule over the tribes of Israel, but lead them to verdant oases and to waters of rest. So great is His compassion that He will not refuse to serve until they are satisfied. In that day there will be scant dependence on human provision and foresight. The blessing of God will displace the arduous efforts of men. The very orderliness of the scene suggests the presence of a government which functions perfectly. The numbers used recall to mind the thousand years of His millennial reign, for there was one cake for each thousand men. But, more than all, we must note that the miracle is no strain on His beneficence. His resources are not exhausted by the effort. The fragments which remain fill twelve panniers, incredibly more than the five cakes with which He began. So the millennial blessings are by no means the limit of God's power. They are but the prelude to greater glories in the succeeding eon, which will culminate in the consummation at its end, which will be the final demonstration of God's power and man's impotence. During the eons man toils to provide his own necessities but sinks into defeat and death. And it is in death alone that God can act unembarrassed by the aid of His creatures, and unhindered in the activities of His heart.
31-39 Compare Mt.14:13-21; Lu.9:10-17; Jn.6:1-13.
43 To fully appreciate the import of this sign, it must be compared with a similar one which occurred some time later. The cumulative contrast cannot be fully seen in an inaccurate version, but is readily observed when it is noted that the numbers are confirmed by the kinds of "baskets" and that the twelve large panniers which were left after feeding five thousand with five cakes were packed (Jn. 6:13) while the seven smaller hampers left after feeding the four thousand with seven cakes, were simply full. And yet, after seeing both of these signs, the disciples worry because they forgot to get bread! It is almost impossible for us to believe that God can do most when man's aid is least.
45-51 Compare Mt. 14:22-33; Jn. 6:14-21.
45 There is a new setting of the scenes. The separation from the disciples and ascent into a mountain for intercession with God pictures His ascension and priestly mediacy for Israel during their apostasy. Their torment in rowing corresponds to the fearful affliction of the time of the end, such as has not yet occurred, neither will occur again. The contrary wind gives us the cause of their torment, the terrible, yet unseen spiritual powers which will seek to destroy them, by stirring up the nations against them. His walking on the sea symbolizes His control of the turbulent upheavals of mankind. When He comes to them the wind dies down. When He comes to Israel the spiritual powers are seized and Satan is bound.
It is blessed to see, in this miracle, a proof of His power over the wind and the waves. It is wonderful to see Him walk on the water. But is it not more marvelous to see in all this a sign of His far greater power over the rebellious hordes of the unseen world and the surging masses of mankind? When He comes again, then He will indeed speak peace to the trembling hearts of His terrified disciples. Such scenes as this will give confidence to His saints in that awful time of trouble which is impending over the earth today. The powers of evil may swoop down upon them. They may stir the nations into still greater hatred of the Jew. Yet those of them who know Him will wait for Him to arise and calm His creatures.
53-56 Compare Mt. 14:34-36.
53 The lake of Galilee was so named from its western shore, but it was also called Tiberias, for the city of that name, and Gennesaret, from the region on its northwestern strand. Josephus is eloquent in his praises of the natural advantages of this part of Galilee. Though far below sea level, the climate seems to have been most equable. All sorts of fruits flourished in its fertile soil. It was abundantly watered from copious springs and streamlets. Does not this suggest that this is another prophetic preview of the kingdom, in which the whole earth will produce abundantly of all good things ? He has come down from above and rescued His own from the wind and the sea, just as He will save Israel from the clutches of Satan and the nations. Now the time of blessing is due. Hence we find Him in fertile and flourishing Gennesaret, carrying wealth and blessing wherever He goes. Happy, indeed, was that land, for He Who had stilled the fears of His people, now lays His healing hand on their afflictions, a prophecy of the day when the Sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in His wings (Mal. 4:2). The merest contact with His robe brings salvation. Touching the tassel entitles all to participate in His finished righteousness.
1-13 Compare Mt. 15:1-9.
1 It was the custom to eat with the fingers. No forks or spoons were used in conveying food to the mouth. Yet the Pharisees were not worried about cleanliness or table manners, but about conformity to tradition. Instead of cleansing the inside of the hands which touched the food, they rinsed the outside, clenching their fists when they washed. Going to market involved contact with others, which they deemed contaminating, here they would not eat until they had been sprinkled. The baptizing of cups and ewers and copper vessels and couches, was not for cleanliness, but ceremonial purity, and the most perfunctory application of water in almost any way was deemed highly devout. The word baptism is really Greek, and differs from sprinkling or washing or bathing only in the fact that it was ceremonial rather than practical. Its cleansing was spiritual, not physical.
6-7 Compare Isa. 29:13.
6 The religious Jew delighted in forms and ceremonies, pious ejaculations and protracted prayers, yet at heart he was not vitally concerned with the things of God. No better test could have been made than to bring them into the presence of Him Who was the Image of God and the Word of God. Instead of worshiping, they criticised Him.
7 The writer of these notes cannot help uttering a heartfelt prayer that they will never be taken for more than what they are intended to be-suggestive thoughts which lead to and not from the sacred text. He would rather they would all vanish than that they should stand between anyone and the living oracles. May we never be tainted with the spirit of the ancient Rabbis who did not scruple to place their words above the Sacred Scrolls. In the Talmud, we read: "The words of the scribes are more noble than the words of the law; for the words of the law are both hard and easy [to understand], but the words of the scribes are all easy." Another traditional saying was "He who deals with scripture does a thing indifferent; he who reads the Mishna has a reward; but he who devotes himself to the Gemara is most meritorious of all." In the same way, the commentaries and confessions and creeds of Christendom have a stronger hold on the hearts of many of His saints, than the inspired Scriptures. May He grant that many will return to the fountain undefiled!
8 Sad to say, even in this day some of the saints have been led to practically repudiate God's word for the tenets of those who propose to explain it. No teacher is worthy of the name who supplants the Scriptures.
9 The "Corban" was the approach offering, by means of which the offerer sought the favor of God. All a young man had to do to be free from the support of his parents was to say this word and he was free from all further obligation. In theory, he was giving God a greater place than his parents. In fact, he was not only dishonoring his progenitors, but God, and invalidating His law.
10 Compare Ex. 20:12, 21:17.
14-23 Compare Mt. 15:10-20.
20 The supercilious Pharisees, who were so concerned lest they should be contaminated by contact with their inferiors, or by eating food with hands ceremonially unclean, were themselves the most contaminating of all. Their pride and evil reasonings were most defiling even when they complained of the disciples who ate with unwashed hands.
24-30 Compare Mt. 15:21-28.
24 Our Lord now comes near the borders of the land. This is most instructive and interesting to all who are outside the pale of the promises. Hitherto He had been blessing His own people and proselytes to Judaism. Now He comes into contact with a Greek, a Syro-Phoenician woman. How will He act in the presence of this foreigner? He shows none of the arrogant hatred of the Jew, yet insists that she take the place to which the prophets assign the nations. She has no right at the table or to the food on it. This is for Israel. Our Lord was a Servant of the Circumcision (Ro.15:8). He was not sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. He had nothing for this alien. Instead of defending her nation and claiming equality with the favored Jew, she acknowledges their priority and superiority. But she was satisfied that His blessing was so bountiful that Israel could not contain it, and would leave an overplus for the nations. Thus she glorified God and believed His word. Such is the blessing of the nations in the kingdom.
Even during Paul's itinerant ministry, the nations partook of Israel's spiritual things. They were debtors (Ro. 15:27). In the millennium they will be blessed with and through Israel. But, now that the secret of the present administration of grace has been revealed, we are no longer guests. We are not puppies, glad to get the scraps, but members of God's family (Eph. 2:19). The Syro-Phoenician woman's place was far below Israel's. The transcendent riches of God's grace which are ours in Christ Jesus place us immeasurably above them. During the period from the call of Saul to his imprisonment in Rome, the nations were Israel's guests, but gradually, as Israel's provision failed, they were given food of their own, until they needed none from Israel.
31-37 Compare Mt. 15:29-31.
32 The meeting with the Greek woman of Syro-Phoenicia suggests a phase of kingdom service for which Israel, in our Lord's day, was utterly incapable. In Jehovah's day, the Lord's word will go forth from Jerusalem. The evangel will be proclaimed in every corner of the earth. The knowledge of Jehovah will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea. It will be the greatest missionary program the earth has ever seen, and the first to be fully successful.
But the nation of Israel in our Lord's day was no more fitted to proclaim the evangel than a deaf-mute. They did not hear Him themselves, and they would not proclaim His message because they could not hear. This is the setting which suggests itself when they bring the Lord a deaf-mute, and He heals him. The peculiar method of healing has remained quite a mystery to theologians, who are at a loss why He should not heal him with a word, instead of putting His fingers in his ears and touching his tongue. Some have suggested that saliva is a healing agent! But the saliva was not put on his tongue. Little significance can be gathered from His actions unless we interpret their symbolism along rational lines.
