The Gospels

(Volume 5 of the Numerical Bible: The Fifth Pentateuch of the Bible)

F. W. Grant.

Mark

Division 3. (Mark 10:46 ― 16.)

The Heart of Service revealed in Sacrifice, answered from the Heart of God in Resurrection and the Ascension to Heaven of the Offerer.

The closing division of the book shows us the Lord's service perfected in His sacrificial death, the acceptance of which is seen in resurrection. But Mark goes beyond this, and further than any of the Gospels, following Him into heaven itself, ― to the right hand of God. The connection of this with the sin-offering aspect of the atoning work, as here presented to us, we must consider at another time.

The Cross and the resurrection give us characteristically the second and third subdivisions here. The first, as introductory to these, takes us back (as at this point do all the Gospels) to Matthew's view of the King, come to His own and rejected by them; the connection of which with what follows it is plain, when we realize that in this not only Israel's condition but that of the world as a whole is seen, the sin of man in its full development, for which the cross of Christ is the only possible remedy. Thus the three parts of this last division are in fit relation to one another, and form a significant whole.

Subdivision 1. (Mark 10:46 ― 13.)

The King.

The first subdivision has also its three parts. The first of these has its central significance in the barren fig-tree, which the Lord curses for its barrenness, a figure scarcely to be mistaken by any who look below the surface, and which in Mark is woven together with the story of His purification of the temple, His Father's house. Israel, alas, for this had to be driven out of that which they had profaned. The "Canaanite (or merchantman) in the house of the Lord" had found in the favored people of God its sorrowful fulfilment.

The second part shows us, along with their hostility to the Lord, His judgment in detail of their condition. This comes out in His answers to their various and evil-designing questions and efforts to entangle Him in His talk, ― efforts which end for them in disastrous confusion. He closes it with His unanswerable question to them with regard to David's Son; and then denounces to the people the heartless and ostentatious religiousness of the scribes.

The third part announces (for disciples, ears alone) the coming of the rejected Son of man in glory, to deliver His believing people out of the great final tribulation into which the nation has come because, rejecting Him who came to them in His Father's name, they have received him who comes in his own.

The connection all through, as generally in Mark, is close and intimate with Matthew's Gospel; Mark, however, omitting much, especially of the dispensational details, as the marriage of the King's son; and in the prophecy of the final scenes, all that has reference to the Church and to the judgment of the nations, the separation of the sheep from the goats.

1.(1) In the three synoptic Gospels alike, the Lord's presentation of Himself to the people as their King is prefaced by the miracle at Jericho, which is expressly wrought in answer to an appeal to Him as Son of David. Matthew mentions two blind men, but Mark only one, whose name he (and not Matthew) gives. Bartimaeus is simply the son of Timaeus, so that he gets his personal name from his relationship. Timaeus is in Greek,* "one that is prized," and "the son of one that is prized" would well represent the state of Israel in her blindness of unbelief still "beloved for the fathers, sakes" (Rom. 11:28). It is surely a striking name for one whom we have already looked at as on other grounds (see notes on Matt. 20:29-34) foreshadowing the remnant of Israel in days to come, when. God is preparing the way of His King to come to Zion. They need and will find, spite of the opposition of the mass by whom they are surrounded, in Jesus of Nazareth, One who is sent to "preach recovering of sight to the blind" (Luke 4:18). To Him they will come, "casting away the garment" of religious self-righteousness, which has been ever the hindrance with the people to whom they belong. They will receive sight and follow Jesus.

{*A Greek name need scarcely be a difficulty, where Greek had been almost the common language for so many years, and where Peter, Andrew, Philip, Nicodemus, Stephen, are all Greek. Its being Greek (the common synonym of Gentile) is in fact spiritually significant, Israel's father Abraham, God's Timaeus, having been called in uncircumcision, according to the apostle's argument in Rom. 4.}

Such spiritual sight given in Jericho, the world under the curse, into which Christ has come, and which still converts blind beggars into joyful followers of the Lord, is even now His witness. He had to come under this curse to redeem us from it, and the deliverance at Jericho, may well be the pledge of His victory at Jerusalem and elsewhere, though He go to present rejection at the hands of men. The blessed Servant has anticipated it all, and sees with no uncertainty the path before Him. That very rejection shall only give Him occasion for deeper service.

(2) So they come near to Jerusalem, to Bethphage (the "house of unripe figs") and Bethany (the "house of affliction" or "humiliation")* significant names both for Him; and now He sends two of His disciples to bring to Him the colt upon which He is to ride, proclaiming His Kingdom of peace, into Jerusalem. Mark, as little as possible touching the dispensational side of things, omits from his account the mother ass (see Matthew). The acclamations of the multitude hail the "coming kingdom of our father David." There seems at present no opposition. He simply enters Jerusalem, goes into the temple and looks round upon all things there. Then, it being now evening, He withdraws and goes out to Bethany.

{*More generally taken now as "house of dates," but quite conjecturally.}

Matthew does not notice this first visit of silent contemplation on the Lord's part, but puts the cleansing of the temple, which did not really take place till the next day, in connection with the triumphal entry. This has of course been charged upon him as a discrepancy. It is in fact the substitution of an order of thought for the order of time; and this is not infrequent in the Gospels.

This simple looking round upon everything and then turning the back upon it is very solemn. It is not judgment that is inflicted, but He finds nothing to His satisfaction, and leaves it to them, and leaves them with it. His own personal position is outside it all. The temple as His Father's house should have been His own. There, if anywhere in Israel, would have been the throne of God, and here was the King of this kingdom, the Son of the Father; and He turns His back on it. Leaving it, He leaves the city also, for Bethany, the "house of humiliation." He can only abide there.

