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Ver. 1: The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
Jerome, in Prolog: Mark the Evangelist, who served the priesthood in Israel, according to the flesh a Levite, having been converted to the Lord, wrote his Gospel in Italy, shewing in it how even his family benefited Christ. For commencing his Gospel with the voice of the prophetic cry, he shews the order of the election of Levi, declaring that John the son of Zachariah was sent forth by the voice of an angel, and saying, “The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”
Pseudo-Jerome: The Greek word ‘Evangelium’ means good tidings, in Latin it is explained, ‘bona annunciatio,’ or, the good news; these terms properly belong to the kingdom of God and to the remission of sins; for the Gospel is that by which comes the redemption of the faithful and the beatitude of the saints.
But the four Gospels are one, and one Gospel in four. In Hebrew, His name is Jesus, in Greek, Soter, in Latin, Salvator; but men say Christus in Greek, Messias in Hebrew, Unctus in Latin, that is, King and Priest.
Bede, in Marc., i, 1: The beginning of this Gospel should be compared with that of Matthew, in which it is said, “The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham.” But here He is called “the Son of God.”
Now from both we must understand one Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, and of man. And fitly the first Evangelist names Him “Son of man,” the second, “Son of 6 God,” that from less things our sense may by degrees mount up to greater, and by faith and the sacraments of the human nature assumed, rise to the acknowledgment of His divine eternity.
Fitly also did He, who was about to describe His human generation, begin with a son of man, namely, David or Abraham. Fitly again, he who was beginning his book with the first preaching of the Gospel, chose rather to call Jesus Christ, “the Son of God;” for it belonged to the human nature to take upon Him the reality of our flesh, of the race of the patriarchs, and it was the work of Divine power to preach the Gospel to the world.
Hilary, de Trin., iii, 11: He has testified, that Christ was the Son of God, not in name only, but by His own proper nature. We are the sons of God, but He is not a son as we are; for He is the very and proper Son, by origin, not by adoption; in truth, not in name; by birth, not by creation.
2. As it is written in the Prophets, “Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.” [Mal 3:1]
3. “The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.” [Isa 40:3]
Bede: Being about to write his Gospel, Mark rightly puts first the testimonies of the Prophets, that he might notify to all, that what he should write was to be received without scruple of doubt, in that he shewed that these things were beforehand foretold by the Prophets. At once, by one and the same beginning of his Gospel, he prepared the Jews, who had received the Law and the Prophets, for receiving the grace of the Gospel, and those sacraments, which their own prophecies had foretold; and he also calls upon the Gentiles, who came to the Lord by publishing of the Gospel, to receive and venerate the authority of the Law and the Prophets; whence he says, “As it is written in the prophet Isaiah, Behold, &c.”
Jerome: Hierom. ad Pammach, Epist 57: But this is not written in Isaiah, but in Malachi, the last of the twelve prophets.
Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: But it may be said that it is a mistake of the writer. Otherwise it may be said that he has compressed 7 into one, two prophecies delivered in different places by two prophets; for in the prophet Isaiah it is written after the story of Hezekiah, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness;” but in Malachi, “Behold, I send mine angel.”
The Evangelist therefore, taking parts of two prophecies, has put them down as spoken by Isaiah, and refers them here to one passage, without mentioning, however, by whom it is said, “Behold, I send mine angel.”
Pseudo-Aug., Quaest. nov. et vet. Test. lvii: For knowing that all things are to be referred to their author, he has brought these sayings back to Isaiah, who was the first to intimate the sense.
Lastly, after the words of Malachi, he immediately subjoins, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness,” in order to connect the words of each prophet, belonging as they do to one meaning, under the person of the elder prophet.
Bede: Or otherwise, we must understand, that although these words are not found in Isaiah, still the sense of them is found in many other places, and most clearly in this which he has subjoined, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness.” For that which Malachi has called, the angel to be sent before the face of the Lord, to prepare His way, is the same thing as Isaiah has said is to be heard, “the voice of one crying in the wilderness, saying, Prepare ye the way of the Lord.”
But in each sentence alike, the way of the Lord to be prepared is proclaimed. It may be, too, that Isaiah occurred to the mind of Mark, in writing his Gospel, instead of Malachi, as often happens; which he would, however, without doubt correct, at least when reminded by other persons, who might read his work whilst he was yet in the flesh; unless he though that, since his memory was then ruled by the Holy Spirit, it was not without a purpose that the name of one prophet had occurred to him instead of another. For thus whatsoever things the Holy Spirit spoke by the prophets are implied each to have belonged to all, and all to each.
Jerome: By Malachi, therefore, the voice of the Holy Spirit resounds to the Father concerning the Son, who is the countenance of the Father by which He has been known.
Bede: But John is called an angel not by community of nature, according to the heresy of Origen [ed. note: Origen taught that all rational beings, angels, devils, and men, were of one nature, differing only in rank and condition, according to their deserts (in Joan, tom. ii, 17) and capable of change: that men had once been angels: that angels took human nature to serve man, and that St. John Baptist was an angel, quoting this text. (in Joan, ii, 25.) v Huet, Orig. II, qu. 5, No. 14, 24, 25], but by the dignity 8 of his office; for angel in Greek is in Latin, nuntius (note: messenger), by which name that man is rightly called, who was sent by God, that he might bear witness of the light, and announce to the world the Lord, coming in the flesh; since it is evident that all who are priests may be their office of preaching the Gospel be called angels, as the prophet Malachi says, “The lips of the priest keep knowledge, and they seek the law at his mouth, because he is the Angel of the Lord of hosts.” [Mal 2:7]
Theophylact: The Forerunner of Christ, therefore, is call an angel, on account of his angelic life and lofty reverence. Again, where he says, “Before thy face,” it is as if he said, Thy messenger is near thee: whence is shewn the intimate connection of the Forerunner with Christ; for those walk next to kings who are their greatest friends.
There follows, “Who will prepare thy way before thee.”
For by baptism he prepared the minds of the Jews to receive Christ.
Pseudo-Jerome: Or, “the way of the Lord,” by which He comes into men, in penitence, by which God comes down to us, and we mount up to Him. And for this reason the beginning of John’s preaching was, “Repent ye.”
Bede: But as John might be called an angel, because he went before the face of the Lord by his preaching, so he might also be rightly called a voice, because, by his sound, he preceded the Word of the Lord.
Wherefore there follows, “The voice of one crying, &c.”
For it is an acknowledged thing that the Only-Begotten Son is called the Word of the Father, and even we, from having uttered words ourselves, know that the voice sounds first, in order that the word may afterwards by heard.
Pseudo-Jerome: But it is called “the voice of one crying,” for we are wont to use a cry to deaf persons, and to those afar off, or when we are indignant, all which things we know applied to the Jews; for “salvation is far from the wicked,” and they “stopped their ears like deaf adders,” and deserved to hear “indignation, and wrath, and tribulation” from Christ.
Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: But the prophecy, by saying, “In the wilderness,” plainly shews that the divine teaching was not in Jerusalem, but in the wilderness, which was fulfilled to 9 the letter by John the Baptist in the wilderness of Jordan, preaching the healthful appearing of the Word of God.
