The Gospel of St. Mark

I . THE MINISTRY OF HIS STEWARDSHIP

(a) The Consistency of His Walk

The introduction contains no pedigree nor statement of preexistence, but a supernatural seal of witness to the validity of Sonship.

The heavens were opened, Mark 1:10, 11, and the sign of signal approval attested His walk as in perfect conformity to the divine will. The chief feature in sonship is expressed in likeness of will. All sons are children of God, but all children are not sons, because maturity has not been reached and the dignity of heirship has not been entered. These terms were not borrowed by God from human relationships and applied to the association of Father and Son, but vice versa; the common ideas of an elder and younger, of a major and minor, or a superior and inferior, of a greater and lesser, are therefore irrelevant in reference to God the Father and God the Son.

The fact of Sonship having been demonstrated by a twofold witness, the Son was immediately driven to the wilderness and assailed by Satan, and in the crucial hour of temptation every form of seduction failed to allure. Christ was blind to every other attraction and deaf to every form of appeal save that which was from above, cf. Isa. 42:19. The momentous victory attained was instantly attended with angelic ministry which marked another very definite evidence of heirship. (Read Heb. 1:2, 4.)

The Son of man was the first to wholly resist the devil and allow him no place in God's reserve. Straightway following, He goes forth to His toil, calls His disciples and makes the Sabbath an occasion for service, the synagogue a center for startling instruction and the society of home a sphere for exhibiting sympathy. (Mark, ch. 1)

These events were symptomatic and intimated that man had been deposed from rest to which realm Christ had come to restore him.

As we watch Him in the warfare of the conflict, in the worship of communion or at work in the commonplace of everyday life, we are convinced of how thoroughly equipped He is for the ponderous task.

These initial activities so arrested the attention of the populace that they exclaimed, "What new doctrine is this? For with authority commandeth He even the unclean spirits and they do obey Him." (Ch. 1:27) The impressive use of the words, ‘anon,’ ‘straightaway’ and ‘immediately,’ which appear 80 times in the New Testament, occur on 40 occasions in Mark's narrative and reveal the ready obedience and decisiveness of the service rendered. He acted promptly because the need was distressing and the demand urgent.

The undertaking was tremendous, involving, as it did, the honor of God, the hope of Israel and the deliverance of mankind. The course to be taken demanded the uttermost suffering and shame with rejection and scorn.

(b) The Character of His Work

The character of His work is stated in this pregnant word, 'Authority,' which appears in ten places in the Gospel, ch. 1:22, 27; 2:10; 3:15; 6:7; 10:42; 11:28, (twice) 29, 33. These should be carefully read, and an examination of each will impress the mind with the masterful adequacy of Christ's irresistible competence. Having encountered the usurper and started the work of extricating the enslaved, He thereupon delegated his ability to His disciples by imparting to them authority to cast out demons.

The statements made in regard to the method of selection and sanction are very suggestive. (Ch. 3:13)

"He goeth up into a mountain, and calleth unto Him whom He would; and they came unto him." This was the call of INITIATION. Secondly, "And He ordained twelve that they should be with him." This was the companionship of INSTRUCTION. Thirdly, "That He might send them forth to preach," which implies the commission of INTENTION. There is the sad possibility of setting forth to preach without first having been with Him, which is attended with grave disappointments.

After a brilliant University career, Dr. McLaren, of Manchester, resolved to have seven years in a quiet locality to learn to know God, as an essential equipment for his ministry.

The authority Christ sanctioned was further confirmed with greater deliberateness in ch. 6:7, and became so pronounced in the activities that ensued, that the leaders of Jewry waited on Him with a deputation after the disciples had returned and demanded, “By what authority doest thou these things?” (Ch. 11:27, 33) So ably did He administer the interests of the estate and so absolute was His authority in expelling demons that His critics were confounded and enunciated the charge of His being in league with the prince of devils, (ch. 3:22) as the possible solution of an inexplicable problem.

Christ not only refuted their contemptible accusation, but cautioned them with the most solemn warning that ever fell from His lips. (Ch. 3:29) Between their challenge and His caution He crystallizes the central purpose of His own mission into a comprehensive and pregnant declaration, “No man can enter into a strong one’s house and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong one and then will he spoil his house.” (Ch. 3:7)

In these words, so vibrant with authority, ages are summarized and flashed upon the screen. This death-grapple with the forces of darkness was of long standing and was first intimated in Gen. 3:15. A larger view of it was displayed through the two representative men, Pharaoh and Moses, in Egypt, in which case the child born and son given was fitted in the citadel of the oppressor’s dominion for the overthrow of tyranny. Centuries later the battle was focused in Haman and Mordecai. Haman would never have issued his decree of death had he known it would have affected one higher in authority than himself. But Esther, who was at the king's right hand, came under the power of the proclamation because she was kindred to those condemned. This was the factor that brought the defeat and doom of Haman.