(3) On the morrow, as He returns to the city, He hungers. A spiritual hunger was, in fact, upon Him. The zeal of His Father's house was consuming Him, with all that that house implied, as established among men ― a place of approach to Him, not for Israel only, but for all nations. This had been committed to Israel's care, and their privileges upon which they prided themselves, only to look down with disdain upon the Gentiles, were really responsibilities on their behalf. The blessing of the earth depended ― and still depends ― upon Israel's blessing. As God's vine they had failed, and the vineyard had been laid waste; but He had suffered a remnant to come back, according to His own figure as to them, to be as "a fig-tree planted in" the desolate "vineyard" (Luke 13:6), to see if yet there might be fruit for Him.

Here, then, the significance of the present act is seen. The returned people stood before God with its profession of faith in Him, in striking contrast with the nations round, for whom plainly as merely heathen; "the time of figs was not yet." The fig-leaf was the promise of fruit wherever found; and therefore the Lord comes to it to find this. There was none: and for this He pronounces its doom.

No more is said about this here, but He goes on to Jerusalem and the temple, and what He had found at the beginning of His ministry (John 2:13-16) He finds unchanged at the end of it. Greed was profaning the very house of God, and that which should have been a house of prayer had become a den of robbers. He purges them all out, assuming for a moment the authority which was His; but the effect is only to bring the chief priests and scribes together to plot for His destruction. As yet the fear of the people holds them back.

We return then to the actual destruction of the fig-tree, which they find next morning dried up from the roots. The Lord uses it to impress upon His disciples the power of faith in God. Not a tree merely, but a mountain would disappear in this way from the path of faith, where faith laid hold of the Invisible for it. But He joins with believing prayer the need of a tender spirit of forgiveness towards any against whom the heart might retain the sense of wrong, lest the Father's government should be made to remember one's own offences.

The Lord leaves the application both of the fig-tree and the mountain to be made by His disciples. They were evidently not yet prepared to realize the doom that Israel as a nation were bringing upon themselves, or that they might be such an obstruction as He pictured to the path of faith. The divine foresight of the end would not prevent the most assiduous tenderness in warning and entreaty till the end should come. God has taken care even to proclaim by the mouth of Jeremiah that His own prophecies of coming judgment might be set aside by a nation's repentance (Jer. 18:7, 8); and has even given us in Nineveh an example of this (Jonah 3:10).

But Israel went on unrepenting until it was in fact, as a nation; sunk like the mountain of which the Lord speaks into the sea of nations round her; and the fig-tree died withered up because it had no fruit for Him who sought it. The blessing of which the Word still gives assurance for them can only be through a veritable resurrection (Ezek. 37).

2. The next section is almost entirely similar to Matthew, save in the omission of two parables, and in the addition by Mark of the beautiful and significant incident of the widow's mites. It gives, as already said, the Lord's judgment in detail of Israel's condition, in her chosen leaders, who unite in opposition, though veiled, against Him. Everywhere they are met, refuted, their disguise stripped off, until He closes argument with His own triumphant question how Christ can be the Son of David. This is followed by His denunciation of the scribes, and His appraisal of all their ostentatious giving to the temple treasury as less in value than the widow's "two mites which make a farthing."

(1) The question of authority is the one first raised; upon the face of it unutterable folly; for His works bore witness of Him, and it was impossible to suppose that divine power, such as was manifest in them, could have been gained unlawfully. He refuses, therefore, to answer their question, except they answer first His own. If competent to discern as to Himself (and if not, it would be of no use to answer them), they should know as to the baptism of John, whether it was from heaven or of men. If they knew, let them answer.

But they dare not answer. On the one side they cannot excuse themselves, if it were from heaven; for not being his disciples: on the other, they could not deny his claim for fear of the people. And the only refuge left for them is in what for them is a complete and yet most insincere humiliation; they cannot tell!

(2) The parable of the two sons which Matthew gives is here omitted, and that of the vineyard comes into the second place. The thought of the vineyard was familiar to them from the prophets, who had pressed upon them the claims of God as to it; and they had built the sepulchres of these prophets, whom they could not deny that their fathers killed. With the murder of the One who spoke to them in their hearts, how could they deny that they were in the succession of the parable? Then came their own Scriptures to prove that the corner stone of God's building was one rejected by the builders. Clearly they could understand that all this spoke of them, and feel it enough to be maddened by it.

(3) Now they break up into parties, (Pharisees and Herodians) which unite together, however, in dexterous combination. They do not question His authority any more: they know that He is true and teaches the way of God in truth. Nor will the fear of man shut His mouth.

So they have a question to ask, an important one, touching closely all ranks and conditions among them, and quite apt to kindle dangerous passions. Pharisees and Herodians were divided about it: here it was for Him to settle: Should they give tribute to Caesar? Aye, or no?

But they cannot dig deep enough to hide from Him the hypocrisy of that question, that they were merely, as He tells them, tempting Him. Yet He will not decline it: let them only bring Him the tribute money. And they bring it: and there is the image of Caesar stamped broadly upon it.

They cannot deny, ― they are not suffered to ignore the fact, ― that this is Caesar's money. But how much lay hid under this for those that were still capable of entertaining such questions. How long they had given up any full, entire reliance upon the Almighty, the God of their father Abraham, and by profession their own! They had leaned upon another arm than His. They had coveted the riches of a world which Abraham had refused. They were trafficking with Caesar's money, and must pay him back his money. Issachar in their father Jacob's prophecy had proved but too surely their type: Issachar, the "bony ass, couching between the hurdles: and he saw the land that it was good, and rest that it was pleasant; and bowed his shoulder to bear, and became servant to tribute."

Give Caesar then what is his: no use to expect divine help to ignore what their sin had brought them into. No! and yet a way there was ― a way which they had never taken: give God also His own! how surely then would the burden pass from their back, and the rest they longed for be obtained! "My yoke is easy, and my burden light." "And they marvelled at Him."