The word of prophecy also shews, that besides the wilderness, which was pointed out by Moses, where he made paths, there was another wilderness, in which it proclaimed that the salvation of Christ was present.
Pseudo-Jerome: Or else the voice and the cry is in the desert, because they were deserted by the Spirit of God, as a house empty, and swept out; deserted also by prophet, priest, and king.
Bede: What he cried is revealed, in that which is subjoined, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.” For whosoever preaches a right faith and good works, what else does he but prepare the way for the Lord’s coming to the hearts of His hearers, that the power of grace might penetrate these hearts, and the light of truth shine in them? And the paths he makes straight, when he forms pure thoughts in the soul by the word of preaching.
Pseudo-Jerome: Or else, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord,” that is, act out repentance and preach it; “make his paths straight,” that walking in the royal road, we may love our neighbours as ourselves, and ourselves as our neighbours. For he who loves himself, and loves not his neighbour, turns aside to the right; for many act well, and do not correct their neighbour well, as Eli.
He, on the other hand, who, hating himself, loves his neighbour, turns aside to the left; for many, for instance, rebuke well, but act not well themselves, as did the Scribes and Pharisees.
“Paths” are mentioned after the “way” because moral commands are laid open after penitence.
Theophylact: Or, the “way” is the New Testament, and the “paths” are the Old, because it is a trodden path. For it was necessary to be prepared for the way, that is, for the New Testament; but it was right that the paths of the Old Testament should be straightened.
4. John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.
5. And there went out unto him all the land of Judaea, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins.
6. And John was clothed with camel’s hair, and 10 with a girdle of a skin about his loins; and he did eat locusts and wild honey;
7. And preached, saying, “There cometh one mightier than I after me, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose.
8. I indeed have baptized you with water: but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost.”
Pseudo-Jerome: According to the above-mentioned prophecy of Isaiah, the way of the Lord is prepared by John, through faith, baptism, and penitence; the paths are made straight by the rough marks of the hair-cloth garment, the girdle of skin, the feeding on locusts and wild honey, and the most lowly voice; whence it is said, “John was in the wilderness.”
For John and Jesus seek what is lost in the wilderness; where the devil conquered, there he is conquered; where man fell, there he rises up.
But the name, John, means the grace of God, and the narrative begins with grace. For it goes on to say, “baptizing.” For by baptism grace is given, seeing that by baptism sins are freely remitted.
But what is brought to perfection by the bridegroom is introduced by the friend of the bridegroom. Thus catechumens, (which word means persons instructed,) begin by the ministry of the priest, receive the chrism from the bishop [ed. note: “Chrismantur.” Chrism in the Roman Church, was applied twice; at Baptism, and more solemnly to the forehead by the Bishop at Confirmation. In the Eastern Church, it was only given once, at Confirmation, and by the Bishop only. In the French Church, it was given once, usually at Baptism, by the Priest, but if for any reason omitted, by the Bishop at Confirmation, see Bingham, Antiq. b., xii, e. 2, 2].
And to shew this, it is subjoined, “And preaching the baptism of repentance, &c.”
Bede: It is evident that John not only preached, but also gave to some the baptism of repentance; but he could not give baptism for the remission of sins [ed. note: vol 1, p. 97, note A]. For the remission of sins is only given to us by the baptism of Christ. It is therefore only said, “Preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins;” for he “preached” a baptism which could remit sins, since he could not give it.
Wherefore as he was the forerunner of the Incarnate Word of the Father, by the word of his preaching, so by his baptism, which could not remit sins, he preceded that baptism, 11 of penitence, by which sins are remitted.
Theophylact: The baptism of John had not remission of sins, but only brought men to penitence. He preached therefore the baptism of repentance, that is, he preached that to which the baptism of penitence led, namely, remission of sins, that they who in penitence received Christ, might receive Him to the remission of their sins.
Pseudo-Jerome: Now by John as by the bridegroom’s friend, the bride is brought to Christ, as by a servant Rebecca was brought to Isaac [Gen 24:61]; wherefore there follows, “And there went out to him all, &c. For “confession and beauty are in his presence,” [Ps 96:6] that is, the presence of the bridegroom. And the bride leaping down from her camel signifies the Church, who humbles herself on seeing her husband Isaac, that is, Christ. But the interpretation of Jordan, where sins are washed away, in ‘an alien descent.’ For we heretofore aliens to God by pride, are by the sign of Baptism made lowly, and thus exalted on high [ed. note: see St. Cyril of Jerus., Cat. xx, 4-7].
Bede: An example of confessing their sins and of promising to lead a new life, is held out to those who desire to be baptized, by those words which follow, “confessing their sins.”
Chrys.” Because indeed John preached repentance, he wore the marks of repentance in his garment and in his food.
Wherefore there follow, “And John was clothed in camel’s hair.”
Bede: It says, clothed in a garment of hair, not in woollen clothes; the former is the mark of an austere garb, the latter of effeminate luxury. But the girdle of skins, with which he was girt, like Elias, is a mark of mortification. And this meat, “locusts and wild honey,” is suited to a dweller in the wilderness, so that his object in eating was not the deliciousness of meats, but the satisfying of the necessity of human flesh.
Pseudo-Jerome: The dress of John, his food, and employment, signifies the austere life of preachers, and that future nations are to be joined to the grace of God, which is John, both in their minds and in externals. For by camel’s hair, is meant the rich among the nations; and by the girdle of skin, the poor, dead to the world; and by the wandering locusts, the wise men of this world; who, leaving the dry stalks to the Jews, draw off with their legs the mystic grain, and in the warmth of their 12 faith leap up towards heaven; and the faithful, being inspired by the wild honey, are full-fed from the untilled wood.
Theophylact: Or else; The garment of “camel’s hair” was significative of grief, for John pointed out, that he who repented should mourn. For sackcloth signifies grief; but the girdle of skins shews the dead state of the Jewish people. The food also of John not only denotes abstinence, but also shews forth the intellectual food, which the people then were eating, without understanding any thing lofty, but continually raising themselves on high, and again sinking to the earth.
For such is the nature of locusts, leaping on high and again falling. In the same way the people ate honey, which had come from bees, that is, from the prophets; it was not however domestic, but wild, for the Jews had the Scriptures, which are as honey, but did not rightly understand them.
Gregory, Moral., xxxi, 25: Or, by the kind itself of his food he pointed out the Lord, of whom he was the forerunner; for in that our Lord took to Himself the sweetness of the barren Gentiles, he ate wild honey. In that He in His own person partly converted the Jews, He received locusts for His food, which suddenly leaping up, at once fall to the ground. For the Jews leaped up when they promised to fulfil the precepts of the Lord; but they fell to the ground when, by their evil works, they affirmed that they had not heard them. They made therefore a leap upwards in words, and fell down by their actions.
Bede: The dress and food of John may also express of what kind was his inward walk. For he used a dress more austere than was usual, because he did not encourage the life of sinners by flattery, but chid them by the vigour of his rough rebuke; he had a girdle of skin round his loins, for he was one, “who crucified his flesh with the affections and lusts.” [Gal 5:24] He used to eat locusts and wild honey, because his preaching had some sweetness for the multitude, whilst the people debated whether he was the Christ himself or not; but this soon came to an end, when his hearers understood that he was not the Christ, but the forerunner and prophet of Christ. For in honey there is sweetness, in locusts swiftness of flight.
