In this Gospel in the very beginning of Jesus’s ministry: John the Baptist is introduced; Jesus is baptized by John. Satan tempts Jesus. Jesus begins his Galilean ministry. He calls four fishermen: Peter, Andrew, James, and John. He expels an unclean spirit from a man. He heals Peter’s mother-in-law and many others and expels many demons. He goes on a preaching tour. He cleanses a leper with a command.
I will repeat this introduction in every chapter:
This translation and commentary is offered for free, gratis, across the worldwide web to Christians in oppressive (persecuting) or developing countries, who cannot afford printed commentaries or Study Bibles, though everyone can use the commentary and entire website, of course.
The translation is mine. I add yet another translation for one purpose: to learn. It tends to be literal, but complete literalness and readability are impossible, so adjustments had to be made.
If you would like to see other translations, please go to biblegateway.com.
I ask Growth Application (GrowApp) questions after each section of Scripture, for discipleship.
I add some Greek word studies, in a nontechnical way. The Greek terms with brief definitions can also be looked up at biblehub.com.
Links are provided for future study.
The Preaching of John the Baptist (Mark 1:1-8)
1 The beginning of the good news about Jesus Christ, Son of God, 2 just as it is written in Isaiah the prophet:
See! I send my messenger before me,
Who will prepare your path, [Mal. 3:1]
3 A voice crying in the desert,
“Prepare the path of the Lord!
Make his ways straight!” [Is. 40:3]
4 John the Baptizer appeared in the desert and proclaiming the baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sin. 5 All of Judea, including all the Jerusalemites, went out to him and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins. 6 And John was clothed with camel hair and a leather belt around his waist, eating locusts and wild honey. 7 He was preaching, saying, “He who is stronger than I comes after me, and I am not fit to bend down and untie the straps of his sandals! 8 I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit!”
The opening words is as close as we can get to the title of the Gospel. It certainly is the opening statement, and it is theologically rich one. It lays out themes in the entire Gospel. Let’s study the key words.
“beginning”: this is an allusion to Gen. 1:1 (see also John 1:1).
“good news”: it is the Greek noun euangelion (pronounced you-ahn-gee-on, and the “g” is hard as in “get”). It simply combines “good” or “positive” (eu) and “report” or “news” or “announcement” (angelion). So literally it means “good news” or “good report” or “good announcement.” An inscription, dating to around 9 B.C. says of the emperor Octavian (Augustus): “the birthday of the god [Octavian] was for the world the beginning of joyful tidings [euangelion] which have been proclaimed in his account” (qtd. in Lane, p. 43). The emphasized words parallel the opining line of Mark’s Gospel.
The gospel is good news, not bad news. Never forget it, ye old harsh preachers. Grammarian Decker has an excellent discussion of the word outside of the NT, and it means “happy news” or “glad announcement” (pp. 1-2).
Commentator R. T. France writes of the term euangelion:
Mark is generally credited with having initiated that usage, not by design, but by the fact that his use of the term in the heading of his work offered an obvious label to those who in due course found it necessary to refer in generic terms to this apparently new category of writing. In classical Greek (where it was normally plural, like our ‘good news’) it originally meant the reward given to the bearer of good news, and then came to refer to the good news itself. In the Hellenistic period there are examples of its use in a more specifically religious context, particularly in connection with the cult of the emperor, whose birthday, accession to power, and the like, even a forthcoming ‘royal visit’, were hailed as [euangelion]
The gospel has one of its source in this passage from Isaiah:
How beautiful upon the mountains
are the feet of him who brings good news,
who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness,
who publishes salvation,
who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.” (Is. 52:7, ESV)
“Jesus”: Matthew informs us that his name in Hebrew (Joshua) means “Yahweh saves” because he shall save his people from their sins (Matt. 1:21). His name reaches out for the purpose of saving others. At the beginning of his ministry, he sought out the lost sheep of Israel (Matt. 10:6; 15:24), but by the end, he will commission his message of good news to go global (Matt. 28:18-20; Mark. 16:15).
“about Christ”: It could be translated “about Christ” or it could be subjective: Christ is the source of the gospel and he is the one teaching it. It is probably both at the same time. Christ is a title that means “the Anointed One.” It soon evolved into his name, and even the writers of the epistles seem to adopt it as his name. It appears seven times in Mark.
“Son of God”: In Greek the definite article is missing (“the”). You can supply it if you wish.
Let’s get into a little systematic theology.
Jesus was the Son of the Father eternally, before creation. The Son has no beginning. He and the Father always were, together. The relationship is portrayed in this Father-Son way so we can understand who God is more clearly. Now he relates to us as his sons and daughters. On our repentance and salvation and union with Christ, we are brought into his eternal family.
This is a hybrid quotation from the prophet Malachi and Isaiah. Mark refers to the dominant prophet, Isaiah. John prepares the way or path or road ahead of Jesus.
“messenger”: is the Greek noun angelos (pronounced ang-ge-loss, and the “g” is hard as in “get”). Yes, it can mean a heavenly messenger, as in an angel, but its core meaning is a messenger, whether human or heavenly.
“See!” It is translated typically as “behold!” It means something noteworthy is being announced or is happening. It introduces a new, unexpected turn of events. The reader should pay attention.
John was in southern Israel, on the Jordan River, toward the east. This website is not equipped to produce maps, especially when Bible maps can be easily found online. Google Jordan River Bible maps.
France writes of the wilderness or desert:
For the wilderness was a place of hope, of new beginnings. It was in the wilderness that Yahweh had met with Israel and made them into his people when they came out of Egypt. That had been the honeymoon period, before the relationship became strained. ‘I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride, how you followed me in the wilderness, in a land not sown. Israel was holy to Yahweh, the first fruits of his harvest’ (Jer. 2:2–3).
Some scholars say that around a million people were baptized by him, if they came from beyond Judea and Jerusalem and all over the larger area. Now that’s a revival!
“baptizer”: Mark is the only one who uses the participle “the baptizing one” or “he who baptizes.” Matthew and Luke use “Baptist,” more as a title. The participle comes from the verb baptizō (pronounced bahp-tee-zoh), and it means “to dip in or under water”; it can refer in some contexts in Greek literature to being “soaked in wine.” It is related to the briefer verb baptō, which means “to dip in water”; the Latin verb is immergere or immerse. One can dip cloth in dye or a bucket in the well to draw water—those illustrate baptō. It can even be used of a ship that sank (Liddell and Scott). John could rightly be called the Dipper or Immerser.
“baptism”: it is the noun baptisma (pronounced bahp-teez-mah), and, as noted, its basic meaning is dip or immerse. The suffix –ma– means “the result of,” so together baptisma means the result of dipping or immersing.
France writes in his comment on on 4-5: “[Baptism’s] importance in mainstream Judaism is indicated by the increasing number of miqwāʾōt (ritual immersion baths and pronounced mik-vah’oht) which archaeological discovery is revealing in Jerusalem and elsewhere in Palestine.”
“repentance”: it is the noun metanoia (pronounced meh-tah-noi-ah), and it literally means “change of mind.” But it goes deeper than mental assent or agreement. Another word for repent is the Greek stem streph– (including the prefixes ana-, epi-, and hupo-), which means physically “to turn” (see Luke 2:20, 43, 45). That reality-concept is all about new life. One turns around 180 degrees, going from the direction of death to the new direction of life.
Yes, repentance is wonderful as a foundation, but we must move on to Christ’s deeper teachings. In our context today, we should teach repentance to an audience where there may be the unrepentant and unconverted, but let’s not harangue the church with constant calls for them to repent every Sunday. They need mature teachings. Too many fiery preachers never allow their churches to grow, but shriek about fire and brimstone (eternal punishment). Happily, this seems to be changing, and preachers bring up repentance, but also realize that there are many other doctrines in Scripture.
“forgiveness”: it comes from the Greek noun aphesis (pronounced ah-feh-seess), which means “release” or “cancellation” or “pardon” or “forgiveness.” Let’s look at a more formal definition of its verb, which is aphiēmi (pronounced ah-fee-ay-mee), and BDAG, considered by many to be the authoritative lexicon of the Greek NT, defines it with the basic meaning of letting go: (1) “dismiss or release someone or something from a place or one’s presence, let go, send away”; (2) “to release from legal or moral obligations or consequence, cancel, remit, pardon”; (3) “to move away with implication of causing a separation, leave, depart”; (4) “to leave something continue or remain in its place … let someone have something” (Matt. 4:20; 5:24; 22:22; Mark 1:18; Luke 10:30; John 14:18); (5) “leave it to someone to do something, let, let go, allow, tolerate.” The Shorter Lexicon adds “forgive.” In sum, God lets go, dismisses, releases, sends away, cancels, pardons, and forgives our sins. His work is full and final. Don’t go backwards or dwell on it.
Please read these verses for how forgiving God is:
10 He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us. (Ps. 103:10-12)
And these great verses are from Micah:
18 Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity
and passing over transgression
for the remnant of his inheritance?
He does not retain his anger forever,
because he delights in steadfast love.
19 He will again have compassion on us;
he will tread our iniquities underfoot.
You will cast all our sins
into the depths of the sea. (Mic. 7:18-19, ESV)
Please see my post about forgiveness:
“sins”: it comes from the noun hamartia (pronounced hah-mar-tee-ah). A deep study reveals that it means a “departure from either human or divine standards of uprightness” (BDAG, p. 50). It can also mean a “destructive evil power” (ibid., p. 51). In other words, sin has a life of its own. Be careful! In the older Greek of the classical world, it originally meant to “miss the mark” or target. Sin destroys, and that’s why God hates it, and so should we. The good news: God promises us forgiveness when we repent.
John was an austere man, and his clothing and diet prove it. 1 Kings 1:8 says: Elijah “wore a garment of hair, with a belt of leather about his waist. It is Elijah the Tishbite.”
Believe it or not, the locust was a clean animal, which means it could be eaten (Lev. 11:20-23). They were roasted or broiled and seasoned with salt, like our prawns or shrimp, or they were dried in the sun and coated with honey and vinegar or powdered and mixed wheat flour and served as pancakes (France, The Gospel of Matthew, p. 106). Great source of protein (apparently)!
“fit”: it is the adjective hikanos (pronounced hee-kah-noss), and it can mean, depending on the context, “sufficient, adequate, large enough … fit, appropriate, competent, able, worthy.” I could have translated it as “not qualified” or “not sufficient enough,” or “big enough.” You can go with any of them, if you want John did not consider himself worthy to stoop down and unlatch the strap of Jesus’s sandals. This is true humility.
