Mark's Gospel

J. N. Darby.

<24025E> 253

Mark 5

If calming the winds and the sea shews the Lord's power over creation, that which follows shews it over demons; He casts out a Legion by His word. But now we find the effect of the manifestation of His power upon the world, even where it worked for the deliverance of men. They beseech Jesus to depart, and He goes away. Poor world! the quiet influence of Satan upon the heart is more disastrous than His outward and visible power; this is sad enough, but the power of the Lord is quite sufficient to drive it away: whereas, on the other hand, the quiet influence of Satan in the heart drives away Jesus Himself. And remark that, when the presence of God is felt, it is more terrible than that of Satan; man would wish to free himself from the latter, but cannot; but the presence of God is insupportable when it makes itself felt: and indeed man has driven God (in the person of Christ) out of this world. Jesus gave Himself for us, it is true; but, as regards man's responsibility, he has driven out the Lord. I do not doubt that all this scene is the representation of the end of the Lord's history; and that the swine present to us the end of the Jews, who were hurried into perdition as possessed of the devil at the end of their history. The world did not wish to have Jesus; the Jews are cast down into hopeless ruin.

The man who is cured is quiet; he wishes to be with Jesus who is going away, but this is not allowed him. He must go and announce to others what God has done for him. Here is the position of the disciples and of all Christians after the Lord's departure from this world. They desire to go and be with Him, but are sent again into the world to declare the blessed work that the Lord has done in their own persons; they can by their own experience say what is the grace and the power of Jesus. But how deplorable is the state of the world and of man! The presence of the devil is more tolerable for him than that of God. He would wish to check the violent manifestations of the power of Satan, but cannot - the bands are burst asunder, and the man is as bad as ever. God is not a tyrant like Satan; He is good, full of grace, and frees men in Christ from Satan's power; but, this being the proof of the presence and power of God, man shews that His presence is insupportable to him, even when God manifests Himself as the deliverer from all the evils which sin and Satan's power have introduced.

254 The history which follows reveals the true relationships between Jesus and Israel. Jesus came to heal Israel; but Israel was in fact dead, speaking spiritually; when Jesus arrived, it was necessary to raise him, if it were God's will that he should live; the Lord could do it, and will do it for this nation in the last days. But then being in the way with the people, the crowd of Israel surrounded Him; and, if individual faith touched Him, the person was healed, and this is what happened to the poor afflicted woman.

Let us notice some of the details of the story: - the Lord distinguishes between true faith and the eagerness of the crowd which was attracted by His miracles and by the benefits it had received. Sincerity was not wanting in the crowd, the people saw the miracles and enjoyed their effects, but they had not faith in the person of Jesus. But there was good in the woman, by grace, that which is always found in faith, a felt need and the perception of the excellence of His person, and of the divine power that was in Jesus, accompanied with true humility with regard to herself. The poor woman is sure that, if she touch only the hem of His garment, she shall be healed; and in fact it is this that takes place. As soon as the woman is healed, Jesus perceives that the power which is in Him, and which has gone out from Him to the woman, has worked with efficacy. And it is always thus: many can hear the gospel and delight to listen to it, but faith is another thing; and faith always receives the Lord's answer to the need which it presents to Him. He may make one wait, if He finds it good to exercise the faith, but He always answers in love: the woman is perfectly healed. Faith makes the believer humble about his wretchedness; the woman wished to remain hidden, but the Lord encourages the believer, saying in this instance, "Daughter, be of good comfort, thy faith hath saved thee, go in peace." However timid and fearful the soul may be in the Lord's presence in spiritual things, and however much it may feel its wretchedness, when the call is true, it opens out and confesses His grace, not the misery which had rendered this grace needful. It is then that the Lord encourages and speaks peace to the heart. Personal faith is here plainly distinguished from the eagerness of the crowd which followed Him, whether for curiosity, or for the benefits which Jesus conferred upon it. But the power of resurrection was found in Him and through Him. Israel, though dead, was only sleeping: the Lord's voice will call him into life in His time.