Whence there follows, “And he preached, saying, there cometh one mightier 13 than I after me.”
Gloss.: He said this to do away with the opinion of the crowd, who thought that he was the Christ; but he announces that Christ is “mightier than he,” he was to remit sins, which he himself could not do.
Pseudo-Jerome: Who again is mightier than the grace, by which sins are washed away, which John signifies? He who seven times and seventy times seven remits sins [Matt 18:22]. Grace indeed comes first, but remits sins once only by baptism, but mercy reaches to the wretched from Adam up to Christ through seventy-seven generations, and up to one hundred and forty-four thousand.
Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: But lest he should be thought to say this by way of comparing himself to Christ, he subjoins, “Of whom I am not worthy, &c.”
It is not however the same thing to loose the shoe-latchet, which Mark here says, and to carry his shoes, which Matthew says. And indeed the Evangelists following the order of the narrative, and not able to err in any thing, say that John spoke each of these sayings in a different sense. But commentators on this passage have expounded each in a different way.
For he means by the latchet, the tie of the shoe. He says this therefore to extol the excellence of the power of Christ, and the greatness of His divinity; as if he said, Not even in the station of his servant am I worthy to be reckoned.
For it is a great thing to contemplate, as it were stooping down, those things which belong to the body of Christ, and to see from below the image of things above, and to untie each of those mysteries, about the Incarnation of Christ, which cannot be unravelled.
Pseudo-Jerome: The shoe is in the extremity of the body; for in the end the Incarnate Saviour is coming for justice, whence it is said by the prophet, “Over Edom will I cast out my shoe.” [Ps 60:9]
Gregory: Shoes also are made from the skins of dead animals. The Lord, therefore, coming incarnate, appeared as it were with shoes on His feet, for He assumed in His divinity the dead skins of our corruption. Or else; it was a custom among the ancients, that if a man refused to take as his wife the woman whom he ought to take, he who offered himself as her husband by right of kindred took off that man’s shoe.
Rightly then does he proclaim himself unworthy to loose his shoe-latchet, as if he said openly, I cannot 14 make bare the feet of the Redeemer, for I usurp not the name of the Bridegroom, a thing which is above my deserts.
Theophylact: Some persons also understand it thus; all who came to John, and were baptized, through penitence were loosed from the bands of their sins by believing in Christ. John then in this way loosed the shoe-latchet of all the others, that is, the bands of sin. But Christ’s shoe-latchet he was not able to unloose, because he found no sin in Him.
Bede: Thus then John proclaims the Lord not yet as God, or the Son of God, but only as a man mightier than himself. For his ignorant hearers were not yet capable of receiving the hidden things of so great a Sacrament, that the eternal Son of God, having taken upon Him the nature of man, had been lately born into the world of a virgin; but gradually by the acknowledgment of His glorified lowliness, they were to be introduced to the belief of His Divine Eternity. To these words, however, he subjoins, as if covertly declaring that he was the true God, “I baptize you with water, but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost.” For who can doubt that none other but God can give the grace of the Holy Ghost.
Jerome: For what is the difference between water and the Holy Ghost, who was borne over the face of the waters? Water is the ministry of man; but the Spirit is ministered by God.
Bede: Now we are baptized by the Lord in the Holy Ghost, not only when in the day of our baptism, we are washed in the fount of life, to the remission of our sins, but also daily by the grace of the same Spirit we are inflamed, to do those things which please God.
9. And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in Jordan.
10. And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him:
11. And there came a voice from heaven, saying, “Thou art My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
Pseudo-Jerome: Mark the Evangelist, like a hart, longing 15 after the fountains of water, leaps forward over places, smooth and steep; and, as a bee laden with honey, he sips the tops of the flowers.
Wherefore he hath shewn us in his narrative Jesus coming from Nazareth, saying, “And it came to pass in those days, &c.”
Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: Forasmuch as He was ordaining a new baptism, He came to the baptism of John, which, in respect of His own baptism, was incomplete, but different from the Jewish baptism, as being between both. He did this that He might shew, by the nature of His baptism, that He was not baptized for the remission of sins, nor as wanting the reception of the Holy Ghost: for the baptism of John was destitute of both these.
But He was baptized that He might be made known to all, that they might believe on Him and “fulfil all righteousness,” which is “keeping of the commandments:” for it has been commanded to men that they should submit to the Prophet’s baptism.
Bede, in Marc., i, 4: He was baptized, that by being baptized Himself He might shew His approval of John’s baptism [ed. note: vol i, pl 109, note h], and that, by sanctifying the waters of Jordan through the descent of the dove, He might shew the coming of the Holy Ghost in the laver of believers.
Whence there follows, “And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Holy Spirit like a dove descending, and resting upon him.”
But the heavens are opened, not by the unclosing of the elements, but to the eyes of the spirit, to which Ezekiel in the beginning of his book relates that they were opened; or that His seeing the heavens opened after baptism was done for our sakes, to whom the door of the kingdom of heaven is opened by the laver of regeneration.
Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: Or else, that from heaven sanctification might be given to men, and earthly things be joined to heavenly. But the Holy Spirit is said to have descended upon Him, not as if He then first came to Him, for He never had left Him; but that He might shew forth the Christ, Who was preached by John, and point Him out to all, as it were by the finger of faith.
Bede: This event also, in which the Holy Ghost was seen to come down upon baptism, was a sign of spiritual grace to be given to us in baptism.
Pseudo-Jerome: But this is the anointing of Christ according to 16 the flesh, namely, the Holy Ghost, of which anointing it is said, “God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.” [Ps 45:7]
Bede: Well indeed in the shape of a dove did the Holy Ghost come down, for it is an animal of great simplicity, and far removed from the malice of gall, that in a figure He might shew us that He looks out for simple hearts, and deigns not to dwell in the minds of the wicked.
Pseudo-Jerome: Again, the Holy Ghost came down in the shape of a dove, because in the Canticles it is sung of the Church: “My bride, my love, my beloved, my dove.”
“Bride” in the Patriarchs, “love” in the Prophets, “near of kin” in Joseph and Mary, “beloved” in John the Baptist, “dove” in Christ and His Apostles: to whom it is said, “Be ye wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.” [Matt. 10:16]
Bede: Now the Dove sat on the head of Jesus, lest any one should think that the voice of the Father was addressed to John and not to Christ. And well did he add, “abiding on Him;” for this is peculiar to Christ, that the Holy Ghost once filling Him should never leave Him.
For sometimes to His faithful disciples the grace of the Spirit is conferred for signs of virtue, and for the working of miracles, sometimes it is taken away; though for the working of piety and righteousness, for the preservation of love to God and to one’s neighbour, the grace of the Spirit is never absent.
But the voice of the Father shewed that He Himself, who came to John to be baptized with the other, was the very Son of God, willing to baptize with the Holy Spirit, whence there follows, “And there came a voice from heaven, Thou art my beloved Son, in thee I am well pleased.” Not that this informed the Son Himself of a thing of which He was ignorant, but it shews to us what we ought to believe.