Removing someone’s sandals was a lowly task appropriate only for a slave. The statement is particularly striking in the light of later rabbinic tradition that removing a master’s sandals was too low a task to require even of one’s Hebrew slave” (Wessel and Strauss, comment on 1:7).
For more on the verb baptize, see vv. 4-5.
“with”: it could be translated as “in.”
“Spirit”: He is the third person of the Trinity. Jesus not only operates by the power of the Spirit, but here he is the one who dispense the Spirit, a role given only to Yahweh in the OT (France). This is one more indicator of Jesus’s divinity. After Pentecost, he is sent into the hearts of everyone who repents and confesses Jesus was Lord. He causes these repentant people to be born again. They can also have a subsequent infilling of the Spirit (Acts 2:4, 4:8, 31; Eph. 5:17).
Two posts on a more formal doctrine of the Spirit in systematic theology:
Here is the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost:
1 And when the Feast of Pentecost had fully come, all of them were together in that one place. 2 And suddenly from heaven there was a sound like the rush of an extra-strong wind. The whole house was filled where they were sitting, 3 and tongues as fire were seen by them, were distributed among them, and settled on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other languages, as the Spirit gave them inspiration to speak and declare. (Acts 2:1-4, my translation)
These passages speak of an eschatological outpouring of the Spirit:
… until the Spirit is poured upon us from on high,
and the wilderness becomes a fruitful field,
and the fruitful field is deemed a forest. (Is. 32:15, ESV)
For I will pour water on the thirsty land,
and streams on the dry ground;
I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring,
and my blessing on your descendants. (Is. 44:3, ESV)
26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. (Ezek. 36:26-27, ESV)
And I will not hide my face anymore from them, when I pour out my Spirit upon the house of Israel, declares the Lord God. (Ezek. 39:29, ESV)
“And it shall come to pass afterward,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh;
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
your old men shall dream dreams,
and your young men shall see visions.
29 Even on the male and female servants
in those days I will pour out my Spirit. (Joel 2:28-29, ESV; cf. Acts 2:17-21)
In the previous three passages, the promise was given to Israel. In Joel’s prophecy, the Spirit is poured out in all flesh or all of humanity. Each of those above passages speak of obeying the law of God and living righteously. Now this obedience comes from the inside out and by the power of the indwelling Spirit. Don’t let any teacher tell you that you don’t have to worry about living righteously. You absolutely do. So does right believing lead to right living? Partly, but not entirely, because anyone who believes right could also live wrong. True and right living is done by the overflow and outflow of the Spirit in conformity to Scripture.
GrowApp for Mark 1:1-8
A.. Has the Spirit caused you to be born again? Have you had a subsequent infilling or empowerment of the Spirit, for service? Tell your story.
The Baptism of Jesus (Mark 1:9-11)
9 And so it happened in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 Immediately, as Jesus came out of the water, he saw the heavens splitting open and the Spirit like a dove descending on him. 11 A voice came from heaven: “You are my beloved Son, in you I am delighted!”
This whole scene is a “family photo” of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Very nice. See v. 1 for quick comments on the Trinity and some links.
John the Baptizer’s announcement says prepare the way of the Lord, and Jesus comes on the scene. Jesus is the LORD. This is high Christology, for Jesus is the LORD God, but Mark’s Christology is subtler than John’s Christology.
Joseph chose Nazareth, which was his former hometown (Luke 1:26-27; 2:39; Matt. 13:53-58). Nazareth was a despised place, even among the Galileans (John 1:46; 7:42, 52). In John 1:46, Nathaniel asked Philip, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” So, Matthew’s Christian readers would have instantly picked up on Jesus being despised (see Pss. 22:6-8, 13; 69:8. 20-21; Is. 11:1; 49:7; 53:2-3, 8; Dan. 9:26).
“Nazareth is never mentioned in the OT, in the Jewish Talmud, of by Josephus, and most Judeans in the south probably would never have heard of it” (Wessel and Strauss, comment on 1:9). It was an insignificant town.But it waqs close to building projects in nearby towns.
“baptized”: see vv. 4-5 for more discussion.
Why did Jesus submit to water baptism? To answer that question, I have to rely on the passages in Matt. 3:13-17 and Luke 3:21-22.
Jesus so identified with the people that while they were being baptized, so was he. Was he baptized for forgiveness of sins, when he was proclaimed to be sinless (John 8:45-46; Heb. 4:15; 1 Pet. 2:21-22; 1 John 3:5)?
See my post on the sinless life of Jesus:
He was not baptized for the forgiveness of sins, as the voice from heaven confirms. Rather, his baptism accomplished these truths:
First, this was his ministry launch. The Messiah was here for those who had eyes to see and ears hear. Second, his baptism was a public consecration by God, and a public declaration of God’s love and acceptance and delight in his Son. The crowds did not get that declaration, so his declaration was unique. Consecration means to be set apart from the unclean and common. Third, however, Jesus also identified with the crowds, as noted. He was about to become the people’s sacrificial offering (2 Cor. 5:21), so he had to get down in the water to show he too was a human. Fourth, he put his stamp of approval on John’s ministry (BTSB).
But there’s a fifth reason, which is relational.
Peter was Jesus’s lead apostle, and no doubt he observed this principle operating in his Lord’s life:
All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because,
“God opposes the proud
but shows favor to the humble.” [Prov. 3:34]
6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. (1 Peter 5:5-6, NIV)
James was Jesus’s (half-)brother and he too saw the same virtue being lived out in his Lord’s life:
Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. (Jas. 4:10)
I believe that to fulfill all righteousness, Jesus had to temporarily submit and humble himself before his cousin John and his baptism of repentance ministry, before Jesus’s own ministry could be launched. He may have followed John for longer than we think, just reading Matthew’s Gospel. Recall that Phil. 1:5 says: “rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant.” John proclaimed that the one coming after was mightier than he was, and so he was surprised when his superior cousin came down into the water. To “fulfill all righteousness” (emphasis added), Jesus had to be baptized by John, in order first to humble himself and second in order to be exalted. Yes, Jesus was fully righteous, but he had to pass the humility test, just as he had to pass the temptation that Satan was about to throw at him in the desert wilderness. Jesus passed both tests. Then at the end of his life he had to pass the trial by death. Phil. 1:6 says: “He humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” He passed this test too. Therefore his Father resurrected him, and at his Son’s ascension the Father was about to exalt him to the highest heavens, next to his own throne, where he is now seated.
Finally, Phil. 2:9-11 affirms:
9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father. (NIV)
It all began with Jesus humbling himself before his cousin in water baptism, whose ministry would not be as long-lasting and far-reaching as Jesus’s ministry. Now Jesus was exalted to the highest heaven, all because he humbled himself first.
This humility could be reflected in Is. 53:11, where the Servant of the Lord, who is to suffer for his people, is righteous and will make many righteous. To make many righteous and to fulfill all righteousness, he had to humble himself. One translation translates “righteousness” as “requirement” since to live righteously is to obey the requirements of the law (France). Jesus was fulfilling the law.
See my posts on cleanliness in Leviticus, which includes washing:
It is not a far leap to see water as cleansing the soul, as well, though, as noted, that was not the purpose in Jesus’s case. But it is interesting that all sorts of ritual bathing places have been found in Israel, existing up to Jesus’s days.
Jesus came up out of the water. Baptism is immersion. See my post on baptism:
“split”: heaven itself was opened. God opened it. In his comment on 1:10 France writes of “split open”:
The opening of heaven is a recurrent theme in biblical and other literature (Jewish and pagan) to indicate a vision which reaches beyond the earthly dimension (Ezk. 1:1; Jn. 1:51; Acts 7:56; 10:11; Rev. 4:1; 19:11). Ezekiel’s vision, also beside a river (and, according to one interpretation of the book’s opening sentence, at the age of thirty; cf. Lk. 3:23), provides a suggestive OT parallel, where a vision of God and a divine voice commissioned him for his prophetic role.
“descended”: this is the standard verb and adverb “come” and “upon.” The Spirit is often said to “fall on” and “come upon” people.
Luke’s version says: “bodily” and “in the appearance.” Mark says “like” a dove. Matthew also says “like” a dove. All three agree: the Spirit of God came down like a dove.
Here is the OT background of the Spirit resting on Jesus:
A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
2 The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—
the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and of might,
the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord—
3 and he will delight in the fear of the Lord. (Is. 11:1-3, NIV)
The seven-fold Spirit rests on Jesus: (1) of the Lord, (2) of wisdom, (3) of understanding, (4) of counsel, (5) of might, (6) of knowledge and (7) of fear of the LORD
Alternative translation: “You are my Son, the Beloved, in whom I have been delighted!” The Father addresses his Son directly. “You.”
“beloved”: it is the adjective agapētos (pronounced ah-gah-pay-tohss), and it means “beloved” or “dear.” It can be used of children, friends, fellow-Christians (1 Cor. 4:17; Col. 4:14; 3 John 2, 5, 11). Of the Messiah it has the strong connotation of “only beloved” (Matt. 3:17; Luke 3:22). I believe the Shorter Lexicon is a little off on the latter meaning and right on about the former one. That is, the adjective can mean that we too have God’s love. We too are well-pleasing to God after we repent and receive the baptism for the forgiveness of our sins. Are we well pleasing and beloved of God before our repentance? No, not in the same way. Yes, God loves people before they are born again (John 3:16), but God’s judicial wrath also remains on them until they repent and ask for his forgiveness (John 3:36).
“Son”: see v. 1 for more comments. This refers to Ps. 2:7: “You are my Son, and today I have begotten you.” No, Jesus was not begotten at his baptism, but it refers to the relationship between the Father and Son. The Psalm is an anointing psalm for the king. Also, Is. 42:1 says, “Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights.”
“delight”: it comes from the Greek verb eudokeō (pronounced yew-doh-keh-oh), and the prefix eu– means “good” or “well,” and the stem dok– can mean “to think, believe, suppose, consider.” How do we combine the prefix and the stem? First, in some contexts it means, “consider good, consent, resolve” (Luke 12:12; Rom. 15:26; 2 Cor. 5:8; Col. 1:19; 1 Thess. 2:8). Further, in other contexts it means “be well pleased, take delight (Matt. 3:17; 12:18; Luke 3:22; 1 Cor. 10:5; 2 Pet. 12:17); or “delight in, approve, like” (2 Cor. 12:10; 2 Thess. 2:12; Heb. 10:6, 8). So God thought well of his Son Jesus. The Father loved and liked his Son. The Father took delight in and approved of his Son. See Ps. 2:7 and Is. 42:1 (“Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights”) for further study.