(4) But they are not yet silenced; and after the Pharisee and the Herodian appears the Sadducee: a not unusual order at any time. With them we find the intrusion of mere human thought into spiritual things, and which with its own beggarliness would beggar heaven. But they know neither the Scriptures, ― when did an infidel ever know the Scriptures? ― nor the power of God. The Lord proves to them how the simplest sayings of God may contain what would enrich us for ever and we do not find it there. Shall we ever awake to the need we have of putting under adequate tillage the rich land which God has given us? As to the Lord's argument here, we can add little or nothing to what has been said in Matthew.

(5) As to the next question, Mark shows us under the tempting spirit of which Matthew speaks a certain effect nevertheless produced in the man who asks it. How apt we are to fight with the truth just when it is gaining access into our hearts! and how contrary often are the thoughts which unite to move us! In the scribe before us we find a further effect of the answer given to his question, and the Lord Himself pronounces him "not far from the Kingdom of God." We are not told that he ever entered it; but we have good reason for hope that he had reached the place in which he was as the result of a seeking which could not fail of divine guidance. It needed some boldness to proclaim so heartily his acceptance of the truth, (simple as it may seem and is,) that love to God and to one's neighbor is "more than all whole burnt-offering and sacrifices," and this in sympathetic admiration of Jesus of Nazareth, and in the midst of those who were His open adversaries.

With the exception of this, Matthew's account is almost exactly that of Mark, and we cannot add to what is said of it in the former Gospel.

(6) After the scribe's confession; "no one any longer dared to question Him." But He now turns upon His silenced enemies with a question on His own part. The charge against Him was that "He made Himself the Son of God." The creed of the scribes was that Messiah was simply Son of David. He produces David himself therefore in proof that He must be more: otherwise how, as in the 110th psalm, could the father call his son his lord? To this they have, and could have, no answer.

(7) He proceeds to warn the people against the scribes. Mark does not however reproduce here the detailed judgment which is given in Matthew. He speaks of their love of display, of human applause, of leadership, their very prayers a hypocrisy, while they devoured in their greed the substance of the poor and unprotected. Such were the religious chiefs of the nation, and their character was one most easily to be discerned surely. Yet these blind leaders were as blindly followed.

(8) He turns the page, and shows us amid such a state of things what the eye of God could discern; and His heart delight in; the act of a poor widow, too poor to tempt even the rapacity of a scribe, yet not too poor to put into the temple-treasury a gift beyond all the rich gifts of the wealthiest worshipers. "Two mites which make a farthing:" really about three quarters of a farthing! but the value of it, as our Lord declares, was not according to the market ― according to its buying capacity, but intangible and spiritual. The two mites were all the means she had: "all her living." She had put her heart in with it: a heart that had no reserve, ― that would keep nothing back from God. The value of it was that of sacrifice, and could not miss appreciation by One who was Himself the Great Sacrifice, or by Him who spared not for us His own Son.

But this was one among all that had cast in; and the commendation takes the form of condemnation; the joy of approbation is only as of a sweet note amid dissonance. Nay, the existence of this one verity of goodness and devotedness seems only to male worse the awful falsehood and self-service and arrogancy of pretension all around. Israel remains unhealed, unhelped, with her sin upon her, and going on to the culminating sin of sins ― the Cross.

And, as in water face answereth to face, so the heart of man to man. There is naturally no difference. The lesson here is lesson for us all, and the exception is of divine grace only. Thus the Cross was not man's sin only, but the grace that meets his sin: and
"The very spear that pierced Thy side
Drew forth the blood to save."

3. But before the Cross is reached, the veil is once more for a moment drawn aside, and we are given to see the One rejected and disowned of men coming in the glory of heaven when unbelief shall be possible no more, and resistance beyond a moment's possible thought. We have been already through this great prophecy in Matthew, whom Mark in what he gives of it almost entirely resembles. No doubt there are certain differences, and for these and for the resemblances alike there must be spiritual reasons which we should be able to give some account of. But for this the Gospels in their entirety must be better known, and each part apprehended in the light of the whole. Too little believing work has been done in this direction to enable us to say much to the purpose as to it. That there is divine wisdom in it all it should not need to say; but one may have to confess ignorance, which the many with whom we share it prevent being felt with the shame which should belong to it. To avoid mere repetition the notes on Matthew must be referred to throughout.

(1) The introductory portion no doubt takes in, in its general characteristics, the present time; though Christianity, as such, is not contemplated in it. It partakes in this way in the character of Old Testament prophecy, in which the present dispensation has no place; save, indeed, as you may call a type a prophecy, and then we can find such parabolic utterances not seldom. The prophecy of our Lord here has, in Matthew's version of it, quite similarly its Christian portion couched in this parabolic style. The time had not yet come for plainer speech. Mark and Luke alike omit all this Christian part; while the indefiniteness of this introductory portion leaves room for what is not explicitly found there.

Mark, as well as Luke, emphasizes in a special manner the persecutions that the disciples would have to endure, which in Luke are declared to take place before the signs among the nations. They are, therefore, persecutions of the early Christian days, such as the Acts show us to have taken place as soon as the new message of salvation was proclaimed. In this way the testimony to governors and kings was to be given; and they were, without any anxiety about it, to rely entirely upon the Spirit of God for all that they should say. liven the natural love of kindred would be destroyed by the spirit of hostility to Christ. He that endured to the end would be saved.

(2) The last clause, while as a general principle it applies to all, has certainly a special reference to the time of the end, and the Lord goes on immediately to the abomination standing in the holy place, "where" (above all) "it ought not:" the very place in which idolatrous worship would be the most open defiance of Him who had peremptorily forbidden it. This, as we have seen in Matthew, undoubtedly refers to days that are yet to come, after the present dispensation is ended by the removal of the saints to meet the Lord in the air, and when the "remnant of His brethren" as Micah declares, "shall return to the children of Israel" (Micah 5:3): that is, when those converted to God in Israel will no longer find their place as now in the body of Christ, but share the national hopes and promises of the ancient people of God.