Mark 6

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But however great His divine power, He was manifested in a form that could lend nothing to the pride and vanity of human nature. Man was responsible to receive Him because He manifested the character of the Godhead: He would not flatter and give support to human passions, nor to those of the Jews as a nation. If man is to receive God, he must receive what God is; but this is just what his fallen nature will not do. The divine character was much more fully manifested in the humiliation of Jesus, than if He had come as a glorious King; but He was not that which man's heart desired. He was the carpenter's son, and that was enough to cause His rejection. They judged according to the flesh: the kindred of Jesus were in their midst; and they did not look any farther. Astonished at their unbelief, He leaves them after having done that which the wants of some of them demanded, for His grace never failed. A prophet is not without honour but in his own country; for it is there that he is known according to the flesh. So it was with Jesus, not only in Nazareth, but also in Israel. Remark what an obstacle unbelief is to the exercise of the power of God. The faith of the sick woman who touches His garment causes His power to come out, but the unbelief of the inhabitants of His own country hinders its exercise. We find, "He could not do any mighty work there," etc. May God grant that we may not put any obstacle to the activity of His grace, which is always ready to act; but, on the contrary, may we know what it is to profit by His power by causing it to act towards us by faith; chap. 6:1-6.

256 Now the Lord sends His disciples to preach, and we have a proof of His power more remarkable than that of His own miracles. He gives them the power to perform miracles themselves, power to cast out all demons. This is a power evidently divine; God makes man capable to perform signs and wonders; but what man can give this power to another? Christ gave it, and His disciples, capacitated by His gift, cast out demons in reality: Christ was God manifest in grace upon the earth. We have already called attention to the fact that all the Lord's miracles, and those of His disciples are not only the results of power, such as the miracles of Moses, of Elias, etc., but they are the fruits of divine goodness. One may except the cursing of the fig-tree, but this after all is a proof of the same thing. The testimony of the Lord, stamped as it was with love, and confirmed by His miraculous works, had been rejected; and Israel - man's heart - under the influence of this goodness, of the manifestation of God, of all the care which God had lavished upon it, had not brought forth any fruit. Therefore the bad tree is judged for ever, so that it can never bear fruit again. Thus man, having shewn himself to be nothing but guilty, and so guilty, that all the means employed by God, even to the gift of His only-begotten Son, have been found to be unable to awaken a single good sentiment towards God, as to his state in the flesh, he is finally rejected of God. God can save him in giving him a new nature by the Holy Spirit, but in himself he is without hope. Who will do more than that which God has done?

More than this; the Lord has not only power to give to His disciples authority over evil spirits, but He can also dispose of human hearts. The disciples were to start without taking anything for their journey; and nevertheless, as we read in Luke, the disciples bore witness, in answer to the Lord, that they had wanted for nothing. Sustained by the power of Emmanuel, whose power extended everywhere, and armed with His authority, they were to stay in the house into which they had entered until their departure from each place. Thus they were to conform themselves to this mission; possessing the Lord's authority for their message, they were to act accordingly. And wherever their message should not be received, they were to shake the dust off their feet as a witness against that city, whose fate should be worse than that of Sodom and Gomorrha. It is true that the Lord, full of goodness and patience, sent seventy disciples again before His face when He went up to Jerusalem at the end of His career upon earth, and these were to preach the gospel. But as to the principle of the mission, that which we find in Mark was the last testimony given to Israel before the judgment of the nation. This was to be a last appeal to the conscience and heart of the people, in order that it might receive the Saviour and repent and turn to God and escape the terrible judgment that awaited it; and that there might be at least a remnant which, moved by the powerful word of God, might return to God to enjoy His goodness in the Saviour, and a better hope than Judaism had been able to give them.

257 The disciples went forth preaching that men were to repent. What grace there is in the sending forth of the gospel! Not only does God give us to enjoy salvation and His love, but employs men as the instruments of the activity of His love. O how we ought to bless God that He condescends to make use of us to carry the testimony of His ineffable love and of His truth to men's hearts - at least to their ears, in order that He Himself may cause it to reach their hearts in His grace! May we know at least what it is to have our hearts full of love, whether we preach or not, so that they may be a true expression of that grace which seeks men. Thus the power of God accompanied the disciples; they cast out devils and healed the sick.