There are three elements in their preparation for the millennial ministry: His works, His words, His sufferings. His works will force themselves on their attention. This is signified by His thrusting His fingers in the deaf man's ears. His words are signified by the saliva which came out of His mouth, and, accompanied by the touching of his tongue, enable them to talk. He will put His words in their mouths. His groans are the signs of His sufferings. Through them, Israel will be saved. And the unrestrainable proclamation was but a small rehearsal of that glorious day when the glad tidings will be heard in every land. The Jews are the great missionary nation. They are now being schooled in the great university of experience for the future evangelization of the world. They are inured to every climate, familiar with every language, at home in every country. Sustained by the authority of the King of kings, they will carry out the first successful world missionary movement.
1-3 Compare Mt. 15:32-34.
1 Why were there two different occasions on which our Lord fed a great company of people? Why five cakes in one instance and seven in the other? Great as is the miracle performed on these two occasions, we are not satisfied until we can read the sign. What did it signify?
Man shall not live on bread only, but on every word which proceeds out of the mouth of God. The written and the living Word are the true bread of God. The living Word cannot be divided. But the written word is composed of separate books. These may well be represented by the cakes given to the multitude.
These signs are in the wilderness, hence cannot be in the kingdom, but give us His provision for His people before the kingdom comes. The kingdom testimony is divided into two distinct periods, one, in the first century, which is past, and one, still to come, at the end of the eon, which is future.
The first sign, where there were five cakes, brings before us the past means of subsistence, of the kingdom saints, the first three "gospels", Acts and Hebrews. (John is intended for the kingdom itself.) It was this spiritual food that sufficed for so many, and left such an abundant surplus. May we not distribute these scraps to the nations, according to the previous sign? Nothing is said of what was done with them, but we know that the nations came in for some blessing, as recorded in the book of Acts.
God has made provision for the future wilderness needs of His kingdom people by means of seven epistles, corresponding to the seven cakes in the second sign. These are James, first and second Peter, first, second and third John, and Jude. Though the scraps are not so abundant, we know that there will be some among the nations who will find some crumbs even at that time.
6-10 Compare Mt. 15:35-39.
11-21 Compare Mt. 16:1-12. See Lu. 12:1-3.
12 After giving them this marvelous sign they ask for a sign! His exclamation shows how hopeless He thought them. Suppose He should ? They would not recognize it. It is useless to speak to the deaf or put a picture before the eyes of the blind.
19-20 See 6:41-44, 8:7-9.
19 The comparison here suggested by our Lord is most striking and important. He is seeking to show them that God's blessing comes in inverse ratio to human provision. This is the highest mathematics, and quite beyond the powers of the unspiritual mind. If reasoning could devise a way to satisfy five thousand with five cakes and leave a remainder, then the remainder would be smaller than seven divided among only four thousand. But the opposite is true. Every word used, when carefully translated, emphasizes the great truth that the less of man's work in God's operations the greater the work and the larger the excess. The following list of words will help to fix this on our minds and in our hearts:
five cakes seven cakes
five thousand four thousand
twelve panniers seven hampers
packed (Jn.6:13) filled
Let us not be like the apostles who failed to figure out the formula for these equations, and could not apply it in their own experience.
22 Many explanations have been offered for this most peculiar method of healing, all of which seem to be no clearer than the sight of the blind man at first. It is questionable whether any explanation can or ought to be offered on natural grounds. The Lord could have healed him completely in an instant, but He did not choose to do so. It is evidently another sign, and we will find its meaning in the restoration of Israel's spiritual sight. The cure was accomplished by that which proceeded out of His mouth-the word of God. As was so often the case there was an interval. At first, the blind man's sight was blurred. Later he saw clearly. So it was with Israel. In the past, they saw that there would be a gradual growth, like a tree, until the kingdom. But it will take another application of His hands in the future to restore them. Then they will no longer be puzzled by the course of events. Throughout the past proclamation of the kingdom, especially in the Pentecostal era, the prospect of the kingdom was vague. It will not be so at the time of the end.
27-31 Compare Mt.16:13-21; Lu.9:18-22.
29 Here we find the first sharp distinction between the unbelieving nation and the little band of believers, represented by Peter. This marks the great crisis in His ministry. Henceforth He is no longer concerned with proclaiming the kingdom to the nation, but is teaching His own disciples concerning His sufferings. In fact, He warns them not to tell that He is the Christ. The nation has rejected Him and His proclamation. The kingdom that drew near is now receding. The result of His labors lies in the confession of a few, of whom Peter is the type, who recognize Him as the Messiah, and as the Son of God. Now He begins His new ministry, and, strange to say, His message is immediately opposed by Peter. Notwithstanding all that He taught them concerning His sufferings in the period now begun, it was not till after they were over that the apostles received and believed His words. They wished to persist in proclaiming the kingdom. A similar condition exists today. The kingdom was once more proclaimed during the period covered by the book of Acts, and once more rejected. Still, some persist, like Peter, in keeping up its proclamation.
32-33 Compare Mt. 16:22,23.
33 The term "satan", here applied to Peter, is Hebrew for adversary. It is a common noun except when used of him who is otherwise called the Serpent and Slanderer.
34-38 Compare Mt.16:24-27; Lu.9:23-26.
34 Not only does the Lord now look forward to sufferings for Himself, but His followers also must taste of His cup. While proclaiming the kingdom, they anticipated wearing a crown. Now they must renounce all of self and bear a cross.
35 Soul never means life. Life depends on spirit. Soul is the conscious sensation resulting from the union of the body with the spirit. He who wants to save his soul, will seek his own pleasure and comfort and shrink from self denial and cross-bearing. In the kingdom, there will be every delight the soul can crave. Hence the disciple that does not suffer for His sake and so loses his place in the kingdom, saves his soul for the time, but loses it in the kingdom. Anyone who should gain the whole world, yet not be able to enjoy it, loses his soul.
1 Compare Mt.16:28; Lu.9:27; 2 Pet.1:16-18.
1 It is most fitting that the kingdom proclamation should close with a demonstration of its glory and power. It should have come immediately and for all, yet now it is put far into the future. Some should live to see it. This is shortened to six typical days, a week of work, leading up to the seventh day, or sabbatism, as the kingdom is called. Only Peter, James, and John are taken, for they represent three different classes in Israel who will enter the kingdom. James stands for those who died in faith in the past, for he was assassinated by Herod (Ac.12:1). Peter, by his epistles, ministers to those who will be in the great affliction of the end time. He also dies a martyr. John suggests those who will live through the end time and enter the kingdom alive (Jn.21:18-23). These all enter the kingdom and behold His glory, and meet Moses and Elijah, representatives of the two ministries, the law and the prophets.
The glory of the kingdom did not consist in the lightnings of Sinai, or spectacular scenes of bliss but in the transformation of Christ. No longer was His glory veiled beneath the form more marred than any man's, but the Immanent splendor of His person shone through His glistening garments.
2-10 Compare Mt. 17:1-9; Lu. 9:36.
5 Alas, poor Peter! The presence of Moses and Elijah, who were held in highest veneration by the Jews, quite overcame his reason. The solitary sublimity of the transformed Christ should have so filled his vision that Moses and Elijah would hardly appear. The kingdom is not going to be a triumvirate. Moses and Elijah will be completely eclipsed by Christ. It is the same error that the unbelieving nation has made. They thought Him a prophet or even Elijah. Why should Peter put them on a level with Him? There must be only one tabernacle in Israel, and that one is Christ Himself the embodiment of the complement of the Deity (Col.2:9). No wonder a cloud blotted out the vision and a voice corrected his misconception. No longer were they to hearken to the prophets. "This is My Son, the Beloved. Hear Him!"
11-13 Compare Mt. 17:10-13.
11 The Minor Prophets close with the promise (Mal. 4:5,6):
Lo! I send you Elijah the prophet
Before the great and fearful day of Jehovah comes
And he restores the heart of the fathers to the sons
And the heart of the sons to their fathers,
Lest I should come and smite the earth to its doom.
John the baptist came in the spirit and power of Elijah, and would have done his work had the people repented. But he did not exercise the destructive power of that prophet. So Elijah must come again, before the kingdom is established. There is little doubt that one of the two witnesses of the end time is Elijah (Un. 11:3-12), for they perform similar prodigies. Both cause a drought for three and a half years. Both destroy their enemies by supernatural fire. Elijah did not die, but was taken up heavenward in a tempest (2 Ki. 2:11). His appearance on the mount, an actual spectator of Christ's glory, qualifies Him for the testimony which the two witnesses will uphold.
13 See Mt.11:14; Lu.1:17.
14-27 Compare Mt.17:14-21; Lu.9:37-42.
14 Having descended from the mountain, the Lord now faces Golgotha. Instead of the power and glory, He speaks of weakness and shame. He will not allow them to even mention what they have seen, until the time to proclaim the kingdom once more arrives. The first symptom of this change has already been made manifest to the disciples He has left behind. They are unable to cast out the demon from the dumb boy. Their power over the unseen world is on the wane! The demons have perceived the unbelief of the nation, and are well aware of the great change which is coming over His ministry. He no longer wishes to display His power, or that of His apostles. Rather He is laboring to teach them a far more difficult lesson-that of His weakness and death. He does not wish them to go about proclaiming the kingdom, so He withdraws the power that they had received over demons.