A word on the tense of “delight.” It is in the aorist (past), but it may be so general that it does not refer to a past event (Decker, p. 14). But if you think it does refer to the past, then you may read it as “In whom I have delighted” or “in whom I have been pleased.”
Heaven opening up and the descent of the Spirit refers indirectly to Is. 64:1: “Oh that you would rend the heaven and come down.”
Before leaving this section, let’s get into some systematic theology. Here’s a quick teaching about the Trinity. The Father in his role as the Father is over the Son; the Father guides the whole of creation and the plan of the ages. The Son carries out the plan, notably by being born as a man, humbling himself, taking on the form of a servant (Phil. 3:7-8). He humbled himself so deeply and thoroughly that he died a death on the cross, the instrument of the death penalty.
However, the Father and Son are equal in their essence or nature. The Father is fully God and the Son is fully God, in their essence. Phil. 2:6: Jesus did not regard equality with God as something to hold on to, but he surrendered the environment of heaven and took the form of a servant. Look at it this way: a human father and son are equal in their essence. Both have a soul and spirit. But in their roles and family relationship, the Father is over the Son.
Function or role: the Father is over the Son
In their essence or essential nature: Father and Son are equally and fully God.
Begin a series on the Trinity:
GrowApp for Mark 1:9-11
A.. What was your water baptism like for you? Tell your story.
B.. When you are in Christ, the Father takes delight in you. He likes you. Do you believe this? Why or why not?
The Temptation of Jesus (Mark 1:12-13)
12 Next, the Spirit propelled Jesus into the desert, for forty days, to be tempted by Satan. 13 He was with the wild animals. And angels were ministering to him.
There was a purpose of being led out into the wilderness-desert: to be tempted by the devil.
“Forty days”: it corresponds to Moses being forty day and forty nights on top of Mt. Sinai (Exod. 24:18; 34:28; Deut. 9:9). Elijah spent forty days in the wilderness on Mt. Horeb, the mountain of God, in other words, Mt. Sinai (1 Kings 19:8).
“tempted”: It comes from the verb peirazō (pronounced pay-rah-zoh), and it can mean both “tempted” and “tested” in the right context. Here are the nuanced meanings and their verses: “try, attempt” (Acts. 9:26; 16:7; 24:6); “try, make trial of, put to the test” (Matt. 16:1; 22:18, 35; Mark 10:2; John 6:6; 1 Cor. 10:13; 2 Cor. 13:5; Heb. 2:18; 11:17; Rev. 2:2; 3:10); make trial of God, which is not a good idea (Acts 5:9; 15:10; 1 Cor. 10:9; Heb. 3:9); “tempt, entice to sin (Matt. 4:1; Mark 1:13; Luke 4:2; Gal. 6:1; 1 Thess. 3:5; Jas. 1:13; Rev. 2:10). The context determines the nuanced meanings. Jas. 1:13-14 says God does not tempt people because he cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone in that way. But God will allow us to go through testing and even to be tempted by the devil, as God allowed for his Son. Will we pass the test / temptation as Jesus did? James writes: “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial [noun of peirazō] because having stood the test [different word]; that person will receive a crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him” (Jas. 1:12, NIV). Will we receive this crown for standing up during our time of trial? The way to pass the temptation is to love the Lord and know Scripture.
Temptation: To provoke you to do evil, in order to ruin and sideline you
Testing: To find out what is in your character, in order to improve and grow you up
When you are tempted and fall, however, God can restore you.
And so it is reasonable to conclude that the most effective way to resist satanic temptation is to be full of the Spirit and to do spiritual disciplines. No, not legalism, but spiritual disciplines are an effective way to crucify the sin nature (Gal. 5:24) and beat down the body, as Paul encouraged the Corinthians to do (1 Cor. 9:24-27). One discipline is to read Scripture regularly. Another is to limit worldly input, like turning off the TV once in a while. Two other disciplines: regular private prayer and worship and regular public prayer and worship—fellowship, in other words. A really important way to fight the devil, as seen by Jesus’s struggle and victory over Satan, is to know Scripture. It helps sort out the mental battle. It has been truly said that the mind is the battlefield. And if you don’t have God’s thoughts, then you cannot sort out his thoughts from your own or the devil’s awful ideas.
See my posts about Satan in systematic theology:
He was with the wild animals. I love the picture of the animals of Israel’s desert coming up to him, like the animals reportedly did to St. Francis, who befriended them. However, this is an assumption, because the text is silent on the details. So let’s not push this lovely picture too far. But I still like to imagine it. It reminds me of the harmony in Eden.
However, in his commentary on this verse France points out that in popular Jewish thought wild animals are aligned with Satan. He quotes from an intertestamental writing: “The devil will flee from you; wild animals will be afraid of you, and the angels will stand by you.” Animals were part of the opposing forces, not Edenic harmony (Lev. 26:21-23; Ps. 22:12-21; Is. 13:21-22; Ezek. 34:5; Dan. 7:1-8). “The beasts are malevolent and are the natural confederates of evil powers (Ps. 91:11-13)” (Garland).
Commentator Mark Lane also writes of the significance of the desert and the wild beasts, as enemies and danger:
But as soon as it is recognized that the dominant motif of the prologue is the wilderness, Mark’s distinctive reference to the wild beasts becomes intelligible. In the OT blessing is associated with inhabited and cultivated land; the wilderness is the place of the curse. In the wilderness there is neither seed nor fruit, water nor growth. Man cannot live there. Only frightening and unwanted kinds of animals dwell there. Significantly, when the wilderness is transformed into a paradise, no ravenous beast will be in it (Isa. 35:9; Ezek. 34:23-28). Mark’s reference to wild beasts in 1:13 serves to stress the character of the wilderness. Jesus confronts the horror, the loneliness and the danger with which the wilderness is fraught when he meets the wild beasts. Their affinity in this context is not with paradise, but with the realm of Satan. (comment on 1:9)
So according to Lane, in the desert, Jesus entered the realm of the curse. I add that he took on this curse so that we don’t have to take it on (Gal. 3:13). It is on him, not us.
And then angels ministered to him, while he was suffering in the desert and being in danger.
Here is a multi-part study of angels in the area of systematic theology, but first, here is a summary list of the basics:
(a) Are messengers (in Hebrew mal’ak and in Greek angelos);
(b) Are created spirit beings;
(c) Have a beginning at their creation (not eternal);
(d) Have a beginning, but they are immortal (deathless).
(e) Have moral judgment;
(f) Have a certain measure of free will;
(g) Have high intelligence;
(h) Do not have physical bodies;
(i) But can manifest with immortal bodies before humans;
(j) They can show the emotion of joy.
Why did Mark not write of the ultimate defeat of Satan in the desert?
It is significant that Mark does not report the victory of Jesus over Satan, nor the end of the temptation. It is the evangelist’s distinctive understanding that Jesus did not win the decisive victory during the forty days nor did he cease to be tempted. Jesus is thrust into the wilderness in order to be confronted with Satan and temptation. It is the confrontation which is itself important, since it is sustained throughout Jesus’s ministry.
And sure enough, Mark writes often of demons confronting Jesus, or Jesus confronting them. A few examples: when Jesus sends out the apostles, he gives them authority to expel demons (3:15). Healing is not mentioned in the commissioning (though it is in Matthew and Luke). As we shall see, in Mark 1 Jesus confronted a man with a defiling or unclean spirit (vv. 21-28). The crowd marveled that he could command demons (v. 27). In Mark’s first summary statement, Jesus is recorded as expelling many demons (v. 34). Even Christ’s defeat of Satan on the cross (Col. 3:14-15) has to be continually fought for and sustained, until the Second Coming.
GrowApp for Mark 1:12-13
A.. Study Jas. 4:7. What is the best way to resist Satan?
Jesus Begins His Ministry in Galilee (Mark 1:14-15)
14 After John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, 15 saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has drawn near! Repent and believe in the good news!”
Jesus begins his Galilee ministry, which France says is a major section in Mark’s Gospel. You can come up with your own outline, if you wish.
John was arrested and put in prison for preaching against Herod Antipas, who had married his brother Philip’s wife Herodias. He was beheaded. Jump ahead to Mark 6:14-29 to find out the sordid story of the unjust plot against John.
The Greek verb for arrested can just as easily be translated as “handed over” or “betrayed.” The verb will be used about Jesus when he predicts his own arrest or is actually arrested (3:19; 9:31; 10:33; 14:10, 11, 21, 41, 42, 44; 15:1, 15). The opposition to John and his cousin Jesus is of one piece.
Now Jesus has embarked on his ministry. It is launched.
“good news”: see v. 1 for more comments. It is the good news about God. That is the objective genitive—the good news proclaims God. Or it could be subjective: God is the source of the gospel. Answer: it is both subjective (God is the source of the gospel) and it is objective (the gospel is about God).
The time is fulfilled: this is in the passive voice, and Jesus is the one fulfilling the season.
The noun here is kairos (pronounced kye-ross and is used 85 times), which speaks more of a quality time than quantity. BDAG defines the noun as follows: (1) a point of time or period of time, time, period, frequently with the implication of being especially fit for something and without emphasis on precise chronology. (a) Generally a welcome time or difficult time … fruitful times; (b) a moment or period as especially appropriate the right, proper, favorable time … at the right time; (2) a defined period for an event, definite, fixed time (e.g. period of fasting or mourning in accord with the changes in season), in due time (Gal. 6:9); (3) a period characterized by some aspect of special crisis, time; (a) generally the present time (Rom. 13:11; 12:11); (b) One of the chief terms relating to the endtime … the time of crisis, the last times.
All of this stand in a mild contrast—not a sharp contrast—from chronos, another word for time in Greek: chronos (pronounced khro-noss), which measures one day, one week or one month after another.
Here kairos means the right quality of time, when Jesus began his ministry, right after his baptism.
“kingdom of God”: As will be noted in other verses that mention the kingdom in this commentary, the kingdom is God’s power, authority, rule, reign and sovereignty. He exerts all those things over all the universe but more specifically over the lives of people. It is his invisible realm, and throughout the Gospels Jesus is explaining and demonstrating what it looks like before their very eyes and ears. It is gradually being manifested from the realm of faith to the visible realm, but it is not political in the human sense. It is a secret kingdom because it does not enter humanity with trumpets blaring and full power and glory. This grand display will happen when Jesus comes back. In his first coming, it woos people to surrender to it. We can enter God’s kingdom by being born again (John 3:3, 5), by repenting (Matt. 4:17; Mark 1:5), by having the faith of children (Matt. 18:4; Mark 10:14-15), by being transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of the Son whom God loves (Col. 1:13), and by seeing their own poverty and need for the kingdom (Matt. 5:3; Luke 6:20; Jas. 2:5). The kingdom has already come in part at his First Coming, but not yet with full manifestation and glory and power until his Second Coming.
