John Mark (Evangelist)
50 – 70 A.D.
Introduction by Kretzmann
The Gospel according to Saint Mark
Though Mark, as the author of the second gospel is called, was not himself an apostle, he was the pupil and companion of two great apostles, Peter and Paul. He was a Jew by birth, Colossians 4:10, and his Jewish name was John, which means “God is gracious.” His surname, which he adopted when he became a Christian, was Mark, which means “Mallet,” Acts 12:12,25; Acts 13:5,13; Acts 15:37. He was the son of a woman of Jerusalem who later became a prominent member of the congregation in that city. Her name was Mary, Acts 12:12-17. It was she who offered her house, at the first critical period in the history of the young congregation, for devotional meetings. It was to her house that Peter went upon his miraculous deliverance from prison, Acts 12:12-17. It is very probable, from Gospel history, that Mark had had an acquaintance with Jesus even before the great Passion. Many commentators think that he is identical with the young man who, according to his own report, left the linen cloth with which he was clothed on the night of Christ’s capture and fled naked from Gethsemane, Mark 14:51. Mark was especially intimate with Peter, by whom he had been converted, if the usual manner of speaking of this event has been followed in this case, 1 Peter 5:13; Acts 12:12. His intimacy with Barnabas is explained by the fact that he was his cousin, Colossians 4:10. Through Barnabas he came into closer contact with Paul, and he accompanied Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey as an attendant or assistant. At that time, however, he was not yet firmly established in Christian fortitude, for he left them at Perga, in Pamphylia, and returned to Jerusalem, much to the displeasure of Paul, Acts 13:5,13. For this reason Paul refused to take him on the next journey, while Barnabas was willing to overlook the temporary weakness, Acts 15:38. There was a sharp contention over the matter at the time, with the result that Paul and Barnabas parted company, Barnabas taking Mark with him to Cyprus, while Paul chose Silas, Acts 15:36-40. But the estrangement was only temporary, for about ten years afterwards Mark was in Rome as one of Paul’s fellow-workers unto the kingdom of God and a comfort in his imprisonment, Colossians 4:10-11; Philemon 24; 2 Timothy 4:11. But Mark also assisted Peter in his work, both in Babylon, 1 Peter 5:13, and in Rome, Revelation 14:8; Revelation 16:19; Revelation 17:5; Revelation 18:10,21. This is all that the New Testament records of him. From fairly reliable tradition it appears that he afterwards founded the church at Alexandria, in Egypt, where he is supposed to have died as a martyr. In 827 his relics were removed to Venice, where a magnificent church was built in his honor, a worthy monument to the present day.
Even the casual reader of the Gospel of Mark is apt to notice the fact that it was undoubtedly written for Roman Christians that used the Latin language. Quotations from the Old Testament are relatively few, Mark 1:2-3; Mark 7:6,10; Mark 11:17; Mark 12:19; Mark 14:27, especially as compared with Matthew; Aramaic words and expressions are usually translated, Mark 3:17; Mark 5:41; Mark 7:11,34; Mark 10:46; Mark 14:36; Mark 15:22,34; Jewish customs are explained, Mark 7:2-5; Mark 12:42; Mark 14:12; Mark 15:42; there is a frequent use of Latin expressions, like “legion,” “centurion,” “quadrans,” and others.
Connection with Peter
Mark wrote as the “interpreter” of Peter, as the historian Eusebius has it; it is authentic information concerning Gospel history, which he wrote down accurately. He was the literary editor and publisher of the oral Gospel which he had heard so often out of the mouth of his teacher. The influence of Peter is evident throughout the book in the mention of significant details. We are told that Peter’s house was that of Simon and Andrew, Mark 1:29; these two brothers are mentioned at the beginning of Christ’s public ministry, Mark 1:16; expressions peculiar to Peter occur, Mark 16:7,19 (cp. 1 Peter 3:22); he gives the most detailed account of Peter’s denial, Mark 14:54,72.
The purpose of Mark’s Gospel, as he himself states, is to show the beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, Mark 1:1. This Gospel owed its power and wonderful success to the personality of Jesus Christ, who, by His deeds, His miracles, proved Himself the Son of God with power, Mark 3:11; Mark 5:7; Mark 15:39, and brought the kingdom of God, Mark 1:14; Mark 9:1; Mark 10:15,25; Mark 12:34. The miracles of Christ are therefore emphasized, the doctrinal discourses being given in brief form only.
The distinctive features of the Gospel according to Mark are its pithy, yet comprehensive style, with vivid flashes of portrayal; his characteristic “immediately” or “straightway,” which occurs in the Greek text more than forty times; the rapid shifts or quick changes of scene; the fact that the chronological sequence is fair, but not exact. Of the miracles which he relates two are distinctive of his Gospel, that of the healing of the deaf, Mark 7:31-37, and that of the blind man, whom Jesus healed by slow stages, Mark 8:22-26. A most interesting feature of the Gospel are the retirements of Jesus, during which He prepared Himself for a new stage in His work as Redeemer, Mark 1:12; Mark 3:7; Mark 6:31; Mark 6:46; Mark 7:24; Mark 7:31; Mark 9:2; Mark 11:1; Mark 14:34, principally by devoting Himself to prayer.
Date and Authenticity
The Gospel was probably written at Rome in the last part of the sixties, no reference to the destruction of Jerusalem being made. Whether it was written in the presence and at the suggestion of Peter or not, there can be no doubt as to its authenticity. The unanimous testimony of early Christian history and literature points to Mark as the author. To argue with critics that deny the possibility of miracles and therefore want to doubt the Gospel of Mark, has little value. A Christian knows in faith that miracles are possible, and gives all the more credence to a Gospel account that relates them with all the signs of genuineness. No valid reason has been adduced by any critic to cause us to alter our firm belief that we have, in the Gospel of Mark, the writing of this disciple of the Lord, and therefore the Word of the Lord Himself.
The outline of the book is much like that of Matthew. There is a short introduction concerning the history of John the Baptist. The Messianic work of Christ in Galilee is then given in some detail, with special emphasis upon the miracles. In the last part of the book the Messianic work of the Lord in Judea is spoken of at some length. The book closes with a history of the Passion, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ.
- The ministry of John the Baptist (1-8)
- The baptism of Christ and the beginning of His ministry (9-20)
- Preaching and healing in Capernaum (21-38)
- The healing of a leper (39-45)
John’s ministry prepared the way for the Lord, who thereupon, after His baptism and the temptation in the wilderness, entered upon His labors in Galilee, called four men to be His disciples, taught in the synagog and cast out an unclean spirit, healed Simon’s mother-in-law and many other sick people, made a preaching trip through Galilee, and healed a leper.
- Healing the palsied man (1-12)
- The calling of Levi and the dinner at his house (13-22)
- The Lord of the Sabbath (23-28)
Jesus heals a paralytic, calls the publican Levi to be His disciple, gives a short discourse concerning fasting and the difference between the old and the new dispensation, and declares Himself to be the Lord of the Sabbath.
- Healing the withered hand (1-6)
- Miracles by the seaside (7-21)
- Discourse on the casting out of devils (22-35)
Jesus heals the man with a withered hand, performs miracles by the seaside, calls the twelve apostles, gives a discourse on the casting out of devils, and teaches wherein true relationship with Him consists.
- Teaching by means of parables (1-34)
- Christ stilling the tempest (35-41)
Jesus tells the parable of the fourfold soil, expounding it to His disciples, also that of the seed that is cast into the ground, of the grain of mustard-seed, and others, and makes a journey across the sea, in the course of which He stills the tempest.
The ministry of John the Baptist
The superscription of the Gospel:
1 The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God;
Matthew 1:1; Matthew 14:32-33; Mark 9:7; John 20:30-31
It is characteristic of the evangelist’s nature, which expresses itself in his style of writing, that he loses no time in preliminary discussions and long introductions. He has a message, the one great message for all men of all times. And it sets the limits and boundaries of the preaching of the divine message for all time. The Gospel, the good news of the salvation of all men, is centered in Jesus Christ, who is its beginning, middle, and end: Jesus, the Redeemer, the Savior; and Christ, the Anointed One of God, our great Prophet, Priest, and King. Both His divine human person and His miraculous office are placed before our eyes. Only this message is the Gospel, the good news. All other messages, that do not lead to Christ, that do not emanate from Christ, are false messages. That is Mark’s emphasis.
John’s ministry in agreement with prophetic vision:
2 As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send My messenger before Thy face, which shall prepare Thy way before Thee. 3 The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make His paths straight. 4 John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.
Malachi 3:1; Isaiah 40:3; Luke 1:57-80; Luke 3:1-2; Matthew 3:1-3; John 1:6-7; Matthew 4:12-17; Matthew 11:20; John 1:11-13
Two of the prophets of olden times had distinctly described the person and the work of John the Baptist, and the evangelist combines their prophecies for the purpose of brevity. The first prophecy, Malachi 3:1, is one in which the God of Israel promises to send His personal messenger before the Messiah. And this messenger, by the message which should be imparted to him and which he was to proclaim before the people of the nation, had the purpose, the object, of preparing the way for the Messiah. A thorough preparation of the way was necessary and should be accomplished by the message entrusted to the herald. In the second prophecy, Isaiah 40:3, the distinctive contents of the message are given. It is a voice, preaching, which is heard; not a soft, gentle, and obscure whispering as of one not at all sure of his ground, and not filled with the conviction of the divinity of his message, but a loud calling, to awaken sinners from their sleep of security and indifference. A distinguishing feature: It would be heard, not in the midst of the capital or in the halls of the learned of the people, but out in the wilderness, far from the abodes of men. Simple, but impressive its import: Make ready the way of the Lord; make smooth the highway before Him. It is a spiritual coming of which the prophet speaks; it is the heart and mind that must be prepared for the coming of this Lord, who intends to establish His throne in the hearts of the believers. Only the penitent, humble sinners are admitted into this Kingdom. The rocks of self-righteousness, of pride and self-conceit, of a religion of works, will not permit the King to enter into the hearts. These must be removed so thoroughly that not a trace is left behind. That is the sum of the herald’s preaching, of his work in preparation for Christ’s coming. In fulfilling this prophecy, John the Baptist was out in the wilderness; he appeared out in the arid regions between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea, where the hills slope downward to the Jordan; he began his ministry as one that baptized. He made use of this rite, by God’s express command, to emphasize still more strongly his preaching. For his was a proclamation of the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. It was not a mere proselyte baptism, nor was it altogether identical with that of Jesus and the New Testament sacrament. Those that really repented of their sins received remission, forgiveness of their sins, and this remission was sealed unto them by the baptism which was administered unto them by John.
The effect of John’s preaching:
5 And there went out unto him all the land of Judaea, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins.
Matthew 3:5-6; Matthew 11:7-11; Psalm 32:1-5; Acts 2:38; 1 Peter 3:21; Mark 16:16
A man with a message such as John’s, supplemented by the oddity of his dress and habits, was bound to attract attention anywhere, even where his message was not welcome in its real significance. The inhabitants of the Judean hills heard of the hermit first, and came out of curiosity. But the fame of the wilderness preacher traveled fast, and soon the haughty people of the capital, probably with a deprecatory air, set out over the hills to see this strange man with the stranger message. And the effect of his preaching was truly remarkable. Great masses of people, men and women, crowded to his preaching and to his baptism. It was the custom, at the baptism of proselytes, not to administer the rite until the candidate had affirmed most solemnly that he would renounce all idolatrous worship, all heathenish superstitions, and had promised full and undivided allegiance to the Law of Moses. Here the individual confession of sins preceded baptism. As John himself was sincere, he tolerated no sham and deceit, no mere lip-service. He applied the words of the prophet. Those that were bowed down by the full realization of their sinfulness he cheered by the reference to the free grace of God, to those that were proud and conceited he emphasized the necessity of humility, upon those that were inclined to be deceitful he urged simplicity and purity of heart.
John’s appearance and message of Christ:
6 And John was clothed with camel’s hair, and with a girdle of a skin about his loins; and he did eat locusts and wild honey; 7 And preached, saying, There cometh One mightier than I after me, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose. 8 I indeed have baptized you with water: but He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost.
Matthew 3:4; Malachi 4:5-6; 2 Kings 1:8; 1 Kings 19:10; Hebrews 11:37; Leviticus 11:22; 1 Samuel 14:25-27; Matthew 3:11; John 1:26-27; Acts 1:4-5; John 14:26; Acts 2:1-4; Acts 2:38; Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:16; Galatians 3:26-27
The appearance of John did much to call attention to his message, especially as the people of Judea were familiar with the description which the Old Testament gives of the great prophet Elijah, 2 Kings 1:8. His one garment was woven of camel’s hair, by no means a stylish and comfortable garment, since he was seeking neither luxury nor easy living. A rough girdle of leather held the garment in place about the loins. His food was in full harmony with his clothing: an edible form of locust, Leviticus 11:22, and the wild honey found in the clefts of rocks or sweated out of certain trees growing in the wilderness. This mode of life he did not merely affect for the sake of making an impression. This was the clothing which he always wore; it was the food which he had always eaten, the customary meal. And now it appears that the message of the prophet, followed by baptism unto forgiveness, was all preparatory to the most characteristic preaching, that concerning Jesus. He, that one man, that is stronger, that has more power than I, is coming after me, is even now ready to be revealed before you. So great is the difference and contrast between them that John does not even feel himself worthy to perform a service for Him which a slave might covet. He is not worthy to stoop down before this greater Man und unloose the straps of His sandals. That was true, unaffected humility, such as is found in all those that really are serving the Lord. Cp. 1 Timothy 1:15. The work of this Man that was thus expected could be summarized in a short sentence: He will baptize you with the Holy Ghost. And this in contrast to the mere baptism with water, which John was sent to do. That is a feature, the most significant part of Christ’s ministry and work for mankind, the baptism with, the communication of, the Holy Ghost, John 20:20. There may not always be evidence of His presence in extraordinary manifestations, as in the early days of the Church, but the Holy Spirit lives, by the gift of Christ, in the hearts of all that have come to faith. And the evidence of His presence is never entirely wanting, if the Christian but make diligent use of the means of grace, through which alone the Spirit is communicated to them at the present time, especially the Word of the Gospel and the Lord’s Supper. There will be a growth in grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ, the Savior; there will be cheerfulness in the midst of the various distresses and tribulations of these latter days; there will be, above all, the greater willingness to serve Him in His kingdom, in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness.
The baptism of Christ and the beginning of His ministry
9 And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in Jordan. 10 And straightway coming up out of the water, He saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon Him: 11 And there came a voice from heaven, saying, Thou art My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
Matthew 2:22; Luke 1:36-45; Matthew 3:13-17; Luke 3:21-22; John 1:29-34
“In those days,” while John was having such marvelous success with his message and with his baptizing, in the days when the crowds that resorted to him were largest. Note: Jesus does not expect John to look for Him, though He might have expected that of one who, by his own confession, was lower than Himself. The King goes forth to seek the herald. From Nazareth Jesus came: there He had lived with His parents during all those years of preparation, concerning which we have only the most meager accounts, Luke 2:51-52. His fellow-citizens in that little mountain town had no idea of the greatness of Him whom they were harboring in their midst, whom they knew only as the carpenter, the son of Joseph. The evangelist adds the geographical note “of Galilee” on account of his Roman readers, who might be unfamiliar with the location of towns in Palestine. The various incidents of the story are omitted by Mark; for his purpose the statement as to the fact of Christ’s baptism is sufficient. But the miracle which followed the baptism is important. For when Jesus ascended the bank of the river, as He was leaving the water, there was a manifestation of the Trinity, of which the Christians of all times should know. Jesus had just set foot upon dry ground, when the heavens were cleft open above Him, as though cut apart by a knife. This Jesus saw distinctly; it was a revelation for His benefit. He, who had just received baptism unto the remission of sins, not for His own, but for those of the world that were resting upon Him, was shown the open heaven. It was a manifestation to strengthen Him at the beginning of His ministry, in which He must work out the redemption of mankind. This was further emphasized by the fact that the Holy Spirit, coming down out of the open heavens, descended not merely upon Him, but literally into Him. He was here, in the truest sense of the term, baptized with the Holy Ghost and with power. God, His God, here anointed Him with the oil of gladness, above His fellows, Psalm 45:7; Hebrews 1:9. Therefore the Spirit abode in Jesus, filled His heart and mind, made Him ready, according to His human nature, to perform the work for which He had been born into the world. Here Christ really began to be Christ, as Luther remarks. And His weak human nature needed the assistance of the Spirit. The works peculiar to the redemption of the world were of a nature which no mere man could hope to perform. In the same way there was also a definite reason for the assuring words from heaven when the Father called down: Thou art My beloved Son. The prophet like unto Moses, out of the people of Israel, was about to take up His life-work. But this prophet was, at the same time, the Son of the Most High, beloved of His heavenly Father, who took pleasure in Him, who here publicly declared His complete approval of the work undertaken by Jesus. It was an assurance which stood the Savior in good stead more than once in the course of His ministry and His Passion. Note also: John the Baptist saw and heard all these occurrences as well as Jesus Himself, John 1:32-34. He was a witness for the sake of himself and for the sake of his further message to the people. It is a matter of great consolation to us to know that the Triune God, and all the persons of the Godhead, has a definite share in our salvation, that Jesus entered upon His ministry with the approval and cooperation of the Spirit and the Father.