19 It is not that they had not faith enough to cast out the demon, but they refused to recognize the change which His new attitude involved, which would keep them from attempting such a miracle. The great lesson in this sign is that the demon will not come out of Israel under the ministry of the apostles, as set forth in the book of Acts. Their effort is a failure. Even after that, there is a delay, during which there are convulsions. The demon will go out of the nation in the midst of the severest throes, leaving it almost lifeless. The experience of the demoniac is a parallel to the experience of Israel, beginning with the renewed proclamation of the kingdom by the apostles, during the Lord's absence. Hence there is such insistence on faith and such a protracted period taken up in his healing. We may be sure that the apostles did not understand the significance of their own failure, neither could He explain this to them at that time without revealing secrets God had reserved. Had they known it they could not have entered whole-heartedly into their Pentecostal ministry. It is just such scenes as this, so meaningless and tedious to unbelief, yet so significant to the anointed eye, which overwhelm us with a sense of the divine presence on the sacred page.
30-32 Compare Mt.17:22-23; Lu.9:43-45.
30 How unlike His former journeys which were crowded with the powers of the coming eon! He spread abroad blessing with a lavish hand. The sick sought Him and were cured. The unclean spirits left at His slightest word. He scarcely had time to eat or sleep, so fully was He occupied in relieving the infirmities of the people. There is a season for every act under the sun; a time when it should, and a time when it should not be done. It had pleased God to testify to the proclamation of the kingdom by appropriate powers and signs. But now that season is past. The heralding has been hushed. The signs cease. He walks a lonely Wanderer, rejected, proscribed, threatened. Seeking to enlist the sympathy of His disciples, His words thrust them from Him, for they cannot comprehend, and His manner makes them afraid to ask. Lonely in the midst of His people! Lonely in the midst of His intimate friends! And so He sets His face toward the cross whose chill shadow is already casting its pall about Him.
33-34 Compare Mt.18:1; Lu.9:46.
34 While the Son of God was in sad contemplation of the deep humiliation of the cross, His disciples were puffed up with pride, arguing about their own greatness. They could hardly have been further removed from Him in spirit. He Who had been above all was now sinking beneath all. Higher than the archangels was His primeval position; lower than the lowest of sinners is the appalling place to which His path is winding. Higher! is the selfish shout of man, intent on his own exaltation, though he tread his fellows under foot to reach his proud pinnacle. Lower! was the cry of Christ, intent on the weal of others, though He be trodden in the mire to serve them. True greatness can never be attained by striving for self. It lies only in service for others.
35-37 Compare Mt.18:2-6; Lu.9:47-48, 22:24-30.
33-41 Compare Lu.9:49-50.
38 It was not long since the disciples had failed to cast out a demon. They were doubtless jealous of this man, for they wished to monopolize all the privileges of discipleship. The spirit of this act of the apostles has been a curse in Christendom. We are apt to think that only those who follow with us are countenanced by the Lord, or have a right to a place in His service. But the incident seems to point to a wider thought. The Lord evidently was not present when John used his authority to stop the offending miracle-worker. So, after His ascension, a whole group of men arose with Paul at their head, who did not follow with the twelve. It took much careful work to persuade the apostles that he had a ministry from the Lord as well as they (Gal.2:2). There was a great work done, including the actual casting out of demons (Ac.16:18), in which the twelve apostles had no part. We are not associated with the twelve apostles, but with this group. Because the believing Jews would not allow the nations a place in the kingdom or the pardon of sins, their own pardon was recalled. The work here hinted at and commended by our Lord in time displaced the ministry of the twelve apostles. It is only by a grasp of their dispensational application that we may read these signs.
40 See Mt.12:30; Lu.l1:23.
41 See Mt.10:40-42.
42 Compare Mt.18:6.
43 Compare Mt.5:30. See Deut.13:6-11 Isa. 33:14, 66:24.
45 Gehenna, the valley of Hinnom just below Jerusalem, must not be confounded with the lake of fire, or Tartarus, or the unseen, commonly called "hell" or hades. Its fire and worms were quite as literal as can be, for the city offal was burned there. No living beings were cast into this incinerator. It is the worms, which feed on the carcasses of criminals, who do not die. The fire was kept burning at all times. This will be the place where bodies of executed malefactors will be cast during the kingdom era.
49 Since the kingdom has been rejected, entrance into it is necessarily a path of judgment. Salt is a preservative. During the kingdom era corruption will be stayed. The salt that counteracts the corruption of that day will be fire, a judgment. As already elaborated, nothing that offends can enter that kingdom. It must be judged. If not, it will drag down those who harbor it into Gehenna and its fires.
47-48 Compare Mt. 5:29.
49 See Lev.2:13; Eze.43:24.
50 See Mt.513; Lu.14:34-35; Col.4:6.
1-12 Compare Mt. 19:1-12.
1 Our Lord is now in Perea, over which Herod held sway. Herod had dismissed his wife for no other reason than that he wanted to marry Herodias, his brother's wife. It was John the baptist's protest against this which really cost him his life. Hence the Pharisees hope to put the Lord on the horns of a dilemma. If He countenances Herod's act, that could easily be used against Him. If He condemns it, that could be used to inflame the Herodians, if not Herod himself. But the Lord is equal to the occasion. He is greater than Moses. He knew the hardness of their hearts. He, therefore, revokes the law, and bases the union of man and wife on the original creation. Adam was both male and female in one body when he was first created (Gen.1:27). Later God took from Adam, not a rib, but an angular vault to build the woman. Marriage is the reversal of this. A male and a female are joined together to make one complete human being, as Adam was at his creation. God, Who took Eve out of Adam, and thus made the separation, yokes them together again in marriage. They become a physiological unit. No man should destroy such a union. Only one cause was given by our Lord as a ground for divorce (Mt.5:32). In this day of grace even this is not valid. Only desertion by an unbelieving husband or wife breaks the bonds of matrimony (1Co.7:15). The reason for this lies in the character of this economy. It is the opposite of the administration of a stony law over hard hearts. God is now dealing in pure, unadulterated grace, which forgives offenses and pleads for reconciliation in the most desperate circumstances. This should be reflected in all our social relations, especially in the marriage bond.
4 See Deut.24:1; Mt.5:31-32.
6 See Gen.1:27, 5:2.
7 See Gen.2:24 LXX 1 Co.6:16; Eph.5:31.
12 See Lu.16:18; Ro.7:3; 1Co.7:10-11.
13-16 Compare Mt.19:13-15; Lu.18:15-17.
13 Children were not supposed to be capable of understanding Him, hence, hardly candidates for the kingdom. But they had the very essential which was so lacking among His disciples at this time. They had implicit faith in what they were told, and trusted those who told them. The disciples, alas, were also immature in understanding. They did not apprehend the need of the cross which He was seeking to sink into their hearts. Yet they lacked the child-like faith which believes, though it cannot comprehend.
20 The incident of the rich man contains the line of thought suggested by the little children. He was their opposite. He had confidence in himself, in his accomplishments, in his ideas. He wanted to work his way into the kingdom. As a matter of fact, what he had done so far had resulted in a condition quite the opposite of the kingdom. His many acquisitions, the result of his activities, meant so much loss to his poorer neighbors. He had been anything but good to them. Had the kingdom come at that moment, he must have lost all except his own allotment. If then, he really had faith in that kingdom, and wished to enter it and enjoy eonian life, the only practical way to prove it would be to do all he could to bring about kingdom conditions. It would be absolutely impossible to hold on to his lands in that day, for it will be redistributed according to each one's need. The disciples in the Pentecostal era acted on the principles of the kingdom. They did not sell their own allotments, but disposed of the allotments of others which they had acquired, using the proceeds to help those who were in need (Ac.2:45).
15 See Mt.18:2-3.17-22
17-22 Compare Mt.19:16-22; Lu.18:18-23.19
19 See Ex.20:12-16.21
21 See Mt.6:19-21; Lu.12:33-34, 16:9.22-27
22-27 Compare Mt.19:23-26; Lu.18:24-27.
23 All human kingdoms have a high place for those who have wealth. They have no difficulty in entering. Indeed, it has come to the point where the wealth of the world is the controlling factor in government. Policies are dictated, laws are passed, treaties are made, wars are fought, all to protect invested capital or to promote the accumulation of wealth. The majority of mankind have become the slaves of the minority, who hold them by bonds of gold. There is no human remedy. In God's kingdom, all this will be reversed. No rich man, as such, will enter, for his riches will have been destroyed in the previous judgment era, or will not be recognized. But the greatest hindrance is the lack of confidence in Christ.
24 See Job 31:24; Ps.49:6-9; 1Ti.6:17-19.
27 See Jer.32:17; Lu.1:37.
28-31 Compare Mt.19:27-30; Lu.18:28-30.