At this time the report of the works and power of the Lord reached the king's ears; his conscience was troubled at it because he put John the Baptist to death. Here begins the history of the facts which shew practically the opposition of man's heart to the testimony of God. The enmity against the truth and the light which was fulfilled in the death of Jesus, manifested itself already in the death of His predecessor. Herod's natural conscience had induced him to listen to John; the fear that he had of the holy man who had been faithful in rebuking him caused him to have some regard for him, and to keep him from the enmity of Herodias; but that which is natural is not enough to form a barrier to the flesh. The excitement of a banquet and royal pride are enough to cause the prophet's death. Painful instance of the manner in which man deceives himself; and when he imagines himself strong enough to shew forth his power, all he can do is to reveal his weakness and his slavery to his passions. All this does but accomplish the will of God; this enmity of man's heart must shew itself, and must introduce, by the rejection of John the Baptist and of Jesus Himself, things infinitely better, through the sovereign grace of God.

258 The disciples come back and relate to Jesus all that they have done and taught; it was natural that they should be full of it. But the Saviour does not say anything about it; for Him power was a natural thing, and He wishes the disciples to come apart in a desert place to rest a little in solitude. It is always a good thing, even necessary for us whatever the blessing may be - all the more the greater it is - for us poor creatures who are so incapable of bearing the effect of power when the work is by our means, so ready are we to attribute it to ourselves without perceiving it; it is necessary, I say, to retire into God's presence, and there in His presence to find out what we are in truth, to enjoy in safety His perfect love: but to be occupied with Him and not with ourselves. This is what the Lord did in His tender consideration for His own.

But the love of God does not find repose in this world; and man, finding but little love in human hearts, is afraid of wearying the Lord when He is present there; but divine love never refuses to attend to man's wants. The people recognised Jesus and ran together from every city, coming out of their solitude to see Jesus; and He, seeing this great multitude, was moved with compassion, because they were as sheep without a shepherd. He begins to teach them: this is the first and true need of the people abandoned of their human shepherds; but the Lord still thinks of all the needs of His hungry people. The disciples would have wished to have sent away the crowd, but Jesus wishes to feed it. This miracle has a great meaning in itself, from the place it holds in this Gospel. Jehovah was the true Shepherd of Israel and was there present in the person of Christ, who in truth was rejected. Nevertheless His compassion and His love were not weakened by the ingratitude of the people.

To shew that He is really Jehovah, He acts according to Psalm 132:15; "I will satisfy her poor with bread." This is a psalm which predicts the time of the Messiah, which will be fully accomplished in the latter days; but He who shall accomplish it was there present, and though He be rejected, He gives the proof that Jehovah has visited His people - He satisfies the poor with bread. His love was far superior to the malice of His people. He had already said that the Son of man would be put to death, and that the people would not receive their Saviour-God. With all this, Jehovah does not abandon His love; if the people do not want Jehovah, Jehovah wants the people. He gives the precious testimony that Jehovah's love does not grow weary, but remains superior to all the folly of man. May His name be praised and adored for it! We can all the more count upon His unfailing goodness not to allow us to fall into negligence, but to sustain us in our weakness; for His love is greater than all our failings, so that we can adore His patience.

259 But there is another important truth which we find here. The Lord does not say, "I will give them to eat," but, "Give them to eat." The Lord wishes the disciples to know what it is to use His power for the good of others, and that they may know how to use it by faith. Oh, what a thought that true faith employs Jehovah's power, and in circumstances which shew that His love is above our unfaithfulness and failure! How important a truth for us, that Christ is the expression of this love, of the superiority of God's grace over all our sins; for "God commendeth his love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us." This was the proof of it; but that which was manifested in His death is always true for us in His life. "Much more," says the apostle, "being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life." Faith, therefore, counts upon the unfailing faithfulness of this love, and uses the strength which is made perfect in weakness. The flesh in the disciples sees nothing but carnal means, and does not look at God's love and power but at that which is seen. But the Lord gives food in abundance to the hungry multitude, and shews Himself to be both the God and Saviour of Israel.

The story which follows gives us the picture of the separation caused by the Lord's rejection, and the welcome which will be given to Him at the end of the history of this world which has rejected Him. He does not speak of the judgment of His adversaries, but of the change of the world itself. The Lord constrains His disciples to depart alone, whilst He sends away the multitude; and when they are gone, He departs into a mountain to pray. This is exactly what the Lord has now done: the disciples are tossed upon the tempestuous sea of the world; Jesus has sent away Israel, and has ascended to heaven to intercede for us. In the meantime the wind is contrary, and we toil in rowing with difficulty and trouble, being outwardly left to the Lord; but He intercedes for us always, and obtains mercy and grace for us in the time of need. Israel had been dismissed.