12 And immediately the spirit driveth Him into the wilderness. 13 And He was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted of Satan; and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered unto Him.
Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13; Luke 22:39-43; Deuteronomy 8:2; Hebrews 2:18; Hebrews 4:15
“Immediately,” not a mere introductory word here as so often in Mark’s Gospel, but emphasizing quick action. Christ was now formally installed and prepared for His work; He must enter upon it at once. Mark well: the Spirit drove Him into the wilderness. It is a stronger word than that used by the other evangelists, Matthew 4:1; Luke 4:1. Christ was a true human being. He had some idea of the severity of the trial that awaited Him, and He very naturally hung back; the flesh was weak. But the Spirit, by gentle insistence, urged Him onward. It was a hard fight which He must undergo, but it was a part of His office. For forty days He was out there in the mountainous wilderness; for forty days He withstood the unceasing attacks of Satan, for the incidents narrated by Matthew and Luke are only outstanding features of the temptation. To destroy the works of the devil He had come into the world, 1 John 3:8, and to destroy the works of the devil He must begin at the very outset of His official work. An impressive picture: The Son of God, according to His human nature, surrounded by the majesty of the desert hills, with no living being to keep him company but the wild beasts whose haunts He had invaded, attacked in every possible way, in every conceivable manner, by Satan, who endeavors, with all his devilish power and cunning, to hinder the work of redemption. But the Savior conquered, He routed the devil. And the Victor received the ministrations of the angels, the good spirits, who came to Him after the battle, whose service refreshed Him according to both body and soul. It was a spiritual crisis through which Jesus here passed while He resisted the temptation, both fierce and protracted. It is more than probable that the terrific strain of those days of ceaseless vigilance left Him as exhausted as in Gethsemane, when it was necessary for an angel to come and strengthen Him.
The beginning of Christ’s preaching:
14 Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, 15 And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.
Matthew 4:12-17; Matthew 14:3-4; Luke 3:19-20; Luke 4:14-15; Galatians 4:4-7; Ephesians 1:3-14
The narrative moves forward very rapidly, since the evangelist merely sketches the early days of Christ’s official work. He omits the visit to Samaria, the journey to Galilee, and the return to Judea. Jesus purposely waited with a more public demonstration of His powers until John the Baptist was no longer engaged in His preparatory labors. With John’s being placed into prison his career was practically ended, though some of his disciples continued to adhere to him. Now Christ journeyed into Galilee and came forth openly with His message. This was due partly to the fact that even at this early date the Pharisees of Judea were planning to remove Him, John 4:1, and partly to the prophecy to which Matthew refers at this point, Matthew 4:14-16. His work, His constant occupation at this time, was preaching the Gospel of God, the good news of which God is the Author, which God had made possible, and which tells about God and His concern about the entire sinful and fallen mankind. It is the characteristic message of the New Testament. Its summary is: Fulfilled is the time, and near is come the kingdom of God; repent and believe the Gospel. In and with the coming of Jesus the time which the prophets of old always had in mind was fulfilled, Galatians 4:4; Ephesians 1:10. For the entire Old Testament points forward to His coming. With His coming also the kingdom of God has come near. His presence, message, and work invite faith in Him, by which all men should become members of His kingdom. For “that is what it means,” as Luther says, “to be in the kingdom of heaven, if I am a living member of Christianity, and not only hear the Gospel, but also believe. If this were not so, a man would be in heaven, just as though I would throw a log or block among the Christians, or as the devil is among them.” [Luther, 11, 490]. Repentance must necessarily precede faith; for the latter implies the acceptance of the Savior of sinners and therefore also the acknowledgment of sins committed. The sinners, those that know their sinfulness, will then be more than willing to put their trust in the Gospel, whose essence is the forgiveness of sins through the merits of Jesus Christ. It was a message of salvation and glory which Jesus was here proclaiming.
The formal call of the first disciples:
16 Now as He walked by the sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. 17 And Jesus said unto them, Come ye after Me, and I will make you to become fishers of men. 18 And straightway they forsook their nets, and followed Him. 19 And when He had gone a little farther thence, He saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who also were in the ship mending their nets. 20 And straightway He called them: and they left their father Zebedee in the ship with the hired servants, and went after Him.
Matthew 4:18-22; Luke 5:1-11; John 1:35-42
Here is an interesting feature: the prominence given to the call of Peter and his brother. Probably Peter, in the course of his Gospel-teaching, loved to dwell especially upon that fact that the Lord had seen fit to call him as one of the disciples, and thus had honored him far above his deserts. And the Holy Ghost had Mark make a note of it here to bring out all the more strongly the grace and love of Christ. It was at the Sea of Galilee, where Jesus spent a large part of the time while He lived in Capernaum. Jesus was walking along the shore, when He saw two fishermen, both of them sons of one Jonas, busy with the work of their calling, throwing out nets into the sea, casting about, now on the one side of their boat, then again on the other. The call of Jesus is explicit and unmistakable: Follow behind Me, be My disciples. His promise is comprehensive: I will make you to become fishers of men. He did not want to communicate to them by a single miracle, as He might have done, the spiritual gifts necessary for this calling, but He wanted to make them ready for their life-work by a gradual process of training. Fishers of men they were to become; their endeavors should be directed toward the souls of men, to bring them into the net of Christ, to make them members, if possible, of the communion of saints. This call decided both brothers at once. Without the slightest hesitation they left their nets and followed Him. Where the will and call of Jesus is evident at any time, there must be no hesitating, no consulting with flesh and blood: a cheerful, immediate following of Christ is demanded by the obedience of faith. In a similar manner Jesus, having gone a little farther on the shore, saw the two sons of Zebedee, one of whom He also had had in His company before. They were also busy with some work connected with their calling as fishermen, since they were mending nets. At the call of Jesus they proved themselves as willing as the sons of Jonas had been: they left their father in the boat with the hired assistants. They were not needed so badly at home but that they could heed the call of Jesus. So the Lord now had four men that had been pledged to be His regular disciples, and to be trained for the great work of preaching the Gospel throughout the world.
Preaching and healing in Capernaum
Christ’s manner of teaching:
21 And they went into Capernaum; and straightway on the Sabbath day He entered into the synagogue, and taught. 22 And they were astonished at His doctrine: for He taught them as one that had authority, and not as the scribes.
Matthew 4:13; Luke 4:31-32; Luke 2:41-52; Matthew 7:28–29; Matthew 13:53-54; Matthew 22:23-33; Mark 6:1-2; Mark 11:15-18; John 7:40-46; Romans 11:33-36
In Capernaum Jesus had His headquarters, and here also Peter and Andrew now lived. Jesus may have called the four disciples on a Friday and arrived at Capernaum the same evening, before the prescribed Sabbath-rest began. But He lost no time in carrying on His work. On the Sabbath He went into the synagog, and, after the manner of the Jews, was given the right to address the assembly, to give them the explanation of Scriptures, which was usually given by one of the elders of the synagog, the meamar, or talk. The impression which He made at once was profound. Here was something utterly unlike the usual cut-and-dried droning about tradition and observance of elders’ commandments. Here was a man with a message, with teaching, with a doctrine so unusual, so impressive, that the assembled members of the congregation were almost beside themselves with astonishment and wonder. The feature which at once marked His teaching was His authoritative manner of presenting the matter. He was a teacher that knew how to influence heart and mind; His applications were intelligible, and they went to the root of the matter presented by Him. There was nothing of the dead monotony of the method of the scribes here, although He employed none of the orator’s schemes to enhance the effect. Luther says in explanation: “With authority, that is, His preaching was as of one that means it with all seriousness; and what He said had power and lived, as though it had hands and feet.” [Quoted in Syn. Ber., Iowa Dist., 1907, 18].
The man with the unclean spirit:
23 And there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, 24 Saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with Thee, Thou Jesus of Nazareth? art Thou come to destroy us? I know Thee who Thou art, the Holy One of God. 25 And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace, and come out of him. 26 And when the unclean spirit had torn him, and cried with a loud voice, he came out of him. 27 And they were all amazed, insomuch that they questioned among themselves, saying, What thing is this? what new doctrine is this? for with authority commandeth He even the unclean spirits, and they do obey Him. 28 And immediately His fame spread abroad throughout all the region round about Galilee.
Luke 4:33-37; Matthew 4:23-25; Mark 5:1-20; Acts 19:11-15; James 2:19; Matthew 25:41; Jude 6; Revelation 16:5; John 6:66-69; Acts 3:1-16; 1 John 2:20
By chance, as the average person would say, but as we say, by God’s dispensation, there was present in the synagog, on that Sabbath morning, a man with an unclean spirit, possessed with a demon. Spiritually unclean the devil is, and the contact with him or his angels makes filthy before God. He had taken possession of the body of this man, using his members to do his bidding. It was the evil spirit that cried out at the sight of Jesus, affirming that he and Jesus of Nazareth had nothing in common, that he and all the demons belonged to a company which are and always will be at variance with the Son of God. His cry is a cry of fear, lest Christ should see meet to condemn them, to destroy them by chaining them forever in hell. He was conscious of his own spiritual uncleanness as compared with the holiness of Jesus, the Holy One of God. “In the emphatic sense, and thus, according to John 6:69; Revelation 3:7, the concealed designation of the Messiah. As the typical Old Testament anointed ones represented the Messiah, so the typical saints, priests, prophets, and kings, Psalm 16, represent the Holy One, in the most exclusive sense.” [Schaff, Commentary, Mark, 22]. But Jesus soon made His business known by rebuking the demon and bidding him hold his peace and come out of the man. Jesus has absolute authority over all things, over all creatures, not only in heaven and on earth, but also under the earth. He is the Master and Lord also of the evil spirits. And so this demon, forced against his evil will to obey, tried to vent his spite in one last effort to harm the body of his victim. He convulsed him, he threw him into a spasm, into a severe epileptic fit. Then, with a last great, screaming cry, he goes forth from the man. The effect of this miracle, coming immediately after the address which had made such a deep impression, was overwhelming. The people were almost stupefied with astonishment. A questioning-together, a hubbub arose in the school, which shows how deeply they were moved: Who can explain this? Has He a new revelation that enables Him to deliver men from the power of demons? Does He do this by His own authority, in His own power? For we see that He orders the unclean spirits about, and they obey Him without question. The news spread like wildfire, at once, everywhere, in the whole region of Galilee round about. Jesus had here given indisputable evidence that He was indeed the Holy One of God, who had come into the world to destroy the works of the devil and to deliver all men from the bondage of Satan.
The healing of Peter’s mother-in-law:
29 And forthwith, when they were come out of the synagogue, they entered into the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30 But Simon’s wife’s mother lay sick of a fever, and anon they tell Him of her. 31 And He came and took her by the hand, and lifted her up; and immediately the fever left her, and she ministered unto them.
Matthew 8:14-15; Luke 4:38-39; 1 Corinthians 9:5; Matthew 9:23-26
Mark tells this story with greater attention to detail than Matthew, undoubtedly because Peter had taken note of all the things which concerned him closely. By the word “forthwith” the evangelist calls attention to the miracle. The two brothers, Simon and Andrew, as the text here expressly states, had a house in Capernaum. And to this Christ and His four disciples wended their way. Hardly had they entered the house, when they, the members of the household, especially Simon and Andrew, told him about the severe sickness of Peter’s mother-in-law, who was ill with a bad fever, which is apt to sap the strength very rapidly. Jesus, in turn, lost no time in performing His work of sympathy. Going to her couch, He lifted or raised her up by taking hold of her hand. At the same time, He rebuked the fever, Luke 4:39, and it left her at once. And her full strength was restored to her in a moment, for she was able to arise and serve them all, but especially Him, to whom she owed her recovery. Fevers and grievous diseases of all kinds are an uncanny power, their very mysteriousness often renders them baffling and fearful. But Christ is stronger than all powers of destruction.
Healing of various diseases:
32 And at even, when the sun did set, they brought unto Him all that were diseased, and them that were possessed with devils. 33 And all the city was gathered together at the door. 34 And He healed many that were sick of divers diseases, and cast out many devils; and suffered not the devils to speak, because they knew Him.
Matthew 8:16-17; Luke 4:40-41; Matthew 4:23-25; Isaiah 53:4
Jesus had little chance for rest, once the power was known which people had witnessed in Him. The people waited indeed until the Sabbath was past, for the day came to an end with the setting of the sun. But then they brought to Him, they carried to Him all those that were in a bad way, that were not feeling well, together with such as were troubled with demons. So quickly had His fame spread that practically all the inhabitants of the city had come together and were assembled before the door of the house where He was staying. And they were not disappointed in their trust. No matter what the disease was (and many different forms of sickness were represented in that great multitude), He healed them. And many demons He cast out; by a word of command from Him they had to leave their victims and take their disagreeable presence elsewhere. Note: Christ did not permit the demons to speak, lest they tell the people the truth concerning Him. The Lord desires no testimony from the devil and from all those that are willingly in His service. He wanted to reveal Himself to the people of Galilee in His own way and at His own time.
Jesus retires for rest and strength:
35 And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, He went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed. 36 And Simon and they that were with Him followed after Him. 37 And when they had found Him, they said unto Him, All men seek for Thee. 38 And He said unto them, Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also: for therefore came I forth.
Luke 4:42-43; Luke 5:15-16; Luke 6:12; Matthew 14:23; Hebrews 5:7-8
It had been long after sundown, probably as long as twilight lasted, that Jesus had been busy with the sick people. And yet, before the dawn brightened the hills on the eastern shore of Lake Gennesaret, while it was yet night, He arose, left the house, and went out into a desert place. He had doubtless been tired the evening before. And He knew that the future would bring many such days, with excitement and labor from morning till night. He was ready for this work; that was His office for which He had come. But His purpose in seeking a lonely place so early in the morning was to enter into communion with His heavenly Father by prayer, Hebrews 5:7-8. He needed new strength for further labors and trials, and this He sought and received through prayer. There is no better way of maintaining the spiritual strength and serenity needed in difficult work for the Lord than by constant intercourse with the Lord in His Word and by prayer. Jesus was soon missed at home, and Peter and several others followed the way which they thought Jesus must have taken. The text implies an earnest, anxious seeking, for this is necessary at all times when Jesus is the object of the search. Having found the Master, they inform Him that all the people were even then searching for Him. To men and women anxious to hear words out of the mouth of Jesus and to see works of glory performed by Him, the early hours of the morning are not too early. But at this time Jesus was not influenced by the message of Peter. He denies the implied petition to return to Capernaum at this time. He wanted to go to other places, and asked them to go along, to village-towns, little, unfortified hamlets. For there He wanted to preach, to proclaim the Word of the Gospel. The healing was a secondary consideration; it was intended merely to confirm the Word. The people of Capernaum should now, for a season, have time and leisure to meditate upon the preaching He had done before them, in order to have the full benefit of its influence.
