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1. Baptism, Temptation and Miracles

1The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. 2Even as it is written in Isaiah the prophet, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, Who shall prepare thy way. 3The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make ye ready the way of the Lord, Make his paths straight; 4John came, who baptized in the wilderness and preached the baptism of repentance unto remission of sins. 5And there went out unto him all the country of Judaea, and all they of Jerusalem; And they were baptized of him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 6And John was clothed with camel's hair, and had a leathern girdle about his loins, and did eat locusts and wild honey. 7And he preached, saying, There cometh after me he that is mightier than I, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose. 8I baptized you in water; But he shall baptize you in the Holy Spirit. 9And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in the Jordan. 10And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens rent asunder, and the Spirit as a dove descending upon him: 11And a voice came out of the heavens, Thou art my beloved Son, in thee I am well pleased. 12And straightway the Spirit driveth him forth into the wilderness. 13And he was in the wilderness forty days tempted of Satan; And he was with the wild beasts; And the angels ministered unto him. 14Now after John was delivered up, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, 15and saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe in the gospel. 16And passing along by the sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net in the sea; for they were fishers. 17And Jesus said unto them, Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men. 18And straightway they left the nets, and followed him. 19And going on a little further, he saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who also were in the boat mending the nets. 20And straightway he called them: and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants, and went after him. 21And they go into Capernaum; and straightway on the sabbath day he entered into the synagogue and taught. 22And they were astonished at his teaching: For he taught them as having authority, and not as the scribes. 23And straightway there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, 24saying, What have we to do with thee, Jesus thou Nazarene? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God. 25And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace, and come out of him. 26And the unclean spirit, tearing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. 27And they were all amazed, insomuch that they questioned among themselves, saying, What is this? a new teaching! with authority he commandeth even the unclean spirits, and they obey him. 28And the report of him went out straightway everywhere into all the region of Galilee round about. 29And straightway, when they were come out of the synagogue, they came into the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30Now Simon's wife's mother lay sick of a fever; and straightway they tell him of her: 31and he came and took her by the hand, and raised her up; and the fever left her, and she ministered unto them. 32And at even, when the sun did set, they brought unto him all that were sick, and them that were possessed with demons. 33And all the city was gathered together at the door. 34And he healed many that were sick with divers diseases, and cast out many demons; and he suffered not the demons to speak, because they knew him. 35And in the morning, a great while before day, he rose up and went out, and departed into a desert place, and there prayed. 36And Simon and they that were with him followed after him; 37and they found him, and say unto him, All are seeking thee. 38And he saith unto them, Let us go elsewhere into the next towns, that I may preach there also; for to this end came I forth. 39And he went into their synagogues throughout all Galilee, preaching and casting out demons. 40And there cometh to him a leper, beseeching him, and kneeling down to him, and saying unto him, If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. 41And being moved with compassion, he stretched forth his hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou made clean. 42And straightway the leprosy departed from him, and he was made clean. 43And he strictly charged him, and straightway sent him out, 44and saith unto him, See thou say nothing to any man: but go show thyself to the priest, and offer for thy cleansing the things which Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them. 45But he went out, and began to publish it much, and to spread abroad the matter, insomuch that Jesus could no more openly enter into a city, but was without in desert places: and they came to him from every quarter.

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Mark 1:1. The beginning of the Gospel. Though what we have hitherto taken out of Matthew and Luke is a part of the Gospel, yet it is not without reason that Mark makes the beginning of the Gospel to be the preaching of John the Baptist. For the Law and the Prophets then came to an end, (John 1:17.) “The Law and the Prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached,” (Luke 16:16.) And with this agrees most fully the quotation which he makes from the Prophet Malachi, (3:1.) In order to inflame the minds of his people with a stronger desire of the promised salvation, the Lord had determined to leave them, for a time, without new prophecies. We know that the last of the true and lawful prophets was Malachi.

That the Jews, in the meantime, may not faint with hunger, he exhorts them to continue under the Law of Moses, until the promised redemption appear. He mentions the law only, (John 1:17,) because the doctrine of the Prophets was not separate from the law, but was merely an appendage and fuller exposition of it, that the form of government in the Church might depend entirely on the Law. It is no new or uncommon thing in Scripture, to include the Prophets under the name of the Law: for they were all related to it as their fountain or design. The Gospel was not an inferior appendage to the Law, but a new form of instruction, by which the former was set aside.