260 More exactly, the disciples upon the sea represent the Jewish remnant, which in fact has become the church: but here it is considered in its character of the Jewish remnant. Jesus overtakes the ship, walking upon the sea, for He can walk calmly upon circumstances which cause us great trouble. The disciples are afraid, but Jesus comforts them, assuring them that it is Himself, their well-known friend and Saviour. Thus it will be at the end of the times: Jesus will appear superior to all the circumstances by which His people are troubled; and He will be the same meek and humble companion who walked upon earth with His disciples "in the days of his flesh."

"Now when he entered into the ship, the wind ceased." I repeat that the judgment of His adversaries is not mentioned here, but that which will happen to His people amongst the Jews, when He shall return. Then the world will be again full of joy. The land of Gennesaret, which had sent away the Saviour after He had healed the demoniac, receives Him now and owns Him, and all the people everywhere enjoy His presence with delight.

Are our hearts ready to receive this teaching? Have we learned that to carry one's cross is the true position of the Christian, the path into which the Lord has led us? To walk thus we have need of an object which can rule the heart, which can possess its affections, and can fix them on what is on before, and lead them on; an object to which too the cross is united - that is, Christ who has loved us, and who gave Himself upon the cross for us; Christ who is now in glory to which He is leading us, and who shews us what the path of the cross is, in order that we may be with Him and like Him, following the path which the Lord has trod for us in His love. "If any man serve me, let him follow me: and where I am, there shall also my servant be."

Mark 7

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This seventh chapter is full of the most interesting teaching. First, the Lord's judgment upon the outward piety of the heads of Judaism, which was altogether external and nothing less than hypocrisy, and which set aside the law of God. All these washings are despised by God; the Pharisees had set aside the commandment of God to keep their own tradition. Secondly, the Lord shews that that which comes out of a man's mouth defiles the man, because it arises from the heart; not that which enters into the man. Then having thus judged Israel and man, He shews forth in the most touching manner the sovereign grace of God which passes by every barrier to reach man's need: outside of all rights founded upon the promises, demanding only that the heart should recognise it in order that it may be entirely the pure grace of God in love which does the good; revealing itself as love when man is bad, and without any hope outside of this sovereign grace.

Outward things are easy to do; man likes to make his religion of them, for they do not need a pure heart; man likes to do them, and to exalt himself and to distinguish himself from others in doing them. By them man boasts of great piety before other men, and gains a great reputation for it; but he can be bad at the same time; these outward acts do not bring him into the presence of God who searches the heart. Man by these acts is religious without possessing holiness, and he finds that this just suits him. One does not find Pharisees only in our Lord's time; they are to be found in all times. This system always attaches itself to the influence which a man exerts over another by means of a position outwardly holy; it is not the faith which possesses truth and grace for itself (which truth and grace came by Jesus Christ, and which produce holiness and communion with God who reveals Himself in them), but the official influence that a man uses to his own advantage, carelessly leaving on one side the will and the commandments of God. Thus it was amongst the Jews; they washed their hands, but not their hearts; they were very scrupulous about that which entered their mouth, and careless about that which came out of their heart.

Thus is man's religion always; he can observe such a religion as this, and deck himself with it as with a glory. But he cannot get real holiness in this way, and this is evident to the eyes of God, who sees all that goes on in the heart. True holiness shews itself in the practical walk; one may fail, but the soul sustained by grace only seeks the approbation of God; it has the consciousness of failure, and rejoices in God, for it is He who dwells in the soul, and keeps it humble. But the Pharisees and Sadducees amongst the Jews profited by their reputation and position to induce the pious to give many gifts to God, whom they represented. Thus duties towards parents were slighted, and God's law countermanded. They honoured God with their lips, but their heart was far from Him. They drew near to Him with their mouth, but not with their heart; this was full of covetousness and iniquity. God refuses altogether this kind of honour. "In vain do they worship me," says the prophet Isaiah, and the Lord repeats it. God wants a pure heart sanctified by the Spirit and by the truth; and He wants a worship which is to be rendered in spirit and in truth: the Father seeketh such to worship Him. He wants grace, but the truth is required to be able to draw near to God, a heart where the divine life exists. All this human religion, outward, Pharisaical, priestly, is judged of the Lord once and for all times. God demands a pure heart and true obedience. Men put on this kind of religion, giving honour in it to antiquity and to the traditions of their ancestors, to which man's imagination attributes great value. All that is seen through the shades of antiquity is imposing enough; but with God it is a question of the heart, and it was the same then as it is now with us: we are before God, and He sees us just as we are. Man's actual state is the question.