The healing of a leper
The beginning of the Galilean journey:
39 And He preached in their synagogues throughout all Galilee, and cast out devils. 40 And there came a leper to Him, beseeching Him, and kneeling down to Him, and saying unto Him, If Thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean. 41 And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth His hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou clean. 42 And as soon as He had spoken, immediately the leprosy departed from him, and he was cleansed.
Matthew 8:2-3; Luke 5:12-13; Matthew 4:23; Matthew 11:2-6; Leviticus 13:1-8; Leviticus 13:45-46
Mark relates the events of the Galilean journey very briefly. Jesus went, He carried out His intention at once, perhaps without returning to Capernaum; the anxiety to perform His work urged Him on. Throughout Galilee, not only in the towns of the hill country of Upper Galilee, but also in the less mountainous districts of Lower Galilee, He went His way. The outstanding feature of the journey was the preaching in the synagogs, which could be done all the more easily, since services were held not only on the Sabbath, but on Mondays and Thursdays as well. He came preaching, He continued proclaiming the glad tidings of salvation to all, without respite, without ceasing. “This zealous, affectionate, and persevering diligence of Christ should be copied by all His servants in the ministry: it is not less necessary now than it was then.” [Clarke, Commentary, 5, 292]. Wherever people were assembled for services, He was willing and anxious to bring them the message of salvation. It was also on this trip that a leper came to Him. Whether this leper is the same one of whom Matthew speaks, Matthew 8:2, is immaterial. Note the urgency of his behavior: He comes, he begs and pleads, he bows down on his knees before Jesus, and he puts his desire in words. His prayer is a model: If Thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean. Here is humility and submission; he leaves all in the hands of Jesus; the Master must know best what is expedient and what is wholesome. Here is also the trust of faith; the man knows, he has the firm conviction that Christ has the power to heal him. To know that Christ is the great Healer for all weaknesses and maladies of body and soul, to put one’s trust in Him absolutely for help, but, in the case of bodily infirmities, to leave the time, the means, and the method in His hands, that is the essence of confidence in the Lord. The prayer and the entire bearing of the man impressed Jesus very deeply. Having compassion, He extended His hand, He touched him and said: I will; become clean. That almighty word wrought the miracle, it drove away the sickness that was such a severe burden upon the poor man. Cp. Hebrews 2:17; Hebrews 4:15; Acts 4:30. There was no interval of doubt and uncertainty, the healing was complete at once.
Christ’s attempt to avoid unwelcome publicity:
43 And He straitly charged him, and forthwith sent him away; 44 And saith unto him, See thou say nothing to any man: but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer for thy cleansing those things which Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them. 45 But he went out, and began to publish it much, and to blaze abroad the matter, insomuch that Jesus could no more openly enter into the city, but was without in desert places: and they came to Him from every quarter.
Matthew 8:4; Luke 5:14-16; Leviticus 14:2-32; Mark 7:31-37; Matthew 9:27-31; John 20:30-31
Here is a matter which might seem strange at first glance. Speaking to the former leper in a most severe manner, assuming a threatening aspect, He thrust him away, with the injunction to tell no man about the miracle, but to follow the command of the Levitical purification strictly, Leviticus 13-14. The bringing of his sacrifice was to be a witness, a testimony to all men, that he really had been cleansed of his leprosy. The reasons for this behavior of the Lord are evident from the entire story, in comparison with the previous text. The Word of the Gospel which He preached was the most important thing in the eyes of the Lord. People should seek Him for the sake of that Word. Publicity resulting from His healing the sick and cleansing the lepers might bring many that would care nothing for the preaching and thus hinder His Messianic labors. Then also, the Lord wanted to avoid unpleasantness, in case the priest should find out about His healing the leper before the man actually appeared to be adjudged clean. But the man, in the fulness of his joy, disregarded the Lord’s command and, by publishing broadcast the fact of his having been healed, really added to the Lord’s anxieties and labors. For now people came swarming from all sides, insomuch that Jesus could no longer go into the city, but was obliged to stay out in lonely, desert places, and even there they found Him, coming from all parts of Galilee.
John’s ministry prepared the way for the Lord, who thereupon, after His baptism and the temptation in the wilderness, entered upon His labors in Galilee, called four men to be His disciples, taught in the synagog and cast out an unclean spirit, healed Simon’s mother-in-law and many other sick people, made a preaching trip through Galilee, and healed a leper.
Healing the palsied man
The return to Capernaum:
1 And again He entered into Capernaum after some days; and it was noised that He was in the house. 2 And straightway many were gathered together, insomuch that there was no room to receive them, no, not so much as about the door: and He preached the word unto them.
Matthew 4:12-17; Matthew 9:1
Mark here omits a large part of the gospel-story which the other evangelists relate, in harmony with his purpose to stress the miracles of Jesus and set forth His divine power. Jesus had, in the mean time, completed His first journey through Galilee, and had also been to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. Some of Christ’s most notable sermons, as the Sermon on the Mount, also belong into this interval. It was after some days, after quite a long while, that Jesus came again to Capernaum. As soon as He had arrived, however, this was heard; the rumor, the report of His having returned was spread. Soon the whole city knew that He was again at home. It was not long, either, before many people gathered, with the extraordinary incidents of some weeks or months ago still fresh in their memory. So eagerly they came flocking that not only was the house filled, but the space round about the door was crowded as well. Even there it was impossible to find any more room for additional visitors, much less on the inside. And He spoke unto them, not in a formal way, in a set speech, but in a more informal talk. It was the Word that He spoke, the Word of the Gospel, the Word of the Lord, that Word which alone is worthy of the name, just as at present the word “Bible,” meaning “book,” is used for the one and only book, whose contents place it in a class entirely by itself.
The palsied man:
3 And they come unto Him, bringing one sick of the palsy, which was borne of four. 4 And when they could not come nigh unto Him for the press, they uncovered the roof where He was: and when they had broken it up, they let down the bed wherein the sick of the palsy lay. 5 When Jesus saw their faith, He said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee.
Matthew 9:2; Luke 5:17-20; Matthew 4:24; Matthew 8:16; Matthew 9:22; Psalm 32:1,11; Psalm 103:1-4
While Jesus was in the house, and the conditions were such that hardly another person could be wedged in between the crowd, there came men that brought or carried a paralytic man. So severe was the sickness and so great the consequent weakness of the man that he could neither be led nor supported in an upright position. He was lying on a sofa or hammock-like couch, which was carried by four men. It was out of the question to approach Christ, to come anywhere near Him. The crowd effectually blocked the doorway. But these men were neither dismayed nor baffled. Taking their precious burden up the stairway, which, after the custom of the Jews, led from the ground on the side to the flat roof, they proceeded to uncover the roof above the spot where Jesus was standing, as nearly as they could estimate the location. Here they took off the tiles, making an opening large enough to permit the lowering of the bed with its occupant before the feet of Jesus. There must never be a lack of determination on the part of men that actually want to bring any matter to the attention of Jesus. A way can be found to make known your wants to Him, if there is the persistence of firm faith to show the way. Note: It was this that Jesus looked for as soon as the sick man was placed before Him, the faith of them all, the undoubting trust that He could and would help in this great trouble, since He was the Messiah, who had come to take away sin, with its guilt and with its curse. It should also be remembered: the intercessory groanings of the heart for the trouble of any friend or any person in the world have great power with Christ, when they flow from a heart full of faith in Him. So it proved in this case. For the first assurance of Jesus was that addressed to the sick man: Son, forgiven be thy sins. That was glorious, comforting news. For though the present sickness may not have been caused by any direct fault of the sufferer, yet it is true that sin has caused all the suffering in the world from the beginning. “For if we had remained without sin,” as our church-book has it, “death could not have prevailed over us, much less any other affliction.” That assurance alone, therefore, benefited the sufferer greatly, since it transmitted to him the continual forgiveness of all his sins through the merits of the Savior.
Christ’s defense against the scribes:
6 But there was certain of the scribes sitting there, and reasoning in their hearts, 7 Why doth this man thus speak blasphemies? who can forgive sins but God only? 8 And immediately when Jesus perceived in His spirit that they so reasoned within themselves, He said unto them, Why reason ye these things in your hearts? 9 Whether is it easier to say to the sick of the palsy, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and take up thy bed, and walk? 10 But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (He saith to the sick of the palsy,) 11 I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy bed, and go thy way into thine house. 12 And immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went forth before them all; insomuch that they were all amazed, and glorified God, saying, We never saw it on this fashion.
Matthew 9:3-8; Luke 5:21-26; Matthew 23:13; John 10:31-38; Matthew 26:63-68
The leaders of the Jews had watched developments in Galilee with apprehension for some time. The simple assurance of this new teacher did not meet with their approval, especially since He had not asked for their sanction. And so they had men watching Jesus all the time. In this case there was a large delegation of scribes present, Luke 5:17. As soon as they heard the word out of the mouth of Jesus concerning forgiveness, their pharisaic suspicions were aroused, and their pharisaic condemnation followed. For fear of the multitude they dared not voice their sentiments, but in their heart they passed judgment unhesitatingly, condemning Jesus for a blasphemer. Their argument sounds reasonable: Who can forgive sins but God only? Every sin is, in the last analysis, a transgression of God’s holy commandment and therefore against Him. From God, therefore, we ask forgiveness of our sins, Psalm 25:18; Psalm 32:5. But two points should be noted: Christ, as the Son of God, as His equal in all divine attributes, can and may forgive sins in His own power; and the announcement of forgiveness implies the redemption, and may now be made by any man. Though the objection was not spoken, yet Jesus, who searches mind and heart, Psalm 139:2, knew their thoughts perfectly which they had concerning Him. And He replies to the challenge. He puts a question to them which is intended to show them the foolishness of their position: Which is the easier of the two, to heal the spiritual or the bodily infirmity? Matthew 9:4-5, to say: Thy sins be forgiven thee, or to say: Arise, and take up thy bed, and walk off? The scribes, according to their position, now should have said: The forgiving of sins is the easier, for that cannot be controlled, since its action was strictly in the spiritual plane. But Jesus does not wait for their answer. He wants to give them a practical, indubitable proof and demonstration of the power which He possesses in His position as Son of Man, in His office as the divine-human Messiah. He forgave the sins of the paralytic in His own power, by His own right and might. And He now, by a simple command, restored the sick man to perfect health and full strength, enabling him not only to get up from his couch with some unsteadiness, but to take up his couch before them all and to depart. It was such a wonderful manifestation that all those present, with the exception of the scribes, were astonished almost to stupefaction, and gave praise to God in the words: In this way we never saw it yet. This miracle and all it implied and presupposed was something new to them. It argued for a power greater than any that they had ever come into contact with.
There is much comfort in these words to this day. The Son of God became man, and by His life, Passion, and death earned perfect forgiveness for the sins of all men. The debt is not simply canceled, but is paid through the merits of Christ. For that reason God no longer has a remembrance of our sins. And therefore the Son of Man may distribute the great treasure, which He has earned, among the children of men. What is more, God has, through Christ, given to men the power on earth to forgive sins. Christ has given to all His disciples, to the entire Christian Church on earth, the peculiar power to forgive the sins of the penitent sinners unto them. Thus we know where and how we may find forgiveness of sins. “Not in heaven, as the Pharisees here suppose. … Guard against that and say: God has placed forgiveness of sins into Holy Baptism, into the Lord’s Supper, and into the Word; yea, He has given it into the mouth of every Christian; if he consoles thee and promises thee God’s grace through the merit of Christ Jesus, thou shalt receive and believe it, in no other way but as though Christ with His own mouth had given thee the promise, as here to the paralytic.” [Luther, quoted in Stoeckhardt, Biblische Geschichte des Neuen Testaments, 76].
The calling of Levi and the dinner at his house
13 And He went forth again by the sea side; and all the multitude resorted unto Him, and He taught them. 14 And as He passed by, He saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the receipt of custom, and said unto him, Follow Me. And he arose and followed Him.
Matthew 9:9; Luke 5:27-28; Mark 3:13-19; Luke 6:12-16; Acts 1:12-14
The encounter with the scribes in no way diminishes the zeal of the Lord for the proclamation of the Gospel and for the performance of all the duties of His office. The crowd willingly fell back as He came forth, and eagerly fell in behind Him as He took His way toward the sea. And again He did His work as the great Teacher of the New Testament. As He then, in the intervals of His teaching, was walking along the great road that led from Capernaum toward the northeast, He passed by the booth of a customs collector, or, as the people were commonly called in Palestine, a publican. Palestine had been a province of the Roman Empire since the year 67 B. C. The Roman officers that had charge of the collection of taxes had this somewhat disagreeable task performed by others, who did it for a consideration. The lowest tax-collectors, especially those engaged in exacting duties and customs, were cordially hated by the people. Now Capernaum was situated on the main caravan road between the West and the East, between the Mediterranean Sea and the city of Damascus. Traffic on this road was very heavy, and the consequent income from tariff was large. For every animal in the caravan a tax had to be paid, and the duty on imports ranged from 2½ to 12½ percent. There was also the disagreeable feature that a mere declaration of values was not considered sufficient. The officers personally unpacked the goods and made their calculations accordingly. No wonder the publicans were not popular, being engaged in such a disagreeable work, and for the Romans, the oppressors of the country, at that. And yet, Jesus stops at the booth of this man Levi, the son of Alphaeus, and bids the publican in charge follow Him. It is more than probable that Levi was already acquainted with Jesus, that he at least knew of Him, having been present, perhaps, at some of His sermons. At any rate, it was an effectual call. The Lord, by His Word, so influenced the heart and mind of this man, that he willingly gave up his work and became a disciple of Christ. And from this day he bore the name Matthew, in accordance with a Jewish custom, by which individuals assumed a new name upon the occasion of some critical occurrence in their lives, like Peter and Paul.
The reception and dinner:
15 And it came to pass, that, as Jesus sat at meat in his house, many publicans and sinners sat also together with Jesus and His disciples: for there were many, and they followed Him. 16 And when the scribes and Pharisees saw Him eat with publicans and sinners, they said unto His disciples, How is it that He eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners? 17 When Jesus heard it, He saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
Matthew 9:10-13; Luke 5:29-32; Luke 15:1-2; Acts 11:1-18; Galatians 2:11-14; 1 Corinthians 5:9-13; 2 Peter 3:9; Luke 15:3-7; John 9:39-41
Matthew was duly elated and thankful to the Lord, as a newly converted person is apt to be. In his joy he caused an elaborate dinner to be prepared for the Lord and the disciples. Jesus willingly accepted the invitation, because it would afford Him welcome opportunity to come into contact with needy souls. While He was reclining at one of the tables, in the fashion of the Orient, many publicans and sinners crowded in and joined in the meal. They were Levi Matthew’s former associates and friends, and he saw nothing strange or incongruous in their appearing at this time. But there were people that were highly indignant about this breach of Jewish custom and etiquette. For the tax collectors and the public sinners were for them in one class, they had been put out of the congregation, out of the synagog, usually for some minor transgression against Jewish tradition. And, being properly shocked, the scribes voiced their disapproval to the disciples, either during the progress of the dinner or when they saw the disciples leave the house. They could not understand how Jesus could possibly eat at the same table with publicans and sinners. But Jesus heard their disapproving remark. He knew that His action would be an offense to these self-righteous hypocrites. And so He reminded them of a proverb which was then in general use: There is no need for the strong to have a doctor, but for the sick. That is true on the spiritual plane as well as on the physical. He that is truly well and strong, he that is perfectly righteous and without sin, truly needs no physician, no help for his sins, since he is not conscious of them and cannot be on account of their absence. Such perfect persons are indeed unknown on this earth; but all the greater is the number of them that imagine themselves to be perfect. And believing themselves to be righteous (miserable delusion!), they want nothing of the Savior of sinners, they will not believe that His mission concerns them. And so Christ confines His work to the sinners, to those that feel the weakness, the sickness of their soul, the terrible affliction of sin. By His call into communion with Him and by His dealing with them through the means of grace He gives them the assistance they need, He imputes to them, He gives them, His own righteousness, and thus makes them well in time and in eternity.