Augustine, de Con. Ev., ii, 14: Wherefore Matthew relates that the voice said, “This is my beloved Son;” for he wished to shew that the words, “This is My Son,” were in fact said, that thus the persons who heard it might know that He, and not another, was the Son of God.
But if you ask which of these two sounded forth in that voice, take which you will, only remember, that the Evangelists, though not relating the same form of speaking, relate the same meaning. And that God delighted Himself in His Son, we are reminded in these words, “In 17 thee I am well pleased.”
Bede: The same voice has taught us, that we also, by the water of cleansing, and by the Spirit of sanctification, may be made the sons of God. The mystery of the Trinity also is shewn forth in the baptism; the Son is baptized, the Spirit comes down in the shape of a dove, the voice of the Father bearing witness to the Son is heard.
Pseudo-Jerome: Morally also it may be interpreted; we also, drawn aside from the fleeting world by the smell and purity of flowers, run with the young maidens after the bridegroom, and are washed in the sacrament of baptism, from the two fountains of the love of God, and of our neighbour, by the grace of remission, and mounting up by hope gaze upon heavenly mysteries with the eyes of a clean heart.
Then we receive in a contrite and lowly spirit, with simplicity of heart, the Holy Spirit, who comes down to the meek, and abides in us, by the never-failing charity. And the voice of the Lord from heaven is directed to us the beloved of God; “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God;” [Matt. 5:9] and then the Father, with the Son and the Holy Spirit, is well-pleased with us, when we are made one spirit with God.
12. And immediately the spirit driveth Him into the wilderness.
13. And He was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted of Satan; and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered unto Him.
Chrys., Hom. in Matt., xiii: Because all that Christ did and suffered was for our teaching, He began after His baptism to dwell in the wilderness, and fought against the devil, that every baptized person might patiently sustain greater temptations after His baptism, nor be troubled, as if this which happened to Him was contrary to His expectation, but might bear up against all things, and come off conqueror.
For although God allows that we should be tempted for many other reasons, yet for this cause also He allows it, that we may know, that man when tempted is placed in a station of greater honour. For the Devil approaches not save where he has 18 beheld one set in a place of greater honour; and therefore it is said, “And immediately the Spirit drove Him into the wilderness.”
And the reason why He does not simply say that He went into the wilderness, but was driven, is that thou mayest understand that it was done according to the word of Divine Providence. By which also He shews that no man should thrust himself into temptation, but that those who from some other state are as it were driven into temptation, remain conquerors.
Bede, in Marc., 1, 5: And that no one might doubt, by what spirit he said that Christ was driven into the wilderness, Luke has on purpose premised, that “Jesus being full of the Spirit returned from Jordan, “ and then has added, “and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness;” lest the evil spirit should be thought to have any power over Him, who, being full of the Holy Spirit, departed whither He was willing to go, and did what He was willing to do.
Chrys., in Matt., Hom., xiii: But the Spirit drove Him into the wilderness, because He designed to provoke the devil to tempt Him, and thus gave Him an opportunity not only by hunger, but also by the place. For then most of all does the devil thrust himself in, when he sees men remaining solitary.
Bede: But He retires into the desert that He may teach us that, leaving the allurements of the world, and the company of the wicked, we should in all things obey the Divine commands.
He is left alone and tempted by the devil, that He might teach us, “that all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution;” [2 Tim 3:12] whence it follows, “And He was in the wilderness forty days and forty nights, and was tempted of Satan.”
But He was tempted forty days and forty nights that He might shew us that as long as we live here and serve God, whether prosperity smile upon us, which is meant by the day, or adversity smite us, which agrees with the figure of night, at all times our adversary is at hand, who ceases not to trouble our way by temptations.
For “the forty days and forty nights” imply the whole time of this world, for the globe in which we are serving God is divided into four quarters.
Again, there are Ten Commandments, by observing which we fight against our enemy, but four times ten are forty.19
There follows, “and He was with the wild beasts.”
Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: But He says this to shew of what nature was the wilderness, for it was impassable by man and full of wild beasts.
It goes on; “and angels ministered unto Him.” For after temptation, and a victory against the devil, He worked the salvation of man. And thus the Apostle says, “Angels are sent to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation.” [Heb 1:14]
We must also observe, that to those who conquer in temptation angels stand near and minister.
Bede: Consider also that Christ dwells among the wild beasts as man, but, as God, uses the ministry of Angels. Thus, when in the solitude of a holy life we bear with unpolluted mind the bestial manners of men, we merit to have the ministry of Angels, by whom, when freed from the body, we shall be transferred to everlasting happiness.
Pseudo-Jerome: Or then the beasts dwell with us in peace, as in the ark clean animals with the unclean, when the flesh lusts not against the spirit. After this, ministering Angels are sent to us, that they may give answers and comforts to hearts that watch.
14. Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the Gospel of the kingdom of God,
15. And saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the Gospel.”
Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: The Evangelist Mark follows Matthew in his order, and therefore after having said that Angels minister, he subjoins, “But after that John was put into prison, Jesus came, &c.”
After the temptation and the ministry of Angels, He goes back into Galilee, teaching us not to resist the violence of evil men.
Theophylact: And to shew us that in persecutions we ought to retire, and not to await them; but when we fall into them, we must sustain them.
Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: He retired also that He might keep Himself for teaching and for healing, before He suffered, and after fulfilling all these things, might become obedient unto death.
Bede: John being put in prison, fitly does the Lord begin to preach: wherefore there follows, “Preaching the Gospel, &c.” For when the Law ceases, the Gospel arises in its steps.20
Pseudo-Jerome: When the shadow ceases, the truth comes on; first, John in prison, the Law in Judaea; then, Jesus in Galilee, Paul among the Gentiles preaching the Gospel of the kingdom. For to an earthly kingdom succeeds poverty, to the poverty of Christians is given an everlasting kingdom; but earthly honour is like the foam of water, or smoke, or sleep.
Bede: Let no one, however, suppose that the putting of John in prison took place immediately after the forty days’ temptation and the fast of the Lord; for whosoever reads the Gospel of John will find, that the Lord taught many things before the putting of John in prison, and also did many miracles; for you have in his Gospel, “This beginning of miracles did Jesus;” [John 2:11] and afterwards, “for John was not yet cast into prison.” [John 3:24]
Now it is said that when John read the books of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, he approved indeed the text of the history, and affirmed that they had spoken truth, but said that they had composed the history of only one year after John was cast into prison, in which year also he suffered. Passing over then the year of which the transactions had been published by the three others, he related the events of the former period, before John was cast into prison.
When therefore Mark had said that “Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the Gospel of the kingdom,” he subjoins, “saying, Since the time is fulfilled, &c.”
Pseudo-Chrys., vict. Ant. Cat. in Marc.: Since then the time was fulfilled, “when the fulness of times was come, and God sent His son,” it was fitting that the race of man should obtain the last dispensation of God. And therefore he says, “for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
Origen, in Matt., tom. x, 14: But the kingdom of God is essentially the same as the kingdom of heaven, though they differ in idea. [ed. note: see Origen, de Orat. 25, 26 in Matt. t 12.14 (?)]