262 But what are these poor hearts in their natural state? This is the second question the Lord takes up. He has already torn the veil of the hypocrisy by which the Pharisees and priests tried to conceal the impurity of their hearts, and to turn to their own account the external piety which they taught; the motives of their hearts are manifested, and the efforts which they make to cover the impurity and avarice of their heart appear; their hypocrisy is manifest. The Lord does not only rend the veil of hypocrisy, but discovers also that which the heart produces. This is what God does; He searches our hearts and manifests them, and then reveals His own. This is the uncovering not merely of the hearts of the Pharisees, but of the hearts of all men; that which goes out of the mouth defiles the man, because it proceeds from the heart. What a picture! The product of the human heart consists of malice, corruption, envy, … in a word, of nothing but vices.

263 Was the Lord wanting in benevolence or love toward man? His coming is the proof of God's love. Did He wish to hide the good that might be found in man? Was He the only one capable of discovering the evil? Could He wish to slander the being He had come to bless, to save, and to whom He would give a place with Himself? Impossible: this could not be. But instead, knowing man's heart, He was obliged to say the truth. It was love which discloses the utter perversity of the human heart, in order that man may not remain in this state. It is indeed better that it should be disclosed now in the presence of grace than in the day of judgment, when all that is manifested will be punished, and man condemned.

Observe also that, when practical holiness and obedience are no longer to be found in the life of the leaders, a religion founded by God becomes the power of sin and of hypocrisy, and tends always to pervert the mind, to destroy the conscience and uprightness in all; because that which is looked upon as God's authority encourages hypocrisy and iniquity, and also tends to produce unbelief, because men see that religion attaches itself to that which even the natural conscience condemns. Oh how sad a story is that of the human heart and of the church of God, such as men have made it! Observe also the influence of the corrupt religious authority to blind men and to destroy spiritual intelligence. What can be clearer than that which the Lord says? But the natural conscience does not recognise the truth that it is not that which entereth into a man's mouth that defileth the man, but that which comes out of it, for it proceeds from the heart. The thing is simple enough.

The disciples do not understand, and ask for an explanation of it; their natural intelligence had been blinded by the tradition of the elders. The manner of reasoning acquired by the authority of the latter had spoilt their understanding. And indeed, do we not find many who believe that that which entereth into a man's mouth defileth him? And yet they are sincere souls; and not only so, they believe also that to eat a certain kind of food one day defiles, and that another day it does not: and this because of the tradition of the elders. This really is what the disciples did substantially; and the Lord reproves them, saying, "Are ye so without understanding also?" Here we see the judgment of the Lord against many things which keep many souls in bondage, and sincere souls even, like those of the disciples.

264 But let us turn to the precious display of God's love in the words of the Lord to the poor woman. We find that all the privileges of the Jews are recognised first; but we find also the truth of God which rises far above such privileges to manifest grace and love wherever a need may be found; not indeed where there is a right to the promises, but towards an accursed race, towards a woman from a country notorious for its hardened state. God manifested Himself in rising above all the barriers that man's iniquity and the exclusive system of Judaism had set up, even the system which He had Himself established, which was shewn to be abolished by the rejection of Christ.

The Lord goes into the borders of Tyre and Sidon; He wishes to be quiet, but goodness joined with power are too rare in the world to remain unnoticed; and the need felt awakens the soul and makes it clear-sighted. A poor woman had a daughter subject to the power of an unclean spirit; feeling her own wretchedness and believing in Jesus' power, she goes to seek Him. The weight of misery that oppressed her made her hope in His goodness. The Lord keeps to the promises made by God to the Jews, and in His answer puts forward the rights of God's people; He could not take the children's bread and give it to the dogs. Observe that the woman herself was of the accursed race; if we look at the ways of God in the midst of Israel, there was not a single promise for her; and she had no right belonging to her in common with the people of God. According to the Jews and the legal economy, she was nothing more than a dog: but present needs were there, and the power of God, always employed as it is for His own good purposes, was there too, and this inspires her confidence.