A question of fasting:
18 And the disciples of John and of the Pharisees used to fast: and they come and say unto Him, Why do the disciples of John and of the Pharisees fast, but Thy disciples fast not? 19 And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bridechamber fast, while the bridegroom is with them? as long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. 20 But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then shall they fast in those days.
Matthew 9:14-15; Luke 5:33-35; John 1:6-8; John 3:25-30; Matthew 11:2-19; Matthew 6:16-18
The disciples of John, after the rigorousness of their master, were inclined to be very severe in the mortification of their flesh. They may not have done so with the belief that they were meriting much in the sight of God, but the thought of the necessity of such practises was ever present with them. The Pharisees, on the other hand, made their boast of their fasting, Matthew 6:16; Matthew 9:14; Luke 18:12. They took a great measure of pride in the fact that they were exceeding the commandment of God in this respect. In addition, they expected others to follow their lead. At this particular time they were fasting. And in carrying out the demands of their self-appointed sanctity, they were kept busy in straightening out the conduct of others instead of attending to their own affairs. They wanted Christ above all to regulate His piety by theirs. And, in doing so, they wanted to hold themselves up as models in order to shine before the people with their holiness. In this case either the Pharisees, together with the disciples of John, or men that were acting as their representatives, came to Christ. They want to know why the custom of the Pharisees and John’s disciples is not followed in the immediate neighborhood of Christ. They speak of the disciples of Christ, but their criticism is directed against Him. The explanation of the Lord is simple. He is the Bridegroom, in whose company the children of the bridechamber, the best man and his companions, are at the present time, so long as He is in the world. Now they were surely aware of the fact that fasting was commonly looked upon as a sign of bereavement, sorrow, and repentance. It surely would not be right and proper for the disciples, therefore, since they were in the midst of the joys of the marriage-feast, to assume doleful faces as though they had suffered a great and bitter bereavement. That time, indeed, was coming, when the Bridegroom would be taken out of their midst, then they would have reason for showing every manifestation of grief, John 16:20.
Two parables to emphasize His meaning:
21 No man also seweth a piece of new cloth on an old garment: else the new piece that filled it up taketh away from the old, and the rent is made worse. 22 And no man putteth new wine into old bottles: else the new wine doth burst the bottles, and the wine is spilled, and the bottles will be marred: but new wine must be put into new bottles.
Matthew 9:16-17; Luke 5:36-39; Matthew 23:1-3; Matthew 5:17-20; Psalm 96; Psalm 98; Revelation 5:6-14
Here a matter of common experience is applied to the case in hand. To sew a patch of new cloth upon an old garment is not only incongruous, but usually aggravates the trouble and causes a further tear at the seam. And to put new wine, grape-juice that is in the process of fermentation, into old wine-skins, may easily become disastrous, since the skin is no longer strong enough to withstand the process going on inside. The old, dead orthodoxy of the Pharisees, their righteousness of works, did not fit with the doctrine of Jesus of the free mercy of God in and through Christ Jesus. He that trusts in his works and then intends to patch this up with a few scraps of the Gospel, he that wants to cover up some vice with Christ’s merit, will soon find out that his is a poor comfort. In his heart he is still adhering to the old religion of works, which will drag him down to perdition. And the new wine of the Gospel of the forgiveness of sins for Christ’s sake does not suit the hearts that are still bound up in self-righteousness. If the sweet Gospel of God’s grace is preached to proud, self-righteous hearts, it will surely be wasted, for they cannot and will not accept and believe it, and it is a mystery to them how other people can take delight in that old Gospel of free grace. But where the hearts have been renewed, made entirely new by the power of the Word, there the Gospel will find the reception which it ought to have, there the hearts accept the glorious news of their redemption and are prepared for life eternal.
The Lord of the Sabbath
23 And it came to pass, that He went through the corn fields on the Sabbath day; and His disciples began, as they went, to pluck the ears of corn. 24 And the Pharisees said unto Him, Behold, why do they on the Sabbath day that which is not lawful? 25 And He said unto them, Have ye never read what David did, when he had need, and was an hungred, he, and they that were with him? 26 How he went into the house of God in the days of Abiathar the high priest, and did eat the shewbread, which is not lawful to eat but for the priests, and gave also to them which were with him? 27 And He said unto them, The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath: 28 Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the Sabbath.
Matthew 12:1-8; Luke 6:1-5; Deuteronomy 23:25; Exodus 31:13-15; Exodus 34:21; Exodus 20:8-11; Deuteronomy 5:12-15; 1 Samuel 21:1-6; Exodus 25:30; Leviticus 24:5-9; Exodus 29:32-34; Numbers 28:9-10; Luke 13:14-16; Luke 14:1-6; John 5:1-17; John 7:19-24; John 9:13-16; Hebrews 4:4-13; Colossians 2:16-17; Acts 15:22-29
The Pharisees did not abate their jealous, hawklike watch over Jesus and His disciples for one minute. And the Lord, on His part, in no way attempted to escape from them. The lessons which He wished to convey to them would be brought out all the sooner with their vigilant presence ever near. Jesus and His disciples, on a Sabbath, were taking a walk through the fields of grain, which were just about ready for harvest. There were in those days simple, rough footpaths that have existed in Palestine since time immemorial. “If a landowner wished to raise grain in a field through which one of these paths ran, he plowed up to the very edge of the narrow path and put in his seed.” [Barton, Archeology and the Bible, 132]. It was along one of these paths that the little company of Jesus was strolling, they were making their way slowly. And where the grain had encroached upon the path, the disciples, being hungry, pulled up the stalks. This they continued, as they went, and then rubbed the ears between the hands to extract the kernels, which they ate. Here the Pharisees complained to the Lord about the disciples, although their accusation implied a criticism of the Master for permitting the pulling of the stalks, which they identified with reaping, and the rubbing of the ears, which they identified with threshing. But Jesus defended His disciples by referring the Pharisees to the example of David, who, in a similar situation, when he and his men were in need, did not hesitate to take the showbread out of the hands of Abiathar, the high priest, and to distribute the cakes among his men, 1 Samuel 21:6. Ordinarily, only the priests were permitted to eat this bread, Leviticus 24:8-9, but in a case of necessity, above all, love is the fulfilment of the Law, and no one ever thought of censuring David for his action. Note: Either Ahimelech bore the additional name Abiathar, or father and son officiated together at Nobe, in this manner that David received the showbread from Ahimelech with the distinct sanction of Abiathar. The conclusion which Jesus draws from this story is brief and to the point: The Sabbath is given to man, and not man to the Sabbath. The Sabbath, as God intended it for the Jews, was to serve them as a day of rest, but His intention never had been to make them slaves of its observance and to bind them with fetters that would render life unpleasant for them. The Sabbath is thus only a means to an end. And so far as the whole question is concerned, this truth stands for all times. Jesus, as the Son of Man, as the divine-human Lord of all, has the right to abrogate the Old Testament Sabbath if He so chooses. The old injunctions concerning sacrifices, new moons, Sabbaths, etc., were in force till He came. But the body itself is of Christ, Colossians 2:16-17. The Third Commandment enjoins only so much upon the Christians that they gladly hear and learn the Word of God. He that does this much keeps the Third Commandment in the sense of the New Testament and need not be worried by the Sabbath fanatics of these latter days [Luther, 12, 1970].
Jesus heals a paralytic, calls the publican Levi to be His disciple, gives a short discourse concerning fasting and the difference between the old and the new dispensation, and declares Himself to be the Lord of the Sabbath.
Healing the withered hand
1 And He entered again into the synagogue; and there was a man there which had a withered hand. 2 And they watched Him, whether He would heal him on the Sabbath day; that they might accuse Him. 3 And He saith unto the man which had the withered hand, Stand forth.
Matthew 12:9-10; Luke 6:6-8; Luke 14:1-6; Luke 20:19-20; John 8:1-11
Again He entered, or, as Luke relates, more exactly, on another Sabbath, Luke 6:6, on the Sabbath following this one on which He had shown the real meaning of Sabbath and Sabbath-rest. Into a synagog He went, whether into that of Capernaum or elsewhere, is of no consequence here. But He had a purpose, an object, in mind. For there, in the synagog, as one of the worshiping congregation, was a man that had the hand, the right hand, withered, as the result of injury by accident or disease. He was deprived entirely of its use. It seems that the man was not here by chance, but had been induced to come by the enemies of Christ, for they were watching very closely whether Jesus would on the Sabbath heal him. Note: Jesus does not permit the apparent hatred of the Pharisees and scribes to keep Him from attending the services of the synagog after His custom; He went for His own edification. Also, the Pharisees felt that the difference between the teaching of Christ and their own dead traditions was an essential difference, that they would have to change their entire mode of speaking and living if there were to be harmony between them and this new Teacher; and this they refused to do. They had even now determined to find some way of silencing or removing this objectionable speaker of truth. The purpose of their watchfulness in this case was to find some accusation against Him before the government, if possible, before the Church at any rate. Jesus knew their thoughts, even before they spoke them, Matthew 12:10. His course of action He had determined on at once. The lesson He wanted to teach at this time was to be an impressive one. For that reason He said to the man with the withered hand: Arise toward the center. He wanted him to be standing in the middle, before the entire congregation, as a fitting object of demonstration.
4 And He saith unto them, Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life, or to kill? But they held their peace. 5 And when He had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, He saith unto the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it out: and his hand was restored whole as the other. 6 And the Pharisees went forth, and straightway took counsel with the Herodians against Him, how they might destroy Him.
Matthew 12:11-14; Luke 6:9-11; Exodus 23:4-5; Deuteronomy 22:1-4; Exodus 31:13-15; Exodus 34:21; Exodus 20:8-11; Deuteronomy 5:12-15; Luke 13:14-16; Luke 14:1-6; John 5:1-18; John 7:19-24; John 9:13-16; Matthew 27:1-2; Psalm 2; Hebrews 4:4-13; Colossians 2:16-17; Acts 15:22-29
Jesus acted with the greatest patience and kindness. He tried to win His enemies by actual persuasion, by causing them to see the correctness of His position. His question to them is: Is it the right and proper thing, ought people to feel this as their obligation, to do good, to save life, to be of assistance to one’s neighbor on the Sabbath? Or can it be possible that any one should want to advocate the doing of evil, the destroying of life, on that day? The omission of a good deed, the neglect of some act of kindness, is, in fact, equal to actual murder in a case where the personal well-being of the neighbor is concerned. The conscience of every man will tell him that on the Sabbath, as well as on any other day, deeds of mercy are not only permitted, but very distinctly commanded. We should help and befriend our neighbor in every bodily need. But the Pharisees here deliberately hardened their hearts. Just because their conscience condemned them before this Teacher, they determined not to give Him the satisfaction of yielding. And so they stubbornly refused to answer. Jesus waited. But when their purpose became increasingly evident, He let His stern gaze wander around in the circle, from one to the other. He was filled with righteous indignation over such unreasonable stubbornness. And, incidentally, He was deeply grieved over the obduracy, the callousness, the blindness of their hearts. Note: The anger of Jesus is always directed against the transgression, against the sin; for the sinners the Lord has only the feeling of deepest sorrow and sympathy. “By a long resistance to the grace and Spirit of God, their hearts had become callous; they were past feeling. By a long opposition to the light of God, they became dark in their understanding, were blinded by the deceitfulness of sin, and thus were past seeing. By a long continuance in the practise of every evil work, they were cut off from all union with God, the Fountain of spiritual life; and, becoming dead in trespasses and sins, they were incapable of any resurrection but through a miraculous power of God.” [Clarke, Commentary, 5, 296]. Christ’s decision therefore was swiftly carried out. He bade the man stretch forth his hand. And the man obeyed, and his hand was restored to perfect health, so that he could now use it as before. This result of their little scheme angered the Pharisees beyond all semblance of reasonableness. They had enough. Without waiting for further teaching, they left the synagog. Their minds as to their course were made up. It remained only to find ways and means to carry out their design. It was not so much the fact that their orthodox Sabbath-keeping had received a severe jolt and that, in their opinion, the Sabbath had been broken by the performance of the miracle of healing, but that the miracle brought fame to Jesus, and that they had been unable to answer His simple question without making their own position untenable. It was, then, in brief, nothing but vengeful spite that moved them. And they sought allies and chose the Herodians. This society, with its peculiar ideas regarding the Messianic calling of the family of Herod (cp. Matthew 22:16), might easily be influenced against Christ, if the Pharisees would but point out the growing influence of Jesus over the common people, who might soon be ready to hail Him as the promised Messiah. So these two parties, otherwise not the best of friends, readily agreed in counsel against Jesus, how they might destroy Him. So far hypocrisy and the semblance of piety may drive people that they try to cover the most obvious lack of love and mercy, yea, even mortal hatred and enmity, with pious usages and practises.
Miracles by the seaside
The withdrawal of Jesus:
7 But Jesus withdrew Himself with His disciples to the sea: and a great multitude from Galilee followed Him, and from Judaea, 8 And from Jerusalem, and from Idumaea, and from beyond Jordan; and they about Tyre and Sidon, a great multitude, when they had heard what great things He did, came unto Him.
Matthew 12:15; Luke 6:17-19; Matthew 4:23-25; Matthew 11:20-24
Jesus made use of discretion and prudence. He knew the plans of the Pharisees, and therefore He withdrew from their wiles and persecutions and attacks. With His disciples He went down to the sea; these men are now mentioned as important adherents of Christ, which they were destined to become more and more as time passed. The shore of the lake was Christ’s place of retreat; from there He could any time easily remove still farther. And the opposition of the Pharisees had resulted in increasing the prestige of Christ in a manner which they had not anticipated, for now a great multitude, an immense crowd, as the evangelist notes twice, gathered from all sides. There were people from Galilee, the northern part of Palestine, where Jesus was then carrying on the work of His ministry. There were people from exclusive Judea that followed Him. Even haughty Jerusalem was represented, as well as Idumea, the country of the Edomites south and west of the Dead Sea, and Perea, the country on the east side of the Jordan, and the country about Tyre and Sidon, in Phenicia. It was a revival movement which affected the entire country. There was hardly a person of average intelligence in all Palestine and in the surrounding countries that had not heard about the great Prophet and His preaching and healing in Galilee. The fame of His great deeds was still spreading, and the people, in consequence, were flocking to Him.
Miracles of healing:
9 And He spake to His disciples, that a small ship should wait on Him because of the multitude, lest they should throng Him. 10 For He had healed many; insomuch that they pressed upon Him for to touch Him, as many as had plagues. 11 And unclean spirits, when they saw Him, fell down before Him, and cried, saying, Thou art the Son of God. 12 And He straitly charged them that they should not make Him known.