Malachi, distinguishing the two conditions of the Church, places the one under the Law, and commences the other with the preaching of John. He unquestionably describes the Baptist, when he says, “Behold, I send my messenger,” (Malachi 3:1:) for, as we have already said, that passage lays down an express distinction between the Law and the new order and condition of the Church. With the same view he had said a little before, (which is quoted by Mark, [9:13;] for the passages are quite similar,) “Behold, I send you Elijah the Prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord,” (Malachi 4:5.) Again,

“Behold, I send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple,” (Malachi 3:1.)

In both passages, the Lord promises a better condition of his Church than had existed under the Law, and this unquestionably points out the beginning of the Gospel But before the Lord came to restore the Church, a forerunner or herald was to come, and announce that he was at hand. Hence we infer, that the abrogation of the Law, and the beginning of the Gospel, strictly speaking, took place when John began to preach.

The Evangelist John presents to us Christ clothed in flesh, “the Word made flesh,” (John 1:14;) so that his birth and the whole history of his appearance are included in the Gospel. But here Mark inquires, when the Gospel began to be published, and, therefore, properly begins with John, who was its first minister. And with this view the Heavenly Father chose that the life of his Son should be buried, as it were, in silence, until the time of the full revelation arrived. For it did not happen without the undoubted Providence of God, that the Evangelists leave out the whole period which Christ spent in private, and pass at once from his earliest infancy to his thirtieth year, when he was openly exhibited to the world, invested with his public character as a Redeemer; Luke excepted, who slightly touches one indication of his future calling, which occurred about his twelfth year, (Luke 2:42.)

It had a very close connection with this object, that we should be informed, first, that Christ is a true man, (John 1:14,) and next, that he is “the Son of Abraham and of David,” (Matthew 1:1;) as to both of which, the Lord has been pleased to give us an attestation. The other matters which we have examined, relating to “the shepherds,” (Luke 2:8,) the “Magi,” (Matthew 2:1,) and “Simeon,” (Luke 2:25,) were intended to prove his Divinity. What Luke relates about John and his father Zacharias, (Luke 1:5,) was a sort of preparation for the Gospel.

There is no impropriety in the change of the person which is here made, in quoting the words of Malachi. According to the prophet, God says, I send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way Before Me. Mark introduces God as addressing the Son, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, who shall prepare thy way Before Thee. But we see that Mark had no other intention, than to express more clearly the prophet’s meaning. Mark designates Christ the Son of God The other Evangelists testify that he was born of the seed of Abraham and David, and therefore was the Son of man, (Matthew 8:20.) But Mark shows us, that no redemption is to be expected but from the Son of God

Mark 1:14. Preaching the Gospel of the kingdom of God. Matthew appears to differ a little from the other two: for, after mentioning that Jesus left his own city Nazareth, and departed to Capernaum, he says: from that time Jesus began to preach. Luke and Mark, again, relate, that he taught publicly in his own country. But the solution is easy; for the words which Matthew employs, ἀπὸ τότε, from that time, ought to be viewed as referring, not to what immediately precedes, but to the whole course of the narrative. Christ, therefore, entered into the exercise of his office, when he arrived at Galilee. The summary of doctrine which is given by Matthew is not at all different from what, we have lately seen, was taught by John: for it consists of two parts, — repentance, and the announcement of grace and salvation. He exhorts the Jews to conversion, because the kingdom of God is at hand: that is, because God undertakes to govern his people, which is true and perfect happiness. The language of Mark is a little different, The kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the Gospel But the meaning is the same: for, having first spoken of the restoration of the kingdom of God among the Jews, he exhorts them to repentance and faith.

But it may be asked, since repentance depends on the Gospel, why does Mark separate it from the doctrine of the Gospel? Two reasons may be assigned. God sometimes invites us to repentance, when nothing more is meant, than that we ought to change our life for the better. He afterwards shows, that conversion and “newness of life” (Romans 6:4) are the gift of God. This is intended to inform us, that not only is our duty enjoined on us, but the grace and power of obedience are, at the same time, offered. If we understand in this way the preaching of John about repentance, the meaning will be:” The Lord commands you to turn to himself; but as you cannot accomplish this by your own endeavors, he promises the Spirit of regeneration, and therefore you must receive this grace by faith.” At the same time, the faith, which he enjoins men to give to the Gospel, ought not, by any means, to be confined to the gift of renewal, but relates chiefly to the forgiveness of sins. For John connects repentance with faith, because God reconciles us to himself in such a manner, that we serve him as a Father in holiness and righteousness.

