The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Mark 1

Mar 1:1

See Article, Genealogies of Jesus.

In v 1: (1) Humanity, (2) Purpose, and (3) Divinity.

Mark's gospel of the servant emphasizes: Christ's fatigue (Mar 4:38; 11:12; 14:36), his sympathy and compassion (Mar 6:34; 8:12), love (Mar 10:21); seeking of solitude (Mar 1:35; 6:30-32); his grief (Mar 3:5); and his sighing (Mar 7:34; 8:12).

No birth data; few teaching materials; works and miracles emphasized.

Note: the beginning and end points of Mark's gospel are defined by Peter: "Beginning from the baptism of John unto the same day that he was taken up from us" (Act 1:22) -- emphasizing the earthly Christ, a servant among men.

Mark was a servant (Act 12:12).

Hidden Messiahship (Mar 1:44; 4:12,40; 6:1,52).

Vv 1-8: Jesus is announced by 4 voices: Mark, Isaiah, John, and God.


GOSPEL: "Evangelion" = good tidings: Isa 52:1,7-10; 61:1,2.

THE SON OF GOD: Luk 1:32,35; Gal 4:4; Mat 1:20. "The Gospel of Mark opens with the words: 'The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.' We do not notice the concentrated wonder of the last three words, for we have heard them too often. Why does it not strike us as astounding that God should have a Son? It did those who first heard it. For the disciples of Jesus, it was the supreme confession of faith -- 'Thou art the Son of God, Thou are the King of Israel', as another Gospel records from an early disciple; for His enemies, it was the culminating blasphemy, 'and they all condemned him to be worthy of death.' The whole Book vibrates with high excitement, supreme hope, crashing despair, and sudden restoration. There is deep-rooted loyalty, black treachery, stirring devotion, and revolting murder. We must recapture the ability to respond to these movements if we would read the Bible as it is. We cannot close our hearts. We must try to live in the events through which we move" (NRB 21,22).

Mar 1:2

AHEAD OF YOU: "Before thy face" (AV). Not in Mal 3:1. Ref to Angel of Covenant going before Israel in the wilderness (Exo 23:20).

WHO WILL PREPARE YOUR WAY: Cp Mal 3:1: "See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me." Malachi's "my" and "me" becomes Mark's "you": Christ as the manifestation of God, assuming the role of his Father.

Mar 1:3

PREPARE THE WAY FOR THE LORD: How? By preaching, and by being taken out of the way (Mat 4:12).

LORD: "Yahweh" of Isa 40:3 becomes "Kyrios" here.

Mar 1:4

JOHN CAME: Cp Joh 1:6: John, "a man sent".

DESERT REGION: "Wilderness" (AV), both natural and spiritual.

AND PREACHING: First principles in John's preaching: See Lesson, John the Baptist, gospel of. Elijah was last seen at the river Jordan (2Ki 2:11); John the Baptist first appeared to Israel at the same place (v 6).

Mar 1:5

THE JORDAN: Elijah was last seen here (2Ki 2:8). John Bapt was first seen here.

Mar 1:6

A man of the wilderness, bold, uncivilized, fearless. "This is Elijah" (cp 1Ki 17:1-7). Sudden appearance. Note vivid denunciations: Mat 3:7,10-12; Luke 3:7-9.

CAMEL'S HAIR: Garments of grief (Gen 37:34; Jer 4:8; Mat 11:21). Worn by a priest, despite being unclean (Lev 11:4).

LOCUSTS: The food of the very poor, but despised by the wealthy (LB 419).

Mar 1:8

First water, then spirit. First natural, then spiritual. First cleansing, then forgiveness. First purifying, then raising to new life. (Note "fire" of judgment is omitted.)

Mar 1:9

7 steps in the consecrated life: (1) Decision -- here; (2) Acceptance -- v 10; (3) Anointing -- v 10; (4) Assurance -- v 11; (5) Impelling -- v 12; (6) Testing -- v 13; (7) Testifying -- v 14.

Why was Jesus baptized (Mat 3:13-17; Mar 1:8-11; Luk 3:21-23)? The most obvious answer is the Scriptural one: in the words of Jesus himself, "to fulfill all righteousness". This calls to mind Mat 5:17: "I am not come to destroy [the law], but to fulfill." The work of Jesus, in all its aspects, was to fulfill, or complete, the righteousness of the law of Moses. The law of Moses was a "shadow" (Heb 10:1), pointing forward to the substance, the reality, which was Jesus. As Moses washed Aaron (Exo 30:20,21; 40:12), to sanctify and cleanse him for his mediatorial work, so John washed Jesus. If Aaron had entered the Most Holy without washing, he would have failed; if Jesus had offered himself as a sacrifice with no public baptism (signifying the denial of the flesh), he would likewise have failed. Jesus was absolutely without personal sin. The necessity of his baptism shows how far even sinful flesh alone separates man from God.