Matthew 12:15-21; Matthew 15:30-31; Mark 1:21-28; Mark 1:32-34; Matthew 14:32-33; Matthew 16:13-20; Matthew 26:57-68; Matthew 27:32-54; John 1:1-5; 1 John 1:1-4; Colossians 2:8-15
So great were the crowds that came to the seaside to see Jesus that He was obliged to take precautions. He gave His disciples instructions that they should have a small boat ready at all times, with the oars, sails, and the necessary provisions in place, that He might use it at once, should necessity so demand. This was rendered unavoidable by the mass of people, for they rushed upon Him in their impetuousness and might have borne Him down. At the same time, His Savior’s love urged Him to perform many miracles of healing, as they pressed upon Him, if only to touch Him. And the Lord permitted it in many cases that the mere touching of His garment or of His person brought healing, for they must realize that the power lay not in the clothing, but in the man. The word here used for sicknesses is very expressive, “scourge.” Diseases are therefore scourges of God, either in the form of a punishment, or in the form of a merciful chastening, inflicted by God or permitted by Him for the purpose of drawing men nearer to Him. And one of the worst scourges was the possession by demons, for also such poor unfortunate people as were afflicted with this terrible ailment were brought to the Lord. Invariably these people, when they caught sight of Him, or when they had looked at Him closely, fell down before Him at the urging of the demon in them, who must needs recognize in Christ the Lord of all, and cried out a confession of His divinity: Thou art the Son of God. But that was not the confession that the Savior sought; He wants no praise out of the mouth of Satan and his angels. He did not want to be revealed, did not want to be made known by them as the Messiah. Testimony from the enemies may have its value, but Jesus wanted the people to accept His Word and come to the knowledge of Him as the promised Redeemer through His Gospel.
The call of the Twelve:
13 And He goeth up into a mountain, and calleth unto Him whom He would: and they came unto Him. 14 And He ordained twelve, that they should be with Him, and that He might send them forth to preach, 15 And to have power to heal sicknesses, and to cast out devils: 16 And Simon He surnamed Peter; 17 And James the son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James; and He surnamed them Boanerges, which is, The Sons of Thunder: 18 And Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Canaanite, 19 And Judas Iscariot, which also betrayed Him: and they went into an house.
Luke 6:12-16; Matthew 10:1-4; Acts 1:13-26; John 1:35-42; Matthew 9:9; Matthew 4:21-22; John 1:43-51; John 20:24; Mark 15:40; John 14:22; Matthew 26:14-16
In the neighborhood of the sea, where Jesus had been performing the miracles, there was a mountain, later simply known among the apostles by this name, in a lonely region. Jesus managed to dismiss the multitudes for a time, since He was anxious to perform a very necessary piece of work, namely, the gaining of assistants and successors in His prophetic labors. On this hill they would be undisturbed, and He would have leisure to give them the information concerning the call given them at this time. He called to Him those whom He wanted; He made a deliberate selection or choice from the total number of those that had gathered about Him as His disciples. And as He told them off, they came to Him in a place apart from the others. He then literally made twelve apostles, constituting these as a body for themselves. A special ceremony of ordination is not mentioned. It was merely a calling, a separating for special work, that the Lord performed. But as “the Twelve” they were henceforth known. The Lord’s charge to them consisted mainly in these points: That they should be with Him, be in His neighborhood at all times, this constant attendance upon His words being necessary for their training; that they should be sent out by Him for the work of heralding or proclaiming the Gospel; that they should, for this purpose, have power, transmitted to them by Jesus, to cast out demons. The power to perform miracles of such an extraordinary kind was necessary to substantiate their claim of a divine mission. The Twelve were thus called, and they received their charge, their appointment. And their names are recorded in order. Jesus surnamed, laid upon, Simon the name Peter, Matthew 16:18. His nature was uncertain and vacillating, as his denial shows; but by the teaching of Jesus and through His mercy he was afterward strengthened in faith and in trust to become a true rock-man. James was the elder son of Zebedee, the fisherman, the name of the younger son being John. To these the Lord applied the Aramaic name Boanerges, “sons of thunder,” on account of their fiery temper in their younger days, Luke 9:54-55. Their zeal was later tempered by the Lord’s instruction. James became the first martyr of the apostles, and John was known as the “Apostle of Love.” These three are mentioned first, because they were the intimate friends of the Lord, being with Him both on the Mount of Transfiguration and also in Gethsemane, not to speak of minor occasions. Andrew was the brother of Peter and one of the first to follow the Lord, John 1:35-40. A third pair of brothers was Philip of Bethsaida and Bartholomew, who is undoubtedly identical with Nathanael, John 1:45-46. Matthew was formerly known as Levi, the publican, the son of Alphaeus, Matthew 10:3. Thomas was also known as Didymus, the “twin,” John 20:24. Then there was James, the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, also known as Lebbaeus or Judas Lebbaeus, Acts 1:13, and Simon of Cana. Last of all is mentioned Judas, the traitor, who was from Kerioth, and was admitted to the rank of the apostles that the Scriptures might be fulfilled, John 13:18. Their preliminary charge having been made to them, the Twelve returned to the valley with Jesus, and entered into a house. They were all in need of rest and recreation, the last days having been very strenuous.
The friends of Jesus think Him out of His senses:
20 And the multitude cometh together again, so that they could not so much as eat bread. 21 And when His friends heard of it, they went out to lay hold on Him: for they said, He is beside Himself.
Mark 2:1-2; Mark 3:31; John 7:1-5; Matthew 13:53-58; 1 Corinthians 15:3-8; Galatians 1:19; Acts 15:12-13; John 10:14-21
No sooner had Jesus returned to the city and to the house, no sooner had He come home, than a crowd again assembled. So urgent were they in their demand to see Him that Christ and His disciples were not even given time to partake of the necessary food needed to sustain life. If the eagerness of these people had only been for the Bread of Life, if they had only been hungering and thirsting after righteousness, there would not be a discordant element in the entire story. But their object was more than ever a glimpse of the great Healer and Benefactor; His message interested them little or not at all. In the mean time those nearest to the Lord, His relatives, His mother and His brothers, who are mentioned also at the end of the chapter, were becoming worried about Him. They had heard about the multitudes and their intense insistence upon seeing Jesus and giving Him no rest. So they set out from where they were with the purpose of taking Him under their care; for they had gained the impression, and no longer made any effort to conceal it, that He was in an unhealthy state of excitement, due to overwork, bordering on insanity. This peculiar idea, which was not at all flattering to the Lord, was due to lack of proper knowledge as to His power. Jesus was the Son of God, and He might become tired and weak, but He would not submit to the extent as was supposed by His relatives.
Discourse on the casting out of devils
The pharisaic theory and the defense of Jesus:
22 And the scribes which came down from Jerusalem said, He hath Beelzebub, and by the prince of the devils casteth He out devils. 23 And He called them unto Him, and said unto them in parables, How can Satan cast out Satan? 24 And if a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand. 26 And if Satan rise up against himself, and be divided, he cannot stand, but hath an end. 27 No man can enter into a strong man’s house, and spoil his goods, except he will first bind the strong man; and then he will spoil his house.
Matthew 12:22-29; Luke 11:17-20; Isaiah 49:25; Matthew 4:1-11; Matthew 27:50-54; Revelation 20:1-3
The work of Jesus had been characterized especially by the healing of demoniacs, a cure both difficult and pronounced. It was for this reason that the enemies of Jesus took occasion to attack above all these signs of healing. The scribes from Jerusalem they were, both Pharisees and elders, since it became evident that the local rabbis could not cope with the situation. They literally came down from the capital city, for Jerusalem is situated at an elevation of 2,800 feet, while the Sea of Galilee is 620 feet below the level of the Mediterranean. The leaders of the Jewish Church were deeply troubled over the fact that this unknown rabbi, who had received neither His instruction nor the sanction for His teaching from them, should have such marvelous success; hence the delegation. An expressive and comprehensive term: they said. They made it their business, continually, and wherever an opportunity presented itself, to influence the people against Jesus. And their most malignant slander was this: He has Beelzebub, or Beelzebul; this prince of the devils gives Him the power to cast out demons. Beelzebub was the name of the patron idol of Ekron, a city of the Philistines. It meant “the god of flies”; but the Israelites changed one consonant, and had it read Beelzebul, “the god of dung,” to ridicule the false god. In this way the word gradually came to designate the devil. The intention is plain. The meaning is: If this man were not in league with the devil, if He did not possess His power by authority and gift of the devil, the demons would not obey Him in going forth from the demoniacs. But Jesus has an answer ready to confound them. Knowing their thoughts, He assumes the offensive. He cites them to appear before Him and proposes to them a number of questions. Is it reasonable to suppose that Satan would cast out Satan? Would he be so foolish as to destroy his own kingdom by permitting divisions in the midst of his own armies? Would he permit the members of his own household to be at loggerheads with each other? Satan is far too keen and too prudent to bring harm upon himself and to destroy his own kingdom, for he knows that such a proceeding would signify and foretell the end of his reign. In a positive form, the defense of Christ was: Not by Beelzebub, but by the Spirit of God, I cast out devils. And this Spirit of God that spoke through Him and manifested Himself through Him, bore witness to the heart and minds also of the Pharisees. And yet they blasphemed and exhibited the poison of their heart by labeling the work of God as the work of the devil and hindering the spread of the Gospel. Similar blasphemies occur in the very midst of the so-called Christian Church to this day. The doctrine of Christ, the way of salvation as taught by Him, is blasphemed as a dangerous, harmful doctrine, and those that adhere to it in simple faith are adjudged undesirable neighbors and citizens. But the word of Jesus at this point may still be applied.
Over against the slanderous, blasphemous explanation of the Jews, Jesus now places His simple and true explanation. The devil is strong and mighty, indeed, but in Christ he has found more than his match, he has met Him whom he must acknowledge, without question, as his Master. Christ, the Son of God, has entered into the house of the strong one, Satan; He has taken with Him the spoil which fell to His lot at the time of His great victory. The demons, all the evil angels, had to confess Him and bow before Him as the Son of God; they were obliged to obey, even against their will, for all things have been put under His feet, Ephesians 1:22. By His life, Passion, and death, by His active and passive obedience to His heavenly Father’s will Christ has conquered the devil and delivered all men from his power. Thus it is that Christ can now seize the spoils taken from Satan, tear from him his possessions, also those poor people whom he has possessed. This our Lord does even to-day through the Word, by which the souls of men are delivered from the power of the devil.
A warning against the unforgivable sin:
28 Verily I say unto you, All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme: 29 But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation. 30 Because they said, He hath an unclean spirit.
Matthew 12:30-37; Acts 7:51-53; Hebrews 3:16-19; 1 Timothy 1:12-14; Mark 9:23-24; Mark 16:14-16; John 3:18; Romans 11:20-22; Romans 1:18-23; Isaiah 5:20-21
With solemn emphasis Jesus gives the Pharisees this warning. Jesus knew that the scribes did not believe their own theory as to His ability to cast out devils. “You are not merely mistaken theorists, you are men in a very perilous moral condition. Beware!” [Expositor’s Greek Testament, 1, 362]. God’s mercy is as wide as heaven and earth; His forgiveness actually embraces all sins, even the ordinary blasphemies, wherewith so many people continually offend against Him. But there is one great exception, namely, when the blasphemy is directed against the Holy Ghost. This sin is unpardonable, its guilt lasts forever, it has no forgiveness forever. He that commits it is guilty of a transgression whose consequences will last throughout eternity. This solemn and complete declaration was called forth by the charge of the Jews that Jesus had an unclean spirit. Thus the blasphemy was directed against the Spirit of God that lived in Christ, and hence His warning. If the scribes had been ignorant, or if they had misunderstood the Lord and had been seeking some explanation of His strange power over demons, that would have been a sin against the Son of Man, and therefore pardonable. But they spoke against better knowledge; their charge was a deliberate, malicious blasphemy, and therefore their charge cast mockery upon the Holy Ghost.
The true relatives of the Lord:
31 There came then His brethren and His mother, and, standing without, sent unto Him, calling Him. 32 And the multitude sat about Him, and they said unto Him, Behold, Thy mother and Thy brethren without seek for Thee. 33 And He answered them, saying, Who is My mother, or My brethren? 34 And He looked round about on them which sat about Him, and said, Behold My mother and My brethren! 35 For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is My brother, and My sister, and mother.
Matthew 12:46-50; Luke 8:19-21; Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3; John 7:1-5; Galatians 1:19; Acts 15:13; Isaiah 9:6; Hebrews 2:11-15; John 15:12-17
Jesus had barely finished His discourse directed to the Pharisees, when there came an interruption. We were told that His kinsmen had gotten ready to save Him against the probable loss of His reason, Mark 3:21. They had, in the mean time, reached the house where Jesus was sitting with His disciples, the people, and the scribes. They sent a message to Him, calling Him. They believed that the demands of relationship superseded all other considerations. They had made up their mind to take Him away for a while. The message was gradually transmitted to the Lord while He was still sitting there in the midst of His hearers, for the people sat round about Him, willing enough, for once, to listen to His preaching. But when Jesus received the message, telling that His mother and His brothers (stepbrothers, half-brothers, or cousins) were anxiously looking for Him and wanted Him outside, He gave a characteristic answer. Slowly letting His gaze travel round about in the circle, where His twelve disciples were sitting in the first row, and many others that had learned to believe on Him as near as possible, He called these men (and women) His mother and His brethren, His true relatives. Not that Christ intended to disparage the claims of relationship. He Himself was a model in the obedience and respect toward His mother, Luke 2:51-52; John 19:27. But He wanted no unwarranted interference with His work and office. He desired to repudiate, first of all, the assumption as though He were not quite master of Himself and His actions. And He wanted them to understand, now and always, that the claims of earthly relationship did not dare to interfere with the business in hand, that of carrying out His ministry for the salvation of mankind. Under certain circumstances, it may happen even now, does happen, in fact, very frequently, that a man’s enemies are those of his own household, Mark 7:11-13; Matthew 10:36. But the will of God may require that the relationship of blood, even the nearest and dearest relationship be denied in fufilling His will. It may often take a great deal of spiritual knowledge and prudence, and at other times it may require an extraordinary amount of courage and determination, but the will of God in the government and work of His Church must be the paramount issue in all instances. There can be no divided allegiance in this case, Proverbs 23:26; Matthew 10:37.
Jesus heals the man with a withered hand, performs miracles by the seaside, calls the twelve apostles, gives a discourse on the casting out of devils, and teaches wherein true relationship with Him consists.
Teaching by means of parables
1 And He began again to teach by the sea side: and there was gathered unto Him a great multitude, so that He entered into a ship, and sat in the sea; and the whole multitude was by the sea on the land. 2 And He taught them many things by parables, and said unto them in His doctrine,
Matthew 13:1-3; Luke 8:4; Matthew 4:23-25
Jesus had devoted some time to the private instruction of His disciples, in which He had been interrupted by the dispute with the Pharisees. He now resumed His ministry to the people of Galilee and the others that had come from other parts of Palestine. We have here one of the two chapters in Mark that present a connected discourse of the Lord, Mark 13 being the other. Christ’s teaching was, for the most part, done in the open air, at various points along the shore of the sea. Greater crowds than ever assembled about Him, making it necessary for Him to enter into a boat and address the people while seated out there, at some distance from the land. The entire multitude, meanwhile, stood or sat along the shore, which arose from the sea in a gentle slope. Jesus thus had the advantage of having His entire audience before Him so that He could see practically every one of them, and it was much easier for Him to address them with uplifted head, since the voice carries better. And the people, in turn, were all able to see Him, a condition which is almost a prerequisite for close attention. Mark emphasizes the fact that the Lord’s address was teaching, instructing. His purpose was not to keep the crowd amused, but to impart to them the knowledge pertaining to their salvation. This must be the aim of all true Gospel-preaching. The preacher that degrades His church into an amusement-hall and His sermon into a mountebank’s foolishness, does not follow in the footsteps of the great Teacher. The feature of Christ’s teaching was His speaking in parables, in the simple telling of incidents taken from every-day life, but with profound application to spiritual matters. Note: There was never the least of the frivolous or profane in the stories as told by the Lord. His was not the cheap art of the professional exhorter; the matter with which He dealt was far too serious to permit of unseemly levity.
The parable of the fourfold soil:
3 Hearken; Behold, there went out a sower to sow: 4 And it came to pass, as he sowed, some fell by the way side, and the fowls of the air came and devoured it up. 5 And some fell on stony ground, where it had not much earth; and immediately it sprang up, because it had no depth of earth: 6 But when the sun was up, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away. 7 And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit. 8 And other fell on good ground, and did yield fruit that sprang up and increased; and brought forth, some thirty, and some sixty, and some an hundred. 9 And He said unto them, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.