All the warnings of the great tribulation following here are almost word for word as we find them in Matthew, with the omission only of the reference to the sabbath, and the danger of deception as to His being in the desert or the secret chambers.

(3) The signs which precede the coming of the Lord follow, and then the Son of man; coming in the clouds of heaven; sends forth His angels to gather together His elect from the four winds, ― Israel, once more His people, from their long dispersion.

(4) The parable of the revival of Israel's fig-tree from her winter sleep, with what follows to the thirty-second verse, is again almost word for word with Matthew. But Mark alone, in recording the Lord's declaration that "of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven," inserts "neither the Son."* This the Lord's character as the Son of God in service sufficiently explains. "The servant knoweth not what his lord doeth." And to the Corinthians the apostle says, "I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified." It is not a question of His divine knowledge, but of what He knew as about His Father's business, as the apostle at Corinth knew nothing but the Crucified One.

{*It is found, however, in some copies of Matthew: see notes Matt. 24:36.}

It has been urged against this that it is not in this sense that no man or angel knoweth; but this as an objection has no force. For the point of our Lord's words is the inaccessibleness to man of this knowledge. There was none to whom one could go for this knowledge: neither man nor angel could communicate it, nor the Son either, as the apostle of His Father's will. It is a pregnant example of how we need to apprehend the divisions of Scripture according to their proper significance, in order to get the details rightly. "Take ye heed, watch and pray," the Lord adds, "for ye know not when the time is."

Notice the interests which Christ has here. He is going up to where He was before, ― to the Father's presence and joy; yet He presents Himself here as having His house on earth, leaving it for a time and coming back to it, to those who have been entrusted with the work and authority of it in the meantime: a theme upon which Matthew dwells more at large. The master of the house comes back at an unknown hour, "at even, midnight, cock-crowing, or in the morning." Later it cannot be, for He of whom this is spoken Himself brings the day. But with the uncertainty, watchfulness is imperative: the true disciple must not be caught asleep.

Subdivision 2. (Mark 14, 15.)

The Cross.

We come now to the CROSS. Every view of Christ that the Gospels give connects with the Cross. Every step He took in this world led Him to the Cross. Men's voices decreed Him to be worthy of death. The multitude, in the land where He had rained miracles of mercy, shouted "Crucify Him." Man's wickedness gave Him the Cross. Man's need led Him to it. The righteousness and love ― the whole glory of God ― find in it their fullest and their eternal display.

Section 1. (Mark 14:1-52.)

The cup chosen.

The Gospel of Mark shows us the Cross in its sin-offering character, as already stated, Matthew giving the trespass-offering. These two Gospels, as having alike the Lord's cry of abandonment, most evidently represent the offerings which as emphasizing the judgment of sin are not "sweet savor." The distinction has been pointed out in the Introduction (pp. 26-28), and we shall have to touch afresh upon its proofs and illustrations as we go through this closing portion. The essence of the sin-offering is that "cup" which in Matthew's narrative of the agony in the garden has been already before us, and the Lord's choice of it there surely characterizes this first section. Matthew and Mark, it will be seen, cling closely together herd as elsewhere, while there is also a difference which is characteristic in the case of each.

1.(1) It is the divine will to which Christ bows in taking the cup. It is not to be wondered at that, here at the outset, that divine will should make itself apparent, overruling, controlling, working by, the various and conflicting wills of men. This is what we find in the introductory portion here, of which the last two verses show how and how far the first two were fulfilled, while what comes between shows what brought about the traitor's action.

The hearts of the chief priests were set on mischief; but they were permitted thus to bring about the will of God for an infinite blessing. Yet their plots are not permitted to entangle the Lamb of the sacrifice: these are anticipated; and although He is delivered into their hands, yet it is open-eyed and unresisting. They must dishonor themselves by purchasing treachery with the blood-money, soon to be hurled back at them by their miserable tool, with words which must have haunted them ever after. Not even they dare put into the treasury that "price of blood."

(2) In the midst of all this there comes the beauteous story of the woman's ointment, always to be told wherever the gospel is preached, for a memorial of her: protest as it is against the utilitarianism which in the gospel itself would make Christ of less account than the "poor" who are to be benefited by Him. Ah, let us remember the claims of the Christ of God, if the poor themselves are not to suffer. This utilitarianism may well hide under it a Judas as chief instigator, while it seduces with its fair seeming even true disciples.

The spikenard is for His burial. That which she has that is precious here goes into the grave with Christ; and though He is not there now, the doctrine of Christ goes further for the Christian: for we ourselves are dead and buried with Him, and in Him alone we live, where He is gone. Thus we are identified with Him, to seek His interests only, as He secures ours. Woe will it be to any who sacrifice the claims of Christ for any other. The universe hangs upon Him: "in Him all things subsist:" "all things were created by Him and for Him"; and nothing can be right that is not in its due place of relationship to Him.

(3) The traitor understands more truly than many Christians the significance of the burial of Christ. The three hundred pence are gone for him without possible recovery. The bag he has carried will soon be as unprofitable. He must get what he can, if he sell Christ for it: and all they to whom Christ is offered and who turn away from Him to grasp the world instead, are they not after their manner selling Christ too? and valuing Him perhaps no higher than he did?

2. We follow on now to see the Lord at His last passover with His disciples before He suffers, and instituting His own memorial feast to take its place. The Old Testament is about to give place to the New, and He who is Lord of the sabbath and of the sacrificial rites fulfilled in Him, shows Himself Master of the future which He predicts, and of His own part in it, amid enemies that surround Him, and adverse conditions that seem to hold Him in their grasp. But the ram of consecration can be held only by its horns: it is His very power that makes Him submit and serve, while divine love contemplates the blessed end of all. And those around Him now, the few sheep so soon to be scattered, are the objects of His unfailing care, which would prepare them for the trial so near at hand. This, especially in the synoptics; while John shows us at this time the full out-pouring of His heart, in which, far beyond the present trial, He enters into the blessings of the new era coming in. John's is the Christian Gospel, and, not here alone but throughout, occupies itself with glories which even Christians have feebly apprehended.