Vv 9-12: The anointing of the King. Apparently, the only meeting between John and Jesus. "He had no life of sin to leave behind in the waters of Jordan, but there he did bring to an end the home life of Nazareth, the quiet, peaceful years of preparation, and did accept as the 'righteous will of God' the storm and strain and sacrifice of the work which he had come to do" (Mat, Erdman, 36).

NAZARETH IN GALILEE: A great light out of a despised land: "But in the future he will honor Galilee of the Gentiles, by the way of the sea, along the Jordan-- The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death [or, land of darkness] a light has dawned" (Isa 9:1,2).

IN THE JORDAN: "In" = eis, into. A very strong proof for total immersion. See v 10: "up out of the water".

Mar 1:10

"If you wish the heavens to open above you, present yourself to God."

HEAVEN BEING TORN OPEN: A violent rending: "Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down" (Isa 64:1; cp Eze 1:1).

DESCENDING ON HIM LIKE A DOVE: See Psa 91:4. The Spirit "brooding" on the surface of the waters (Gen 1:2). "The beginning of the new creation!"

DOVE: Only sacrificial animal to be feathered (Luk 2:24; Lev 1:14,15; 5:7). The dove, with keen eyesight, returned to the safety of Noah's ark, in peace, bringing an olive branch of new creation. The dove is gentle (Mat 10:16), clean (Song 6:9), particular in its choice of food (Gen 8), swift (Psa 55:6), beautiful (Psa 68:13), constant in love (Song 5:12).

Mar 1:11

A VOICE CAME FROM HEAVEN: Sounding, perhaps, like thunder to the bystanders (Joh 12:29). Understood only by Jesus and John. The voice from heaven identifies Jesus as the "prophet like unto Moses" (Deu 18:15-19).

WITH YOU I AM WELL PLEASED: "On whom my pleasure rests." Cp Isa 42:1: "From this day on Jesus walked in the shadow of the cross" (WGos 66).

Mar 1:12

Cp with Rom 8:14. "To learn obedience by the things which he suffered" (Heb 5:8). It was not for Christ to bask in the glories of the Father's bestowal of the Spirit; with a new blessing comes a new test.

As Adam and Eve were driven out of paradise.

Mar 1:13

HE WAS WITH THE WILD ANIMALS: The sin-cursed earth, to be the home of the second Adam. "The shadow of Eden." Cp Psa 91:13; Gen 1:28; Psa 8:6,7.

BEING TEMPTED BY SATAN: More detail in Mat 4:1-11 and Luk 4:1-13. Who is the tempter/devil/Satan? Possibly a representative from the Sanhedrin who came to check Jesus' credentials, much as the "credentials" of John Baptist were checked. Cp John 1:19: "Now this was John's testimony when the Jews of Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was." This could have led, directly, to their need to "examine" the would-be "Messiah" -- to whom John pointed (John 1:23-29).

All other refs to tempters in the gospels are to external tempters: Mat 16:1; 19:3; 22:15-18; 26:59-63; John 8:6; Luk 11:15,16.

Mar 1:14

THE GOOD NEWS OF GOD: "For the Apostles the important thing about Jesus was that he is 'the Christ the Son of the living God', and that in his sufferings, death and resurrection the believer has present comfort in the forgiveness of sins, a motive, or even a 'motivation' for living, and a hope of personal resurrection and a part in the coming kingdom. For early Christadelphians it was through the proclamation of the Kingdom as a literal kingdom that substance was added to their hope. They had, in the words of a teenager looking in vain for a message in the religious teaching in his school, 'something to look forward to, something to come'. The connection between the Gospel of the Kingdom and the national hope of the people of God comes out clearly in our early writings and was the basis for all their preaching of the Gospel" (RDO 68,69).

Mar 1:15

A divine deferment of God's plan, due to Jewish unbelief?: "Had the nation continued to obey the Lord's voice and keep the covenant, and when Christ came receive him as King on the proclamation of the gospel, they would doubtless have been in Canaan until now; and he might have come ere this, and be now reigning in Jerusalem as king of Jews and Lord of nations" (Elp 112).

THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS NEAR (AT HAND: AV): The kingdom HAD come... but not for everyone, only for those who would repent. Jesus consciously uses the same language as John had: identifying himself with the forerunner. "In what way had the kingdom come near? To the eastern mind a kingdom is not a kind of constitutional pyramid with a king at its decorative apex; the kingdom emanates from the king, it is the extension of his kingly power" (SMk 21). "Until he come whose right it is" (Eze 21:27). "BORN king of the Jews" (Mat 2:2).

BELIEVE THE GOOD NEWS: "Believe IN the gospel" (RSV).

Mar 1:16

Background: John Bapt had been recently imprisoned (Mar 1:14). Now Jesus calls John's former followers to follow him (Jesus) instead.