It is always thus; need and faith in the goodness and power of the Lord give perseverance, as in the case of those who carried the paralytic man when the crowd pressed around Jesus. But there is something in the woman's heart besides confidence which grace had produced there. She recognises the rights of the Jews as God's people; she owns that she is but a dog with regard to them; but she insists upon her demand, because she feels that, even though she be but a dog, the grace of God is sufficient for those who had no rights. "Even the dogs," she says, "eat of the children's crumbs"; she recognises what she is, but also what God is. She believes in His love towards those who have neither rights nor promises; and in the manifestation of God in Jesus outside of and above all dispensations. God is good, and the fact of being in misery is a claim with Him: could Christ say, "No, God is not good as thou dost suppose?" He could not say this: it would not have been the truth.

265 This is great faith, faith which recognises our own wretchedness, that we have right to nothing; but faith which believes in the love of God clearly revealed in Jesus, without any promise, yet fully revealed. God cannot deny Himself and say, "No I am not love." We have no right to expect the exercise of this love towards us, but we can be sure that coming to Christ, impelled by our wants, we shall find perfect goodness, love that heals us, and the healing itself. Let us remember that true need perseveres because it cannot do without the aid of the power which was manifested in Christ; nor without the salvation which He has brought; nor is there salvation without the help which is to be found in Him for our weakness. And that which is in God is the source of our hope and of our faith; and if asked how we know what is in God's heart, we can answer, "It is revealed perfectly in Christ." Who put it into God's heart to send His own Son to save us? Who put it into the Son's heart to come and suffer everything for us? Not man. God's heart is its source. We believe in this love, and in the value of that which Christ has done and accomplished upon the cross, to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. Besides He does all things well, He makes both the deaf to hear and the dumb to speak.

The grace of God was fully shewn towards the poor woman, who had no right to any blessing, nor to any promise; she was a daughter of the accursed Canaan; but faith reaches even to the heart of God manifested in Jesus, and in like manner the eye of God reaches to the bottom of man's heart. Thus God's heart and man's heart meet, in the consciousness that man is altogether bad, that he has not a single right; indeed he owns truly this state, and in it gives himself up to the perfect goodness of God. But the Jewish people, who pretended to possess righteousness and right to the promises, is set on one side; and, as to the old covenant, is shut out from God's favour. Only Jesus opens the eyes and the ears of the remnant brought to Him in faith. And it was not only the Jewish people which was to be set aside (and as to the first covenant for ever), but man also was set aside on the ground of righteousness, which is the principle of the first covenant.

266 Then the Lord leaves again the borders of Tyre and Sidon and returns to the country of Galilee; where He found Himself in the midst of the people of Israel. But, as we have said, He was virtually rejected by the people. Jesus has the consciousness that the beloved people is lost, and all that He does is to expect its ruin. They bring to Him a man who was deaf with an impediment in his speech, and beseech Him to put His hand upon him to heal him. Then Jesus takes the man and leads him aside from the crowd: and then puts His fingers in his ears, and, having spit, touches his tongue. Then He looks toward heaven: power is always present in Him, but sorrow oppresses His heart, because the people were really deaf to the voice of the Good Shepherd; their tongue was tied and incapable of praising God. The Lord's sighs are the expression of this feeling; inasmuch as the state of the poor man represented the state of the beloved people. Nevertheless they were happy in that the love of Him whose counsels never change rested, in spite of all, upon them. And indeed the Lord was there, and worked according to this love and these sighs; He looked up to heaven, the source of love and of power, and never grew weary until the people in favour of whom He exercised this power, would no longer support His presence. It is true they would not have been able to put Him to death, if He had not given Himself up of His own free will, but the time would come in which He would give Himself up to accomplish redemption; and until that moment arrive, He shews Himself always as the God of goodness towards the afflicted, and for all people's need.

In verse 33 we see that He separates Himself from the mass of the people in healing the deaf man. In chapter 8:23, we have the same thing; He leads the blind man out of the town, but He heals him; only there the state of His disciples is shewn. It is touching to see this look that the Lord gives toward heaven, and the sigh of His heart as He sees the people deaf to God's voice, and incapable of blessing His name; and to see the Lord's heart for hardened men, and how this heart was in harmony with the heaven which He always manifested. There He found the certainty of this love that man rejected; and rested in the same feelings that reign in heaven, and of which He was the expression upon this ungrateful earth. The Lord's power shewed itself the very moment; the ears were opened, and the tongue was loosed. The people could not hold their peace, but published everywhere that which Jesus had done, saying, "He hath done all things well; he maketh both the deaf to hear and the dumb to speak." The Lord's work opens the ears, and gives cause to humble hearts to praise God, and to recognize His love. But alas! how many remain deaf to the voice of God's love! "They are like the deaf adder that stoppeth her ear; which will not listen to the voice of charmers, charming never so wisely."