When the devil seduced man and subjugated him to the power of death, he could not foresee that his decree of doom would touch the very Throne of God. We need to notice that death had no dominion over Christ, as Son of God, because the decree was passed upon all men, and He was outside that category, but His rights and title did not prevent Him taking the form of a Servant and being found in fashion as a man, in the very sphere where death's decree reigned. This immediately spelt the devil's doom. A tremendous attempt was made in the hour of temptation to disqualify Christ from participation in the conflict, by placing Him in the realm of divine sonship. "If thou be the Son of God." But Christ refused this subtlety and affirmed, "Man shall not live by bread alone," as much as to say, "I am man, and have a legitimate right to interpose." In Heb. ch. 2 there is a flaming commentary on this point . “What is man that Thou art mindful of him or the son of man that Thou visitest Him? But we see Jesus who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor; that He by the grace of God should taste death for every man. Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same, that through death, He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is the devil, and deliver those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage." (Heb. 2:6, 9, 14, 15) Today our divine Lord sits amid the splendors of the skies possessed of the tokens of His triumph in "The Keys of hell and death." (Rev. 1:18) These trophies are aglow with glory, for the key of death commemorate His dying love . He dies for us; while the key of hades celebrates His risen power . He arose for our justification. Millions shall meet to mingle in His triumph, all crowns and scepters, diadems and coronets shall adorn His brow as the witness of His overcoming power.

(c) The Certitude of His Word

Note these seven corroborative statements which confirm that Christ would enter the devil's domain and overthrow his power: "And He began to teach them, the Son of man must suffer many things and be rejected of the elders and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again." (Mark 8:31)

"He charged them that they should tell no man what things they had seen till the Son of man was risen from the dead. And they kept that saying with themselves, questioning one with another what the rising from the dead should mean." (Mark 9:9.10)

"For He taught His disciples and said unto them, “The Son of man is delivered into the hands of men and they shall kill him; and after that He is killed, He shall rise the third day. But they understood not that saying and were afraid to ask Him." (Mark 9:31, 32)

"And He took again the twelve and began to tell them what things would happen to Him. Behold we go up to Jerusalem and the son of man shall be delivered to the chief priests and unto the scribes; and they shall mock him, and shall scourge Him, and shall spit upon Him, and shall kill Him: and the third day He shall rise again." (Mark 10:33.34)

"Having yet one son, his well.beloved, he sent him also last unto them, saying 'They will reverence my son'. But those husbandmen said among themselves, 'This is the heir, come let us kill him and the inheritance shall be ours'. And they took him and killed him and cast him out of the vineyard .... Have ye not read the Scripture: the stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner." (Mark 12:6-8, 10)

"Be not affrighted; ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified. He is risen, he is not here." (Mark 16:6)

"Afterwards He appeared to the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart because they believed not them which had seen Him after He was risen." (Mark 16:14)

These passages supply the evidence that Christ not only asserted His claim to the inheritance but established His right as the Son of man by paying the ransom price, which cost Him all that He had. The payment was an essential part in the redemption of a forfeited inheritance; to this both the law and the prophets bear witness, and the book of Ruth supplies a graphic illustration. Boaz had the right to redeem as a kinsman. He had the resource to redeem as a “mighty man of wealth," but the greatest proof of his loving intent was his resolve to redeem. Christ therefore spoke of His volitional right, "The Son of man came." He declared His voluntary resolve, "Not to be ministered unto, but to minister." He stressed His vicarious ransom, "And to give His life a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45) His object in this undertaking was to glorify God in the regaining of the forfeited inheritance that had been disposed away by man, in order that He might endow the Redeemed with an eternal inheritance.

The numerous instances of His authoritative word recorded in this first section receive a further confirmation in ch. 2. He described with accuracy where they would find a colt tied, whose owner would be willing to grant it to Him for the fulfilling of the great prophetic forecast of Zech. 9:9.

He further demonstrated the authority of His word in connection with the fig tree, which supplied a full illustration of the attitude of Israel toward Him. Mark 9:14, 20. The three occasions in which He referred to the fig tree in the gospel are of deep interest, covering as they do the three years of His ministry, and also depicting Jewish history in its past, present, and future aspects.