Here are some of my posts about the kingdom of God:
1 Introducing the Kingdom of God (first of a ten-part series)
I like this comment on v. 14, by Wessel and Strauss:
The kingdom has come near because the king is present. It has drawn near spatially (in Jesus’s person) and temporally (since it ushers in the events of the end). God’s reign is evident in Jesus’s healings, exorcisms, and nature miracles. His disciples experience the power of the kingdom—driving out demons and healing the sick—through his authority (5:7, 13). If the kingdom is directly related to the person of Jesus, then it is ultimately achieved through his death on the cross, the ransom for sins. The kingdom is realized not through conquest but through sacrifice. It will be consummated when he returns in power and glory.
So miracles and healings and exorcisms are signals that some of the kingdom is encroaching in our lives and in Satan’s territory. Wow. Perfectly said.
“repent”: it is the verb form of repentance. See vv. 4-5 for more comments.
“believe”: the verb is pisteuō (pronounced pea-stew-oh), and it is used 241 times. It means to “believe, be convinced of something.” In a more specific definition it goes in a direction: “to have faith in Christ or God” (Mounce p. 61). Believing (verb) and faith (noun) is very important to God. It is the language of heaven. We live on earth and by faith see the invisible world where God is. We must believe he exists; then we must exercise our faith to believe he loves us and intends to save us. We must have saving faith by trusting in Jesus and his finished work on the cross.
Forsaking All, I Trust Him
Let’s discuss the verb believe and the noun faith more deeply. It is the language of the kingdom of God. It is how God expects us to relate to him. It is the opposite of doubt, which is manifested in whining and complaining and fear. Instead, faith is, first, a gift that God has distributed to everyone (Rom. 12:3). Second, it is directional (Rom. 10:9-11; Acts 20:21). We cannot rightly have faith in faith. It must be faith in God through Christ. Third, faith in Christ is different from faith in one’s ability to follow God on one’s own. It is different from keeping hundreds of religious laws and rules. This is one of Luke’s main themes in Acts, culminating in the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15) and Paul’s ministry for the rest of Acts. Faith in Jesus over faith in law keeping. Fourth, there is faith as a set of beliefs and doctrines, which are built on Scripture (Acts 6:7). Fifth, there is also a surge of faith that is poured out and transmitted through the Spirit when people need it most (1 Cor. 12:9). It is one of the nine charismata or manifestations of grace (1 Cor 12:7-11). Sixth, one can build faith and starve doubt by feasting on Scripture and the words about Christ (Rom. 10:17).
Please see my word study on believe and faith:
It is interesting that Mark says, “Believe in the good news or the gospel.” “To ‘believe in’ something is to accept the truth value of the proposition (here summarized as ‘the gospel’) and to modify one’s thinking and behavior accordingly” (Decker, p. 19). The gospel must change you.
GrowApp for Mark 1:14-15
A.. Describe your repentance and faith in the gospel. What happened to you? How has it changed your life?
Jesus Calls Four Fishermen (Mark 1:16-20)
16 As he was going by the Lake of Galilee, he saw Simon and Simon’s brother Andrew, throwing their net into the lake; they were fishermen. 17 Jesus said to them, “Come, follow me, and I’ll make you become fishers of people.” 18 Instantly, they left their nets and followed him. 19 Going on ahead a little ways, he saw James, the son of Zebedee and his brother John, and they were in their boat preparing the nets. 20 Then he called them; and leaving their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, they departed after him.
These three men—Peter, James and John—will form the inner core of Jesus’s twelve apostles (see Matt. 17:1; 26:37). Apparently, he saw something in them that was special. Peter will turn out to be the lead apostle. Sidebar comment: I wonder how it would feel to be Peter’s brother, Andrew and not chosen to be the inner circle? Let’s hope Andrew admired him and was not jealous.
“Lake”: it is most often translated as “sea,” because of the Greek word, but the Shorter Lexicon offers the option of “lake.” And since the body of water in Galilee is a lake, I chose this term. The traditional title, “the Sea of Galilee,” to modern readers, makes no sense when they see it on an online map; the term is inaccurate. in his comment on the verse, France says that Num. 34:11 mentions the yam–kinneret, and the LXX uses the Greek word here in Mark (thalassa, pronounced thah-lahs-sah). Strauss adds Josh. 13:27. Luke correctly calls it the Lake of Galilee (5:1). The Septuagint (pronounced sep-TOO-ah-gent and abbreviated LXX) is a third to second century translation of the OT from Hebrew to Greek. And the bottom line is that Mark is following OT usage. He is not being ignorant and inaccurate—but he is conforming to the authoritative OT.
“Come, follow me”: Etiquette required the disciples of a rabbi to walk behind him, literally. That social reality is revealed in the Greek construction: “come after me.” People walk behind the leader. Discipleship means to follow Jesus. Jesus is following the example of Elijah and the calling of his disciple Elisha (1 Kings 19:19-21). “Rabbis did not call their followers; rather, the pupil adopted the teacher” (France). But Jesus is switching things up. He calls them.
Commentator Garland on “follow me”: “Prophets did not call people to follow themselves but to follow God (compare 1 Kings 19:19-21). The sages of Jesus’ day never called people to follow them, only to learn Torah from them. Jesus’s call of the disciples is therefore dramatically authoritative and matches the biblical pattern of God’s calling of humans: a command with a promise, which is followed by obedience (Gen. 12:1-4). The call so overpowers these disciples that their lives will never be the same again.”
Further, Jesus “makes” them become fishers of people. Apparently discipleship and teaching and reaching people is not done automatically. One has to be made a follower and leader.
“people”: it is the Greek noun anthrōpos (pronounced ahn-throw-poss), and even in the plural some interpreters say that it means only “men.” However, throughout the Greek written before and during the NT, in the plural it means people in general, including womankind (except rare cases). In the singular it can mean person, depending on the context (Matt. 4:4; 10:36; 12:11, 12; 12:43, 45; 15:11, 18). So a “person” or “people” or “men and women” (and so on) is almost always the most accurate translation: “people.”
Mark’s narrative is compressed. If you want to read an expanded version, go to Luke 5:1-11. In Luke’s version, the four men were business partners. In his version, Jesus performed a miracle of a catch of fish. That’s why Peter and Andrew and James and John were convinced to follow Jesus instantly.
When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus, saying, “Depart from me, because I am a sinful man, Lord!” 9 For fear overcame him and everyone with him at the catch of fish which they caught. 10 Likewise also for James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. (Luke 5:8-10, my translation)
No wonder they followed him instantly.
In Matt. 4:16, when Jesus launched his ministry, he was the great light. Light shining out of the soul and spirit of Jesus can draw people. They felt something coming from him. Add the miraculous catch of fish, and of course their response was “instant.”
I wonder, however, how Zebedee felt about his two sons leaving him with the fishing business. Sometimes people just have to make great sacrifices. It could be that Zebedee appreciated Jesus. Or it could be that Zebedee was surprised to see his sons walk on down the path near the lake, going out of sight.
His wife followed Jesus too, with other women from Galilee (Luke 8:2-3). On route to Jerusalem she asked Jesus if her two sons could sit on Jesus’s right and left hands, when he comes in his kingdom (10:35-45). Of course, he replied that he could not guarantee it. It was a mild rebuke or push back. Their mother went all the way to Jerusalem to see Jesus be crucified and then resurrected (Mark 15:40-41 // Matt. 27:56). She was bold and committed.
Strauss concludes the pericope (pronounced puh-RIH-koh-pea) or section or unit with this insight:
Discipleship is at a cost. In the closest OT parallel to this narrative, the call of Elisha by Elijah. Elisha asks and is (apparently) given permission to go back and say good-bye to his parents (1 Kings 19:19-21). In Mark’s narrative, James and John simply leave their father in the boat to follow Jesus immediately. This would have been shocking—even blasphemous—in a first-century context where honoring parents was among the greatest of values (Exod. 20:12; Deut. 5:16; Prov; 23:22 …).
Yet as we shall see throughout Mark’s Gospel, the demands of the kingdom are radical. They involve not only leaving wealth (10:21-24) and family (3:33-35; 10:29), but also denying yourself, taking up your cross (in death), and following him (8:34).
GrowApp for Mark 1:16-20
A.. Jesus called four fishermen. Have you ever stepped out in faith towards a new endeavor, a new calling from God? How about your conversion? Your service in church? Did your friends and family support or oppose you?
B.. What did you give up to follow Jesus?
Jesus Delivers a Man with Unclean Spirit (Mark 1:21-28)
21 They went into Capernaum and then on the Sabbath entered in the synagogue, and he was teaching. 22 They were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as having authority and not as the teachers of the law. 23 Suddenly a man with an unclean spirit was in their synagogue and cried out, 24 saying, “Go away and leave us alone, Jesus the Nazarene! Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” 25 Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Shut up and come out of him!” 26 Then the unclean spirit convulsed him, shouted with a loud voice, and came out of him. 27 Everyone was amazed, so that they asked each other, “What is this?” A new teaching with authority! He commands even unclean spirits, and they obey him!” 28 The report about him immediately went out everywhere in the whole region of Galilee.
Commentator France call this whole episode a “power encounter.”
Capernaum: Jesus temporarily adopted it as his new hometown (Mark 2:1). Scholars estimate that it ranged in population from 1000 to 10,000. A centurion lived there (Matt. 8:5) and a custom post was stationed there (Matt. 9:9), so it was an administrative center. So it was probably closer to 10,000 than to 1000. It was much larger than Nazareth. It was traditionally a Jewish town, unlike other towns in Galilee, which had been Hellenized (Greek culture) or Romanized (Roman administration).
When the four disciples followed him, he gave them instant lessons on teaching and deliverance. Jesus did keep the Sabbath and used the day of rest to teach on the synagogue. We don’t have to wonder what he was teaching, because we have records of his doctrine. Read the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7) and the parables in Matthew 13 and Mark in many places. Scholars estimate that half of Mark is teaching, though one gets the (wrong) impression that most of it is action.
“was teaching”: it could be translated as “began to teach.”
Jesus is using the Jewish custom of the “freedom of the synagogue” by invitation of its leaders. The speaker would exposit on a reading from the Law of Prophets. See Luke 4:15-30, where Jesus expounds on Is. 61:1-2. Paul made use of this custom, as well (see Acts 13:15).