Mar 1:17

FOLLOW ME: They could no longer follow John (v 14). Not merely an offer, but a summons! These men were already disciples of Jesus (ie Joh 1); now they receive a call to permanent, full-time discipleship.

FISHERS OF MEN: "How do you account for the fact that so many of the apostles were chosen from this class of fishermen? It could not have been accidental. There was, no doubt, an adaptation, a fitness in the occupation of these men to develop just those attitudes of character most needed in the apostolic office. There are various modes of fishing, and each calculated to cultivate and strengthen some particular moral quality of great importance in their mission. Thus angling requires patience, and great perseverance and caution.... Fishing with the hand net... requires a keen eye, an active frame, and great skill in throwing the net. Such a fisherman , too, must be patient, watchful, wide awake, and prompt to seize the exact moment to throw. Then there is the great dragnet, the working of which teaches the value of united effort. No one occupation of humble life -- not even that of the shepherd -- calls into exercise and develops so many of the elements necessary for... a religious teacher as this of fishing" (LB 401-403).

Mar 1:18

About this time Jesus establishes his right to be a teacher of "fishers of men" by the miraculous draught of fish (Luk 5:1-11).

AT ONCE...: "When they heard the call of Jesus, Simon and Andrew obeyed at once without demur. If we would always, punctually and with resolute zeal, put in practice what we hear upon the spot, or at the first fit occasion, our attendance... and our reading... could not fail to enrich us spiritually. He will not lose his loaf who has taken care at once to eat it, neither can he be deprived of the benefit of the doctrine who has already acted upon it. Most readers and hearers become moved so far as to purpose to amend; but, alas! the proposal is a blossom which has not been knit, and therefore no fruit comes of it; they wait, they waver, and then they forget, till, like the ponds in nights of frost, when the sun shines by day, they are only thawed in time to be frozen again. That fatal tomorrow is blood-red with the murder of fair resolutions" (CHS).

Mar 1:19

PREPARING THEIR NETS: "Mending" (AV). The nets had been broken in the miraculous haul of fish (Luk 5:6).

Mar 1:20

WITH THE HIRED MEN: Suggesting some wealth. Zebedee's family was quite prosperous, having a house in Jerusalem.

Mar 1:21

THE SYNAGOGUE: The gift of the centurion (Mat 8: 5-13; Luk 7:2-10). Prob the only one in Capernaum (note "the").

BEGAN TO TEACH: More than once (Luk 4:31).

Mar 1:22

AMAZED AT HIS TEACHING: They had a form of godliness, but denied the power thereof.

NOT AS THE TEACHERS OF THE LAW: The Pharisees got their interpretations of the Law from a majority vote of the council.

Mar 1:24

US... US: The other people in synagogue, not a "legion" of demons! That is, 'you will be like the other pseudo-messiahs, bringing the wrath of Rome down upon us.'

Mar 1:25

"The first open contest with the power he was ultimately to destroy." Sym: Jesus rebuked and silenced the "demon" in the "synagogue"!

BE QUIET: A very abrupt command. Lit "be muzzled!" Allusion to Deu 25:4: here was an "ox" damaging the "corn".

Mar 1:27

The first open contest with the power he was to destroy! This mastery of the unseen powers of darkness (Phi 2:10) was more than they had even expected of the Messiah.

GIVES ORDERS: "Seems always to describe a DIVINE command" (WGos 121).

Mar 1:29

HOME OF SIMON AND ANDREW: Was Bethsaida (Joh 1:44) a "suburb" of Capernaum? (WGos 122).

Mar 1:30

Peter was married (1Co 9:5).

A FEVER: "A great fever" (Luk 4:38n). Typhus? (WGos 122) Or malaria?

THEY TOLD JESUS ABOUT HER: Intercession for the weak and needy.

Mar 1:31

  1. Personal contact.
  2. Uplifting power.
  3. Immediate cure.
The effect on Peter's family: "It is no light thing to take a man from his home and wife and family and livelihood to become a... preacher... This healing of Peter's mother-in-law guaranteed enthusiastic support. From this day forward, Peter need never look over his shoulder wondering how his wandering life... was regarded by the folks at home" (WGos 123).

AND HELPED HER UP: "Lifted her up" (RSV). The first "raising up" by Jesus -- type of others to come.

SHE BEGAN TO WAIT ON THEM: No "halfway cure". The saved shall serve!

Mar 1:32

AFTER SUNSET: The official end of the Sabbath.

Mar 1:33

Capernaum was well physically, but not so spiritually (Mat 11:20,23,24).

Mar 1:34

See Lesson, Demons, what are? Here is cited Isa 53:4 (Mat 8:16,17): "Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows."

AND JESUS HEALED MANY: So Capernaum became "well" physically, but not so spiritually (Mat 11:20,23,24)!