30 This has proven a stumbling block to many, who seek to apply it to the present grace. They have left all, but do not receive either a hundred fold or indeed a hundredth part of what they have lost. The reference is strictly confined to the Jewish disciples in the era in which the kingdom was proclaimed. After Pentecost the disciples had all things in common, so that all had an interest in and enjoyment of hundreds of houses and fields (Ac.2:44, 4:32), being bound by more than natural ties to thousands of fellow believers, who cared for their welfare, so that there were none indigent among them (Ac.4:34). There was a daily dispensation which took in all, even the widows who might have been in sore straits under any other dispensation. But today there is no temporal profit in standing true. Our greatest privilege is to suffer. Our reward is in the heavens. It is most mischievous to "appropriate" such promises, for they cannot be fulfilled. The motive that underlies them is utterly foreign to the truth for today. Present advantage is not a bait to catch the unbeliever now, and future reward is not in lands, but in the celestial realms.
31 See Lu.13:30
31 Those who forsook all their worldly properties and prospects were the poorest and last, yet these are the ones who will become first in the kingdom. Even in the Pentecostal era this was true. Peter could truly say "Silver and gold I do not possess" (Ac.3:6). No one had less of wealth. The high priests controlled great stores of treasure besides their personal fortunes. Yet who was lower than they? Material and spiritual values are usually in inverse ratio.
32-34 Compare Mt.20:17-19; Lu.18:31-34
35-41 Compare Mt. 20:20-24.
35 There were only two places of great honor next to the king in an eastern monarchy. One was at his right and the other at his left. But among our Lord's apostles, three were foremost and privileged. These were Peter, James, and John. This is evidently a piece of petty diplomacy on the part of John and James, intended to prevent Peter from getting the first place. Such selfish insistence completely dissipates the usual conception of the "sons of thunder", as our Lord called them. John was not at all the meek, mild, gentle, amiable character he is popularly supposed to be. He was loud, egotistic, selfish. His writings do not reveal his natural characteristics, but rather the power of grace to counteract them. Would the apostle of love seek to supplant Peter? Yet the exquisiteness of that same grace is seen when it takes the boastings of the flesh and makes them good. They were not able to drink the cup which He was drinking. Yet the spirit later made them able. James was assassinated by Herod (Ac.12:2). It is quite possible that this passage supports the tradition that John also was killed by the Jews. The fact that his written ministry applies to the time of the Lord's return does not allow of a record of his death in the Scriptures. See Jn.21:20.
What makes this request so terribly atrocious is its utter antagonism to the Spirit of Christ, at this time.
41 The other apostles are no better than the sons of Zebedee. They all want place, power, prestige. They little know the kind of kingdom they are to enter. They dream of some oriental despotism in which the whims of the ruling class, and their desires, are the only law. But in the kingdom all sovereignty will be based on service. None will rule there who have not suffered. They will rule the people as a shepherd tends his sheep. They will lead them and feed them and protect them. So the great King and Shepherd served them when He suffered for their ransom.
42-45 Compare Mt.20:25-28; Lu.22:24-27.
46-52 Compare Mt.20:29-34; Lu.18:35-43. See also Mt.9:27-31.
46 There were probably four blind men healed at Jericho, one as He was nearing the city (Lu.18:35) Bar Timeus, at His going out, and two more at about the same time ( Mt.20:29). To the spiritual mind there is a delightful harmony between all our Lord's words and ways. He did not go down to Jericho, the city of the curse (Josh. 6:26) until He had been rejected. It is most fitting that He should pass through it on this journey. The contrast between the single blind man before He entered the city and the three after leaving it is very suggestive. So far as we know, only Mary, of all His disciples, had her eyes opened to the truth that He was to enter the place of the curse and die (Mt.26:12). But, after He had passed through, the eyes of many were opened.
To this very day an accursed Christ a suffering Saviour, is distasteful to the human heart. As a Leader or Example, He is welcome and is accorded the place supreme among the sons of Adam. As such, He supports the self-righteous attitude of the sons of Cain. They are glad to enlist under His banner, as one like Him, ready to fight an external foe. But to find that foe in themselves, to see in His humiliation and shame an intimation of their own, and acknowledge His accursed death as their deserts, requires a miracle on God's part greater in its way than any He ever wrought. And he who knows the power of this in his own heart cannot doubt the lesser miracles of Holy Writ.
1-7 Compare Mt. 21:1-7; Lu. 19:28-36.
1 Strange as it may seem, there are only seven recorded visits of Christ to Jerusalem. And it was the temple rather than the city which drew Him for He came only to fulfill the law, and to keep the festivals. The first was His own dedication to God (Lu. 2:22). The second was at twelve years of age, when He became "a son of the law" (Lu.2:42). The third and fourth were for the Passover festivals at the beginning of His public ministry. Then we find Him in the temple for the festival of Tabernacles (Jn.7:2,10) and Dedications (Jn. 10:22). The last occasion, here referred to, was for the Passover festival. Only on this last visit is He spoken of as being in the city itself, once at Bethesda (Jn.5:2) and again in the upper room (14:15). At His first visit a sacrifice was offered for Him, at the last He Himself became the Sacrifice.
2 The animal on which our Lord is mounted is always in keeping with His immediate concerns. When He will come forth to battle with His enemies He will be seated on a white horse at once a symbol of exalted rank and of war (Un.19:11). Indeed, His very lack of a mount on His journeys is in harmony with His humiliation. Now He, for the first time in His career exercising the right which is accorded to every oriental king, commandeers a colt for His entry into Jerusalem. But kings do not ride on colts. Nothing less than a chariot or a white horse befits their rank. As the prophets predicted, He is humble, riding on the foal of an ass (Zech.9:9). His glory is in His humility. His majesty is in His meekness.
But there is more than lowliness. There is salvation, or rather redemption. The firstling of an ass must be ransomed with a flockling (Ex. 13:13). The animal He rode was a type of the ransomed who supported Him in His humiliation. Hence He does not go to the palace of the king, but to the sanctuary. There must be redemption before there can be a righteous reign. Herein lies the point of the whole picture. As King, He comes with salvation.
8-10 Compare Mt.21:8-9; Lu.19:37-44; Jn.12:12-16.
9 See Ps. 118: 25-26.
10 See Ps. 148:1.
11 See Mt. 21:10-11.12-14 Compare Mt. 21:18-19.12 A beautiful figure of the condition of Israel at that time is found in the barren fig tree. On a fruitful fig tree the figs form before the leaves, and the first crop should be ready to eat when the tree is in full leaf. It was evidently too early in the season to expect figs, yet there was one tree which seemed to be in advance of its time. What a marvelously accurate delineation of the nation! God's due time had not yet come. Yet they pretended to all the righteousness and sweetness and goodness which will characterize the kingdom. They were a vain show. Love, joy, and peace were not to be found on the branches of their profession. They were a pious sham. This seems to be the only time He used His miraculous power for destruction. As we look upon Israel today, with even the leaves of their profession withered, let us remember that they are no less miracles than the fig tree by which they were prefigured. The cursing of the fig tree took place immediately after His formal presentation to Jerusalem as their King, and is a standing symbol of their rejection. The present yearning to reestablish Zion is an effort of the fig tree to put forth leaves once again.
15-19 Compare Mt.21:12-16; Lu.19:45-48. See Jn.2:13-17.
15 He now gives His final judgment of the spiritual side of their apostasy by entering the sanctuary and driving out the traders as He had done at the beginning of His ministry (Jn.2:13). Covetousness is leaven and idolatry (1Co.5:10; Col.3:5). The Passover was approaching. So He cleanses His Father's house from leaven and rebukes them for worshiping money instead of praising God.
17 Compare Isa.56:7; Jer.7:11.
20-23 Compare Mt.21:20-22. See Mt. 17:20; Lu.17:6; 1Co.13:2.
20 There is a close connection between the fig tree–Israel politically–and the mountain–Rome's oppressive tyranny–as well as between the cursing of the fig tree and the removal of the mountain into the sea. If Israel had believed, the Roman oppressors would have been scattered among the nations, whence they came.
24 See Ja.1:5-6; 1Jn.5:14-15.
24 Whatever prayer is offered in accord with the will of God will be answered in His time. Whatever is not in line with His purpose need not expect to be fulfilled.
25 See Mt.6:14-15, 18:35; Col.3:13.
25 We have the forgiveness of offenses according to the riches of His grace (Eph.1:7). There are no conditions, no qualifications, no demands that we cannot fulfill, in God's dealings with us. But with Israel nationally, forgiveness was on a much lower level. It depended on their response and could be revoked. The confusion which exists today would be largely dispelled if we would get a grasp of our own transcendent position in grace and revel in it, and refuse to drag it down to the precarious position here indicated. This is not grace, far less the rich and redundant favor which is ours in Christ Jesus.
26 See Ja.2:13.
27-33 Compare Mt.21:23-27; Lu.20:1-8.