Jesus was a Sabbath keeper in these early days, in order to be a good witness to his fellow Jews. Soon he will proclaim that the Son of Man is the Lord of the Sabbath (Mark 2:28). He owns it; it does not own him. Jesus came to set people free from the demands of ritual law (and Sabbath keeping is a ritual). But even throughout his ministry he still kept it, as this summary, representative verse spells out. His witness would have been destroyed if he flouted his liberty by gathering wood on the Sabbath. A man in the time of Moses was stoned to death for doing exactly that (Num. 15:32-36). But Jesus is about to walk on the border between Sabbath keeping and Sabbath breaking, as Jewish tradition defined the terms, by healing on that day (Mark 3:1-6). And he allowed his disciples, as they were going through a grain field, to pluck some grains and eat them. Pharisees objected (Matt. 12:1-8; Luke 6:1-5). Paul also proclaimed the liberty of humans over sacred days (Rom. 14:5). We will look at this issue when we get to these passages in Mark.
Please see my post retain:
In his comment on 1:21, Strauss writes of the order of service in a synagogue: (1) Prayers and readings from the Law and Prophets; (2) Oral translation of the Scriptures into Aramaic; (3) a homily or sermon; (4) and a closing benediction.
“teaching”: It is the verb didaskō (pronounced dee-dahs-koh, and our word didactic is related to it). The verb means to instruct or tell or teach (BDAG), sometimes in a formal setting like a classroom or another confined setting, other times in a casual setting. He spoke with authority, unlike the teachers of the law and Pharisees (Luke 4:32; Matt. 7:28-29). This is what the Spirit does through a surrendered heart and mind. It was his habit and custom to enter their synagogues and teach the people, or sometimes he taught by the lakeside. He combined a teaching and healing ministry. His insight into Scripture was profound. This is what the Spirit does through a surrendered heart and mind. Some Renewalists of the fiery variety don’t teach, but evangelize and shriek and freak, after they read one verse or two, and put on a show and tell, story after story. How much time do they put in to study the Word? Jesus had a full ministry: teaching, healing, miracles, and deliverances.
“astonished”: the verb is ekplēssō (pronounced ehk-play-soh), and it means to be so astonished or stunned that one is overwhelmed. BDAG says, “cause to be filled with amazement to the point of being overwhelmed, amaze, astound, overwhelm.” It would be amazing, stunning, and overwhelming to see such a powerful deliverance.
“teaching”: here it is the more formal didachē (pronounced dee-dah-khay or dih-dah-khay), so Jesus spent some time teaching formally in the synagogues. It makes me wonder whether the church in the U.S. and the world get adequate teaching. As noted, in America many preachers do a lot of yelling and shouting and displays of personality and shrieking and freaking and dancing and prancing. I wonder whether Jesus did any of that. I don’t think so. Yet he amazed the people with his teaching.
Let’s explore this Greek noun more thoroughly.
It is, as noted, the word didachē. BDAG is considered by many to be the authoritative lexicon of the Greek NT, and it defines the noun as follows: (1) “The activity of teaching, teaching, instruction”; (2) “the content of teaching, teaching.” Yes, the word is also used of Jesus’s teaching: Matt. 7:28; 22:33; Mark 1:22, 27; 4:2; 11:18; 12:38; Luke 4:32; John 7:16, 17; 18:19. And it is used of the apostolic teaching: Acts 2:42; 5:28; 13:12; 17:19; Rom. 6:17; 16:17; 1 Cor. 14:6, 26; 2 Tim. 4:2; Ti. 1:9; Heb. 6:2; 2 John 9 (twice), 10; Rev. 2:14, 15, 24.
Renewalists need much more instruction and doctrine than they are getting. Inspirational preaching about God fulfilling their hopes and dreams is insufficient. We need to discern the signs of the times or seasons (Matt. 16:3). We live in the time or season of the worldwide web. The people are getting bombarded with strange doctrines, on youtube (and other such platforms). These youtube “teachers” know how to edit things and put in clever colors and special effects, but they have not been appointed by God. They do not know how to do even basic research. They run roughshod over basic hermeneutical (interpretational) principles. These “teachers” do not seem to realize that they will be judged more severely (Jas. 3:1) and will have to render an account of their (self-appointed) “leadership” (Heb. 13:17). If they destroy God’s temple, God will (eventually) destroy them (1 Cor. 3:17).
Further, my impression is that the main platform speakers on TV whose budgets are big enough to put them on TV every day don’t even know the basics about doctrine. They couldn’t explain some aspects if they were asked (I admit I’m still learning basic doctrine). Why not? They are too busy being corporate managers and even Chief Executive Officers over large churches. They are not turning over the practical side of church leadership to their elders and deacons. They do not spend hours a day—all day, every day—studying nothing but Scriptures, with good ol’ commentaries. (Maybe this lite one can help.) They do not spend much time reading up on theology and doctrine. (Maybe my website can help, a little.)
An alternative and probably better translation of Eph. 4:11 reads: “Apostles, prophets, evangelists, and teaching pastors” or “pastoral teachers,” not “pastors and teachers,” as if they are two different categories. Do we have teaching pastors or management or corporate pastors who specialize in organizational leadership? Or do we have psychology pastors? These areas should be turned over to a team. The teaching pastors should do nothing but study Scripture and should have the bulk of the teaching time on Sunday morning and in other services.
We need to change our ways and follow Scripture, or else much of the church will spiritually diminish and be swept away by strange teachings. Yes, good ol’ fashioned theology and even a little apologetics about difficult passages is what the global Church needs. They need the basics—even on Sunday morning, delivered by teaching pastors, not corporate, inspirational pastors.
“teachers of the law”: They are also called scribes. You can read about them at this post, which places these groups in alphabetical order.
They were the Watchdogs of Theology and Behavior (David E. Garland, Luke: Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament [Zondervan, 2011], p. 243). The problem which Jesus had with them can be summed up in Eccl. 7:16: “Be not overly righteous.” He did not quote that verse, but to him they were much too enamored with the finer points of the law, while neglecting its spirit (Luke 11:37-52; Matt. 23:1-36). Instead, he quoted this verse from Hos. 6:6: “But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matt. 9:13; 12:7). Overdoing righteousness, believe it or not, can damage one’s relationship with God and others. Too self-focused.
In this context, teachers of the law consulted oral traditions or interpretations of the law handed down by other prominent teachers and rabbis. Then the teacher would agree or disagree or add his opinion to this or that interpretation. But when we read the Sermon on the Mount, in contrast, Jesus swept much of it aside. He acted as if he himself was the authority figure ushering in the kingdom of God. That is why they were astonished at his teaching.
“authority”: it is the noun exousia (pronounced ex-oo-see-ah), and it means, depending on the context: “right to act,” “freedom of choice,” “power, capability, might, power, authority, absolute power”; “power or authority exercised by rulers by virtue of their offices; official power; domain or jurisdiction, spiritual powers.”
The difference between authority and power is parallel to a policeman’s badge and his gun. The badge symbolizes his right to exercise his power through his gun, if necessary. The gun backs up his authority with power. But the distinction should not be pressed too hard, because exousia can also mean “power.” In any case, God through Jesus can distribute authority to his followers (Matt. 10:1; Mark 3:14; Luke 10:19; John 1:12). Jesus will give us authority even over the nations, if we overcome trials and persecution (Rev. 2:26). And he is about to distribute his power in Acts 2.
Please see my post about signs and wonders and miracles:
Never forget that you have his authority and power to live a victorious life over your personal flaws and sins and Satan. They no longer have power and authority over you; you have power and authority over them.
Strauss writes of the difference between rabbinic teaching and Jesus’s teaching:
Originality was not highly valued by the Jewish experts of Jesus’ day. Rather, they would pass down authoritative “traditions of the elders,” the wisdom of the ages. This material was in oral form in Jesus’s day but was eventually written down and codified in the Mishnah (c. A.D. 200) and later rabbinic works. The people are impressed by Jesus because he is not merely repeating traditions of elders, but is speaking with the authority of God.
William Lane has clear insight into the demonized man:
[The man’s] personality had been damaged to the point that the demonic power had usurped the center of his self and spoke through him. The disturbance which Jesus brings was expressed in the excited response of the man, who sensed in Jesus a threat to his very existence. His cry of terror, expressed in v. 24, is laden with the language of defense and resistance. The demoniac does not confess the dignity of Jesus, but uses the accepted terms of opposition in the attempt to disarm him.
The fact that the demon used the place name of hometown may indicate that the demon intended to cut Jesus down to size. “You come from an insignificant town no one’s ever heard of! You’re a nobody! What business do you have with me?” But then the demon circles back around to Jesus’s true identity. Sooner or later, people, even your opponents will understand who you really are: a son or daughter of God!
One of the striking features is that Jesus does not provide a “technique” to do exorcisms, so we either don’t build a system but learn as we go, or we use the absence of a technique to build one. In other words, when the text is silent, do we push in and fill in the blanks, or do we move on and let the silence remain without our novelties? I’m prone, however, to let the silence stand without pushing in. I let you decide what you do in your own situation.
“Go away and leave us alone!” It may point to an expression in the Septuagint, which could be rendered as I have it here: “Go away and leave us alone!” Or, “Why are you interfering with us?” (Josh. 22:24; Judg. 13:12; 2 Sam. 16:10; 19:22; 1 Kings 17:18; 2 Kings 3:13). The Septuagint should be authoritative and decisive in this verse. Alternatively, however, the phrase may emphasize the distance between Jesus and the demon. Therefore, it can also be translated, “What do we have to do with you?” Or “What do we have in common?” Or “What is it to us and to you?” Or “leave us alone!” (Decker, p. 27). Or I could add this expanded alternative: “Are you going to cross over into our jurisdiction, from you to us?” You can decide which translation is best.
“Have you come to destroy us?” It could be translated not as a question, but words of defeat: “You have come to destroy us!” This accords with 1 John 3:8 that says, “And the Son of God has appeared in order to loosen the works of the devil” (my translation). The verb “loosen” could also be translated as “destroy,” but they are different Greek verbs: v. 24: apollumi (pronounced ah-pol-loo-mee); 1 John 3:8: luō (loo-oh). One major purpose why Jesus came was to destroy the influence, power, and authority of the devil in people’s lives. This is the first passage where a demonic deliverance is mentioned in this Gospel, so it serves as a foreshadowing of the rest of Jesus’s ministry of the kingdom. Take it as paradigmatic.
Let’s explore appolumi further: it means, depending on the context: (1) “to cause or experience destruction (active voice) ruin, destroy”; (middle voice) “perish, be ruined”; (2) “to fail to obtain what one expects or anticipates, lose out on, lose”; (3) “to lose something that one already has or be separated from a normal connection, lose, be lost” (BDAG). The Shorter Lexicon adds “die.” Here it means destroy.