BUT HE WOULD NOT LET THE DEMONS SPEAK: Silence was his settled policy for most of his ministry (Mat 9:30; 17:9; 12:16; Mar 1:34; 5:43; 7:36; 8:26; Luk 5:14), with one notable exception (Mar 5:19 -- Legion with his family). But in last days of ministry, a change of course (Mat 21:1-11; Joh 7:37; 9:3; 11:4).

BECAUSE THEY KNEW WHO HE WAS: That is, they knew by personal experience his healing power.

Mar 1:35

Jesus needs solitude for thought and prayer (cp Isa 50;4; Psa 119:147,148). A list of "solitude passages": Mar 1:35-37; 3:7,9,20,21; 4:35-38; 6:31; 7:17,18,24; 8:10,11,27; 9:30; 10:32; 14:32.

Other night prayers: Psa 119:62; Lam 2:19; Luk 11:5; Mat 26:39-46; Act 16:25.

Mar 1:37

A hint of reproach in their words?

Mar 1:38

LET US: "Us": they must accompany him!

LET US GO: He will not stay to accept their adulation. This sort of affair could hinder his preaching.

Mar 1:39

PREACHING IN THEIR SYNAGOGUES: This was a religious, not merely a political, undertaking.

Mar 1:40

The leper came: (1) earnestly; (2) humbly; and (3) believingly.

A MAN WITH LEPROSY: Officially such a man would be banned from the city. This was a measure of the determination he had, that he was able to penetrate to the very presence of Jesus.

LEPROSY: "Full of leprosy" (Luk 5:12). Saturated, from within, incurable.

CAME TO HIM AND BEGGED HIM ON HIS KNEES: The leper should not have been so close -- he should have cried "Unclean!" and dwelt alone. That he came close -- not mark of disregard, but of his confidence in Christ. Christ accepted this without embarrassment, and touched him without suffering any harm.

IF YOU ARE WILLING: He had more faith in Jesus' power than in his own goodness.

Mar 1:41

FILLED WITH COMPASSION: The man was "filled" with leprosy; Jesus was "filled" with compassion! A High Priest touched with the feeling of our infirmities (Heb 4:15). "Jesus wept" (Joh 11:35).

JESUS REACHED OUT HIS HAND: The heart moves the hand!

AND TOUCHED THE MAN: "Whatever touches any of the flesh [of the sin offering] will become holy" (Lev 6:27). But both Elijah and Elisha contracted "defilement" by touching dead (1Ki 17:21; 2Ki 4:34). A High Priest "touched" with feelings of our infirmities (Heb 4:15). "Whatever touches any of the flesh [of the sin-offering] will become holy" (Lev 6:27).

"Jesus heals all who come, and casts out none. It is worthy of devout notice that Jesus touched the leper. This unclean person had broken through the regulations of the ceremonial law and pressed into the house, but Jesus so far from chiding him broke through the law himself in order to meet him. He made an interchange with the leper, for while he cleansed him, he contracted by that touch a Levitical defilement. Even so Jesus Christ was made sin for us, although in himself he knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him [2Co 5:21]. O that poor sinners would go to Jesus... and they would soon learn the power of His gracious touch. That hand which multiplied the loaves, which saved sinking Peter, which upholds afflicted saints, which crowns believers, that same hand will touch every seeking sinner, and in a moment make him clean. The love of Jesus is the source of salvation. He loves, He looks, He touches us, WE LIVE" (CHS).

All the occasions of Jesus touching, or being touched, in the context of healing (notice that not one of them is in John's gospel): Mat 8:3,15; 9:20,21,29; 14:36; 17:7; 20:34; Mark 1:41; 3:10; 5:27,28,30,31; 6:56; 7:33; 8:22; 10:13; Luk 5:13; 6:19; 7:14,39; 8:44-47; 18:15; 22:51.

Mar 1:44

Christ did not despise or disregard the law he came to fulfill.

DON'T TELL THIS TO ANYONE: Silence was his settled policy for most of his ministry (Mat 9:30; 17:9; 12:16; Mar 1:34; 5:43; 7:36; 8:26; Luk 5:14), with one notable exception (Mar 5:19 -- Legion with his family). But in last days of ministry, a change of course (Mat 21:1-11; Joh 7:37; 9:3; 11:4).

SHOW YOURSELF TO THE PRIEST: Christ did not despise the Law he came to fulfill.

AS A TESTIMONY TO THEM: That which the priests could never do, Christ did! Christ's power was greater than Moses' (Num 12:13).

Mar 1:45

SPREADING THE NEWS: Here is the reason Christ so often asked for silence. Too much publicity hindered his quiet work of preaching! See Psa 66:13-20.

IN LONELY PLACES: How often Jesus avoided fame and notoriety.

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