27 The chief priests were in supreme authority in the sanctuary. They should have cleansed its courts of this pernicious traffic. But it was probably their own covetousness that countenanced the desecration. They feel that He has gone beyond His rights, and think they can curb Him by demanding His credentials. But they were not only hypocrites, but cowards. He knew that they would not dare to question His acts if He were popular with the people. He knew that they would not dare question the authority of John the baptist, for the people never lost their faith in him. So He exposes their hypocrisy by a simple question. The proud priests confess that they are afraid to answer Him. Yet worse than this, they convict themselves of the utmost incapacity for their office.
They should be able to discern whether John's baptism was of God or not, for it was their function to know the mind of God and to teach the people. Seeking to undermine His authority they effectually destroy their own. Man's every attempt to deny the authority of conscience or revelation can end only in the eventual unmasking of his own pretentions. His defiance only strengthens his ultimate conviction of the supremacy of God.
1-12 Compare Mt.21:33-46; Lu.20:9-19.
1 This was a most familiar illustration for His hearers. Vineyards were usually planted on stony ground. After clearing, the stones were built into a broad stone fence, sometimes not much more than a carefully piled heap, without cement. The vat, into which the grapes were cast for pressing, was usually cut in the natural rock on a hillside, with an opening in the bottom for the juice to escape. When the grapes were ripe a watchman was on guard at all times, being stationed on the tower, which overlooked the whole vineyard.
Israel is the vineyard of Jehovah (Isa.5:7). The parable describes the treatment accorded God's messengers and prophets, whom He sent to recall them to their duty to Him. It was one long story of rebellion and violence. Each generation prided itself that it would not persecute the prophets as its fathers had done, yet, when put to the test, exceeded them in their mistreatment of His slaves. The priests and scribes and elders were the farmers to whose care the vineyard had been committed. The Lord boldly predicts their course with regard to Himself, and, incidentally, He answers their question as to His authority. They were simply hirelings, with no authority whatever when He was on the scene. The vineyard was His Father's. They were answerable to Him. Perhaps nowhere is the darkness of man's mind and the hardness of his heart more apparent than when, in stubborn rebellion against God, he carries out the revealed will of God. Though this was a parable, they knew that He was speaking of them. Why, then, did they persist in doing what He said they would do? They will have no place or power in the kingdom.
10 Compare Ps. 118:22-23. See 1 Pt. 2:4-8.
10 The capstone of the corner is usually the most ornate on a building. The very finest block of stone would ordinarily be reserved for it. But the rulers in Israel refused to give Him any place in the edifice. He was rejected and despised. But when it is finished He will have the highest and most glorious position. How blind they must have been, after this plain prediction, to go on in senseless rage to fulfill His words to the letter!
13-17 Compare Mt.22:15-22; Lu.20:19-26.
18 There were many insurrections and disturbances in Palestine during the first century due to hatred of the foreign domination, and especially because of taxation. The poll tax was a practical pledge of allegiance to Caesar, or rather a badge of subjection. Some of the Jews were in doubt whether it was right to pay it. But it was a most dangerous dilemma in which they hoped to place Him. His followers would soon desert a Messiah Who openly counseled subjection to a gentile tyrant, and the authorities would make no delay in executing any popular leader who spoke against the poll tax. The crafty hypocrites who planned this trap were careful to keep clear of it themselves, for they were afraid it might lead them into complications. So they sent some of the two opposing parties, one of whom, they were sure, would cause His downfall.
He first tears off their hypocritical mask. "Why are you trying Me?" Each word is worthy of separate emphasis. Their motive was wrong. They were not conscientious patriots seeking counsel from the true King of Israel, but false traitors seeking to assassinate Him. How pathetic was His next appeal! Caesar was collecting coffers on coffers of denarii, yet He did not number a single one among His acquaintances! The usurper is satiated with tribute; the rightful Sovereign is penniless.
By accepting the Roman currency, they virtually acknowledged their subjection to Caesar. It was only just that they should fulfill their obligations to him so long as it was God's will that they should suffer for their insubordination to Him. But the rest of the reply was not demanded by the question. It may refer partly to the payment of the temple taxes (Mt.17:24-27; Ex. 30:11-16) for the services of the sanctuary, but, in a broader sense, included all their obligations to God. This would, of course, first of all involve paying Him the loyalty and honor due Him as God's King. They sought to show that He was a traitor to Rome. He exposed their disloyalty to God.
18-25 Compare Mt.22:23-30. See Lu.20:27-86.
18 See Ac. 23:8
18 Now that He has answered the hardest question of the Pharisees and Herodians, the Sadducees bring Him their best argument against the truth of resurrection. There is the constant tendency, even among the household of faith, to present practical difficulties in order to discredit the truth. And the answer is always the same. Those who do not believe God are deceived because they are not acquainted with the Scriptures or the power of God. The difficulties are of their own making. The marriage state is not carried over into the resurrection.
19 See Deut.25:5-6
26-27 Compare Mt.22:31-33; Lu.20:37-38. See Ex.3:6.
26 According to the Sadducees, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob will never be raised from the dead, hence will never live, and God is the God of the dead. The Lord does not affirm that they are alive, for then they would not be raised. His argument demands that they be dead, and that resurrection be a necessity to bring them back to life. There were those in the Corinthian ecclesia who followed the Sadducees on this very subject (1 Co.15:12-28). They denied the resurrection of any: Paul proves the vivification of all. Not only will all be raised from the dead, but all will be given life beyond death at the consummation. Then it will be seen that God is indeed a God, not of the dead, but of the living. This could never be true if there were no resurrection. Far less could it prove the necessity of resurrection if there were no death.
28-34 Compare Mt. 22:34-46.
28 We would expect the Lord to choose one of the "ten commandments". But not one of these compares with the one He selected. Mere negative precepts–thou shalt not–are not in the same class with this positive, lofty conception of conduct based on love. The second would displace all human legislation, were it possible to enforce it. But how much better is the grand truth that we rest on His love to us, not ours to Him! He loves us with all the ardor of His heart. This is unutterably better than the best precept.
29 Compare Deut. 6:4-5.
31 See Lev .19:18; Ro.13:8-10; Ga.5:14; Ja.2:8.
32 See Deut.4:39; Isa.41:6-14.
33 See 1 Sa.15:22; Hos.6:6; Mic.6:6-8.
34 Compare Lu.20:39,40.
35 Compare Mt.22:41-45; Lu.20:41-44.
35 Now that the Lord has answered all His opposers, He propounds a question which they do not attempt to answer. The Messiah was the great central figure of prophecy. The scribes had many traditions about Him. Perhaps the best known title given Him was Messiah ben David, for the son of Jesse was the greatest national hero, and to him was given the kingdom covenant. But they utterly failed to see that He was also the Son of God, and was identical with the One David called his Lord. None of the theophanies, or manifestations of God, in ancient times, could have been appearances of the one invisible God (Col.1:15; 1 Tim.1:17). No one has ever seen God: the only begotten God. . . He unfolds Him (Jn.1:18). Jacob saw Elohim at Peniel face to face (Gen.32:30). Isaiah saw Jehovah Tsebahoth (Isa.6:5; Jn. 12:41). These and others of like nature can be no other than the One Who is the Image of the invisible God (Col.1:15; 2Co.4:4). The God of the Scriptures is one God. He has His Spirit, which is identical with Him in personality. Otherwise, Christ had two fathers, for He is the only-begotten of the Father (Jn.1:14) and of the holy Spirit (Mt. 1:18). Just as a man and his spirit are one, so God and His Spirit are one. The Son of God is a distinct personality, as David shows when he says "The Lord said to my Lord." Yet there is the closest unity, the same as exists between an idea and its verbal expression, a person and his statue or image. God can be known to human creatures only through His Word and His Image, Who is Christ, the Son of God.
36-37 See 2 Sa.23:2; Ps.110:1.
38-40 Compare Mt.23:1-14; Lu.20:45-47.
38 While the scribes were degrading Christ to the level of a mere descendant of David, they were seeking to exalt themselves in the eyes of the people.
41-44 Compare Lu. 21:1-4.
41 See 2 Ki. 12:9.
42 The magnitude of a gift to God is not measured by its size but by the remainder which is left. True giving is a venture of faith.
44 See 2 Co. 8:12.
1-8 Compare Mt. 24:1-8; Lu. 21:5-11.
2 It took forty-six years to build the temple (Jn. 2:20). Our Lord had already hinted that it would be razed to the ground. While He was within the sacred precincts, it was the abode of God. Now that He has left it for the last time, it is a tenantless shell, forsaken by Jehovah. Hence He foretells its destruction. In the spiritual habitation which takes its place, Peter speaks of the saints of the Circumcision as living stones (1 Pt. 2:5). Hence these stones of the temple may well stand for the whole structure of the priesthood, for not only the sanctuary, but the whole Levitical system was demolished at the siege of Jerusalem, about four decades later.