Besides, there is no absurdity in saying, that to believe the Gospel is the same thing as to embrace a free righteousness: for that special relation, between faith and the forgiveness of sins, is often mentioned in Scripture; as, for example, when it teaches, that we are justified by faith, (Romans 5:1.) In which soever of these two ways you choose to explain this passage, it still remains a settled principle, that God offers to us a free salvation, in order that we may turn to him, and live to righteousness. Accordingly, when he promises to us mercy, he calls us to deny the flesh. We must observe the designation which Paul gives to the Gospel, the kingdom of God: for hence we learn, that by the preaching of the Gospel the kingdom of God is set up and established among men, and that in no other way does God reign among men. Hence it is also evident, how wretched the condition of men is without the Gospel.

This demoniac was probably one of that multitude, which was mentioned, a little before, by Matthew 4:24. Yet the narrative of Mark and Luke is not superfluous: for they relate some circumstances, which not only present the miracle in a more striking light, but also contain useful instruction. The devil dexterously acknowledges, that Christ is the Holy One of God, in order to insinuate into the minds of men a suspicion, that there was some secret understanding between him and Christ. By such a trick he has since endeavored to make the Gospel suspected, and, in the present day, he is continually making similar attempts. That is the reason why Christ rebukes him. It is, no doubt, possible, that this confession was violently extorted from him: but there is no inconsistency between the two suppositions, that he is forced to yield to the power of Christ, and therefore cries out that he is the Holy One of God, — and yet that he cunningly attempts to shroud in his own darkness the glory of Christ. At the same time, we must observe that, while he flatters Christ in this manner, he indirectly withdraws himself from his power, and in this way contradicts himself. For why was Christ sanctified by the Father, but that he might deliver men from the tyranny of the devil, and overturn his kingdom? But as Satan cannot endure that power, which he feels to be destructive to himself, he would desire that Christ should satisfy himself with an empty title, without exercising it on the present occasion.344344     “Mais pource que Satan ne pent endurer ceste vertue et puissance, aquelle il sait estre le destruire et ruiner, il voudroit bien que Christ se contenant d'un beau titre en l'air, se reposast, et se deportast de luy rien faire.” — “But because Satan cannot endure that power and might, which he knows to be to destroy and ruin him, he would rather wish that Christ, satisfying himself with a fine title in the air, should take repose, and refrain from doing any thing to him.

Mark 1:22; Luke 4:32. And they were astonished at his doctrine The meaning of the Evangelists is, that the power of the Spirit shone in the preaching345345     “En la facon d’enseigner de Jesus Christ;” — “in Jesus Christ's manner of teaching.” of Christ with such brightness, as to extort admiration even from irreligious and cold hearers. Luke says, that his discourse was accompanied with power, that is, full of majesty. Mark expresses it more fully, by adding a contrast, that it was unlike the manner of teaching of the Scribes As they were false expounders of Scripture, their doctrine was literal and dead, breathed nothing of the power of the Spirit, and was utterly destitute of majesty. The same kind of coldness may be now observed in the speculative theology of Popery. Those masters do indeed thunder out whatever they think proper in a sufficiently magisterial style; but as their manner of discoursing about divine things is so profane, that their controversies exhibit no traces of religion, what they bring forward is all affectation and mere drivelling: for the declaration of the Apostle Paul holds true, that the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power, (1 Corinthians 4:20.) In short, the Evangelists mean that, while the manner of teaching, which then prevailed, was so greatly degenerated and so extremely corrupted, that it did not impress the minds of men with any reverence for God, the preaching of Christ was eminently distinguished by the divine power of the Spirit, which procured for him the respect of his hearers. This is the power, or rather the majesty and authority, at which the people were astonished.

Mark 1:26 When the unclean spirit had torn him Luke uses a milder phrase, when the devil had thrown him down: but they agree perfectly as to the meaning; for the design of both was to show, that the devil went out of the man in a violent manner. He threw down the unhappy man, as if he had intended to tear him: but Luke says that the attempt was unsuccessful; for he hurt him nothing Not that the attack was, in no degree whatever, attended by injury, or at least by some feeling of pain; but that the man was afterwards delivered from the devil, and restored to perfect health.

Mark 1:27 What new doctrine is this? They call it new doctrine, not by way of reproach, but as an acknowledgment, that there was something in it unusual and extraordinary. It is not for the sake of blame, or to lessen its credit, that they speak of it as new. This is rather a part of their admiration, that they pronounce it to be not common or ordinary. Their only fault lies in this, that they remain in their state of hesitation,346346     “En leur doute et estonnement.” — “In their doubt and astonishment.” whereas the children of God ought to make increasing progress.