Matthew 13:3-9; Luke 8:5-8
Jesus calls attention to His words, He wants all hearers to listen very closely, in order not to miss one word of His discourse. For His are not the words of a mere man that often uses words without meaning and connection, but every word is here fraught with heavenly wisdom. This is true of the entire Gospel. Men are inclined to discard the verbal inspiration of the Bible, saying that it is not necessary for a proper understanding of the spiritual truths, and especially of social Christianity. But Christ’s ideas in this case, as often, do not agree with the wisdom of this world. Upon a single word, yea, upon a single letter, as Luther says, more depends than on all creation. The parable itself Jesus now introduces with “Behold!” He places, paints a picture before their eyes, one with which they all were familiar. But He wants them to note every detail, for there is a lesson for them there. A farmer at seed-time goes out to sow his seed, broadcast. The farm-land of the Jews was not divided into sections, but lay for the most part in irregular parcels, and the paths to the various villages and cities, which had been made ages ago, were left just as the present owners had found them. The soil was prepared up to the path on either side, but the path itself remained. And so it could very easily happen that some of the seed fell on the path, all along the way where the people went to and fro. No harrow covered it, nor could it sink into soft soil. And so the birds used it as food. In another part of the field there was a mere veneer of soil over the rock beneath. The seed which fell there could not sink in very deeply before sprouting. The warmth retained in the rock and the moisture of the night all combined in causing it to germinate very rapidly. In a very short time the young plants showed above the ground. But their tiny rootlets which enabled them to rise above the ground were not large and strong enough to supply a more mature plant, and there was no room for them to spread out and grow into deeper soil. The little moisture was soon used up, and when the sun began to beat down upon the unsheltered plot, they drooped, and presently their lack of a sufficient root system had its effect: they died. In still another part of the field the ground had either not been worked well enough to grub out all the thorns and weeds, or some weed-seed had remained from the previous year and welcomed the working of the soil as an opportunity for rank growth. The seed which fell here sprouted, and the plant started to grow, but the weeds had greater vitality, they grew up rank and strong and soon caused the grain to suffocate, so that it could produce no fruit. But still other seed fell on soil that repaid the farmer’s work most handsomely: The stems grew up high and strong, the ears of grain were formed long and full, the grain filled the ears in the proper manner, and the harvest proved to be all that the husbandman could desire, for the yield was thirty-, sixty-, and a hundredfold. Again, the Lord emphasized the importance of the lesson which He wished to convey to His hearers by calling out: Whosoever has ears to hear, let him hear. The mere possession of physical ears and the mere outward hearing of the words of Christ’s discourse are not sufficient. There are thousands of people that hear the Word in that way and have no benefit from it whatsoever. Christ here calls for a hearing and understanding of the heart, that the real meaning of His words be comprehended and the proper application made by every individual.
The disciples ask for an explanation:
10 And when He was alone, they that were about Him with the twelve asked of Him the parable. 11 And He said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables: 12 That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them. 13 And He said unto them, Know ye not this parable? and how then will ye know all parables?
Matthew 13:10-17; Luke 8:9-10; Psalm 78:1-4; Deuteronomy 29:2-6; Isaiah 6:9-10; Isaiah 42:1,18; Jeremiah 5:21-24; Ezekiel 12:1-2; Romans 11:1-24; 2 Corinthians 3:12-18; 2 Corinthians 4:1-6
The disciples of the Lord, the Twelve as well as the others that believed on Him and were with Him as much as possible, were still very dense in spiritual understanding. So they took the opportunity, when they were alone with the Lord, to ask Him about the meaning of this parable. He said to them: To you the mystery of the kingdom of God is given. The word “mystery” here, according to New Testament usage, does not mean something hidden and obscure, but something that is and should be revealed. “We usually think of a mystery as something hidden; but in the New Testament it means something revealed. It had been ‘kept secret’ and was still hidden to the world in general; but this mystery of God’s nature and God’s will had now been ‘made known’ (Ephesians 3:3; Ephesians 6:19).” [Cobern, The New Archeological Discoveries, 124]. The disciples, the members of His Church, should fully understand the meaning of the kingdom of God, how Christ, in and with the working of the Holy Ghost through the Gospel, engenders faith in the hearts of men, so that they might know their Savior Jesus Christ, perform truly good works by His power, and finally obtain the everlasting possession of heaven. Of those without, Christ says that He speaks everything to them in parables, and then quotes the prophecy of Isaiah 6:9, in which it is said of the unbelieving Jews that they see indeed, that they use their eyes, and yet get no picture of that which they see, that they use their ears and yet understand not, that therefore there would not be an opportunity for them to repent and receive remission of their sins. It is one of the severe passages directed against self-hardening. This word of the prophet found its application in the days of Jesus. The judgment of God against His former people, which had begun in the days of Isaiah, was now being fully accomplished. It became more and more evident that the majority of the people that crowded to Jesus had no thought of seeking salvation in their hearts; they were merely inquisitive, they wanted to see and hear this new Prophet, about whom they had been told so many wonderful things. And so God finally condemns them to remain in their perverse, hardened mind. The Gospel of Christ, preached by Christ Himself, served the terrible purpose of hardening their hearts, it was to them a savor of death unto death. But the disciples also needed an earnest admonition. Their spiritual dulness was a great danger, theirs was the condition of so many Christians that are satisfied with just a little and do not have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil, Hebrews 5:14. The Word of God is like a mountain full of treasures. The treasures on the outside have been picked over so often that their beauties have been brought down to the plane of mere platitudes with many people; but the searcher after the pure gold will dig and delve and search, and will find ever new veins and occasionally such a rich nugget of purest gold that he stands overawed in the presence of such sublimity.
The explanation of the parable:
14 The sower soweth the Word. 15 And these are they by the way side, where the Word is sown; but when they have heard, Satan cometh immediately, and taketh away the Word that was sown in their hearts. 16 And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the Word, immediately receive it with gladness; 17 And have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the Word’s sake, immediately they are offended. 18 And these are they which are sown among thorns; such as hear the Word, 19 And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the Word, and it becometh unfruitful. 20 And these are they which are sown on good ground; such as hear the Word, and receive it, and bring forth fruit, some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some an hundred.
Matthew 13:18-23; Luke 8:11-15; John 15:5; John 3:16-21; 1 John 2:15-17; 1 Peter 5:6-11
It is Christ that sows the seed of His Word, even to-day, by the preaching of the Gospel. But the hearers of the Gospel may well be divided into four classes, according to the soil of their heart and the treatment which the Word receives at their hands. These are the chance or occasional hearers, those that forget. They are the wayside men, those in whose case the seed falls along the way. Some of these may even become regular attendants at church. But the seed of the Word remains lying on top of their hearts, it does not penetrate even the crust of their sensibilities. Here, as Christ says, it is Satan himself that takes the Word away from their hearts. The second class are the overenthusiastic hearers, that have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. The Lord here identifies them with the seed rather than with the soil, though both factors act together. They are the rocky-ground men. With a change of pastors, or due to some other cause, they suddenly, all unexpectedly, accept the Word with great joy. Their interest in matters pertaining to the Church is most gratifying. But the soil of their heart is not prepared for a lasting faith. They are influenced by the weather, both literally and figuratively. They mold their Christianity according to the times. As soon as danger signals appear along the horizon, the temperature of their zeal is reduced to a point where it no longer is of any use. Tribulation and persecution they cannot stand; it makes them lose all interest in the Church and her business. The third class of hearers of the Word are rather promising, at first glance. They hear the Word, even diligently and attentively; their intention is to be worthy Christians. But they permit other plants, dangerous weeds and thorns, to rise up in their hearts. The cares and worries of this present time engross their attention more and more. The fallacy of riches, the idea that the mere possession of money will render happy, takes hold of them. And finally, the desire for the other pleasures which the children of the world enjoy with such apparent satisfaction and happiness gradually blinds their hearts to the true values in life. Faith struggles for a while to maintain its position in the heart, but it fights a losing battle, it remains without fruit. But to the last class belong those Christians that have been sown into good soil, where the soil of the heart has been prepared in the proper manner by the thorough plowing of the Law and by the gentle, merciful rain of the Gospel, where the seed may sprout and grow unhindered, until the full ears speak of the rich harvest. There is a difference, of course, according to the gifts and opportunities of the individual Christian, some will yield fruit only in comparatively small measure, while others are rich in good works, but the fact of the yield is the same in all these cases. It is a searching sermon that is contained in this parable of the Lord’s, and all Christians should take heed to remember the lesson: The seed that did not sprout at all; the seed that sprouted, but did not grow; the seed that sprouted and grew up, but bore no fruit; and finally the seed that came up to the expectations of the Lord.
Responsibilities of the Christians:
21 And He said unto them, Is a candle brought to be put under a bushel, or under a bed? and not to be set on a candlestick? 22 For there is nothing hid, which shall not be manifested; neither was any thing kept secret, but that it should come abroad. 23 If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.
Luke 8:16-17; Matthew 5:14-16; Luke 11:33-36; Ephesians 5:1-21; Philippians 2:14-16; Luke 12:1-3
There are two reasons why Jesus introduces this thought here which He had also used in the Sermon on the Mount. The knowledge which He here transmitted to His disciples was a part of their equipment as preachers, to be used by them for the benefit of their hearers. Mere general statements as to the will of God and the salvation of mankind may, under circumstances, be very obscure, in fact, unintelligible to the average audience. And therefore such explanation is demanded as will make the meaning plain and bring the fact of God’s plan of salvation home to every man. Besides, it is true, in general, that the fruit which God expects in the Christians is such as will make itself felt in the world, as will wield an influence in the every-day affairs in the Christian’s neighborhood. The light does not come, it is not brought by the bearer, in order to be placed beneath an inverted bushel-measure or under a sofa, such as were used when reclining at the table, but it should be placed on a candlestick. Then it may give light to all that are in the house, Matthew 5:15. This Christ emphasizes: That which is now yet hidden, will surely be revealed; that seems to be a definite law; — the person that conceals something, does so with the intention of bringing it out of the hiding-place at some future time. “This is universally true. Things are hid because they are precious, but precious things are meant to be used at some time and in some way.” [Expositor’s Greek Testament, 1, 366] It is the same thought that the Lord teaches, Matthew 10:27. The doctrine of the Gospel, the good news of the free justification of all sinners through the merits of Jesus Christ, that is hidden before men, no man knows anything of its beauty or of its comfort, and a great many so-called Christian preachers relegate it to a dismal background. But this mystery shall be revealed before the eyes of all men, both through sound Gospel-preaching and through sound Gospel-living. The Lord has a very good reason for adding His warning cry concerning the understanding of His words.
A further warning:
24 And He said unto them, Take heed what ye hear: with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you: and unto you that hear shall more be given. 25 For he that hath, to him shall be given: and he that hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he hath.
Matthew 13:10-17; Luke 8:18; Matthew 7:1-5; Luke 6:37-38
Christ here uses some proverbial sayings, quoted by Him elsewhere, in a new connection, Matthew 7:2; Matthew 13:12. The disciples, and especially the Twelve, were now hearing, being instructed for their work as evangelists, as preachers of the Gospel. Two people may hear the same saying in an entirely different way, with a great difference as to the amount of benefit obtained. It is essential, therefore, that they keep their eyes open and watch what they hear; for careful hearing pays. The reward given to them by Christ will exceed the measure of attention if they are faithful. A Christian that studies his Bible attentively, with the object of finding in it Jesus, the Savior, John 5:39, will be surprised by the measure of grace and understanding that will be given to him. The pastor and teacher that searches diligently will almost be overwhelmed by the mass of appropriate material that will be at his command. But a Christian that makes no headway in Bible knowledge will find even the little head knowledge that has still remained with him dull and commonplace; the pastor that does not grow in knowledge of the Scriptures will find himself growing shallow in his sermons and dull in his application. It is the judgment of God upon the indifferent and upon the lazy. “Whoso hath attention, knowledge will be given to him; and from him who hath not the seed of knowledge will be taken. For as diligence causes that seed to grow, negligence destroys it.” [Euthymius, quoted in Expositor’s Greek Testament, 1, 367].
The parable of the seed:
26 And He said, So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground; 27 And should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how. 28 For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear. 29 But when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come.
Matthew 13:24-30; Joel 3:13-16; Revelation 14:14-20; Matthew 9:35-38; 1 Corinthians 3:6-7
Here is another parable, addressed especially to the disciples, and containing an important lesson for them in their future work. If a farmer sows good seed into his fields, all his worrying about the crop will avail him nothing. He will tend to his other work and will follow his usual mode of living: he will go to rest in the evening and get up in the morning. He knows that it rests with God to give the increase. And this is as it should be. For it is God’s promise that seed-time and harvest shall not cease, Genesis 8:22. By the course of nature which God has ordered the seed sprouts, the blade appears, the ear develops, the grain matures. And thus it is in spiritual matters. When a pastor has preached the Word, publicly and from house to house, he has done that work for which he has been called. Worrying about results is as foolish as it is useless. The power of God is in the Word, and it rests with Him to bless the proclamation of the Gospel according to His promise that His Word will not return to Him void, Isaiah 55:10-11. God must give the increase, 1 Corinthians 3:6-7. Too many pastors, especially young pastors, as it has been put somewhat quaintly, want to turn around and go into the field with the reaper after they have just come out with the drill. When God’s time has come, then the harvest may be gathered; He will send His scythe and bring in the ripe sheaves.
Parable of the grain of mustard-seed:
30 And He said, Whereunto shall we liken the kingdom of God? or with what comparison shall we compare it? 31 It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when it is sown in the earth, is less than all the seeds that be in the earth: 32 But when it is sown, it groweth up, and becometh greater than all herbs, and shooteth out great branches; so that the fowls of the air may lodge under the shadow of it.
Matthew 13:31-32; Luke 13:18-19; Matthew 17:14-20; Luke 17:5-6; Daniel 4:20-37
It is not a matter of indifference, but of anxious concern to the Lord, as it should be to all true teachers of the Word, in what way He can make clear to His disciples the great truths which they must understand and be thoroughly familiar with, for themselves as well as for their hearers. He wants some comparison, some parable that will bring out still more strongly the lesson of the last parable, but in its application to the entire Church. He chooses a mustard-seed for His purpose. The characteristic feature of this seed is its small size, rendering it almost insignificant in comparison with others as it is sown into the ground. The results, however, are little short of marvelous. In the proper soil, and with the right conditions, it will grow up to be the largest of the garden vegetables, becoming almost treelike in its proportions, extending its boughs in every direction, so that the birds will welcome its shade and be glad to use the protection of its branches for a roosting-place. Thus the preaching of the Gospel is considered insignificant before men. It is despised in the sight of those that prefer the philosophy and wisdom of this world. But when it comes to results, to spiritual life and strength, then human wisdom cannot even come into consideration. For the Word of God alone can take hold of a man’s heart and renew it entirely, change his entire life and manner of thinking. And the same effect may be observed in the history of the Church. A mere handful of disciples assembled in the upper room in Jerusalem has grown to a body whose size is such as to be known to God only, although even the number of those that profess Christianity is very large. That fact is a source of constant comfort to all believers, whether they be pastors or not: their labor cannot be in vain, since they have the living Word to deal with.
The end of the parables:
33 And with many such parables spake He the Word unto them, as they were able to hear it. 34 But without a parable spake He not unto them: and when they were alone, He expounded all things to His disciples.