5 It must be remembered that the present interval of God's transcendent grace was an absolute secret, concealed in God (Eph.3:9) and that even the times and eras of the kingdom could not be revealed at that time (Ac.1:7). If these are left out of sight, the events here spoken of by our Lord go right on from His time to the time of the end, just before the kingdom comes. We are in the interval between the demolition of the sanctuary (about 70 A.D.) and the still future course of events which are given in fuller detail under the first four seals in the Unveiling.
The white horse rider (Un.6:2) is the false messiah who comes in His name, the fiery red horse brings on the battles, the black horse corresponds to the famine here foretold, while the fifth seal brings us the fate of those who testify in that day.
10 This is not the evangel of God's grace which we proclaim, but the evangel of the kingdom, which will be heralded once again in the great judgment era which immediately precedes the coming of Christ to reign over the earth. It will be carried on by an elect company in Israel who, like the two witnesses (Un.11:3), will be upheld by divine power. His coming for us is not contingent on any missionary program of the "church".
6 Compare Un. 6:2. First Seal.
7 Compare Un. 6:4. Second Seal.
8 Compare Un. 6:5-8. Third and Fourth Seals.
9-13 Compare Mt.24:9-14; Lu.21:12-19.
11 The method of salvation varies according to God's administration. To say that it is for those who endure to the end, in this economy of pure unmixed grace, would be most misleading. Only at the time specified, just before the consummation which ushers in the kingdom, is salvation accorded to those who endure. The same is true of preparation in speaking. It has no reference to the preaching of the evangel today, but to the defense of those who answer for their lives in the great affliction.
12-13 See Lu.12:51-53.
14-17 Compare Mt.24:15-22.
14 See Dan.9:27, 12:11.
14 The great chronological monument for the time of the end is the middle of the seventieth heptad, when the prince breaks his covenant with Israel, the daily offering ceases and the detestation of desolation is given (Dan.12:11). This marks the beginning of the great unparalleled affliction, such as has never yet been known even to the persecuted Jew. So terrible will it be that not a soul would be saved through it If God did not cut it short. There seems to be some asylum for those who flee into the mountains of Judea. In the Unveiling, this flight is spoken of as if by a woman. " And the woman fled into the wilderness, there where she has a place made ready by God, that there they may be nourishing her a thousand two hundred sixty days" (Un.12:6). To the wild fastnesses southeast of Judea they fly before the fury of the Satanic onslaught with no preparations, no provisions, nothing to preserve them alive for their three and a half years' sojourn. Yet they will be miraculously fed and sheltered, as they were once before in the forty years' wanderings in the same wilderness. In the inclement weather of a Palestine winter, such a flight would be beyond endurance, especially to those not inured to hardship. Yet amidst it all, their safety is assured, for God has already predicted their preservation and salvation, and He is well able to care for His own.
15 See Lu.17:31-33.
19 See Dan.12:1; Un.6:9-11. Fifth Seal.
21-23 Compare Mt. 24:23-28. See Lu.17:22-21.
21 The coming of Christ for His body, the ecclesia to which we belong, will take place more than three and a half years before this time, possibly as many as thirty-seven or sixty-seven. But no one will be able to say when He will come to Israel until the abomination of desolation is set up and the great affliction begins. Then all may be assured that He will not come for three and a half years. By this, they will recognize the many false messiahs who will rise at that time.
But after three and a half years marvelous portents in the sky will herald the advent of the long-desired Messiah. He will come as a lightning flash, clothed in glorious majesty and might. His first act will be to gather the trembling outcasts of Israel from all quarters of the earth about Him, for theirs is the kingdom for the eons of the eons.
23 See 2 Pt. 3:17.
24-27 Compare Mt.24:29-31; Lu.21:25-27; Un. 6:12-17. Sixth Seal.
26 See Dan.7:13-14; 2 Th.1:7-10; Un.1:7.
28-32 Compare Mt.24:32-36; Lu.21:29-31.
28 The fig tree is political Israel. None of the signs here spoken of have yet occurred, so that we cannot say that its leaves are sprouting out. But much that has occurred in recent years indicates that its boughs are becoming tender. The Zionist movement, the Balfour declaration, recognizing the right of the Jews to their ancient homeland, the British mandate, under which there was a greater exodus to Palestine than under Moses, the Jewish colonization, the new Hebrew university on mount Scopus, the change of attitude on the part of many Jews toward Christ–all these acts and facts indicate that Israel is a manmade political unit with a land, a flag, a national anthem, a patriotic spirit–but without Messiah. It is time for the fig tree to put forth its leaves! Before that era, Christ will come to the air to catch us away to be with Himself, Before He can declare war with the earth His ambassadors of peace must be withdrawn,
30 These things should have occurred in that generation. Yet He warns them that no one knows the time. It is a secret which God has not confided to men, nor to His heavenly messengers–not even to the Son. The reason is clear, Had the apostles known all that was to intervene they never could have carried on their Pentecostal ministry, and God could not have used Israel's defection as the basis of a much greater and grander exhibition of grace than the kingdom contemplates.
35 While the Son did not know the day or hour, we can now see that He was aware that there would be a delay. He is the light of the world. His absence is night. He might have come at evening. This probably refers to the early Pentecostal proclamation (Ac.3:20), The great crisis, or midnight, was when Israel was repudiated (Ac.28:26, 27). Perhaps the present awakening in Israel is the cock-crowing. The darkest hour still lies ahead. But in the morning He will surely come. When these signs begin to come to pass then it will be possible to watch events. We, however, do not watch the events which accompany the wrath of God, but wait for God's Son to rescue us from the coming indignation (1Th.1:10).
33-37 Compare Mt.24:45-51.
1-2 Compare Mt. 26:1-5; Lu.22:1-2.
1 The actual festival of Unleavened Bread did not commence until the day after the Passover (Lev. 23:5-6), but, since all leaven was removed on the day of the Passover, and it was eaten with unleavened bread (Ex.12:8), it came to be included in "unleavened bread".
2 How blind they were! The Passover must be killed before the festival, not because it might create a tumult of the people, but because this was God's order. They were at great pains and trouble, in their rabid rebellion against God, that they might fulfill the will of God! So it is always. God's enemies are carrying out His will in their very opposition. The Lamb must be slain on the fourteenth, and God can use the fearfulness of the priests to fulfill it, so long as He cannot use their faithfulness.
3-9 Compare Mt. 26:6-13; Jn, 12:1-8. See Lu. 7:36-38.
3 How precious to the heart of our Lord must have been the intelligent, sacrificing worship of this woman! She alone seems to have understood Him concerning His impending death, or appreciated, in some measure, its preciousness. It is the time, the effort, the treasure, that we "waste" in our worship of Him that gains His gratitude and touches His heart. "Practical" religion provides for the poor; spiritual worship lavishes its all on Him. Benefactors receive their reward in the gratitude of those whom they help. But when has even such a costly gift been so richly rewarded? Men have given as much as a million times the sum she did for philanthropy. But whose name can be mentioned with hers? Yet she simply did with what she had. We do not need to have much, but only give our best and our reward will be beyond all calculation.
10 The woman gave, Judas got. They resented the woman's act and would have taken her treasure from her had they known. The chief priests rejoiced and promised Judas a substantial reward. Who would like to earn thirty pieces of silver? Religious men who know not Christ are always ready to pay for His betrayal.
10-16 Compare Mt. 26:14-19; Lu. 22:3-13.
12 "The first day of the unleavened bread" was not, as might be supposed, the first day of the festival of unleavened bread (Lev.23:7), but the day before, the day of the Passover proper. Similarly, the term Passover was often applied to the festival which followed.
12 The passover must be sacrificed on the fourteenth day of the first month "between [not in] the [two] evenings [of one day]" (Ex. 12:6). This made it possible for our Lord to eat the passover and be the Passover all in one day, between the sunset which began the fourteenth of Nisan, and the sunset which closed it.
13 Bearing water jars was "women's work" and it was a singular sight to see a man with a water jar. There probably was not another in all Jerusalem. His household must have been small, hence he could accommodate so many extra guests at the Passover. It was the custom for families to join into groups large enough to eat a whole lamb (Ex.12:4).
17-21 Compare Mt.26:20-25; Lu.22:14, 21-23; Jn.13:18-30.
17 With what mingled feelings would our Lord eat this passover! Joy to see the fruit of His labors, sorrow at the treachery of Judas, while over all was the shadow of the cross.
21 So atrocious was the treachery of Judas Iscariot that we sympathize with those who find it difficult to see how God's grace can ever reach him. But Paul was a greater sinner (1 Tim.1:15). Judas did not commit his crime until after the Slanderer had put it into his heart (Jn.13:2). He regretted his action (Mt. 27:3). Not so Paul. We can have no sympathy, however, with the attempts to twist the translation to agree with their thoughts. The phrase "that man" refers to Judas in one sentence, so must also refer to him in the next. The Lord is thinking of His own sufferings and Judas' share in them, not of Judas' fate.
22-25 Compare Mt.26:26-29; Lu.22:15-20; 1 Co.11:23-25.
