Bible Notes Online - Mark 1 - ESV
Commentary

v1-13: A theme of preparation; John prepared the people for the coming of the Lord (v2-8), and Jesus Himself was prepared for His ministry (9-13).

v1: The gospel portrays Jesus Christ as the servant of God, but also the Son of God; this is Mark's introduction and conclusion. The gospel, as with Matthew, Luke, and John, is primarily about Jesus Christ.

The implication is clear; since Jesus Christ is the Son of God, we must believe in Him; and since the gospel if the message of Jesus Christ, we must believe the message.

v2-3: The Lord came fulfilling prophecy; in particular, the "messenger", John Baptist came before the Lord, to prepare the way for Him. John was the voice in the desert.

Here is an immediate link with divine authority and prophecy. God had spoken, and now He moves to fulfil His word.

v4: John's base was the desert, not a city. His method was preaching, which was followed by the Lord, and the apostles. And John's message was one of repentance, and baptism and forgiveness of sins. The implication of his message was that the people were sinners needing to repent.

John had a responsibility to fulfil his calling; his hearers had the responsibility to obey; Hos 10.12.

v5: John's impact; large numbers of people went to John, were baptised, confessing their sins. "All" means "all kinds of people"; even so, there were clearly large numbers, since the Pharisees were disturbed by his work (John 1.19).

It is no surprise that Paul met some of John's disciples (Acts 19); not all who were baptised by John quickly believed in Jesus, although that was the intention. In John 4.1, we read that more followed Jesus than John; this was what should have happened. Since John's calling was to prepare the people for the Lord, he should not have continued after the Lord had begun His ministry. Nevertheless, John and the Lord had a significant impact upon the nation; Luke 23.8; John 11.48.

v6: John wore austere clothing, not rich clothes; see Luke 7.25. We see also Mark's eye for detail, which indicates an eye-witness account, probably Peter's.

v7-8: Although John attracted many people, his burden was to point many to Christ (John 1.20). John was called by God, but he was clear of his message.

John was also the son of the High Priest (Luke 1.5), who had authority to declare sins forgiven, hence his authority to baptise, so that sinners might be cleansed. This is not the same as Christian baptism; in Acts 19.3-5 those who had been John's disciples were also baptised as Christians.

v9-13: Mark turns our attention to Jesus Christ; the glorious theme of the gospel. We read of His preparation, as He is baptised, and then suffers temptation. The details here are brief compared to the other gospels.

v9: Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, a place despised by men (Matt 4.12-16), but now a place of great privilege. Soon it would become a place of blessing, as Jesus toured that area teaching and working miracles.

v10-11: The Lord Jesus was baptised by John;

The Spirit of God rested upon Him, for there was no sinful nature in Him. The Spirit had hovered (Gen 1), but had never rested. Although Noah came to bring rest and comfort (Gen 5.29), this was only temporary, as the dove did not return to him (Gen 8.12); for during the intervening centuries, no perfect man walked the earth. Jesus Christ is the rest from God (Heb 4).

The voice of the Father testified of the Son's perfection. He was the beloved Son from the bosom of the Father. All that Jesus did pleased the Father.

Jesus was baptised, He said, to fulfil all righteousness. He identified with the people, and He also pre-figured His own death.

At this point, the heavens parted. Stephen and John later saw heaven opened, and saw something there, and Jacob had seen a ladder up to heaven. Here Heaven opened, not so much that men might see in, but that the Lord God might send blessing out, through His Son and through His Spirit. Heaven had opened before for the revelation of God, and the greatest message was the Son of God (See Heb 1.1-2).

v12-13: Mark briefly speaks of Christ's temptation. Matthew and Luke provide more details. Jesus had already identified with men by His baptism, now He identified by enduring temptation. He became our priest, chosen from among the people, Ex 28.1; Heb 2.17-18; 4.14-16.The 40 day period indicates a period of testing. The wild beasts, like the devil, came to destroy and frighten. The angels, like the Holy Spirit, came to strengthen and help. He suffered being tempted, so He can now sympathise with us in our weakness, and strengthen and help us in our temptation. But He was without sin, so He can give us victory in the trials and temptations of life; see v23-26, Song 3.6.

The Spirit sent Jesus into the place of temptation. It was the Father's will to demonstrate the perfection of Christ, to provide evidence of His manhood, and to provide qualification for His priesthood. All this was achieved through the temptation.

v14-15: This section, through to 4.34, may be headed 'Declaration'; the incidents established the credentials of Christ, the servant of God. They describe the opening part of His ministry, following His return from Jerusalem (John 2-5).

John's message was, 'The time is coming'; Jesus' message was, 'The time is fulfilled', now was the time to get right with God. John's ministry was complete, and he was removed to prison. There was a period of some months between the temptation of Christ and the calling of the fishermen; we understand the early chapters of John describe this period.

Christ's message was one of repentance, as in v4. This was the message of authority. The test of belief in Christ was, and is, obedience to His call. The "good news" of the kingdom of God is Jesus Christ.

v16-20: Jesus called His disciples to Himself; only Christ had such authority to call men to follow Him. Brothers were called to serve together; the existing relationship was sanctified for God. They left regular work and income (Simon and Andrew), material security, and family and friends (James and John), for the sake of Christ. If we really put Him first, then we may have to leave other things, even 'important' things. None of these four, nor the other eight (except Judas) regretted the decision to serve Christ.