Wessel and Strauss on the demon’s question about destroying it or them (“us”): “Not only one demon but the whole demonic realm quakes in fear at the recognition that Jesus has come to conquer their realm and to rescue those enslaved by Satan. The inbreaking power of the kingdom of God will overwhelm the ramparts of Satan.”
The demons shouted out Jesus’ true identity because they lived in the spirit world and understood, somehow, that Jesus the Nazarene, the Holy One of God, had come to earth and was appointed to bring the kingdom of God, demanding that Satan loosen his grip on humanity, and to doom his dark kingdom, destining his ultimate defeat. That’s why the demon shouted, “You have come to destroy us (in particular)!” Or, as noted, “Have you come to destroy us (in particular)?” In any case, they sized him up and saw their defeat and destruction. He was (and is) Lord; they were (or are) not, even over that one person they possessed.
Commentator Strauss (summarized): the fact that the demon knows Jesus’s identity serves two purposes. First, it confirms and testifies to his identity. Demons knew the supernatural world and events, and they knew who he was. This will stand in contrast to Jesus’s human opponents, particularly the religious leaders, who don’t recognize him. Second, Jesus mission is a cosmic battle against spiritual forces of good and evil and the dominion of Satan against the kingdom of God.
“holy”: It means he was consecrated to God. But his holy consecration did not mean, however, that he was separated from the common people. He mixed in with them. That’s a lesson for us, too. Jesus was holy, while the evil spirit was defiled or unclean and was defiling his human host. That the better idea of “unclean”: yes, the demon is unclean, but it makes its human host unclean.
“rebuked”: it is the verb epitimaō (pronounced eh-pea-tee-mah-oh), and it means “rebuke, censure, warn,” and even “punish” (see Jude 9). In exorcisms it may have developed a specialized meaning, so one should use it, as Jesus did. Be authoritative. In any case, he has given us authority to tread on the devil (Mark 3:15; Luke 9:1 and 10:19).
“shut up!”: the verb is phimoō (pronounced fee-moh-oh), and it can mean to “muzzle,” as in a muzzled ox (1 Tim. 5:18; 1 Cor. 9:9); or figuratively “(put to) silence” (Matt. 22:34; 1 Pet. 2:15); passive voice: “be silenced, be silent” (Matt. 22:12; Mark 1:25; 4:39; Luke 4:35). And those verses are the only ones where this verb appears. Here it is in the command form. Command the demon. “Silence!” In this case, Jesus did not want the demon to reveal too soon who Jesus was. So you can tell a demon to shut up, if necessary, but the context here is not revealing too much about Jesus (see v. 34). But there’s another matter about not revealing too much of himself. Huge crowds gathered, which prevented local ministry (v. 45).
Jesus didn’t use props, incantations, rituals of any kind. He commanded the demon. That settles the matter (France). He was authoritative.
Some teachers say they can converse with demons, in order to find out why they refuse to go, why they have a root in the human, since Jesus asked the demon or demons for his or their name (Mark 5:9). I would never say no to this part of deliverance. I believe the mature believer must not follow a formula or ritual. However, do we have to take it so far and have a detailed conversation? No. But if it is necessary to ask an authoritative question, then do it. But a conversation? No.
So the demon threw (Luke 4:31-37) or convulsed (here in Mark’s Gospel) the poor man, soon to be a “rich” man because of his deliverance, right in the middle of the synagogue attenders.
Even though the man was convulsed by the power of the demon possessing him, the man was not physically harmed in the slightest or “at all” is another translation of Luke’s version. The verb is sparassō (pronounced spah-rah-ssoh), and it basically means “tearing.” The demon had to tear himself away from the human. Deep roots may have been sunk in the man’s soul.
It is good to know that when a person is delivered from demonic spirits, he suffers no bodily harm if the demon were to toss him on the floor. (I have heard of deliverances that do not harm the man or woman when they stiffened up and fell hard on the floor.) With such details, therefore, I conclude that Mark got this (true) story from a reliable transmitter of these early stories about Jesus’ ministry, from Peter (Mark 1:21-28).
Once again, see my post about deliverance for how a mature believer can deliver someone oppressed of the devil:
This verse sums up the synagogue goers’ astonishment: (1) a new teaching with authority (2) and his command over unclean spirits (3) who obey him. This shocked the audience, when they were used to Pharisees and teachers of the law coming into the synagogues and talking in zealous tones about the law. “Do this, but don’t do that!” They had no real authority in their voice or demeanor or spirit, and they certainly did not have Jesus’s Spirit-anointing. This is a sign of his being the Messiah, not just another Rabbi or teacher.
Once in a while, you will read a polemicist who says Jesus’s authority is not all that remarkable. In reply, however, commentator France quotes from a scholar who did a thorough search of the data in the ancient world:
Despite the great amount of material referring to exorcism / demons in the literature surveyed, there are very few narratives available. It is mainly in the NT, particularly in the Gospel of Mark, that most of the narratives are found.… Even fewer exorcistic figures, to whom exorcism stories are clearly ascribed, can be found. Of these, one is obviously a legendary figure (Solomon), another is apparently semi-legendary (Apollonius), still another is referred to only once (Eleazar), while another despite his fame for dealing with demons is never shown to be exorcizing a demon (Ḥanina). The only exorcistic figure in the extant literature to whom a number of exorcism stories are ascribed and related in detail is the biblical figure of Jesus of Nazareth.
What that excerpt says is that only Jesus is the exorcist with actual exorcisms attached to his name. So don’t listen to critics who try to diminish Jesus’s unique authority.
“new teaching”: it is the same word as teaching in v. 22. It can mean doctrine. It is mostly new, but he does fit in the flow of other teachers. It’s not as if he denies his historical context of first-century Israel, or floats around above it all. But he does make a break from it, generally and largely speaking.
Now his fame is growing rapidly. Deliverance and healing is the dinner bell that draws the crowd. Who can blame them? He has a successful healing and deliverance ministry, and people need help.
I like commentator Strauss’s observation on this whole pericope:
While Mark depicts Jesus’ mission as a war between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan, the outcome of this skirmish is not in doubt. The demon picks the fight, even challenging Jesus in the religious context of the Capernaum synagogue, but Jesus takes charge, commanding the demon’s departure. Unlike the Hellenistic magicians of his day, he does not cast spells or recite incantation; he doesn’t manipulate magical rings or mix potions. He merely speaks with authority and the demon obeys. This is a message the church today needs to hear. Satan’s authority is no match for the awesome power and presence of the kingdom of God (p. 94)
GrowApp for Mark 1:21-28
A.. Study Eph. 6:10-12. How can one prevent satanic attacks?
B.. Have you ever had to take authority over satanic attacks in your life? What did you do? What were the results?
Jesus Heals Peter’s Mother-in-Law and Many Others (Mark 1:29-34)
29 Afterwards, leaving the synagogue, they went into Simon and Andrew’s house, with James and John. 30 Simon’s mother-in-law was laid up with a fever, and then they spoke to him about her. 31 He came up to her and raised her up, taking hold of her hand. The fever left her, and she was serving them.
32 As evening came, when the sun was set, they were bringing to him everyone having illnesses and who were demonized. 33 Now the whole town was gathered at the door. 34 He healed many having illnesses and various diseases and expelled many demons and did not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.
Evidently, Jesus, along with Peter, Andrew, James and John left the synagogue and walked over to Peter’s and Andrew’s house. That must have been a silent walk, after they saw a demon manifest and expelled. They too must have been astonished, since they were new to all of it.
“taking hold of”: it could probably be translated as “gripping,” for the verb is very strong. I get the impression that he raised her up with his hand. And one can only lift a person with a strong grip.
Jesus again touched the sick person. Luke says he rebuked the fever (4:38). Merely touching or rebuking or doing both resulted in healing. The healing was instant. Sometimes you just have to touch the sick person in a discreet way. One thing no one should do is push the forehead back, so the person feels pressure to fall. I have seen this foolishness over and over again. That appears manipulative and fake. It is wrong. Let the power of God fall, sovereignly (1 Kings 8:10-11).
“left”: it is the verb meaning to “release” or “let go.” As he took hold of or gripped her hand, the fever loosed its grip on her, so to speak.
The sun going down indicates that people brought the sick to be healed after the Sabbath day, though usually one waits until after the sun set and then added one hour, just to be sure. They would not even carry their sick relatives to be healed on the Sabbath, but they pushed the minute by minute timeline a bit sooner! The people were badly taught. They should have brought the sick on the Sabbath day.
“having illnesses”: this phrase can literally read “having badly,” but of course this makes no sense to modern readers. So everyone agrees to translate as I did or something similar like “having sicknesses.”
The picture is that the relatives of those who were weakened with various diseases brought them to him. It is moving to think of them lifting and carrying and shouldering those weakened by diseases. Maybe one of them was so disabled that they had to carry him on a stretcher. Maybe one of them had a high fever, like Simon’s mother-in-law, and he could barely make it. Maybe one of them was injured on the job, like a stonemason who had a stone land on his foot, and now he could no longer work for a long time.
“demonized”: the one verb is translated simply. There are two main ways in the Greek NT to express demonic attacks to varying degrees, from full possession to just attacks: “have a demon” and “demonized.” The latter term is used often in Matthew: 4:24; 8:16, 28, 35; 9:32; 12:22; 15:22, but only once in Luke (8:36), and Mark four times (1:32; 5:15, 16, 18). John uses the term once (10:21). In Luke 8:26-39, Luke uses both “have a demon” and “demonized,” so he sees the terms synonymously. “Demonized” comes from the verb daimonizomai (pronounced dy-mo-nee-zo-my), which just adds the suffix –izo to the noun daimōn (pronounced dy-moan). It is a very convenient quality about Greek (English has this ability too: modern to modernize). Just add this prefix to a noun, and it turns into a verb. So it looks like “have a demon” and “be demonized” are synonyms. The context determines how severe the possession is. In this verse it is used generally, without precision as to the depth of possession.
Whatever the case, the answer was the same: deliverance by the power and authority of Jesus.
The whole town of Capernaum means that thousands were there. He could draw a crowd, which sometimes hindered his ministry in small areas like a town (Luke 4:42). Don’t let crowds restrict your ministry–or inflate your ego.
“healed”: the verb is therapeuō (pronounced thair-ah-pew-oh, our word therapy is related to it), and it means to “make whole, restore, heal, cure, care for.”