(1) Mark gives, as Matthew does not, the special signs which would assure the disciples when they would have reached the house in which He would eat the passover. Was it not on their account that they were permitted thus to see how perfectly the apprehension of the minutest details of the future was possessed by Him. Dispensationally also, was not the man with but the pitcher of water passing on to the place whence presently the rivers of living water were to flow forth? Indeed, the Old Testament had prepared the place already, which He alone could fill with His glory. Now He is come, for whom it is prepared.

(2) Now they must learn from His own lips that one of the twelve should deliver Him up. It was needful that they should be prepared for this uttermost wickedness, which, however, like so much else, they do not seem to have understood in its real character. It was needful also to the divine love which would not give up even a Judas without warning, to let him know that "even the night" was "light about" him. Scripture too had forewarned and pointed at him. And the Lord adds His awful warning: "good were it for that man if he had not been born."

(3) The institution of the Supper follows, almost in the words of Matthew. Mark omits "for the remission of sins," and for "My Father's Kingdom" substitutes "the Kingdom of God."

(4) They sing a hymn and go out to the Mount of Olives. And there follows now the warning of the trial coming from the smiting of the Shepherd. All would be stumbled; but He carries on their thoughts to His resurrection and going before them into Galilee. Peter protests more than once in his vehement way that he never would be stumbled; and when the Lord adds that he would that night thrice deny Him, he still more stoutly protests that, though he should die with Him, he will not deny Him. He does not discern that this very strength of his is his weakness. And the others with as little discernment repeat his protest.

3. The agony in Gethsemane is told alike in Matthew and in the present Gospel; and we have already considered it. Not the view of death nor of any attendant suffering could move Christ after this manner. It would be dishonor to Him to suppose it. There is but one thing mighty enough to do so, and this connects it with the surpassing agony of the Cross, the forsaking of God. This, we shall find that Mark, by the abridgement or omission of other things, brings into emphatic prominence: it is the full reality of substitution, the Sinless in the sinner's place; and it is this that He is anticipating here.

4. Judas comes up with his band of men from the chief priests and scribes, and into such hands He surrenders Himself for the accomplishment of His Father's will. The disciples are struggling against it, ― fighting, and then fleeing. His reproof of them is not given here, but only of the multitudes. Exceptional in Mark is the story of the young man clad in a linen or muslin garment (a sindon), which when they lay hold upon him, he leaves in their hands, and escapes from them naked.

Significant it seems that the sindon, though generally spoken of as a nightdress, was such a wrapper as was used to enwrap the dead, and is actually, in the only other case in the New Testament, applied to that in which the Lord's body was wrapped (Matt. 27:59; Matt. 15:46; Luke 23:53). It came to be used for any light garment made of this material, and so might be a nightdress; but does not seem to be the word for this specifically.

Its connection with the dead has suggested an allegorical meaning for the story here, at a time when all facts seem to allegorize (if there be even any exception in this way as to Scripture facts). It has been spoken* of as suggestive of the vanity of human effort against the Christ of God. The priests and people, Herod and Pilate, got nothing of the Man against whom they combined but the grave-clothes empty of their temporary occupant. The living Person had escaped: the true life was untouched. And this might be a parable as to all His followers, to whom indeed, as in Christ before God, the vestment of the body is but as it were the light garment of the dead, in whom a hidden life resides not to be touched of death: "the gates of hades cannot prevail against it." In the midst of a hostile world, the Lord of life has well provided for His own.

{*In the Sermons of Henry Melville.}

Section 2. (Mark 14:53 — 15:15.)

The false condemnation.

The condemnation of the Lord ― trial in any real sense there was not ― was two-fold. Before the high priest and council it was upon the true charge, and the truth it was that was charged against Him. He was condemned on His own confession of the truth, that He was the Son of God. Before Pilate they change this accusation for another, that He claimed to be King of the Jews: this for the obvious reason that they can plead: "Whosoever maketh himself a, king speaketh against Caesar." These things naturally appear in all the Gospels, though with different emphasis and omissions as to particular details, according to the different line of truth in each. Matthew and Mark, as usual, come nearest together; John is the most distinct.

1. (1) The confession of the Master is set before us in evident contrast with the denial of the disciple. In every part of this scene man is exposed; consistent only in wickedness, unreliable and inconstant where truest in heart. His self-confidence is his weakness; his weakness, known and owned, his only strength. The Second Man stands alone amid a ruined world; most glorious in this utter desolation; all contradictions uniting to approve Him; all depths to place Him highest. The simple language of the evangelists, putting not an additional word even of emotion ― not an irrepressible note of wonder or of praise, to the mere recital of His words, His deeds, His sufferings, is in fact the hush of the sanctuary of His presence, the only fit celebration of that unique glory with which nothing else must or can mingle.

Before the high priest the false witnesses are condemned by their contradiction of each other. They sought witnesses for the purpose that was in their hearts before. And are not those who bring such witness, commonly, if not constantly, of such a spirit? Do not they dare even to search Scripture to justify the condemnation they have determined on already? And yet how often are they obliged to put out of court their own witnesses! How little can they quote without misquoting. It was they who even now were seeking to destroy the temple of God, as His words had implied they would; and it was no other could replace this, but He would raise it up again. Still there was no agreement: and the high priest turns to Jesus, to make Him answer what had need of none, and thus make something of what was nothing. He is therefore silent.