For by the kingdom of God is to be understood that in which God reigns; and this in truth is in the region of the living, where, seeing God face to face, they will abide in the good things now promised to them; whether by this region one chooses to understand Love, or some other confirmation [ed. note: By ‘confirmation,’ seems to be meant the perfecting of spiritual natures; see Thomas Aq., Summa Theologica, part 1, Q62, Art 1. It answers to (greek word) as used by St. Basil; de Sp. S 16] of those who put on the likeness of things 21 above, which are signified by the heavens. [ed. note: “Coeli” is commonly interpreted of the Angels, by the Fathers.]
For it is clear [ed. note: see Chrys., in Matt., Hom. 19 in c. 6,9] enough that the kingdom of God is confined neither by place nor by time.
Theophylact: Or else, the Lord means that the time of the Law is complete; as if He said, Up to this time the Law was at work; from this time the kingdom of God will work, that is, a conversation according to the Gospel, which is with reason likened to the kingdom of heaven. For when you see a man clothed in flesh living according to the Gospel, do you not say that he has the kingdom of heaven, which “is not meat and drink, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost?” [Rom 14:17]
The next word is, “Repent.”
Pseudo-Jerome: For he must repent, who would keep close to eternal good, that is, to the kingdom of God. For he who would have the kernel, breaks the shell; the sweetness of the apple makes up for the bitterness of its root; the hope of gain makes the dangers of the sea pleasant; the hope of health takes away from the painfulness of medicine.
They are able worthily to proclaim the preaching of Christ who have deserved to attain to the reward of forgiveness; and therefore after He has said, “Repent,” He subjoins, “and believe the Gospel.” For unless ye have believed, ye shall not understand.
Bede: “Repent,” therefore, “and believe;” that is, renounce dead works; for of what use is believing without good works? The merit of good works does not, however, bring to faith, but faith begins, that good works may follow.
16. Now as He walked by the sea of Galilee, He saw Simon, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishers.
17. And Jesus said unto them, “Come ye after Me, and I will make you to become fishers of men.”
18. And straightway they forsook their nets, and followed Him.
19. And when He had gone a little farther thence, He saw James, the son of Zebedee, and John, his brother, who also were in the ship mending their nets.
20. And straightway He called them: and they 22 left their father Zebedee in the ship with the hired servants, and went after Him.
Gloss.: The Evangelist, having mentioned the preaching of Christ to the multitude, goes on to the calling of the disciples, whom He made ministers of His preaching, whence it follows, “And passing along the sea of Galilee, &c.”
Theophylact: As the Evangelist John relates, Peter and Andrew were disciples of the Forerunner, but seeing that John had borne witness to Jesus, they joined themselves to him; afterwards, grieving that John had been cast into prison, they returned to their trade.
Wherefore there follows, “casting nets into the sea, for they were fishers.”
Look then upon them, living on their own labours, not on the fruits of iniquity; for such men were worthy to become the first disciples of Christ; whence it is subjoined, “And Jesus said unto them, Come ye after Me.”
Now He calls them for the second time; for this is the second calling in respect of that, of which we read in John. But it is shewn to what they were called, when it is added, “I will make you become fishers of men.”
Remig.: For by the net of holy preaching they drew fish, that is, men, from the depths of the sea, that is, of infidelity, to the light of faith. Wonderful indeed is this fishing! for fishes when they are caught, soon after die; when men are caught by the word of preaching, they rather are made alive.
Bede, in Marc., 1, 6: Now fishers and unlettered men are sent to preach, that the faith of believers might be thought to lie in the power of God, not in eloquence or in learning. It goes on to say, “and immediately they left their nets, and followed Him.”
Theophylact: For we must not allow any time to lapse, but at once follow the Lord. After these again, He catches James and John, because they also, though poor, supported the old age of their father.
Wherefore there follows, “And when He had gone a little farther thence, He saw James, the son of Zebedee, &c.”
But they left their father, because he would have hindered them in following Christ. Do thou, also, when thou art hindered by thy parents, leave them, and come to God. It is shewn by this that Zebedee was not a believer; but the mother of the Apostles believed, for she followed Christ, when Zebedee was dead.23
Bede: It may be asked, how he could call two fishers from each of the boats, (first, Peter and Andrew, then having gone a little further, the two others, sons of Zebedee,) when Luke says that James and John were called to help Peter and Andrew, and that it was to Peter only that Christ said, “Fear not, from this time thou shalt catch men;” [Luke 5:!0] he also says, that “at the same time, when they had brought their ships to land, they followed Him.”
We must therefore understand that the transaction which Luke intimates happened first, and afterwards that they, as their custom was, had returned to their fishing. So that what Mark here relates happened afterwards; for in this case they followed the Lord, without drawing their boats ashore, (which they would have done had they meant to return,) and followed Him, as one calling them, and ordering them to follow.
Pseudo-Jerome: Further, we are mystically carried away to heaven, like Elias, by this chariot, drawn by these fishers, as by four horses. On these four corner-stones the first Church is built; in these, as in the four Hebrew letters, we acknowledge the tetragrammation, the name of the Lord, we who are commanded, after their example, to “hear” the voice of the Lord, and “to forget” the “people” of wickedness, and “the house of our fathers’ ” [Ps 45:10] conversation, which is folly before God, and the spider’s net, in the meshes of which we, like gnats, were all but fallen, and were confined by things vain as the air, which hangs on nothing; loathing also the ship of our former walk.
For Adam, our forefather according to the flesh, is clothed with the skins of dead beasts; but now, having put off the old man, with his deeds, following the new man we are clothed with those skins of Solomon, with which the bride rejoices that she has been made beautiful [Song of Songs, 1:4].
Again, Simon, means obedient; Andrew, manly; James, supplanter [ed. note: Cf. vol i, 139, 140, 364]; John, grace; by which four names, we are knit together into God’s host [ed. note: Al. ‘in imaginem’] ; by obedience, that we may listen; by manliness, that we do battle; by overthrowing, that we may persevere; by grace, that we may be preserved. Which four virtues are called cardinal; for by prudence, we obey; by justice, we bear ourselves manfully; by temperance, we tread the serpent underfoot; by fortitude, we earn the grace of 24 God.
Theophylact: We must know also, that action is first called, then contemplation; for Peter is the type of the active life, for he was more ardent than the others, just as the active life is the more bustling; but John is the type of the contemplative life, for he speaks more fully of divine things.
21. And they went into Capernaum; and straightway on the sabbath day He entered into the synagogue, and taught.
22. And they were astonished as His doctrine: for He taught them as one that had authority, and not as the Scribes.
Pseudo-Jerome: Mark, arranging the sayings of the Gospel as they were in his own mind, not in themselves, quits the order of the history, and follows the order of the mysteries.
Wherefore he relates the first miracle on the sabbath day, saying, “And they go into Capernaum.”
Theophylact: Quitting Nazareth. Now on the sabbath day, when the Scribes were gathered together, He entered into a synagogue, and taught.
Wherefore there follows, “And straightway on the sabbath day, having entered into the synagogue, He taught them.”
For this end the Law commanded them to give themselves up to rest on the sabbath day, that they might meet together to attend to sacred reading. Again, Christ taught them by rebuke, not by flattery as did the Pharisees; wherefore it says, “And they were astonished at His doctrine; for He taught them as one having power, and not as the Scribes.”