“many”: “The term ‘many,’ in the statement that Jesus healed ‘many that were sick,’ is used inclusively and is equivalent to the ‘all’ of v. 32; it reflects upon the large number of those who came for healing” (Lane). Garland agrees: “The ‘many’ is a Semitism for the ‘all’ (see 10:45: cf. Matt. 8:16; Luke 4:40)” (p. 73, note 13). Note that Jesus expelled “many” demons. That is also inclusive, meaning “all.” It is not likely that some demons were not expelled, just “many” were. No. He expelled them all.
“various”: it is the adjective poikilos (pronounced poi-kee-loss), and it means “various kinds, diversified, manifold.” So Jesus healed all different kinds of diseases. This statement reveals that no physical weakness or illness stands in his way. No disease is too hard for him.
“diseases”: it is the noun nosos (pronounced no-soss), and BDAG says it means (1) “physical malady, disease, illness”; (2) “moral malady, disease.” In the Greek written long before the NT (and during NT times), it means (1) “sickness, disease, malady” (2) “distress, misery, suffering, sorrow, evil, disease of mind” (Liddell and Scott). Don’t be afraid to pray against diseases of the mind or moral diseases. Pray, and watch God work in your mind or your child’s mind! Here, however, it just means physical diseases.
The demons knew who he was (v. 24). He was the Son of God and Messiah, the Anointed One with an eternal relationship of Sonship with the Father. Messiah and the Son of God are synonymous titles here.
See v. 1 for a quick study of “Son of God” and then click on these posts:
Why did Jesus command the demons to shut up and not reveal who he was? He did not want their dark endorsement; revealing who he was too soon would raise the wrong expectations of what the Messiah should do and who he should be, as the people defined the terms. And he was not going to be the Conquering Military Messiah, but the Messiah who became the Passover Lamb who sacrificed for us and initiated the New Covenant.
Lane writes of Jesus commanding demons not to speak:
The reference to the demons who knew Jesus is general, but intelligible in the light of the encounter with demonic possession reported in Ch. 1:23-26. In that instance Jesus was recognized as the divine Son, the Bearer of the Holy Spirit. As earlier he had muzzled the defensive cry of the unclean spirit, here he silences their shrieks of recognition, for they are powerless before him.
Luke 4:41, the parallel verse, says that they demons knew that he was the Messiah.
GrowApp for Mark 1:29-34
A.. Family relationships: Peter’s mother-in-law was in need, and someone told him about her. Do you know anyone with a moral or bodily sickness and told Jesus about him or her? In other words, have you prayed for him or her?
Jesus Goes on a Preaching Tour (Mark 1:35-39)
35 And early in the morning, while it was very dark, he went out and departed into an isolated place, and he was praying there. 36 Then Simon, with the others, pursued him. 37 They found him and said to him, “Everyone is looking for you.” 38 He said to them, “Let’s go elsewhere into neighboring market towns, so that I may preach there also, for I have come for this.” 39 He went into all of Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and expelling demons.
Jesus, the Son of God, had to maintain his prayer life. How much more should we find an isolated place to pray. Remove yourself from the distractions and seek God.
12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. 13 You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile. (Jer. 29:12-14, ESV)
Those promises were originally written to the exiles to Babylon, but all the good promises in the OT apply to us (2 Cor. 1:20). Don’t let any online teacher tell you otherwise and take those promises away from you.
For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. (2 Cor. 1:20, ESV)
In this context, the promises are from the OT and the promise of Jesus Christ.
Peter takes charge and interrupts Jesus’s prayer time. One has to admire and chuckle at Peter. He was not shy. His personality was a force of nature. Peter tells Jesus that he has to get a move on because everyone is looking for him. Too bold, Peter, too bold! Jesus didn’t scold him, however. Nor should we. In fact, we should take some comfort from Peter’s missteps, because we do the same thing in our relationship with God. Thankfully, he is the one in charge, and he does what he wants.
Yet, Jesus does get up from his place of prayer and tells Peter that he and they have to go elsewhere. Luke 4:42 says that the crowds hindered him from leaving them. He will not be confined by the crowds.
“for this”: it means “for this purpose.” Purpose is implied in the pronoun “this.” He was on a mission; he had a purpose. What about your purpose? We all have a purpose. How do we find it? In my experience it comes in a variety of ways, but mostly it grows on you and then over time God leads you to grow up into it.
“I have come”: could be translated as “come out.” In other words, he is making his debut. But Decker argues that this is a deeper verse than it first appears. It is about his mission and even his incarnation, which means the Son of God came down from heaven and entered a human body. Jesus had a purpose.
“market towns”: Commentator France writes of this term employed by Mark that it appears only here in the NT. It is between a village and a city. Mark seems to have a hierarchy. Jerusalem and Geresa (?) are correctly cities (5:14; 11:19); while Bethsaida and Bethphage (?) are villages (8:23; 11:2). However, in general statements about settlements in Galilee he can use “cities” (1:45; 6:33), sometimes “villages” (6:6) and even the comprehensive words “villages,” “cities” and “farming communities” (6:56). So here in Jesus’s mission statement, he is temporarily leaving centers of influence (Capernaum) and going into a “grassroots” ministry (France pp. 112-13).
And here we have preaching and demon expulsion, combined. This is amazing to me, because demon expulsion is mentioned in an offhand manner. It is part and parcel of the preaching of the gospel. No wonder people used to say, back in the late 1970s and 1980s, that signs and wonders were missing from the church and must be restored.
We have to combine preaching or proclaiming and then have signs and wonders. When just signs and wonders are done by street evangelists, they miss the teaching element. Let’s hope that Matt. 12:43-45 and Luke 11:24-26 doesn’t take effect. Those parallel passages say that after a demon is expelled, he goes out and looks for seven more demons to repossess the body, and the latter condition is worse than before, for the delivered person. People need to be filled with the Spirit, the Word and fellowship, after their deliverance.
GrowApp for Mark 1:35-39
A.. Jesus had a purpose. What is yours?
Jesus Cleanses a Leper (Mark 1:40-45)
40 Next, a leper came to him, begging him and kneeling and saying to him, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” 41 Moved with compassion and stretching of his hand, Jesus touched him and said to him, “I’m willing. Be cleansed.” 42 And instantly the leprosy departed, and he was cleansed. 43 Jesus sternly warned him and quickly sent him away 44 and said to him, “See to it that you say nothing to anyone, but go and show yourself to the priest, and for your cleansing bring what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them. 45 But he left and began to proclaim freely and spread the news widely, so that Jesus was no longer able to go into a city openly, but he was outside in isolated places. They came to him from everywhere.
France says v. 40 initiates the controversial aspect of Jesus’s ministry, to Mark 3:6.
The standard translation is leprosy, and healing this disease was one of the signs that the Messiah had come. Scholars nowadays say the word was generic for skin diseases (Hansen’s disease). Let’s call the man a “leper” for convenience.
A leper was required by law to wear torn clothes, let his hair be unkempt, cover the lower part of his face, and, as noted, cry out “Unclean! Unclean!” in order not to contaminate someone else (Lev. 13:45).
45 “Anyone with such a defiling disease must wear torn clothes, let their hair be unkempt, cover the lower part of their face and cry out, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ 46 As long as they have the disease they remain unclean. They must live alone; they must live outside the camp. (Lev. 13:45-46, NIV)
See my posts on skin disease and mold:
Give the leper credit. He did show humility. Would Jesus be willing? Of course.
Jesus’s response was perfect. He reached out his hand and touched him. Through servants God did that in the OT: Exod. 3:20; 6:6; 7:15; 9:15; 15:12; Deut. 4:34; 5:15; 7:19; 11:2; 2 Kings 17:36; Ps. 136:12; Jer. 32:21). Jesus was simply following his Father’s example. It was bold and courageous to touch this unclean man. One reason that a leper was required to call out “Unclean! Unclean!” is that he must not touch and so defile anyone else. The leper did not touch Jesus; Jesus touched him, unconcerned for his own health. How could a skin disease get transferred to Jesus when he had healing power flowing from him? This power pushed the disease backwards. He was the healing Lord, not the possible victim.
“moved with compassion”: Jesus was moved with compassion. The verb could be translated as “felt compassion,” but this attribute which God shares with us cannot remain static or unexpressed. It has to be active, or else it cannot be compassion.
Let’s explore the verb and the related noun more deeply. The verb is splanchnizomai (pronounced splankh-nee-zoh-my) and is used 12 times, exclusively in the Gospels. “It describes the compassion Jesus had for those he saw in difficulty” (Mounce, New Expository Dictionary, p. 128). BDAG defines the verb simply: “have pity, feel sympathy.”
BDAG further says the noun splanchnon (pronounced splankh-non) is related to the inward part of the body, especially the viscera, inward parts, entrails. But some update their translation with the noun as “heart.” So the verb is also related to the inward parts of a person. It could be translated as “Jesus felt compassion in the depths of his heart.”
As an important side note, in Hebrew the verb raḥam (pronounced rakh-am, and used 47 times) means “to have compassion on, show mercy, take pity on and show love.” The noun raḥamim (39 times) (pronounced rach’meem) means “compassion, mercy, pity.” Both words are related to the word for “womb,” when a woman feels close to and love for the human life growing there. It’s deep in God, too.
People need shepherds today, and thank God there are numerous ones out there nowadays. But the need is still great.
I don’t want to get into this controversy deeply, but NT scholar Bart Ehrman wrote an article about the leper being in the hands of an angry Jesus because some manuscripts have “being angry” instead of “moved with compassion” (Ehrman’s title is modeled on Puritan Jonathan Edwards’ sermon titled “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”). I recommend you google William Mounce’s blog and read his short post about the dispute. In any case, I went with UBS Greek NT, fifth ed., and it says “moved with compassion.” It is not as if Mark is reluctant to write that Jesus could be angry (3:5) or indignant (10:14), but it does not seem right here. Neither Matthew nor Luke mention anger or any emotion at all (Matt. 8:3; Luke 5:13). I think it’s best, for our purposes, to let the other two Gospel writers settle it.
“sent him away”: it is the verb ekballō (pronounced ehk-bahl-loh), and by the time the NT was written it has a variety or meanings. It does not always mean expel or cast out (BDAG). So Ehrman is wrong about that, too.
Back to the “compassion v. anger” dispute.
Strauss states that Jesus expressed anger or indignation, but not against the man because Jesus was about to stretch out his hand and touch him. Instead Jesus was angry at “the ravaging effects of the disease and (especially) of the social and religious ostracism that it is causing. Mark’s Gospel portrays Jesus as God’s authoritative agent of salvation, doing battle with disease, death, and the devil. It is not surprising that he would show some disdain for disease, the result of a sinful and fallen world, that he does for Satan’s evil forces” (p. 112).