The four had already met Jesus, as described in John 1, and believed in Him. This is now their call to permanent discipleship, involving the cost of leaving their livelihood.

v21-34: These verses describe the servant of the Lord at work, perhaps a typical day during this period of His ministry. He taught in the synagogue, cast out demons, and healed; all these different works reflecting His perfect character. The gospels relate what "Jesus began both to do and teach" (Acts 1.1); and so we see the disciples involved; "they"(v29), "let us go"(v38); even at this early stage, the Lord Jesus was preparing His disciples for the time when He would leave them.

Mark records the healing of many different diseases; unclean spirit (v23); sick with a fever (v30); sick (v32); demon-possessed (v32); sick with various diseases (v34), leper (v40). There were many different environments, synagogue (v21-24); house (v29-31), and in the street (v40-42); the Lord was at work anywhere, He did not need a controlled environment. There was no limit to Christ's power, either in depth or in extent; any type of condition, and any seriousness of condition. He was "willing" (v41). He healed by word (v25), by touch (31), by both (v41-42); He spoke and it was done. We note also that, in chapter 1, there is no reference to the faith, or lack of faith, of the person being healed; Mark is writing to demonstrate the power and compassion of Christ. The chapter begins the pattern of Christ's ministry, which continued up until the transfiguration (9.2-10), when the emphases of His ministry changed.

v21: Synagogue worship was a key aspect of Jewish religious life, which commenced after the exile in Babylon. Christ frequently worshipped in the synagogue, and the early Christians used opportunities in the synagogue (e.g. Acts 13.14); it seems also that the synagogue pattern was followed in the churches.

v22: Jesus' teaching was different from the teachers of the law. He taught with authority. This was noted even before He cast out the demon.

v23-24: The demons knew who Jesus was; they believed and tremble!(James 2.19) The demons cried out (as in v26 also); in contrast, the servant of God is self-controlled (Is 42.2). The demons had no doubt about the Lord's ability to "destroy" them.

The actual term 'demon possession,' in the sense of a permanent in-dwelling, comes from Josephus, not the Bible, and was not the more magical view held by Jewish teachers; and it is these non-Biblical views that seem to have distorted our view of what Mark describes here.

v25-26: Jesus' method in dealing with evil spirits was to silence them, gagging their confessions. They may have spoken the truth, for He is the Holy One of God, but with hostile motive. He wants His Messiah-ship to be declared by sanctified lips and lives. In 'departing,' the evil spirit brings out a paroxysm, leaving those looking on amazed. No one could deny that something powerful was happening.

v27: The people were astonished (v22) and amazed; Christ stood out as a man of authority; He had showed Himself to be different from Jewish religious teachers, by both His words and His works.

v28: Very quickly, people heard about Jesus, as news of Him spread, v32-33, 37, 45. In one man was truth with authority and compassion; here was someone utterly unique. Yet, there was a long way to go, and the Lord had not just come to become a popular preacher and miracle worker.

v30: The Hebrew word describes a 'burning fever,' which was apparently quiet common in the area.

v31: At the home of Peter's mother-in-law, Jesus showed simple compassion, yet great power. She was healed immediately, and began to serve the twelve, there being no need for a period of recuperation. This, like other healings, pictures spiritual healing in our lives; we receive total and immediate salvation, for we receive Christ by His Spirit.

v32: After sunset, i.e; after the Sabbath, many came to be healed. This continued Jesus' popularity, and also avoided the offence that would come later regarding healing on the Sabbath.

v33-34: Again, Jesus Christ had power over demons, as He cast them out (or "drove", as in v12).

v35: A late night followed by an early morning. The Lord shows that prayer is more important than sleep. We do need to maintain a close relationship with the Father. Jesus found a solitary place, a place without interruption, and that is a good example for us.

v36-37: Simon (Peter) was leading the twelve; in 3.16, he is named first. It seems likely that he was the oldest, and, after Christ's resurrection, he was certainly the leader amongst the twelve.

Simon seemed to want Jesus to carry on healing; it is understandable that they misunderstood Christ's ministry; He was not just a healer. Healings were a sign of the Messiah (Matt 11.3-5), and gave authority to His teaching.

v38-39: As a gentle lesson, Jesus spoke of moving on to other places, see 1 Sam 7.16-17. He became an itinerant worker. Mark (and Matthew and Luke) record a number of places He went to, in and around Galilee. [It is helpful to have a map of first century Israel.] It seems that synagogues were open throughout the week, and not just on the Sabbath.

v40: The incident of the leper was important; the Jews had a dislike of any form of uncleanness, and "leprosy" may have referred to any one of a number of similar conditions. The leper would not have expected a Rabbi to come near him; Rabbi's increased the burdens (as in Matt 23.3-4) for lepers, by making more rules than those of the OT, and they treated them harshly.

We note too that, even in a busy ministry, the Lord Jesus had time for one leper. Jesus loved the outcasts, and this is a theme in His ministry (especially in Luke).

v41-42: Jesus was moved with compassion He did care deeply for those He met. Jesus touched Him; under Jewish law this would have spread the contamination, but here Jesus' power to cleanse was dominant. Mark records that the leper was immediately clean.

v43-45: The instruction to go to the priest was to fulfil the law, Lev 14.1-9. Again, the Lord is showing proper respect for the law.

The healed man actually disobeyed the Lord, since he did not go to the priest. He spread a misleading message. We cannot spread the truth of Christ if we are disobedient. The effect was that the Lord Jesus could not enter the towns openly.

It seems that Christ sought to avoid the fame of a miracle worker; miracles were proof of His credentials, rather than the primary intention of His ministry.