Matthew 13:33-35; Psalm 78:2; John 16:25-33; Romans 16:25-27; 1 Corinthians 2:6-16
The parables here related by Mark were by no means all that the Lord spoke on that day, whether in the boat or at home. The ones given here are only a few of many. He tried to fit the instruction to the understanding of His hearers, especially that of His disciples, who were strongly in need of teaching. His subject was always the same: He spoke to them the Word, the Gospel of their salvation, He wanted to impress upon them the necessity of entering into the kingdom of God, of accepting the Redeemer, of having faith planted into their hearts. This verse, then, in no way disagrees with Mark 4:12. “Mark says, Mark 4:33, Christ had spoken in parables to the people that they might understand it, every one according to his ability; how does this agree with what Matthew says, Matthew 13:13-14: He spoke through parables that they might not understand? This is to be explained thus, that Mark wishes to say: The parables serve this purpose, that unlearned people comprehend the story though they do not get its meaning, and yet may afterwards be taught and then understand them. For the parables naturally please the simple folk, and they remember them easily, since they are taken from the common things, with which they are familiar. But Matthew wants to say that these parables are of a nature that no one can understand them, no matter how often he hears and comprehends the story, unless the Spirit makes them evident and reveals them. Not that they should be preached for the purpose of not being understood; but that it naturally follows, where the Spirit does not reveal, that no one understands them. And yet Christ has taken these words from Isaiah 6:9-10, where the high understanding of divine foreknowledge is touched upon, that He conceals and reveals to whom He will and has had in mind from eternity.” [Luther, 11, 524. 525]. That was the reason why this form of preaching was the usual form employed by Jesus. He was not wont to speak without a parable to the people, neither then nor at any other time. But He also had the habit of interpreting or explaining everything, parables and all teaching, to His disciples in private. He literally unloosened the difficulties, which might offer the same baffling task as a hard knot. By constant repetition of the most important doctrines and their application He intended to impress the Gospel-truths upon their minds. This method is thoroughly approved and to be recommended in the study of all the words of Christ; it will not remain without blessing.
Christ stilling the tempest
35 And the same day, when the even was come, He saith unto them, Let us pass over unto the other side. 36 And when they had sent away the multitude, they took Him even as He was in the ship. And there were also with Him other little ships. 37 And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full.
Matthew 8:18-24; Luke 8:22-23; John 6:16-21
It was on the evening of the day on which Christ had taught the people and His disciples in so many parables. He was probably very tired from the strain of speaking for many hours and desired a few hours of rest. So He proposed to His disciples that they cross over to the other side of the lake. They were with Him in the boat which He had used as platform for speaking and could easily carry out this intention, at least far more easily than to attempt to break through the wall of solid humanity on the shore. They simply left the people behind them as they hoisted sail and moved away from the shore. There was no delay, but also no special provision for the trip. Just as He was, without food or refreshment of any kind, they took Him along. Even so, there were some small boats that accompanied theirs. They had proceeded for some distance when a tornadolike storm broke upon the lake, a phenomenon which was by no means unusual in the deep valley and kettlelike depression of the lake. From all sides the waves rushed upon the boat, rising so high as to fall down upon it and thus filling it with water very quickly. It was a real crisis, and one that was apt to make the heart of the strongest and most seasoned sailor quake with fear.
38 And He was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake Him, and say unto Him, Master, carest Thou not that we perish? 39 And He arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40 And He said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith? 41 And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?
Matthew 8:25-27; Luke 8:24-25; Matthew 14:22-33; Jonah 1:4-6; Psalm 104:5-7; Psalm 89:8-9; Exodus 15; 1 John 1:1-4
In the midst of all this turmoil Jesus, true man as He was, tired out from the day’s hard work, was soundly asleep, lying in the stern of the boat, with His head on the low bench or railing known as the “pillow,” used by the helmsman to rest on when the ship follows the helm without difficulty. But with His humanity thus visibly portrayed, there was combined the divinity of Him that rules all, in whose hand all the powers of nature are held securely: the storm did not bother Him in the least. But the disciples soon gave up what seemed to them an unequal struggle. They roused Him from His sleep and said to Him: Teacher, does it cause Thee no worry that we are being destroyed? They include Him in their prayer, but are chiefly concerned about their own welfare. Whether this was a cry of fear or an actual reproach, at any rate they showed little faith in crying thus. Jesus told them so even before He arose, Matthew 18:26. But then He had compassion with their weakness. He suddenly got up, He rebuked the wind and said to the sea: Be quiet, hold your peace. And at His word the miracle was performed before their wondering eyes. The wind did not merely die down slowly, it ceased abruptly; and at once there was a great quietness, all the more noticeable after the rushing turmoil of a few minutes before. The boat was now gently parting the mirrorlike surface of the calm sea. But then the Lord took the opportunity of reproving His disciples very earnestly: How fearful are you in this manner! How is it that you have no faith? Their trust in the Lord, their confidence in His almighty power, was still very weak and uncertain. More than a dozen times Mark mentions this weakness. Undoubtedly the chagrin and deep humility of Peter caused him to dwell upon this point so often in his account of the days and the Gospel of Jesus. The impression of the miracle on the disciples was profound. They feared a great fear; they felt utterly insignificant in the presence of this man, that had given them evidence of such superhuman power. They said one to another: Who, then, is this man that wind and sea yield obedience to Him? Each of the two was a wild, lawless element; and yet He controls them as easily as though such an experience were an every-day occurrence with Him! Note the pictorial vividness of Mark’s narrative: Evening, the sudden departure, the convoy of ships, the violence of the storm, the ship all but sinking, the image of Him that slept on the ship’s pillow, the reproach of the distressed men that Jesus cared not, the words of rebuke to the wind, the strong reproof of the disciples, their great fear, and its effect [Schaff, Commentary, Mark, 44].
The evangelist here pictures Jesus, the Lord of the universe, who commands the sea, and it gives Him unquestioning obedience. The man Jesus is the almighty God. With His human voice He restored peace in the uproar of the elements. His human nature possesses also the divine glory and majesty. Jesus is an almighty man, was an almighty man even when He was here on earth in the midst of His humiliation. From that little nutshell of a boat, even while He was asleep, He governed heaven and earth, land and sea. Only His divine majesty was covered by the form of a servant. And as He did then, so He does now: He uses His divine power, His omnipotence, in the interest, in the service of men, especially of His disciples, of His believers. That is the comfort of this story.
Jesus tells the parable of the fourfold soil, expounding it to His disciples, also that of the seed that is cast into the ground, of the grain of mustard-seed, and others, and makes a journey across the sea, in the course of which He stills the tempest.
The Gadarene demoniac
On the eastern shore of the lake:
1 And they came over unto the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gadarenes.
Matthew 8:28; Luke 8:26
The journey across the sea, which ordinarily took only a few hours, was prolonged, on account of the storm, to last all night. The next day they landed in the country of the Gergesenes, or Gadarenes, which is over against Galilee, Matthew 8:28; Luke 8:26. It was known by both names, from the chief cities of the neighborhood. “We read … that Jesus and His disciples ‘came to the other side of the sea to the country of the Gerasenes.’ The Authorized Version reads: ‘to the country of the Gadarenes.’ The country to which Jesus came at this time cannot have been that of the Decapolitan city Gerasa, for, as we have seen, that lay far to the south. It was in a direct line nearly fifty miles from the Sea of Galilee. Neither can it have been to the region of Gadara that He came, for Gadara lay at least five miles to the south across the deep valley of the Yarmuk. There was, however, on the east shore of the Sea of Galilee a town called Gergesa, the modern Kursi. This place was near the city of Hippos, and possibly one of the towns subordinate to Hippos. As Jesus and the disciples walked back from the sea, they met the demoniac, whom Jesus healed.” [Barton, Archeology and the Bible, 214]. The whole region or district southeast of the Sea of Galilee was indiscriminately called that of the Gadarenes and Gerasenes. It was predominantly heathen.
2 And when He was come out of the ship, immediately there met Him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, 3 Who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no man could bind him, no, not with chains: 4 Because that he had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the chains had been plucked asunder by him, and the fetters broken in pieces: neither could any man tame him. 5 And always, night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones.
Matthew 8:28; Luke 8:27; Numbers 19:11-22; Matthew 23:27; Revelation 18:2; Mark 1:21-28; Mark 3:22-30; Mark 7:24-30; Mark 9:14-29
Matthew, in relating this story, speaks of two demoniacs, while Mark mentions only one, the speaker of the two, and probably also the fiercer of them. Hardly had Jesus stepped out of the boat when this man came running to meet Him from his home among the tombs in the neighborhood. He was a man in, that is, fully possessed by, an unclean spirit. The power of the devil and his angels is such that it always renders the person whom he gets into his dominion, spiritually unclean. Here the whole person, body, mind, and soul, was possessed of the devil. This demoniac had his dwelling-place in the tombs, probably in some of the burial-places which had been excavated or hewn into the side of the hills. His fierceness was such as to make his confinement by means of fetters and chains absolutely impossible. The piling up of the negatives emphasizes this peculiarity very strongly. All attempts to keep him in constraint by means of foot-guards and with chains had been futile. He tore the chains apart and shattered the foot-guards, whether of metal or rope, and no man was able in any way to keep him in subjection. All the methods employed in the case of wild animals availed nothing in his case. The strength of the devil and his angels in him was too great for human skill and ingenuity. He was given no rest by the tormentors living in him, but always, night and day, he was driven by them through the tombs and through the hills, making it dangerous to travel in that neighborhood. The people that caught sight of him saw that he was usually engaged in striking and mutilating himself with sharp stones, uttering at the same time fierce cries that might well cause the stoutest heart to quail. It is a terrible thing if the devil gains ascendency over a person, not one whit less so if this power extends over his mind and soul only than if it includes also the body.
Acknowledging Jesus as the superior:
6 But when he saw Jesus afar off, he ran and worshipped Him, 7 And cried with a loud voice, and said, What have I to do with Thee, Jesus, Thou Son of the most high God? I adjure Thee by God, that Thou torment me not. 8 For He said unto him, Come out of the man, thou unclean spirit. 9 And He asked him, What is thy name? And he answered, saying, My name is Legion: for we are many. 10 And he besought Him much that He would not send them away out of the country.
Matthew 8:29; Luke 8:28-31; Mark 1:21-28; Mark 1:32-34; Luke 4:31-37; Acts 19:11-15; James 2:19; Matthew 25:41; Jude 6; Revelation 12:12
Other people had been in danger of their lives on account of the fierceness of the man. Demoniac strength and utter misery were combined in the poor sufferer. But here the man saw Jesus, and Him the evil spirits knew, had known Him from the time that they were, together with their leader, Satan, thrown out of heaven, Jude 6. They must needs recognize Him, no matter where they met Him, as their sovereign Lord and King. And so the man came running and did the Lord homage, casting himself down at His feet in a worshipful attitude, acknowledging even by his action that he knew Jesus to be the Lord. And at the same time, with a cry of fear and prayer, he begs Christ: What business have we two, Thou and I, together, Jesus, Thou Son of God most high? The confession was apparently wrung from him under the pressure of abject terror, together with the plea that Jesus should not torment him, not condemn him at this time to the torment of hell, which was his eventual lot, just as he was even then suffering damnation in being banished from heaven. The evil spirits thus were obliged to recognize in Christ their future Judge, wanted to be rid of His presence, and yet must plead for the slightest favor and extension of time. For though the place of torment is even now their home, yet, by God’s permission, in the interval before the last Judgment, they have power to torture and destroy God’s creatures on earth. They, more than any one else, dread the last Judgment. For then the place of torment will become a dungeon from which there is no escape and no hope of the slightest reprieve. Then they will see and feel nothing but the fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels. Then the torture of damnation will never have an end, 2 Peter 2:4. This cry of terror was occasioned by the fact that Christ was just about to say (conative imperfect); it was evident from Christ’s manner and look that it was on His tongue to speak the word which would release the poor sufferer from the clutches of his tormentors. Christ now permits an intermission in the proceedings lest the evil spirits vent their spite on the man. He asked the demoniac: What name is thine? And the answer, with the explanation, was: Legion, on account of their great number. Not only one unclean spirit was here devastating the temple of the poor man’s body, but a host of them. For the Roman legion comprised a number of between five and six thousand men, and the members of such a body were united under iron discipline. The name was thus the “emblem of irresistible power and of a multitude organized into unity.” [Expositor’s Greek Testament, 1, 372]. The devil is not so listless in his method of attack as the Christians are in warding it off. Not only does he walk about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he might devour, but he has his armies, the spirits of darkness, trained in obedience and concerted attack. The spirits now begged Jesus not to send them out of this region which they seem to have favored on account of the nature of the population. It is a strange thing to find the devil pleading with the Lord for a favor; but if it suits his plans, he can be most abject.
The casting out:
11 Now there was there nigh unto the mountains a great herd of swine feeding. 12 And all the devils besought Him, saying, Send us into the swine, that we may enter into them. 13 And forthwith Jesus gave them leave. And the unclean spirits went out, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the sea, (they were about two thousand;) and were choked in the sea.
Matthew 8:30-32; Luke 8:31-33; Mark 1:21-28; Luke 4:31-37; Job 1:6-12
Not in the immediate vicinity of the speaker, but at some distance, yet in plain sight, on the slope of the hills near the sea, there was a large herd of swine grazing. To the Jews, swine were unclean animals, and they were not allowed to eat them. But here on the border the inhabitants were influenced but little by Jewish customs and laws. The evil spirits knew that Jesus would not give them permission to enter into any man, and therefore they wanted to vent their spite and helpless anger on dumb animals. They changed their plea to this effect, that they might take possession of the swine. The devil is a murderer from the beginning. If he cannot destroy the soul of man, he takes possession of the body; and when this is forbidden him, he tortures brute beasts. His one desire is to destroy the life which God has created. Jesus here permitted, gave leave to, the spirits to do as they had asked; it was better that animals should perish than that man, made in the image of God, should be tormented. The result: With a mighty uproar the swine, numbering about two thousand, cast themselves down the precipice overhanging the sea, and were drowned in the water. The devil, in his work of destruction, is not permitted to go one step farther than God gives him leave. Note: Why it is that God sometimes permits the spirits of darkness and destruction to work harm to His creation is one of the secrets which our weak reason cannot fathom. We know only so much, that the loss of money and goods are chastisements of God, by which He intends to rouse men out of their security.
The effect of the miracle:
14 And they that fed the swine fled, and told it in the city, and in the country. And they went out to see what it was that was done. 15 And they come to Jesus, and see him that was possessed with the devil, and had the legion, sitting, and clothed, and in his right mind: and they were afraid. 16 And they that saw it told them how it befell to him that was possessed with the devil, and also concerning the swine. 17 And they began to pray Him to depart out of their coasts.
Matthew 8:33-34; Luke 8:34-37; Job 21:7-14; Deuteronomy 5:24-29
A sad sequel: pigs held in higher esteem than man. Note the pithy, vivid narration of the evangelist. The swineherders fled and announced to the owners in the city and the vicinity the fate of their property, and these came to verify the report, probably with some resentment against the man that had deprived them, even if only indirectly, of their swine. Their way led directly to Jesus, and they could now gain the conviction that the former demoniac was thoroughly healed. He that had formerly run through the hills with loud cries now sat at the feet of Jesus as quietly as any one else might have done; he that had formerly discarded all clothing was now fully clothed; he that had formerly raved in madness now had the full use of his mind and senses. It was a sight which might well fill them with fear. And as they were standing around, the witnesses of the miracle related the entire story, the cure and the subsequent catastrophe, which had resulted in the loss of the swine. Jesus, by this miracle, had again proved Himself the mighty Deliverer from the power of Satan. This much must be evident to all. It was a visitation of mercy upon these people that the great Prophet from Galilee had come into their midst. But here it proved to be true what experience testifies to in a thousand cases: the power of the devil over the heart of man is more insidious and terrible than that over the members. The eyes of these people were not opened. They began, all of them, to urge Him to leave the country. “They took heart to desire Christ’s departure, in a conflict of fear and anger, of fawning and obstinacy.” They spurned the time of their visitation. The Lord often tries people whom He would make His own, by sending them some form of misfortune to cause them to turn from the service of earthly things to Him. But they do not know the things that belong to their peace, they are hidden from their eyes. They feel resentment against the Lord, they refuse to accept His mercy, and choose for themselves the path that leads to destruction.