But the direct question He will not fail to answer. "Art Thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One must be answered with no ambiguity at all. It will give them what they seek against Him; but it will give rest also to those that are true enquirers, and minister through the ages to the blessing of man. Yes, He is the Son of the Blessed, while He is the Son of man as well; and they shall see the Son of man sitting at the right hand of power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.

(2) The denial of the disciple follows the confession of the Master. It speaks for itself, and needs here little comment. Each evangelist gives it: for there is need of such a lesson being well learned, as that honesty of heart, and true love to Christ, and zeal for Him, cannot save us from the most terrible falls, without that distrust of ourselves which brings in the power of God for us. Not only the sinner needs to be broken down before God, but the saint does. Human strength avails nothing on the path he is called to tread.

Mark alone notices the twofold crowing of the cock, the latter being at the general cock-crowing of which the other Gospels speak. The first fails to arouse Peter; so easily may the conscience become torpid through the power of sin. Only Luke notices the tender reproof of the Lord's look, which followed the second: in fact those eyes had never been withdrawn from him; though the "look" was more than this: it was the divine recall of the wanderer to himself and to God.

2. (1) In the second part here, we have still a confession and a denial, though the latter of a very different kind to what we have just seen. The chief priests still charge Him with being what He truly is, although as a charge they make it falsely. He is the King of the Jews. To their further accusations He answers nothing, so that Pilate marvels: but He has no thought of saving Himself from what was before Him; had He purpose of this kind, He would have stood in no such fashion before His accusers. Mark almost leaves out Pilate: from his point of view he is but a mere circumstance.

(2) It is otherwise as to Barabbas, whose crimes are told out, as they are not in Matthew. He is seen as a chief of sinners, a rebel and a murderer, for whom the feast of redemption offers a possibility of release, but only, according to Pilate's alternative, if Jesus is given up. Jesus becomes, as it were, the Substitute for the chief of sinners. To "release Barabbas" is "to destroy Jesus." Why? because He has done evil? the judge asks in vain; Where is it? Looking deeper than at the wicked wills of men, we may discern in the purpose of God that holy Sin-offering, the true passover, by which even a Barabbas may be delivered, not for good in him, for Barabbas shows none. Thus the gospel story is more completely unfolded. Barabbas is released: Jesus is given up.

Section 3. (Mark 15:16-47.)

The Cup drunk.

1. Now we approach the drinking of the cup. He is crowned with thorns, the sign of the curse, as in Matthew, clothed with the purple, but without the reed-sceptre: that only smites Him. And it is indeed but a reed that smites the Rock; yet presently, through the marvelous working of God, the waters will flow out; and the waters will become a great river, going forth on all sides to gladden the earth.

Notice that the robe is purple* here, not scarlet, as in Matthew. The blood-color is here, but mingled: as we have seen; even the precious blood of atonement, that it might sanctify the people, must be that of a sacrifice offered outside the camp (Heb. 13:11, 12). And "so Jesus, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered without the gate." Here is the true sin-offering, and here is the purple, the composite color, ― the blood, the death-penalty taken; but with that, the heavenly side also, that is, the blue. For that was heaven's side, the consequence of sin laid upon Him, the hiding of the face of God from Him, ― for us heaven opened.

{*"A scarlet military mantle," says Lange, "was made to represent the imperial purple: hence the designation, a purple (porphuran) a purple robe, as Mark and John describe it. And because this is the symbolic import of the robe, there is no discrepancy. The scarlet military robe no more required to be a real purple than the crown of thorns required to be a real crown, or the reed a real sceptre; for the whole transaction was an ironical drama, and such an one, too, that the infamous abuse might be readily perceived through the pretended glorification. The staff must be a reed, the symbol of impotence; the crown must injure and pierce the brow; and so too must the purple present the symbol of miserable, pretended greatness; and this was done by its being an old camp-mantle."

But how, through all this, God was working, to turn all to the bringing out His glory as infinitely higher than that of earthly potentates, we may surely see clearly.}

These are both royal colors also, as we plainly see; the scarlet of Matthew and the purple of Mark, just as the crown of thorns, the crown of curse, for Him was really a crown. The Sufferer reigns as that, in the Kingdom peculiarly His; and so only could He have, among the sinners of man's race, such a throne as could satisfy Him.

2. The impressment of Simon the Cyrenian upon the road, to bear His cross, is recorded here, as in Matthew; but with an addition here which shows Simon, the "hearkener" and cross bearer, as the father of Alexander and Rufus, God's grace being fruitful in him. Is not this the true way of fruitfulness ever, to hearken and bear the cross?

Golgotha, the place of a skull, is reached, and then the vinegar and gall are offered Him, only to be rejected: Mark gives "wine mingled with myrrh;" the former, the sour wine of common use, much like vinegar; the latter is probably a different thing from "gall," which would hardly seem a fitting term to describe it. The parting of His garments, according to the view that has been given of it,* is as naturally found in all the Gospels as the particularization as to it suits and is found in John. The mockery of the bystanders, and especially of the heads of the people is given almost exactly as in Matthew.

{*See Notes on Matthew.}

3. And now from the sixth to the ninth hour, there falls a darkness over all the land. We have already considered its meaning generally, but every particular specified has surely its importance. The three hours, as such, speak naturally of the manifestation of what is hidden; and may most simply speak of the opening of the sanctuary, which takes place at its close. It is the blood of the sin-offering which on the day of atonement in Israel opened it for the moment to let in the high priest, the representative of the people. But that was but for a moment: the characteristic of the legal dispensation was in the veil which hung continuously before the presence of God, so that from man's point of view He dwelt in the thick darkness. It was a darkness forbidding man's approach, and speaking of sin unmet, spite of the hecatombs of victims dying for it. And the true Sacrifice having now come, He must find His way through the darkness, laden with the sin which had forced God thus into distance from the creature of His love.