22 It is notable that in this account, as in Matthew, the last dinner is considered apart of the Passover and no mention is made of any memorial for their future observance. The simple figure of speech here used has caused much misunderstanding. The Greek and Hebrew substantive, to be, is not expressed when dealing with matters of fact. But when a figure is intended, the verb must be used. "This IS My body" means that the bread represents His body. "This My body" (without is) could be used only when He was actually speaking of His own physical frame. The sustenance and joy of all believers in Christ is symbolized by partaking of the bread and drinking of the cup. The flesh is benefiting nothing. The spirit is that which is vivifying (Jn. 6:63). It is the spiritual and hearty appropriation of Christ's sufferings which brings satisfaction and delight. This will be ours in its fullness when we are with Him. Till He comes we are reminded of it by partaking of the broken bread and poured out wine.
24 The new covenant is with the nation of Israel (Jer.31:32; 32:40; Eze.36:24-30; Heb.8:7-12; 10:15-17) even as the old one was. The first was dedicated with the blood of calves and he-goats (Ex.24:8), but the new with the precious blood of Christ (Heb.9:15-27). The first was conditioned on their obedience, the second on His.
26-28 Compare Mt.26:30-32; Lu.22:35-39.
27 Compare Zech.13:7.
29-31 Compare Mt.26:33-35; Lu.22:31-34; Jn.13:36-38.
32-42 Compare Mt.26:36-46; Lu.22:46; Jn.18:1-2.
34 The problem of evil is solved for us in the dark shadows of Gethsemane. No one will dispute that He did not deserve to drink the cup that His Father set before Him. No one will find fault with His will, though it was not in line with His Father's. How easily it might have passed from Him! A word would have sufficed to destroy all His enemies. But He had not come to do His own will. And now that the will of God led Him into the sorest suffering and deepest distress, He receives this evil from the hand of God, Who makes it the basis of boundless blessing, not only to mankind and all creation, but to Christ Himself and to His own glory and praise. The evil was short, sharp and temporary. The results will be without limits in time or space. The terrible treatment of the Holy One by the God Whom He so faithfully served is a far more perplexing problem than the introduction of evil into the creation. In both cases it is a temporary infliction fraught with infinite blessing for God and all His creatures.
36 See Heb.5:7-8.
36 It was quite possible for God to have spared Christ the sufferings of the cross. But it could only be done at the cost of untold loss to God, to His creatures and to Christ Himself. God's love could never be known apart from this bitter cup. His grace could never flow forth apart from it. Let us thank Him that He is not doing merely what is possible and easy, but what is for our highest good and His greatest glory.
37 The indifference of the apostles in this, His hour of deepest trial, seems unutterably sad. More and more He is becoming the Lonely One. His nearest friends are far from Him in spirit. God alone is with Him. And soon He also will abandon Him. Only the betrayer is active. He is not drowsing. Neither is the vast throng of His enemies. And then the apostles also become alert. His sufferings did not seem sufficiently serious to ward off sleep. But when they were in danger of suffering themselves, they are suddenly wide awake, and feel no more need of sleep.
43-46 Compare Mt.26:47-50; Lu.22:47,48; Jn.18:3-9.
47-50 Compare Mt.26:51-56; Lu.22:49-53. See Jn.18:10-11.
45 The perfidious kiss of Judas was the last token of affection He received from His apostles. Judas was among those who so recently vowed to stand by Him to the death, if need be. He had been entrusted with the funds (Jn.12:6, 13:29), though he was a thief. There is reason to believe that he was above the peasant class in the social scale, and so of superior breeding to the rest of the apostles. The betrayal of his Lord was an awful crime, and yet it seems ten times more terrible, the way he sought to conceal it under a show of affection. May God keep us from hypocrisy! It is ever so much better to be an open enemy of Christ than to cover an alien and avaricious heart with the cloak of Christianity.
47 How often do the Lord's servants show such zeal! By some swift sword thrust they cut off a hearing for their message.
48 See Lu.24:44.
48 All this show of force was a symptom of fear. If they wanted to arrest Him, why did they not do it on the previous day when He was in their stronghold, the sanctuary? Nothing could have been simpler. There were temple guards, the Sanhedrin and the high priest's house were near at hand, and, if need be, the Roman soldiers were within call. That ought to suffice to arrest a harmless unarmed Man, even if He has a few followers. But they were afraid of the populace. It was a deed of darkness best done in the night. So the chief priests arm their followers, and hire the traitor, and get false witnesses, and stir up the people, and put political pressure on Pilate, all to secure the demolition of the true Temple and the murder of the true Messiah. How terrible is religion apart from the grace of God! Yet beneath it all we can see that, unconsciously, they are carrying out the purpose of God. Though they fail to worship their God, they do not fail to sacrifice the Lamb of God. It was the work of the priests. No one else could do it. Such is the wisdom of God that He uses their hatred to fulfill His will.
52 Linen, used as clothing, typifies righteousness. No one could fly from Him in His hour of need without exposing his own shame and utter lack of righteousness.
53-59 Compare Mt. 26:57-61; Lu.22:54-55, 66; Jn. 18:12-16.
57 The priests were the teachers of the people. We might reasonably expect the chief priest to have a measure of spiritual intelligence. No one in Israel should know more than he concerning the dwelling place of God. He alone, once a year, went into the most holy place. Yet he did not even know that it was empty! God was not there. The glory had departed. Ezekiel describes how it left the cherubim for the threshold of the house (Eze.9:3), then went to the east gate (Eze.10:18-19), and thence to the mountain on the east (Eze.l1:23). Now the glory returned, yet he did not recognize the Lord of Glory, or he would not have crucified Him. The glory returned by the same path which marked its departure. It was, in humiliation, at the foot of the mountain on the east, and came through the east gate into the sanctuary, not, as they would expect, with a marvelous display of visible splendor, amid the plaudits of the people and the praises of the priests, but as the despised and forsaken impostor. The high priest in Israel has sunk so low that he does not even recognize the Shekinah!
58 See Jn.2:18-22.
58 The testimony ought to have opened the high priest's eyes, if anything could. Though paid to testify against Him, they were repeating the great truth that He was the true Temple. No man in Israel could commit a greater crime than to demolish the temple. Yet this was what the chief priests were determined to do. This they charged against Him while they themselves were plotting it.
60-61 Compare Mt. 26:62-63.62 Compare Mt.26:63-64; Lu.22:66-70 Jn.18:19-24.63-64 Compare Mt.26:65-66; Lu.22:71. See Lev.21:10.62 Christ is the faithful and true Witness. When Moses was sent to the sons of Israel, they were to recognize his credentials when he told them "I WILL BE sends me to you" (Ex.3:14). So now the greater Mediator's final testimony is "I am". Then the high priest utters the blasphemy: "Lo! now you hear the blasphemy." He convicts himself of all the charges against Christ.
65 Compare Mt.26:67-68; Lu.22:63-65. See Mic.5:1.66 Poor Peter! Recklessly brave when his courage was called into question, he finds himself a contemptible coward, in spite of all his protestations. Only a few hours before he was ready to die for His Master and was proud of being not merely one of His disciples, but one of the three most intimate with Him. Of course, all the others might renounce Christ, but not he! His thoughts should have remained fixed on the fate of his Master. Instead, he is concerned about himself and does not hesitate to find comfort in the enemy's camp. He was not risking his life to save his Master, but deserting his Master to save his own life.
But let us not blame Peter too severely. He is the great and fearless apostle in the making. Satan is sifting the chaff out of him. God is teaching him the lesson of his own untrustworthy self, and leading him to confidence in Him.
66-71 Compare Mt.26:69-74; Lu.22:55-60 Jn.18:15-18.
69-71 Compare Jn.18:25-27.
72 Compare Mt.26:75; Lu.22:61-62.
1-8 Compare Mt.27:1-2, 11-12; Lu.23:1-17 Jn.18:28-39. See Ps.2:2.
1 The Sanhedrin had jurisdiction in religious affairs only. They did not have the power of death. That was reserved by the civil authorities. Hence it was necessary to secure Pilate's sentence in order to have Him executed. The governor was not interested in their religious differences. His only concern was to guard the state. Hence his first question was concerning His royal pretentions. Christ does not deny that He is a king. In John's account, we are told that He explained to Pilate that, at that time His kingdom was not of this world, and that His deputies would not fight (Jn.18:36). That was all that Pilate needed to know. If Christ was not planning violence, He was no menace to the Roman power. Moreover, when the Lord calmly told Pilate that he had no authority over Him at all except what was given him from above (Jn.19:11), He practically takes the scepter from his hand and assumes the government Himself. The despised Prisoner is kingly, sublime; the cringing governor nothing but a political pawn.