Mark 8

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The Lord continues to manifest divine goodness. It is the chief thing to be noticed in this part of the Gospel. He had already given the hungry people to eat, a manifest sign of Jehovah's presence, as we have before remarked - a sign that should accompany His presence. Here it is more simply the divine power, without alluding to the kingdom which was to come. The number seven is the expression of perfection in spiritual things. The Lord's compassion makes Him think of the needs of the poor, whilst the disciples think only of human and visible means to satisfy themselves. This is the case only too often with real believers.

Then the Lord leaves the crowd, and goes into the parts of Dalmanutha. There the Pharisees ask for a sign from heaven, although they had already seen enough; but unbelief is never satisfied. But now the time of trial was passed, it was too late; the Lord leaves them. But observe the Lord's spirit towards the perverse generation; He sighed deeply in His spirit, saying, "Why doth this generation seek after a sign? There shall no sign be given to it." The end had come morally; it was useless to give proofs to hearts who had resolved not to believe. Perfect patience, love, deep pity, and sorrow in thinking of the unbelief of the leaders of the people were all there in Him, and manifested themselves all the more clearly as their hearts were hardened; and signs were useless for hearts who would not believe, and also it was not suited to God's majesty to give any to men who would not receive Him. It would be casting pearls before swine.

268 Now we find that the disciples themselves were really blind, not wilfully, but in fact. The Lord warns the disciples to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of Herod. The disciples had forgotten to take any bread, and alas! also the power of Jesus manifested in the miracles, by which He had fed thousands of people with a few loaves. The Lord reproves them, saying, "Perceive ye not, neither understand? Have ye your heart yet hardened?" They were, as it were, hardened at seeing so many miracles, and had understood nothing of Jesus' miracles in the multiplying of the loaves.

But the fact which follows shews the state of the disciples in contrast with the people. The latter did not see anything at all, and would not receive the light; the disciples saw indistinctly; they saw men as trees walking. They really loved the Lord, but Jewish habits prevented them from grasping fully His glory. They believed indeed that He was the Messiah, but the Messiah for their hearts was something else than the Christ of God, the Saviour of the world. They had attached themselves by grace to the person of the Lord, but they did not understand that divine glory which was, as it were, hid in that person, which revealed itself in His words and works. They had left all to follow the Lord; intelligence was wanting, not faith, however small it might be. The spirit was willing but the flesh was weak, as we have already remarked. The Lord leads the blind man out of the city, separating him from Israel. First of all the man only sees partially: men seemed to him like trees walking. But the Lord's patience, as great as His power, gives a picture of the state of the disciples' heart, and also a picture of His untiring goodness, which does not leave the blind man until he sees clearly. Thus He did to the disciples, only here He does not speak of the means: when Jesus had ascended to heaven and had sat down at the right hand of God, He sent the Holy Ghost who led them into all truth. Then they saw clearly.

But the Lord forbids the blind man to enter into the town, or to tell it to anyone in the town, not only because He did not seek the vain glory of men, but also because He wished to avoid a large concourse of curious persons who were but an obstacle to His real work in consciences and hearts; and also because He wished to shew that the time of testimony in Israel was at an end. Rejected by the world, He commands the man who has been delivered from the power of the devils to return to his house, and there to proclaim that which God had done for him. The disciples would have done that - would have proclaimed His work - when Christ should have left this world; but here it was a question of Israel who had rejected the Lord, and God's testimony had no longer any place in their midst.