The three hours of darkness were to Him the measure of what to any other would have been an infinite hopeless distance. The cry of desertion interpreted the darkness. The veil rent from top to bottom proclaimed that it was traversed and removed. The sixth hour speaks of the barrier-limit reached; the ninth, of perfected manifestation.

The agonizing question shows the nature of the darkness, which is not outward but within upon His soul. The quotation from the twenty-second psalm gives us the clue to find the answer which the psalm gives to the question. If a holy God is to abide among the praises of a people taken from among sinful men, He under the weight of that sin must declare that holiness in God's judgment of it. God is glorified in this redemption-work beyond the possibility of all man's sin to cloud again for ever. The light bursts forth now, and as never yet. God is in the light. The separating veil is rent from top to bottom.

To the mockers around the cross, the darkness is as dense as ever. They exclaim that He is calling for Elias. And while one brings to Him upon a reed the vinegar for His thirst, he joins in the cry they raise, to wait and see if Elias will come to take Him down. But Jesus cries again with a loud voice, and expires.

Through all this account we have already seen how, by the omission of particulars recorded by Matthew, Mark emphasizes the sin-offering character of Christ's sacrifice.* But there are positive testimonies, also, that we have noted. And now, as we go on to the after events of the book, we shall find the same character attaching to it, until we see the glorious Risen Man seated in heaven at the right hand of God. The veil is passed, but never closed again: He is gone in, our Forerunner, and we walk in the light as God is in the light.

{*See Introduction, pp. 26-28.}

4. Before we have left the Cross and its glory of sorrow, intimation is given of victories which it is to achieve, and changes resultant. The first voice, save that of the dying robber, which, in the midst of Jewish blasphemy and dishonor, owns the supreme glory of the Son of God, is that of the Gentile centurion. Christ already has His own among the uncircumcised, the beginning of the great host that are soon to follow Him.

Then this company of ministering women gathered by His cross, and to be the first heralds of His victory over death, is not without significance. "The Lord gave the word; great was the company of the women that published it" (Ps. 68:11). The victory is so achieved, that not the men of might are needed, but the feebleness of women was abundantly enough. Indeed the men of might, the fighters on the Lord's behalf, had not found their hands. But now the battle was over: He had fought alone, and of the people there were none with Him: with the last great shout of the battle-field, the cry of victory and not of exhaustion; He had entered into His rest. The women are now free to minister. The shadow of the Cross is but the shadow of the sheltering wings of divine love.

It is this victory-shout which, according to Mark, impresses the soldier: "when the centurion saw that He so cried out and expired, he said, Truly this man was the Son of God." He had seen death upon the battlefield, perhaps in many a shape, but never a death like this. If we take John's account, it is the cry that has rung through so many hearts since then, Tetelestai, "It is finished." If it be not the great cry itself, it certainly went with it; and how has that become for Gentile faith the gospel-utterance! It has assured of peace made with God, stilled to rest the tumult of other things, and subdued the heart to Jesus, to the Son of God who loved and gave Himself for the sons of men.

5. "They assigned Him His grave with wicked men; but with the rich man when He had died." So had Isaiah long before predicted, and now we have the fulfilment of it. The malefactor's grave which would have naturally followed the death of the cross could not be permitted Him. That substitutionary work was accomplished which alone had made Him to be numbered with transgressors. In that character He could appear no more; and the righteousness of God, which He had declared in His death, claimed now divine intervention in His behalf. While He yet slept He must sleep in honor, and as it has been well said, the One born of a Virgin-womb could only be fittingly honored in a virgin-tomb. He who could not see corruption; could not lie in a tomb which corruption had defiled. Thus all was in harmony, and God silently controlling all things before visible intervention could take place. Joseph of Arimathea, inspired with a boldness he had not yet shown, goes in to Pilate and asks of him the body of Jesus. Pilate, finding from the centurion that He is indeed already dead, commands it to be given; and in the new tomb, awaiting its predicted resurrection on the third day, that sacred body rests.

Subdivision 3.

Resurrection; and Heaven really opened.

As every one knows, doubt has been cast upon the authenticity of the last twelve verses of this Gospel; and if they are, as Meyer calls them, but an "apocryphal fragment," a waif without parentage known; introduced into Mark we know not how, to mend the ragged end of his mutilated or unfinished work, doubt would naturally be cast on more than its authenticity, and most of all for those who are slow to believe in inspiration moving after this fashion. We need not, however, discuss it here, as the authority for the full text is abundant in both MSS. and Versions. The spiritual relationship of the closing verses to the Gospel as a whole is perfect; and this, if proved, is a better argument of itself in favor of authenticity than all besides that has ever been produced against it.

Moreover there is reason of an internal kind for the difference that in fact exists between the two parts of this last chapter, ― the first, which gives the promise from the (unseen) Lord to meet His disciples in Galilee: a promise of which Mark gives no fulfilment: while the second briefly relates His actual appearances in and around Jerusalem, and His sending them forth with signs attesting their commission to preach the gospel in all the world. These two parts we have now to consider in their scope and connection with one another.

1. In the first part we have then promise which, as far as Mark's account of it goes, is not fulfilled. Jesus does not meet them in Galilee; and the end for them, the account closing abruptly, is in fear and trembling, rather than the joy and gladness we should have expected from it.

If, then, nothing is without a purpose here (and we at least are not going to question this), there must be for us some meaning in this non-fulfilment, this fear instead of joy. If we think, also, of the disciples as what they were undoubtedly till after (and a good while after) the resurrection, ― a Jewish remnant, with hopes still clustering round the Old Testament promises, we can see something very like what Mark pictures here. Christ is come, Christ is risen; there is a promise for believing Israelites which to them as such is not fulfilled; and in short their history, and that of the ministry to the circumcision; with which especially is connected Peter's name (ver. 7, Gal. 2:7, 9), is just such a broken fragment as is here presented to us. It will be completed, but only in another dispensation, after the parenthesis of the Church's history shall be over, and the "remnant of" the King's "brethren shall return to the children of Israel" (Micah 5:3): that is, when Israelites converted to God shall again be partakers in the hopes and promises of the nation.