5 See Isa.53:7.
7 Bar-Abbas, which means son of the father, had committed the political crime against the Roman government which they tried to fasten on our Lord. He was a murderer. The Lord was a life giver. Yet, because he was the son of their father, the Slanderer (Jn.8:44), they preferred him to the Beloved Son of God. It seems, however, that the people might have made a different choice had they not been excited by the priests. So that we may trace the crucifixion of Christ backward, with varying degrees of responsibility, through Pilate, the strong governor, who weakly yielded to the people who were swayed by the priests, who were controlled by Satan, who was carrying out the purpose of God. Most of these were bitterly opposed to God, and none of them had any desire to work His will, yet all are moved by motives of which they are unconscious, to do what He has determined shall be done.
9-15 Compare Mt.27:17-26; Lu.23:16-25; Jn.18:39.11 Compare Jn. 18:40. See Ac. 3:14.12 Compared to the malignant hatred of the priests, Pilate's weak submission to the will of the people is merely censurable. Indeed, they are to be contrasted, for Pilate, in his ignorance, was much impressed by the claims of Christ, and sought to release Him. The priests, whose whole life had been devoted to a study of God's law, were blind to the plainest indications of His messiahship. Pilate marveled that He did not reply to the priests. They should have known Him by His silence, even if they had no ears for His words, for the prophet had foretold (Isa. 53:7) :
He is hard pressed, and He is humiliated,
Yet He is not opening His mouth :
He is fetched as a flockling to the slaughter.
And as a ewe before its shearers is mute,
So He is not opening His mouth.
His silence before the deaf leaders of religion was not dictated by haughty contempt. It was useless to speak. They could not hear. So His silence is the God-given sign which they should have heeded.
14 Compare Jn. 19:4-16.
16-20 Compare Mt.27:27-32; Jn.19:1-3.
19 See Mic. 5:1.
21 Compare Lu.23:26-31; Jn.19:17.
22-28 Compare Mt.27:33-38; Lu.23:36-43 Jn.19:17-24. See Ps.69:21, 22:18.
26 Mark, with characteristic brevity, gives only the charge on the inscription. This was probably included in the full title, which probably read
THIS IS JESUS THE NAZARENE
THE KING OF THE JEWS
John's account has almost all of it (Jn.19:19), Matthew says nothing of the appellation "Nazarene" (Mt.27:37), Luke (23:38) and Mark omit His personal name. These were written in the three languages of the day, Greek, Latin, and Hebrew. It is not likely that Pilate allowed any changes to be made after he said "What I have written, I have written!" (Jn.19:22). Each account accords with its peculiar character. Mark, as befits the record of a Servant's death, gives only the charge, and says nothing of the various languages. In the inspired accounts of this inscription, we have an illustration of the way in which the spirit culls only such facts for each account of our Lord's life as are pertinent to the particular aspect of His character which is being presented.
27 See Isa.53:12.
29-30 Compare Mt.27:39-44; Lu.23:35-37 Jn. 2:19-21.29
29 How profanely silly are man's comments on the cross of Christ! He had never said that He would demolish the temple of God. They were doing that! Should He descend He could not fulfill this word that they are casting in His teeth. Likewise, the insufferable stupidity of the priests could not apprehend that, if He would save others, He could not save Himself.
33-34 Compare Mt.27:45,46; Lu.23:44-45.
33 God draws the veil of darkness over the scene during the awful hours in which He abandoned His Son. Then it was that He was accursed (Deut.21:23; Ga.3:13). Then it was that it pleased Jehovah to bruise Him, to put Him to grief, to make His soul a trespass offering (Isa.53:10). Here is a holy of holies into which we dare not come but with bowed hearts and unshod feet. It was the moral crisis of universal history, the grand, long-heralded event that will make this earth the shrine of all creation.
35-36 Compare Mt.27:47-49; Jn.19:25-29.
Mark 15:36-16 :11
36 See Ps. 69:21.
37-39 Compare Mt.27:50-54; Lu.23:45-47; Jn.19:30-37.
37 No man could take His life from Him. All the weariness and wounds did not exhaust His vitality. At the very last He cries out with aloud voice. He laid down His soul of His own will. No mere man could die as He did. Thus it was that the Roman centurion recognized His divinity. And thus it is that the alien nations have learned that He is indeed God's Son.
38 See Heb.10:19, 20.
38 The curtain of the temple was a symbol of His physical body. It is a mistake to suppose that God was manifest in His flesh (1 Tim.3:16). He was veiled, just as the curtain in the holy place veiled the holiest of all from view. It was the rending of the curtain by God which made manifest the way into the presence of God. So His rending on the cross, not the body of His humiliation, clears the way for all into the inmost precincts of God's dwelling.
40-41 Compare Mt.27:55-56; Lu.23:48-49.
41 See Lu.8:3.
42-47 Compare Mt.27:55-66; Lu.23:50-56; Jn.19:38-42.
42 The Passover was always on the fourteenth day of the first month, and the festival of unleavened bread began on the fifteenth. The first day of unleavened bread was a special sabbath. This was followed by the weekly sabbath (Mt.28:1), so that two sabbaths came together on this occasion. The Lord was crucified on the preparation day before the great sabbath and rose on the weekly sabbath which followed.
42 The sufferings of Christ are over. His humiliation is past. Henceforth no honors are too high for Him, no glories too great. Even before His resurrection, we see the symptoms of His exaltation. Joseph of Arimathea may be construed as "the heights shall be added". His name is a prophecy of coming glories. He comes without fear and takes the incorruptible body to the tomb. As the prophet foretold, He was given a tomb with the wicked, nevertheless, He was with the rich in His death (Isa. 53:9).
43 See Lu.2:25-38.
40-47 Compare Mt.27:50-66; Lu.23:53-56; Jn.19:38-42.
1 Compare Lu.23:56.
1 In the hot climate of the orient it is necessary to embalm the bodies of the dead promptly. As the first sabbath of the festival of unleavened bread was so near, in which no servile work could be undertaken (Lev.23:7), they simply swathed the body in a mixture of myrrh and aloes, until the time when they could rub it with spices and prepare it properly, for they were not aware how unnecessary this was in His case, seeing that He was not tainted with corruption even in death. At first, it seems very strange that they should so hurriedly buy the spices that evening, before the sabbath came, for they could not use them until the sabbath was past. We would expect them to wait until the day after the sabbath.
The reason for this lies in the fact that there were two sabbaths in conjunction. The weekly sabbath followed immediately after the first day of unleavened bread, hence they could not buy spices on it. His own teaching would give them leave to do this good work on an ordinary sabbath. Hence their haste in buying the spices on the day of preparation.
2-4 Compare Mt.28:1; Lu.24:1-2.
5-7 Compare Mt.28:2-7; Lu.24:3-7.
7 See 14:28.
8 Compare Mt.28:8-10; Lu.24:8-12. See Mt. 28:11-15.
9-11 Compare Jn. 20:1-18.
9 "The first sabbath", which elsewhere is called "one of the sabbaths" was the first of the series of seven sabbaths from the waving of First fruits till Pentecost. Our Lord was roused from the dead on the day which denoted a finished work, not upon the day that began the weekly toil.
9-12 Both Vaticanus and Sinaiticus omit the last twelve verses, but 8 tacitly admits a longer conclusion to Mark, by spacing out the text of the last few pages, and by the fact that the last four pages are "cancel leaves", written by a different scribe. The original conclusion of Mark was torn out, and a shorter one substituted for it. Likewise B admits a longer conclusion by leaving a blank column after verse eight, the only blank column in the whole manuscript. Our text is taken from Alexandrinus. The reason for these omissions is plain from the character of the narrative. Failing to see the proper place of this commission, and that the record itself says that it was fulfilled (16:20), the proclamation was found to be impracticable, hence was considered spurious. Those who took this commission on themselves found they could not cast out demons, take up serpents, drink poison, or raise the dead, though they might seem to speak new languages or help the ailing.
This commission is for all creation. It is not confined to Israel, or mankind, but is directed to men as apart of the wider realm of creation. Originally, Adam was on close terms with the lower creatures. This commission will be restored in the kingdom.
Paul, in his earlier ministries, had a part in this proclamation. While on the island of Melita, a viper fastens on his hand. The natives looked for him to become inflamed or suddenly fall dead, but he twitched it off into the fire and felt no ill effects (Ac.28:1-6). There, too, he heals the father of Publius and others in the island. The strange part of this is that this occurred after he himself had a physical disability and did not cure his friends. The reason is that this gospel was to be preached to every creature, and had not reached Melita before. When this narrative was closed it had been proclaimed everywhere, and was confirmed with signs following. Connected with the kingdom, it now awaits its fullest fruitage in that glorious day. Its signs reverse the curse of Eden. The serpent is rendered harmless and poison is powerless to produce death.
12-13 Compare Lu. 24:13-35.
14 Compare Lu.24:36-44; Jn.20:19-25. See 1 Co. 15:5.
15 See Mt.28:18-20; Lu.24:45-49; Col.1:23.
16 See Ac.16:29-34.
17 See Ac.28:5, 9:32-35; Ja.5:14-15.
19 Compare Lu.24:50-53; Ac.1:1-11. See Ps. 110:1
20 See Ac.5:12; Heb.2:4.
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