He taught them also in power, transforming men to good, and He threatened punishment to those who did not believe on Him.
Bede: The Scribes themselves taught the people what was written in Moses and the Prophets; but Jesus as the God and Lord of Moses, himself, by the freedom of His own will, either added those things which appeared wanting in the Law, or altered things as He preached to the people; as we read in Matthew, “It was said to them of old time, but I say unto you.” [Matt. 5:27]
23. And there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out,25
24. Saying, “Let us alone; what have we to do with Thee, Thou Jesus of Nazareth? art Thou come to destroy us? I know Thee who Thou art, the Holy One of God.”
25. And Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Hold thy peace, and come out of him.”
26. And when the unclean spirit had torn him, and cried with a loud voice, he came out of him.
27. And they were all amazed, insomuch that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What thing is this? what new doctrine is this? for with authority commandeth he even the unclean spirits, and they do obey him.”
28. And immediately His fame spread abroad throughout all the region round about Galilee.
Bede, in Marc., 1, 7: Since by the envy of the devil death first entered into the world, it was right that the medicine of healing should first work against the author of death; and therefore it is said, “And there was in their synagogue a man, &c.”
Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: The word, Spirit, is applied to an Angel, the air, the soul, and even the Holy Ghost. Lest therefore by the sameness of the name we should fall into error, he adds, “unclean.” And he is called unclean on account of his impiousness and far removal from God, and because he employs himself in all unclean and wicked works.
Augustine, City of God, 21: Moreover, how great is the power which the lowliness of God, appearing in the form of a servant, has over the pride of devils, the devils themselves know so well, that they express it to the same Lord clothed in the weakness of flesh. For there follows, “And he cried out, saying, What have we to do we Thee, Jesus of Nazareth, &c.”
For it is evident in these words that there was in them knowledge, but there was not charity; and the reason was, that they feared their punishment from Him, and loved not the righteousness in Him.
Bede: For the devils, seeing the Lord on the earth, thought that they were immediately to be judged.
Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: Or else the devil so speaks, as if he said, ‘by taking away uncleanness, and giving 26 to the souls of men divine knowledge, Thou allowest us no place in men.’
Theophylact: For to come out of man the devil considers as his own perdition; for devils are ruthless, thinking that they suffer some evil, so long as they are not troubling men.
There follows, “I know that Thou art the Holy One of God.”
Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: As if he said, Methinks that Thou art come; for he had not a firm and certain knowledge of the coming of God. But he calls Him “holy” not as one of many, for every prophet was also holy, but he proclaims that the was the One holy; by the article in Greek he shews Him to be the One, but by his fear he shews Him to be Lord of all.
Augustine: For He was known to them in that degree in which He wished to be known; and He wished as much as was fitting. He was not known to them as to the holy Angels, who enjoy Him by partaking of His eternity according as He is the Word of God; but as He was to be made known in terror, to those beings from whose tyrannical power He was about to free the predestinate.
He was known therefore to the devils, not in that He is eternal Life, [see 1 John 5:20, John 17:3] but by some temporal effects of His Power, which might be more clear to the angelic senses of even bad spirits than to the weakness of men.
Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: Further, the Truth did not wish to have the witness of unclean spirits.
Wherefore there follows, “And Jesus threatened him, saying, &c.”
Whence a healthful precept is given to us; let us not believe devils, howsoever they may proclaim the truth.
It goes on, “And the unclean spirit tearing him, &c.”
For because the man spoke as one in his senses and uttered his words with discretion, lest it should be thought that he put together his words not from the devil but out of his own heart, He permitted the man to be torn by the devil, that He might shew that it was the devil who spoke.
Theophylact: That they might know, when they saw it, from how great an evil the man was freed, and on account of the miracle might believe.
Bede: But it may appear to be a discrepancy, that he should have gone out of him, tearing him, or, as some copies have it, vexing him, when, according to Luke, he did not hurt him. But Luke himself says, “When He had cast him into the midst, he came out of him, without hurting him.” [Luke 4:35] Wherefore it is inferred that Mark meant by vexing or tearing him, what Luke expresses 27, in the words, “When He had cast him into the midst;” so that what he goes on to say, “And did not hurt him,” may be understood to mean that the tossing of his limbs and vexing did not weaken him, as devils are wont to come out even with the cutting off and tearing away of limbs. But seeing the power of the miracle, they wonder at the newness of our Lord’s doctrine, and are roused to search into what they had heard by what they had seen.
Wherefore there follows, “And they all wondered, &c.”
For miracles were done that they might more firmly believe the Gospel of the kingdom of God, which was being preached, since those who were promising heavenly joys to men on earth, were shewing forth heavenly things and divine works even on earth. For before (as the Evangelist says) “He was teaching them as one who had power,” and now, as the crowd witnesses, “with power He commands the evil spirits, and they obey Him.”
It goes on, “And immediately His fame spread abroad, &c.”
Gloss.: For those things which men wonder at they soon divulge, for “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” [Matt. 12:34]
Pseudo-Jerome: Moreover, Capernaum is mystically interpreted the town of consolation, and the sabbath as rest. The man with an evil spirit is healed by rest and consolation, that the place and time may agree with his healing. This man with an unclean spirit is the human race, in which uncleanness reigned from Adam to Moses; [Rom 5:14] for “they sinned without law,” and “perished without law.” [Rom 2:12] and he, knowing the Holy One of God, is ordered to hold his peace, for they “knowing God did not glorify him as God,” [Rom 1:21] but “rather served the creature than the Creator.” [Rom 1:25]
The spirit tearing the man came out of him. When salvation is near, temptation is at hand also. Pharaoh, when about to let [ed. note: Al. ‘dismissus ab Israel’] Israel go, pursues Israel; the devil, when despised, rises up to create scandals.
29. And forthwith, when they were come out of the synagogue, they entered into the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John.
30. But Simon’s wife’s mother lay sick of a fever, and anon they tell him of her.28
31. And He came and took her by the hand, and lifted her up; and immediately the fever left her, and she ministered unto them.
Bede, in Marc., 1, 7: First, it was right that the serpent’s tongue should be shut up, that it might not spread any more venom; then that the woman, who was first seduced, should be healed from the fever of carnal concupiscence.
Wherefore it is said, “And forthwith, when they were come out of the synagogue, &c.”
Theophylact: He retired then as the custom was on the sabbath-day about evening to eat in His disciples’ house. But she who ought to have ministered was prevented by a fever.
Wherefore it goes on, “But Simon’s wife’s mother was lying sick of a fever.”
Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc., 1, 32: But the disciples, knowing that they were to receive a benefit by that means, without waiting for the evening prayed that Peter’s mother should be healed.
Wherefore there follows, “who immediately tell Him of her.”
Bede: But in the Gospel of Luke it is written that “they besought Him for her.” [Luke 4:38] For the Saviour sometimes after being asked, sometimes of His own accord, heals the sick, shewing that He always assents to the prayers of the faithful, when they pray also against bad passions, and sometimes gives them to understand things which they do not understand at all, or else, when they pray unto Him dutifully, forgives their want of understanding; as the Psalmist begs of God, “Cleanse me, O Lord, from my secret faults.” [Ps 19:12]
Wherefore He heals her at their request; for there follows, “And He came and took her by the hand, and lifted her up.”