Christ gives further evidence of His mercy:
18 And when He was come into the ship, he that had been possessed with the devil prayed Him that he might be with Him. 19 Howbeit Jesus suffered him not, but saith unto him, Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee. 20 And he departed, and began to publish in Decapolis how great things Jesus had done for him: and all men did marvel.
Luke 8:38-39; Psalms 105:1-4; Mark 1:40-45; Mark 5:35-43; Mark 7:31-37
Jesus embarked again, He went into the boat. Since the people of the region showed such a hostile spirit from the start and did not consider themselves worthy of eternal life, He left them with the animals they loved more. But one there was that had felt more than a bodily healing in himself, the former demoniac. He begged the Lord, while the latter was embarking, to be permitted to be with Him, to become a regular disciple. It was not the fear of the return of the demons that caused the plea, but the knowledge that here was a Healer of the soul as well as of the body. But Jesus refused his petition, since He had a different plan in mind. His time of mercy for the people of this region had not yet come to an end. He commissioned this man to be the first heathen preacher. He should return to his home and to his relatives, giving them a full account of the help which he had experienced, and above all of the mercy of Jesus. Of all the blessings and benefits which we praise as the gift of the Lord the greatest is that of His mercy in Jesus Christ the Savior. And the man did even more than the Lord had given him to perform. Beginning, no doubt, in his own family circle, he became a messenger throughout that entire country. The Decapolis, or the region of the ten cities, was that part of Palestine that lay southeast and east of the Sea of Galilee, including parts of Perea and Gaulanitis. Throughout this region he proclaimed his message, seconded undoubtedly by the other demoniac. And the heathen population, which for the most part inhabited this country, was deeply impressed. They all were filled with wonder. Whether there was any other result is not related. At any rate, they had the opportunity of learning to know the great Prophet, who was willing and anxious to give them the assurance of His everlasting grace and mercy and thus to fulfil the object of the Gospel in them. It is ever thus that the message of the great miracles of God for the salvation of men arouses curiosity and wonder. But the Gospel also always works, at least in some people, a cheerful assent and acceptance of the news that will save their souls.
Raising of the daughter of Jairus
The prayer of Jairus:
21 And when Jesus was passed over again by ship unto the other side, much people gathered unto Him: and He was nigh unto the sea. 22 And, behold, there cometh one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name; and when he saw Him, he fell at His feet, 23 And besought Him greatly, saying, My little daughter lieth at the point of death: I pray Thee, come and lay Thy hands on her, that she may be healed; and she shall live. 24 And Jesus went with him; and much people followed Him, and thronged Him.
Matthew 9:18-19; Luke 8:40-42
Mark relates this story at greater length, with closer attention to detail than the other evangelists, Matthew 9:18; Luke 8:41, except in the matter of symptoms of the sickness, in which Luke, the physician, is more exact. Upon leaving the country of the Gerasenes, Jesus sailed directly across the sea, back to the region which He had left only the day before. Most of the people had undoubtedly not yet thought of returning home, and they could therefore soon assemble once more and come to Him, as He was by the Sea. They gladly received Him, for they were all waiting for Him, Luke 8:41. But before He had had an opportunity of performing the work of His ministry, as was His custom, one of the chief men, of the rulers of the local synagog, whose name was Jairus, came, looking for Jesus. As soon as he saw the Lord, the distraught father fell down at His feet and begged and urged Him most earnestly, with many words. The words pour forth from his mouth in the anxiety of his pleading: My daughter is about breathing her last; she may even now be dead. Come at once and quickly; lay Thy hands upon her that she may be healed and live. Jesus, after His usual manner of kind sympathy and willingness to help, did not tarry by the seaside, but turned at once to go after the pleading father. It was, as usual, the faith implied and expressed in his words that impressed the Lord. Jairus was sure he was possessed of unshakable faith that Jesus could perform this miracle, this cure. He sees the fulfilment of his wish, if Christ would but consent to come. But he must first pass through a test of his patience. Mark notes especially that the people pressed around the Lord from all sides; He was jostled and pushed with the crowd.
The woman with an issue of blood:
25 And a certain woman, which had an issue of blood twelve years, 26 And had suffered many things of many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse, 27 When she had heard of Jesus, came in the press behind, and touched His garment. 28 For she said, If I may touch but His clothes, I shall be whole. 29 And straightway the fountain of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of that plague.
Matthew 9:20-21; Luke 8:43-44; Leviticus 15:25-31; Numbers 5:1-4
While Jesus was, at the urging of Jairus, hurrying towards his house, there was an interruption on the way. A woman, otherwise unknown, had had an issue of blood for twelve years, which rendered her Levitically unclean, Leviticus 15:25. It excluded her from public worship in Temple and synagog, and isolated her even from the company of her relatives. The manner of Mark’s putting it is rather expressive: She had suffered much from, at the hands of, many physicians; she had become impoverished, she had spent all her substance in her quest for health; and all this had been of no benefit to her; instead of getting better she rather became worse. This description is particularly suitable in the case of those people, both within and without the medical profession, who think that science is paramount and must say the last word. In spite of the great advance in medicine and surgery in the last century, and especially during the last decades, there are still many individual sicknesses and epidemics that baffle the entire medical profession. This is not said in disparagement of the profession, but in the interest of truth. People that make the doctor their god, and trust in him absolutely, may under circumstances find themselves in the position of this woman. It remains true to this day, and the more skilful and conscientious the physician is, the more freely will he acknowledge it: the Lord must direct the diagnosis and bless the medicine, otherwise the science of the greatest physician will avail nothing. This woman had now heard of Jesus, the many laudatory things that were being circulated through the country concerning His ability and willingness to work healing in cases which seemed hopeless. Her condition and the consciousness of her Levitical uncleanness, also her deep humility would not permit her to come forth openly before the multitude and address the Lord. From what she had heard concerning Him, she had come to believe with a conviction born of faith in this Messiah of the world, that the mere touch of the hem of His garment would restore her health. She could carry out her intention all the more easily in this great crowd since they pressed upon the Lord. She hoped thus to remain unobserved. Only to touch His clothes, that was her one thought. And her faith was rewarded. Without delay, at once, the fountain of her blood was dried up, and she knew with a happy conviction that her body was cured of that scourge which the Lord had laid upon her these many years. There is food for thought, as Luther suggests, in the fact that the suffering of this woman had begun at the same time that the daughter of Jairus had come to gladden the hearts of her parents. To bear such a burden as this woman did for so many years, and then to be released from the afflicting bonds, is an experience which should rightly cause the deepest thankfulness in the hearts of all such sufferers.
The woman’s confession:
30 And Jesus, immediately knowing in Himself that virtue had gone out of Him, turned Him about in the press, and said, Who touched My clothes? 31 And His disciples said unto Him, Thou seest the multitude thronging Thee, and sayest Thou, Who touched Me? 32 And He looked round about to see her that had done this thing. 33 But the woman fearing and trembling, knowing what was done in her, came and fell down before Him, and told Him all the truth. 34 And He said unto her, Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace, and be whole of thy plague.
Matthew 9:22; Luke 8:45-48; Luke 7:36-50
Jesus, the almighty God, is also omniscient. He knew all the while what the poor woman had been planning in her anxiety to regain her health. He was also fully conscious in Himself that a miraculous power had gone forth from Him. He had permitted the people before to touch Him in order to be made whole, chapter 3:10. But here was a case in which the woman had taken the liberty, in trusting faith, to draw the healing power out of Him. So He made ready to test her faith. Turning round, He inquired whether any one had touched His clothes, or, more exactly: Who touched My clothes? And He immediately looked about to see whether the woman would confess. To the disciples His question seemed more than strange. He was in the midst of the crowd, jostled on all sides. Why, then, ask the question as to who had touched Him? But the woman realized that her act had been discovered and was known to the Lord. She was trembling with fear for her daring, and therefore came, fell down before Him, and told Him the whole truth, the entire story of her illness and its misery and suffering, and the hopes that she had entertained since learning of His wonderful miracles of healing. If people would but practise this method of dealing with the Lord oftener, there would be less suffering in the world. He is always ready to hear the recital of all our woes and trials, and He is willing to help us at all times. His help may not always be along the lines that we think right, but it will always be in the way that is best for us. “Such touching the Lord does not want to permit to be secret; as an example to us. Therefore He urges the woman with His questions that she must come forward and permit herself to be seen, also tell everything that had been done to her publicly before everybody, in order that He may have cause to praise such faith and teach us all what a cheerful service it is for Him, if we console ourselves with His help and expect nothing but good from Him. Therefore He praises the woman so highly and speaks to her so encouragingly: Be of good cheer, daughter; thy faith hath helped thee. There the disciples themselves must admit that the Lord has not asked in vain, and that it was not an ordinary touching, but something out of the ordinary, upon which much depends for the Lord and for ourselves. — But it is a peculiar speech which Jesus here makes, if we would think of it. He confesses that a power has gone forth from Him. As the woman now stands before the Lord and confesses the benefit, He does not show that such power has gone forth from Him, but ascribes it to the faith of the woman, although not she herself, but the Lord had helped her. This the Lord does for this reason, to indicate how well that pleases Him if thou expect everything good from Him and seek help from Him. As though He would say: Watch closely and learn cheerfully to believe, no matter in what trouble you happen to be; for I would much rather help you than you are able to ask it. I would much rather deliver you from death than that you desire life, as He here gives evidence with His action, where it is so easily done, and He so gladly permits the power to go from Him.” That word: Thy faith hath healed thee, gives the real reason for the cure. True faith can do anything in the sight of God, but its special strength lies in the spiritual field. The trust growing out of redeeming faith must be a conviction so firm, so undoubting, that it is ready to storm heaven itself, by His promise. And this conviction, that they can do all things through Christ that strengtheneth them, must live in all Christians.
Jesus reassures Jairus:
35 While He yet spake, there came from the ruler of the synagogue’s house certain which said, Thy daughter is dead: why troublest thou the Master any further? 36 As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, He saith unto the ruler of the synagogue, Be not afraid, only believe. 37 And He suffered no man to follow Him, save Peter, and James, and John the brother of James.
Matthew 9:18-19; Luke 8:49-51; John 11:17-27; Mark 1:16-20; Mark 9:2-8; Mark 14:32-42
The delay caused by the woman had made Jesus and the entire multitude stop for some time, perhaps for five to ten minutes, with Jairus in the throes of impatience. And Jesus had not yet finished His comforting words to the woman that had been healed in such a miraculous manner, when some messengers from the house of the ruler brought the overwhelming news that the girl had died, that she was even now lying there dead, lifeless. There could be no doubt as to this fact, and that fact also, in the opinion of the messengers, settled the question. This being so, why should Jairus persist in vexing, molesting the Lord, the great Teacher; it was all useless now. These servants had been willing enough to concede that the great Prophet might be able to heal a person, to drive away a sickness, but His art and power could not be expected to avail anything in the case of death. Jesus heard this communication, and it gave Him much concern. Jairus had proved himself one that trusted in the Lord, but with the present intelligence there was danger that his confidence would be lost. So Jesus gave him a word which was to hold his wavering confidence: Fear not; only believe! Fear is incompatible with faith, Romans 8:15; Isaiah 12:2; 2 Timothy 1:7; 1 John 4:18. Firm trust in the power of the Savior was now more necessary than ever, for death had claimed the girl as his victim, and the father should feel that Christ was able to call her back even from the land of the departed. And now Jesus did a surprising, unusual thing: He turned back, not only the multitude, but even His disciples, with the exception of His most intimate friends, Peter, James, and John. The miracle which was to take place in this house was not to be performed before the inquisitive gaze of an unappreciative multitude, nor before such as were not soundly balanced in their relation to Him.
Recalling the dead girl to life:
38 And He cometh to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and seeth the tumult, and them that wept and wailed greatly. 39 And when He was come in, He saith unto them, Why make ye this ado, and weep? the damsel is not dead, but sleepeth. 40 And they laughed Him to scorn. But when He had put them all out, He taketh the father and the mother of the damsel, and them that were with Him, and entereth in where the damsel was lying. 41 And he took the damsel by the hand, and said unto her, Talitha cumi; which is, being interpreted, Damsel, I say unto thee, arise. 42 And straightway the damsel arose, and walked; for she was of the age of twelve years. And they were astonished with a great astonishment. 43 And He charged them straitly that no man should know it; and commanded that something should be given her to eat.
Matthew 9:23-26; Luke 8:51-56; John 11:38-53; John 12:9-11; Mark 15:33-39
Upon arriving at the house of Jairus, they were met by sights and sounds that emphasized the fact of a dead person’s being on the premises. Even the poorest Jews felt constrained to hire two pipers and at least one woman to take care of the mourning in the case of a death. Note: Mark calls attention, above all, to the turmoil, to the confused din caused by the many mourners; Matthew speaks of the minstrels and the piping; Luke refers to the weeping and bewailing. They were busily engaged when Jesus stepped into the house with His companions, weeping and howling without restraint. But Jesus took charge of the situation at once. He reproached them for the noise they were making, stating that the child was not dead, but sleeping. Those were the words of a man that lived in the certainty of the resurrection, Jesus Christ, the Master of death, who has conquered and bound death. “These words we should diligently note, that the Lord here says: The damsel is not dead, but sleepeth; for they are comforting words, for which, if they were purchasable, we should glady pay all, in order that we might remember, understand, and believe them. For he that can look upon a dead person as though he were merely lying in bed; he that can change his eyesight so that he can look upon death as a sleep, — he might well boast of a peculiar art, which no man otherwise possesses. … Therefore learn from this gospel that death, in the sight of Christ the Lord, is nothing but a sleep, as we see here that He wakes the dead maiden with the hand, as out of a sleep.” The derisive laughter of the official mourners did not deter the Lord for a minute. He cast them all out of the house, not one was permitted to remain as witness of the miracle. He then took the father and mother of the maiden, as the parents, and His three disciples as witnesses, went into the room of death, grasped the maiden by the hand, and spoke the almighty words: Maiden, arise. He used the Aramaic language, which was probably the tongue which He learned as a boy, and which He commonly employed in His discourses. Mark translates the words for the sake of his Roman readers. Death was obliged to flee at the words of Christ, it must yield its hold on the maiden’s body. The girl could get up from her couch, she could walk about, she could partake of food; in short, she was returned to life, she was fully recovered. And she could now sustain life by the usual means. No wonder that those present, parents and disciples, were astonished and wrought up almost to ecstasy, since this miracle was the first one to show the power of Christ over the most dreaded enemy of mankind. Jesus finally gave them all orders that they should not make it public. He wants no false Messianic hopes to be aroused, and the way and manner of the restoration should also not be made a matter of common talk. Especially should the expectation of the repetition of such acts not be awakened in the people, lest His ministry be seriously interfered with. We have in Jesus, to this day, the Lord that can save from death. And when Christ, our Life, will be made manifest on that great day, then He will awaken, by the almighty power of His voice, all our dead relatives and friends, and will take all that died in the faith in Him, into the eternal home above which He has prepared for them that love Him. “We should, then, learn from this gospel that all misfortune, no matter how great it appears before thine eyes, is before our Lord Jesus less than nothing. For since death in a Christian is nothing, then blindness, leprosy, pestilence, and other sickness must be still smaller and of less import. Therefore, if Thou seest sin, sickness, poverty, or anything else in thee, do not let this terrify thee; close thy carnal eyes and open the spiritual ones, and say: I am a Christian, and I have a Lord who with one word can stop all this foolishness; why should I be so seriously worried about it? For certain it is, as easily as Christ helps this maiden out of bodily death, in which she was lying, so easily will He help us also, if only we believe and trust Him to help us.”
Jesus drives out the devils from the Gadarene demoniac and makes him His witness in the region of Decapolis; He then returns to the west side of the sea, heals the woman with the issue of blood, and raises the daughter of Jairus from the dead.