Lane on Jesus’s indignation:
… [A]nger can be understood as an expression of righteous indignation at the ravages of sin, disease, and death which take their toll even upon the living, a toll particularly evident in a leper. As such, Jesus’s encounter with the leper brings him once more into the sphere of the demonic. It is, perhaps, in this perspective that elements in the narrative which see more appropriate to an exorcism narrative than to an account of healing are to be explained.
“I am willing”: this could be simply translated, “I want to.” Now the question comes up, Is Jesus willing to heal my sickness? And the answer is that we have to begin our prayers of healing, as if God is willing. Then this question comes up: then why did God not heal my loved one? He died! Answer: we live on planet earth, and disease temporarily has a right to live down here, because it is a natural thing; it works by the laws of nature, and nature is terribly flawed. (Later on, when God brings in a new heaven and new earth, diseases won’t be allowed to live there.)
See my post
“Be clean”: it is a command, not a statement. Jesus commanded the skin disease to leave. Often you have to command diseases.
But these nonanswers to prayers for healing (down here on earth) discussed in v. 41 do not apply here in v. 42. His leprosy or skin disease instantly left. Wonderful! Let’s expect God to chase away diseases, not fret over whether he is willing. I say fight all diseases in prayer, until the sick person is healed in his body or healed with his heavenly body, after he dies. In my experience, sometimes the Spirit will whisper to you to pray for peace and not healing, for God is taking the sick person home. But until you get this whisper, fight to the very end in prayer!
Why did Jesus tell him not to report the healing to anyone, when a large crowd saw the healing? He sent the healed man back to his hometown.
Why did Jesus command him not to tell others? He did not want to excite popular hysteria about his miraculous works. He downplayed the miracles (Luke 4:35, 41; 8:56; Matt. 9:30; 12:16; Mark 1:34; 3:12; 5:43; 7:36; 8:26). He really wanted to teach. Miracles are the sign that back up teaching. Teaching is the main thing. Miracles without kingdom and Bible teaching is just a show.
Let’s explore more deeply the command not to proclaim it further.
First, Jesus simply wanted to spread the message his way without the false expectations from “noninformed” people. Second, the exuberant expectation from the masses may spark an insurrection, which would hinder his message and his mission: to proclaim the kingdom of God, backed up by sings and wonders. People had to learn about his Messiahship through their thirst and hunger for the knowledge of God. They had to connect the dots. This is one of the purposes of teaching in parables. Only the hungry seekers could understand.
Let’s talk about the signs of the Messiah or the Messianic Age, to find out which dots the people had to connect.
As I note in various places throughout the commentary on the Gospels, one sign of the Messianic Age was the healing of diseases and broken bodies. Is. 35 describes this age. After God comes with a vengeance to rescue his people, these things will happen:
“Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy” (Is. 35:5-6).
Is. 26:19 says of the Messianic Age: “But your dead will live, LORD, their bodies will rise—let those who dwell in the dust wake up and shout with joy” (Is. 26:19, NIV).
The phrase “in that day” refers to the age that the Messiah ushers in: “In that day the deaf will hear the words of the scroll and out of gloom and darkness the eyes will see” (Is. 29:18, NIV).
The Lord’s Chosen Servant will do many things. Here are some: “I am the LORD: I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you; I will give you as a covenant for my people, a light for the nations, to open they eyes that are blind, to bring the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness” (Is. 42:6-7, ESV). Is. 42:18 connects hearing and seeing with walking in God’s ways, and deafness and blindness with national judgment. As for leprosy, Jesus referred to the time when Elijah the prophet healed Namaan the Syrian of his skin disease, and the return of Elijah was a sign that the Messiah was here (Mal. 4:5-6; Luke 9:28-36).
The offering for recovery from skin disease was two live kosher birds and other items (Lev. 14:4-6). Then the cleansed person has to shave all his hair and beard, wash his clothes, and take a bath (v. 9). Later they must offer two male lambs and one-year-old ewe lamb and other items. Together they must have been expensive, and the leper could not work, so he must have had grateful relatives who supplied him with the offerings.
On Jesus’s stern warning, Wessel and Strauss offer this colloquial, expanded translation: “Now listen, and listen good. Get to the priest immediately, and don’t tell anyone about this!” Jesus was not afraid to issue commands. But he was also compassionate and kind.
“for a testimony to them”: France suggest that “testimony” is a confrontation against the temple system and priests. The chief priests will be the main opponents of Jesus, later on (cf. Mark 13:9). However, I like Strauss’s interpretation better. He says that the testimony is evidence or proof that the man was truly healed and could be restored to society. That’s much more streamlined. But who knows? Maybe the testimony is about both confrontation and restoration.
For us today, however, it is all right to tell the priest—a doctor today—that God healed you. Let him take the x-rays and examine your blood and other things. Then he will see that you are healed. It is your miracle testimony to him.
One last comment on v. 44: Jesus followed the law of Moses about offerings before he died on the cross (though no record says that he offered any sacrifices). It is a sure thing that when he was resurrected and healed people with skin diseases through his disciples, he never told the healed persons to go to the temple and offer the sacrifices prescribed by Moses. The gospel was going out across their known world, far outside tiny Israel. There was no longer any need for the Levitical temple system, which was put under God’s judgment and was destroyed by the Romans in A.D. 70 (Luke 19:41-45; 21:20-24; 23:26-31; Matt. 21:33-45).
Progressive revelation is a fact of the Bible. Moral law from the Old is retained in the New, but rituals and harsh penalties and ceremonies and dietary laws (and so on) are not retained. Please interpret Scripture clearly and properly, in its historical context.
Once again, see my post:
Many famous TV Bible teachers seem awfully confused about what to bring forward from the Old to the New. The “Hebrew Roots Movement” is also unclear about this. I hope the above link clarifies matters.
Also see here:
I love the healed man’s enthusiasm, but it was misdirected and built on disobedience. He should have done what Jesus told him. As a result, Jesus was being mobbed or at least crowded out, so that he could not enter a city openly. His ministry was hindered, so once again (v. 38) he had to go out to isolated places and let people come to him. He must have stood on a high place, like a ledge or mound, and preached. Then he healed and expelled demons (v. 39).
Lane concludes this pericope (section or unit) with this sharp insight:
The pericope establishes the surpassing nature of the salvation Jesus brings, for while the Law of Moses provided for the ritual purification of a leper, it was powerless to actually purge a man of the disease. In all of the OT only twice is it recorded that God had healed a leper (Num. 12:10-16; 2 Kings 5:1-14), and the rabbis affirmed that it was as difficult to heal the leper as to raise the dead. The cleansing of the leper indicates the new character of God’s action in bringing Jesus among men. Salvation transcends cultic [temple] and ritual regulations, which were powerless to arrest the hold that death had upon the living, and issues in radical healing (p. 89)
Yes, Jesus heals; the law does not. Jesus brings in the new kingdom; the law does not. Jesus brings in the new era of salvation; the law does not.
GrowApp for Mark 1:40-45
A.. Jesus healed a man of outward uncleanness. Has he cleansed your soul of moral uncleanness? What about you body from a disease? Tell your story.
Summary and Conclusion
Mark 1 is filled with short pericopae (plural of pericope, or you can just say pericopes), so it is difficult to summarize it (at least for me it is). I marvel at the professional commentators who fill many pages with deep insight.
But let me take a shot at it in a short form.
John the Baptist takes center stage but just for a moment. He will usher in the Messiah, and then his ministry will be over. It must have been tough for the fiery prophet to yield up his ministry to his cousin. Fortunately, his cousin Jesus was the stronger and more powerful one, so John handed over the lead to him.
Jesus was baptized to launch his ministry. He had to learn, first, that they way up was down, and then God was about to exalt him. So submitting to his cousin was a test for himself. He passed.
The Spirit propelled Jesus to go out and be tested in the wilderness, which speaks of the testing of Israel in the wilderness for forty years. It introduces us to the spiritual battles that Jesus is about to wage against Satan. In every case, Jesus defeated Satan. We too can defeat him in our lives.
Jesus message was simple in the beginning. The kingdom of God has drawn near, so repent and believe. Repent means a heart-and-mind change. It also means to turn one hundred and eighty degrees. You were going one way, and now you are going in the opposite direction—the right direction.
Peter, Andrew, James and John gave up their entire lives to follow Jesus. Discipleship means to give up a lot, like drugs and alcohol and selfishness! He may even call us to go in a new direction, like those four men and many others did.
And now come the first confrontation with a evil spirit. Jesus commanded it to shut up and leave. “Silence! And come out of him!” You have to command demons, not beg them or plead with them. Be authoritative, using the name of Jesus as the source of your authority, not you own fake, gingered up authority.
Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law, by rebuking the fever (Luke 4:39). Diseases can also be rebuked. He also held (or gripped) her hand and lifted her up. Don’t be afraid to touch someone and lift her up. I saw a pastor lift a woman from a wheelchair. I don’t think she was healed just then (she may have been healed later), but I like how he followed Scripture. Action often accompanies prayer for healing.
Then Jesus heals many and expels demons out of many. “Many” in this context means “all,” for it is not likely that some demons remained behind in a few of the people! We should not always read “many” literally in the Gospel. It can mean “all” in many (!) contexts.
Jesus went out to pray, yet Peter interrupted his prayer time because people wanted to be healed, in Capernaum. Jesus got up from his place of prayer in an isolated spot, but said he had to leave his adopted hometown, for he was sent to preach there. So it looks like he did not go back into town, but left the people there, in need. Don’t restrict Jesus to your little church and pet doctrines. He ministers to everyone. There is a real lesson there. He does not answer your prayer when you say so or dictate the terms.
Finally, Jesus healed a man with skin disease (Hansen’s disease). He commanded the healing. “Be cleansed!” Once again, command diseases, in Jesus’s name.
As a life-long learner, I refer to a community of Bible teachers. Excellent. Admirable. But too technical for the laity, so I tried to simplify things.
Decker, Rodney J. Mark 1-8: A Handbook on the Greek Text (Baylor UP, 2014).
France, R. T. The Gospel of Mark: A Commentary on the Greek Text (Eerdmans, 2002).
Garland, David E. Mark: The NIV Application Commentary (Zondervan, 1996).
Lane, William L. Mark: The English Text with Introduction, Exposition, and Notes (Eerdmans, 1974).
Strauss, Mark L. Mark: Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Zondervan, 2014).
The Greek New Testament. Fifth Revised Edition by Barbara Aland, Kurt Aland, Johannes Karavidopoulos, Carlo M. Martini, Bruce M. Metzger (United Bible Society, 1993).
Wessel, Walter W. and Mark L. Strauss. Mark: The Bible’s Expositor’s Commentary, Vol. 9, Rev. ed. (Zondervan 2010).