Theophylact: By this it is signified, that God will heal a sick man, if he ministers to the Saints, through love to Christ.
Bede, in Marc., 1, 6: But in that He gives most profusely His gifts of healing and doctrine on the sabbath day, He teaches, that He is not under the Law, but above the Law, and does not choose the Jewish sabbath, but the true sabbath, and our rest is pleasing to the Lord, if, in order to attend to the health of our souls, we abstain from slavish work, that is, from all unlawful things.
It goes on, “And immediately the fever left her, &c.”
Bede, in Marc., 1, 8: The health which is conferred at the command of the Lord, returns at once entire, accompanied with such strength that she is able to 29 minister to those of whose help she had before stood in need.
Again, if we suppose that the man delivered from the devil means, in the moral way of interpretation, the soul purged from unclean thoughts, fitly does the woman cured of a fever by the command of God mean the flesh, restrained from the heat of it concupiscence by the precepts of continence.
Pseudo-Jerome: For the fever means intemperance, from which, we the sons of the synagogue [ed. note: See St. Augustine on Ps 72, no. 4, 5, “Ecclesia Socrus Synagogue.” The Church is called the daughter of the Synagogue in the spurious ‘Altercatio Eccles. et Synagog.’ (Aug. Opp t. viii, p. 19.) They word’s ynagogue’ is applied to the Church by Justin M. Dial, see Tryph, p. 160 (Ben.) Clem. Alex. Str. vi, 633.], by the hand of discipline, and by the lifting up of our desires, are healed, and minister to the will of Him who heals us.
Theophylact: But he has a fever who is angry, and in the unruliness of his anger stretches forth his hands to do hurt; but if reason restrains his hands, he will arise, and so serve reason.
32. And at even, when the sun did set, they brought unto Him all that were diseased, and them that were possessed with devils.
33. And all the city was gathered together at the door.
34. And He healed many that were sick of divers diseases, and cast out many devils; and suffered not the devils to speak, because they knew Him.
Theophylact: Because the multitude thought that it was not lawful to heal on the sabbath day, they waited for the evening, to bring those who were to be healed to Jesus.
Wherefore it is said, “And at even, when the sun had set.”
There follows, “and He healed many that were vexed with divers diseases.”
Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: Now in that he says “many”, all are to be understood according to the Scripture mode of expression.
Theophylact: Or he says, “many”, because there were some faithless persons, who could not at all be cured on account of their unfaithfulness. Therefore He healed many of those who were brought, that is, all who had faith.
It goes on, “and cast out many devils.”
Pseudo-Augustine, Quaest. e Vet. et Nov. Test. 16: For the devils knew that He was the Christ, who had been promised by the Law: for they saw in Him all 30 the signs which had been foretold by the Prophets; but they were ignorant of His divinity, as also were “their princes, for if they had known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” [1 Cor 2:8]
Bede: For, Him whom the devil had known as a man, wearied by His forty days’ fast, without being able by tempting Him to prove whether He was the Son of God, he now by the power of His miracles understood or rather suspected to be the Son of God. The reason therefore why he persuaded the Jews to crucify Him, was not because he did not think that He was the Son of God, but because he did not foresee that he himself was to be condemned by Christ’s death.
Theophylact: Furthermore, the reason that He forbade the devils to speak, was to teach us not to believe them, even if they say true. For if once they find persons to believe them, they mingle truth with falsehood.
Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: And Luke does not contradict this, when he says, that “devils came out of many, crying out and saying, Thou art Christ the Son of God:” [Luke 4:41] for he subjoins, “And He rebuking them, suffered them not to speak;” for Mark, who passes over many things for the sake of brevity, speaks about what happened subsequently to the abovementioned words.
Bede: Again, in a mystical sense, the setting of the sun signifies the passion of Him, who said, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” [John 9:5] And when the sun was going down, more demoniacs and sick persons were healed than before: because He who living in the flesh for a time taught a few Jews, has transmitted the gifts of faith and health to all the Gentiles throughout the world.
Pseudo-Jerome: But the door of the kingdom, morally, is repentance and faith, which works health for various diseases; for divers are the vices with which the city of this world is sick.
35. And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, He went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.
36. And Simon and they that were with Him followed after Him.
37. And when they had found Him, they said unto Him, “All men seek for Thee.”31
38. And He said unto them, “Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also: for therefore came I forth.”
39. And He preached in their synagogues throughout all Galilee, and cast out devils.
Theophylact: After that the Lord had cured the sick, He retired apart.
Wherefore it is said, “And rising very early in the morning, He went out and departed into a desert place.” By which He taught us not to do any thing for the sake of appearance, but if we do any good, not to publish it openly.
It goes on, “and there prayed.”
Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: Not that He required prayer; for it was He who Himself received the prayers of men; but He did this by way of an economy, and became to us the model of good work.
Theophylact: For He shews to us that we ought to attribute to God whatever we do well, and to say to Him, “Every good gift cometh down from above,” [James 1:17] from Thee.
It continues: “And Simon followed Him, and they that were with Him.”
Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: Luke however says that crowds came to Christ, and spoke what Mark here relates that the Apostles said, adding, “And when they came to Him, they said to Him, All seek thee.” [Luke 4:42] But they do not contradict each other; for Christ received after the Apostles the multitude, breathlessly anxious to embrace His feet. He received them willingly, but chose to dismiss them, that the rest also might be partakers of His doctrine, as He was not to remain long in the world.
And therefore there follows: “And He said, Let us go into the neighbouring villages and towns, that there also I may preach.”
Theophylact: For He passes on to them as being more in need, since it was not right to shut up doctrine in one place, but to throw out his rays every where.
It goes on: “For therefore am I come.”
Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: In which word, He manifests the mystery of His “emptying himself,” [see Phil. 2:7-8] that is, of His incarnation, and the sovereignty of His divine nature, in that He here asserts, that He came willingly into the world.
Luke however says, “To this end was I sent,” proclaiming the Dispensation, and the good pleasure of God the Father concerning the incarnation 32 of the Son.
There follows: “And He continued preaching in their synagogues, in all Galilee.”
Augustine, de Con. Evan., ii, 19: But by this preaching, which, he says, “He continued in all Galilee,” is also meant the sermon of the Lord delivered on the mount, which Matthew mentions, and Mark has entirely passed over, without giving any thing like it, save that he has repeated some sentences not in continuous order, but in scattered places, spoken by the Lord at other times.
Theophylact: He also mingled action with teaching, for whilst employed in preaching, He afterwards put to flight devils.
For there follows: “And casting out devils.”
For unless Christ shewed forth miracles, He teaching would not be believed; so do thou also, after teaching, work, that thy word be not fruitless in thyself.
Bede: Again, mystically if by the setting of the sun, the death of the Saviour is intended, why should not His resurrection be intended by the returning dawn? For by its clear light, He went far into the wilderness of the Gentiles, and there continued praying in the person of His faithful disciples, for He aroused their hearts by the grace of the Holy Spirit to the virtue of prayer.
40. And there came a leper to Him, beseeching Him, and kneeling down to Him, and saying unto Him, “If Thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean.”
41. And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth His hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, “I will; be thou clean.”