Mark 1:29. They came, with James and John, into the house of Simon and Andrew. There is reason to conjecture, that Matthew does not relate this history in its proper order: for Mark expressly states, that there were only four disciples who attended Christ. Besides, when he left the synagogue, he went straight to Peter’s house; which also shows clearly, that Matthew did not observe, with exactness, the order of time. The Evangelists appear to have taken particular notice of this miracle; not that, in itself, it was more remarkable, or more worthy of being recorded, than other miracles, — but because, by means of it, Christ gave to his disciples a private and familiar illustration of his grace. Another reason was, that the healing of one woman gave occasion to many miracles, so that they came to him in great numbers, from every direction, to implore his assistance. A single word, in Luke’s narrative, presents to us more strikingly the power which Christ displayed; for he says, that Simon’s mother-in-law was held by a GREAT fever. It was a clearer and more affecting proof of divine power, that, in a moment, and by a single touch, he removed a strong and violent disease. He might have done it by the slightest expression of his will; but he touched her hand, (Matthew 8:15,) either to mark his affection, or because he was aware that this sign was, at that time, advantageous: for we know, that he freely used outward signs, when the time required them.

Mark 1:34. He did not permit the devils to speak. There might be two reasons why he did not permit them: a general reason, because the time of the full revelation was not yet come; and a special reason, which we hinted at a little ago, that he refused to have, as heralds and witnesses of his divinity, those whose praise could have no other effect than to soil and injure his character. This latter reason is undoubtedly true: for he must have known, that the prince of death, and his agents, are in a state of irreconcileable enmity with the Author of eternal salvation and life.

Mark1:38. For on this account I came out. Luke 4:43. For on this account am I sent. These words deserve our attention: for they contain a declaration of his earnest desire to fulfill his office. But it will perhaps be asked, is it better that the ministers of the Gospel should run here and there, to give only a slight and partial taste of it in each place, or that they should remain, and instruct perfectly the hearers whom they have once obtained? I reply. The design of Christ, which is here mentioned, was agreeable to the injunction and call of the Father, and was founded on the best reasons. For it was necessary that Christ should travel, within a short period, throughout Judea, to awaken the minds of men, on all sides, as if by the sound of a trumpet, to hear the Gospel. But on this subject we must treat more fully under another passage.

Matthew 8:4; Mark 1:44. For a testimony to them Some consider testimony to mean here a law or statute, as it is said in the Book of Psalms, God laid down this for a testimony to Israel,” (Psalm 122:4.) But this appears to me to be a poor exposition: for I have no doubt that the pronoun to them refers to the priests.496496     According to the view which Calvin rejects, the words, which Moses commanded for a testimony to them, mean, “which Moses delivered to them, that is, to the people of Israel, as a divine ordinance.” The view which he adopts may be more clearly brought out by a different arrangement of the words. Present, for a testimony to them, that is, “to the priests,” the offering which Moses commanded. — Ed Christ said this, in my opinion, with a view to the present occurrence: for this miracle was afterwards to be a sufficiently clear proof for convicting them of ingratitude. There is nothing inconsistent with this in the command which Christ gave to the leper to maintain silence: for he did not intend that the remembrance of the miracle which he had wrought should remain always buried. When the leper, at the command of Christ, came into the presence of the priest, this was a testimony to them, which would render them inexcusable, if they refused to receive Christ as the minister of God; and would, at the same time, take away occasion for slander, since Christ did not neglect a single point of the law. In a word, if they were not past cure, they might be led to Christ; while, on the other hand, so solemn a testimony of God was sufficiently powerful to condemn them, if they were unbelievers.

Mark 1:45. So that Jesus could no longer enter openly into cities Hence we learn the reason why Christ did not wish the miracle to be so soon made known. It was that he might have more abundant opportunity and freedom for teaching. Not that his enemies rose against him, and attempted to shut his mouth, but because the common people were so eager to demand miracles, that no room was left for doctrine. He wished that they would all be more attentive to the word than to signs. Luke accordingly says, that he sought retirement in the deserts He avoided a crowd of men, because he saw, that he would not satisfy the wishes of the people, without overwhelming his doctrine by a superfluity of miracles.497497     “Que quant et quant il ne fist tant de miracles, que cela les empescheroit de bien penser a la doctrine;” — “without doing so many miracles as to prevent them from thinking properly about his doctrine.”

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