This, I doubt not, is what is intimated in the first verses of Mark's closing chapter. We shall find similar things in the close of John's Gospel, and more fully brought out there: things hard to he uttered, indeed, when the meaning, even of divine history, is so generally considered to be merely in the letter, and when belief in the inspiration of God's word ― in any proper sense of inspiration ― is being so largely given up. That cannot affect the truth itself, nor its importance for those that have ears to hear.

2. The second part begins once more with the resurrection, and is of another character. Here the Lord Himself appears, and first to one who had been delivered from the power of Satan; which had completely possessed her. This supremacy of power over the whole array of the enemy ― seven demons ― characterizes the full salvation which is now to be proclaimed. The message given her we find only in John; here only that at first it was disbelieved. The very men who are to be the heralds of it in the world are at first incredulous as to what they long to receive. As Luke says of what took place afterwards, "they believed not for joy": it was, according to the common phrase, "too good to be true."

The appearance to the two on the road to Emmaus, next referred to, is still incompetent to bring conviction; and the Lord then Himself appears to the eleven ― the company now spoken of as that number, though Thomas, as we know, was not among them at the first, ― and upbraids them with their unbelief and hardness of heart.

The commission that follows is entirely different from that in Matthew, though some have represented it as but another version of it. They were given at different times and places clearly; while they reflect each the character of its respective Gospel. Matthew, whose subject is the Kingdom, gives the mode of reception into it by baptism and teaching. This supposes Mark's commission as being already acted on, ― the "what shall we do?" of those already wrought upon by the good news proclaimed. Mark's view of the sin-offering is the basis of the gospel: this blessed work accomplished, the going forth of the good news naturally results.

Faith, therefore, which is implied in the commission in Matthew, is insisted on here: "he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." On the other hand, "he that disbelieveth" ― no baptism affecting the case of such an one ― "shall be condemned."

The signs that follow those who believe introduce us into a region of controversy in different quarters. It is plain, however, that even in the apostles, days they were not signs which necessarily followed in every individual. "Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues?" implies the negative. But the apostle asks moreover, "Are all workers of miracles?" ― any kind of miracles? ― and this must have a similar answer (1 Cor. 12:29, 30).

Here then is what at once destroys any argument founded upon the universality of such gifts as these. It could not be said of any Christians that as such they would have them. The question was a much simpler one, ― a question of fact: who have them? who have them not? If no one in a generation had them, we could not say they ought to have had, according to the Lord's words. As "signs," the apostle's words as to one of them might apply to others, or to all, "wherefore tongues are for a sign; not to those that believe, but to those that believe not" (1 Cor. 14:22); and if unbelievers ceased, we might even expect that these would cease.

But miracles do not produce faith; though they may produce conviction. Those who "believed in His Name when they saw the miracles that He did," He "did not commit Himself to, because He knew all men, and needed not that any should testify of man, for He knew what was in man" (John 2:23-25). It was but an intellectual conviction; quite possible to men without divine work at all; so that if this were accomplished ― if only the gospel were going out amidst a people who accepted Christianity as true ― one still would not expect these signs to follow.

Thus we are brought very near to the actual condition of things that obtains in Christendom today. Nor do the Lord's words make that condition a hard matter to reconcile with them. The signs did follow, and fulfilled the object for which they were designed. As Christianity became known; and the truth came to get hearing, the miraculous accompaniments ceased, after the manner of all such whenever their purpose was fulfilled. Miracles have always been temporary, gathering around certain crises in the divine history of mankind, times of special divine intervention, and then passing away; and Christianity is no exception to the rule. As to power for conviction; where the word of God is once fairly before men; the Lord Himself has assured us that, if they believe not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.

That which comes first among these signs has special significance. Satan had possessed himself of the world largely by means of the religions of men; the perversions of that original worship which through successive generations became ever more corrupt. "The things which the Gentiles sacrifice," says the apostle; "they sacrifice to demons, and not, to God" (1 Cor. 10:20). And as in Egypt, when God brought out His people, the delivering judgments fell upon their gods, so now in Christianity. "They shall cast out demons in My Name" is the proclamation of Christ's supremacy over the religious rulers of the heathen world.

The gift of new tongues was grace surmounting the judgment of Babel, while yet the primitive "one speech and one language" could not be restored.

The taking up of serpents and the innocuousness of any deadly draught would fence round life from the insidious attack of the destroyer; while the miraculous healings were a manifestation of power over the power of death in others. All together testified to the Lord's victory over Satan; over death, and over sin: for sin was that which gave power to both death and Satan. Nothing could affect these which had not gone to the bottom of the question of sin.

Thus, then, were the messengers of salvation equipped for their work.

3. And now, His end achieved, the shadow taken from the face of God, the sanctuary opened to all seekers of Him, the Servant-Son returns up where He was before. But He returns not as He was before. He returns with the humanity that He has taken: sure pledge that though He has changed the sphere of His service, the service itself He has not given up. He takes humanity itself up to the throne of God, and sits down there with it at the right hand of God.

He has been in the lowest place: He receives the highest. It is the same Gospel which fitly shows Him to us in both. The blood of the sin-offering opens the sanctuary; but more, He who has shed it has entered heaven in the power of it; has entered it a Man, and with this link of Manhood connecting Him thus with others who are men, and for whom He offered Himself.

The consequences of this are not pursued in this Gospel. They must be sought in after-communications of divine grace, which has traced for us His path step by step from lowest humiliation to glory, and how we are concerned in every step. The place at the right hand of God is, of course, peculiar to Himself; but not only does His heart still abide with His people here, but His hand also works for them and with them; and thus Mark presents Him at the close as One whose love makes Him still the Servant of man's need. For "they went forth, and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following."