42. And as soon as He had spoken, immediately the leprosy departed from him, and he was cleansed.
43. And He straitly charged him, and forthwith sent him away;
44. And saith unto him, “See thou say nothing to any man: but go thy way, shew thyself to the Priest, and offer for thy cleansing those things which Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them.”33
45. But he went out and began to publish it much, and to blaze abroad the matter, insomuch that Jesus could no more openly enter into the city, but was without in desert places: and they came to Him from every quarter.
Bede, in Marc., i, 7: After that the serpent-tongue of the devils was shut up, and the woman, who was first seduced, cured of a fever, in the third place, the man, who listened to the evil counsels of the woman, is cleansed from his leprosy, that the order of restoration in the Lord might be the same as was the order of the fall in our first parents.
Whence it goes on: “And there came a leper to him, beseeching Him.”
Augustine, de Con. Evan., ii, 19: Mark puts together circumstances, from which one may infer that he is the same as that one whom Matthew relates to have been cleansed, when the Lord came down from the mount, after the sermon. [Matt 8:2]
Bede, in Marc., i, 9: And because the Lord said that He came “not to destroy the Law but to fulfill,” [Matt. 5:17] he who was excluded by the Law, inferring that he was cleansed by the power of the Lord, shewed that grace, which could wash away the stain of the leper, was not from the Law, but over the Law. And truly, as in the Lord authoritative power, so in him the constancy of faith is shewn.
For there follows: “Lord, if Thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean.”
He falls on his face, which is at once a gesture of lowliness and of shame, to shew that every man should blush for the stains of his life. But his shame did not stifle confession; he shewed his wound, and begged for medicine, and the confession is full of devotion and of faith, for he refers the power to the will of the Lord.
Theophylact: For he said not, If thou wilt, pray unto God, but, “If Thou wilt,” as thinking Him very God.
Bede: Moreover, he doubted of the will of the Lord, not as disbelieving His compassion, but, as conscious of his own filth, he did not presume.
It goes on; “But Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth His hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will, be thou clean.”
It is not, as many of the Latins think, to be taken to mean and read, I wish to cleanse thee, but that Christ should say separately, “I will,” and then command 34, “be thou clean.”
Chrys., Hom. in Matt., 25: Further, the reason why He touches the leper, and did not confer health upon him by word alone, was, that it is said by Moses in the Law, that he who touches a leper shall be unclean till the evening; that is, that he might shew that this uncleanness is a natural one, that the Law was not laid down for Him, but on account of mere men. Furthermore, He shews that He Himself is the Lord of the Law; and the reason why He touched the leper, though the touch was not necessary to the working of the cure, was to shew that He gives health, not as a servant, but as the Lord.
Bede: Another reason why He touched him, was to proved that He could not be defiled, who free others from pollution. At the same time it is remarkable, that He healed in the way in which He had been begged to heal.
“If Thou wilt,” says the leper, “Thou canst make me clean.”
“I will,” He answered, behold, thou hast My will, “be clean;” now thou hast at once the effect of My compassion.
Chrys., Hom. in Matt., 25: Moreover, by this, not only did He not take away the opinion of Him entertained by the leper, but He confirmed it; for He puts to flight the disease by a word, and what the leper had said in word, He filled up in deed.
Wherefore there follows, “And when He had spoken, immediately, &c.”
Bede: For there is no interval between the work of God and the command, because the work is in the command, for “He commanded, and they were created.” [Ps 148:5]
There follows: “And He straitly charged him, and forthwith, &c.” See thou tell no man.”
Chrys., Hom 25: As if He said, It is not yet time that My works should be preached, I require not thy preaching. By which He teaches us not to seek worldly honour as a reward for our works.
It goes on: “But go thy way, shew thyself to the chief of the priests.”
Our Saviour sent him to the priest for the trial of his cure, and that he might not be cast out of the temple, but still be numbered with the people in prayer. He sends him also, that he might fulfil all the parts of the Law, in order to stop the evil-speaking tongue of the Jews. He Himself indeed completed the work, leaving them to try it.
Bede: This He did in order that the priest might understand that the leper was not healed by the Law, but by the grace of God above 35 the Law.
There follows: “And offer for thy cleansing what Moses, &c.”
Theophylact: He ordered him to offer the gift which they who were healed were accustomed to offer, as if for a testimony, that He was not against the Law, but rather confirmed the Law, inasmuch as He Himself worked out the precepts of the Law.
Bede: If any one wonders, how the Lord seems to approve of the Jewish sacrifice, which the Church rejects, let him remember that He had not yet offered His own holocaust in His passion. And it was not right that significative sacrifices should be taken away before that which they signified was confirmed by the witness of the Apostles in their preaching, and by the faith of the believing people.
Theophylact: But the leper, although the Lord forbade him disclosed the benefit, wherefore it goes on: “But he having gone out, began to publish and to blaze abroad the tale;” for the person benefitted ought to be grateful, and to return thanks, even though his benefactor requires it not.
Bede, see Greg., Moral., 19, 22: Now it may well be asked, why our Lord ordered His action to be concealed, and yet it could not be kept hid for an hour? But it is to be observed, that the reason why, in doing a miracle, He ordered it to be kept secret, and yet for all that it was noised abroad, was, that His elect, following the example of His teaching, should wish indeed that in the great things which they do, they should remain concealed, but should nevertheless unwillingly be brought to light for the good of others. Not then that He wished any thing to be done, which He was not able to bring about, but, by the authority of His teaching, He gave an example of what His members ought to wish for, and of what should happen to them even against their will.
Bede: Further, this perfect cure of one man brought large multitudes to the Lord.
Wherefore it is added, “So that He could not any more openly enter into the city, but could only be without in desert places.”
Chrys.: For the leper every where proclaimed his wonderful cure, so that all ran to see and to believe on the Healer; thus the Lord could not preach the Gospel, but walked in desert places.
Wherefore there follows, “And they came together to Him from all places.”
Pseudo-Jerome: Mystically, our leprosy is the sin of the first man, which began from the head, when he 36 desired the kingdom of the world. For covetousness is the root of all evil; wherefore Gehazi, engaged in an avaritious pursuit, is covered with leprosy.
Bede: But when the hand of the Saviour, that is, the Incarnate Word of God, is stretched out, and touches human nature, it is cleansed from the various parts of the old error.
Pseudo-Jerome: This leprosy is cleansed on offering an oblation to the true Priest after the order of Melchisedec; for He tells us, “Give alms of such things as ye have, and, behold, all things are clean unto you.” [Luke 11:41]
But in that Jesus could not openly enter into the city, it is meant to be conveyed that Jesus is not manifested to those who are enslaved to the love of praise in the broad highway, and to their own wills, but to those who with Peter go into the desert, which the Lord chose for prayer, and for refreshing His people; that is, those who quit the pleasures of the world, and all that they possess, that they may say, “The Lord is my portion.” But the glory of the Lord is manifested to those, who meet together on all sides, that is, through smooth ways and steep, whom nothing can “separate from the love of Christ.” [Rom 8:35]
Bede, in Marc., i, 10: Even after working a miracle in that city, the Lord retires into the desert, to shew that He loves best a quiet life, and one far removed from the cares of the world, and that it is on account of this desire, He applied Himself to the healing of the body.
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