269 The Lord's discourse which follows touches upon this in the question which He asks His disciples, "Whom do men say that I am?" And they answered, "John the Baptist; but some, Elias; and others one of the prophets": different opinions, but no faith. Then He asks them, "But whom say ye that I am?" Peter answers, "Thou art the Christ"; and the Lord forbids the disciples to tell it to any man, in the most positive manner. This is the clearest proof that the testimony in the midst of the people was entirely at an end. He was nevertheless the Christ, but He was rejected by the people, which shewed itself to be its own enemy in rejecting the wondrous grace of God. Now He begins to teach His disciples openly that He must suffer as Son of man: a much greater position and title, both as regards the extent of His power, and the greatness of the dominion which belonged to Him; for all things will be subjected to the sway of the Son of man. But in order that the Son of man might take His place in glory, He must first suffer, be put to death and rise again; it was necessary that redemption should be accomplished, and that man should enter into a new position, into an entirely new state, in which he had never been even when innocent. Christ's position as Messiah was now set aside for this time, and He enters into one greater where old things are left behind beyond death, and all that is founded upon Christ's work, upon His death - enters upon a state altogether new and eternal.

Here the subject is treated more with regard to His sufferings; He puts the cross before the disciples, but He always speaks of death and resurrection. "And he spake that saying openly." This was a stumbling stone for Peter who did not wish that his Master should be despised in the eyes of the crowd; but the cross is the portion of those who wish to follow the Saviour. Peter in saying this placed a stumbling block on the disciples' path; the Lord thinks of this, and, turning about and looking upon His disciples, He reproves Peter, who had confessed Him but a moment ago, by the grace of God, and says to him, "Get thee behind me, Satan, for thou savourest not of the things that be of God, but of the things that be of men." We have here an important lesson, indeed, more than one lesson. First, the Christian needs to understand well that the way of salvation, the way which leads to glory and to heaven, the way in which Christ Himself walked, and in which He wishes us to follow Him, is a way in which we must deny ourselves, suffer, and conquer. Secondly, let us learn that a Christian can have true faith, and be taught of God, as in Peter's case here, without having the flesh in him judged so as to render him capable of walking in the way into which this truth brings him. It is important to remember this; sincerity may exist without knowing oneself. The new position of Christ, that of Son of man which embraced the heavenly glory of man in Him, and the supremacy over everything, rendered the cross absolutely necessary. But Peter's heart was not ready for the cross; when the Lord announces its practical effect, he cannot bear it.

270 How many hearts there are in this state! Sincere, no doubt; but they have not the spiritual courage to accept the consequences of the truth they believe. See the difference in Paul, made strong by the presence of the Holy Ghost and by faith. He says in the presence of death, "To know him [Christ] and the power of his resurrection, and the communion of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death," Phil. 3:10. But there was in him the power of the Holy Ghost, and he bore always in his body the dying of Jesus in order that the life of Jesus should manifest itself in his body. Happy man! always willing to suffer everything, rather than not follow fully the Lord Jesus, and to confess His name whatever the consequence might be; and, having walked faithfully, by grace to obtain at last the prize of his heavenly calling.

But the Lord does not conceal the consequence, nor does He wish to do so. He warns the crowd, and He warns us also that if we wish to be with Him, if we wish to follow Him, we must deny ourselves and take up our cross. Let us receive the Lord's words: if we wish to be with Him for ever, we must follow Him, and if we follow Him, we shall find upon the road that which He found. Of course it is not a question of expiatory sufferings, of that which He suffered from God's hand for sin, but of His sufferings from man, the contradiction of sinners, the opposition of men, abuse and even death. We know but little what it is to suffer for the name of Jesus; but remember, Christians, that which the Lord says first, "Let him deny himself"; you can always do this by grace. It is by doing this that we learn to suffer with Him, if God should call us to it. And what shall we give in exchange for our soul? This leads us to a third lesson, which requires a little more development.

271 That which nourishes the flesh and self-love is the great system which is called the world. Man wishes to be something in his own eyes; he would like to forget God, and make himself happy, if possible, without Him. Thus Cain, when he was driven out from God's presence, after Abel's death, went away from before His face, judged in such a manner by God, that he could not hope to be admitted again into His presence to enjoy communion with Him; for God had made him to be a vagabond and a wanderer on the earth (a striking type of the Jews at this time, after having put to death the Lord Jesus, who had become, so to speak, their brother). But Cain was not willing to remain a poor vagabond; at all events he did not wish to leave his family in such a state; he wished it to escape his own proper lot; and to this end he built a city in the land of Nod ("Nod" is the Hebrew word translated vagabond in the first instance); he desired that his family should be established in the country where God had made him a vagabond. He names the city after his son, as do the great people of this world. There is to be found the father (that is, the inventor) of music, the father of them that work in brass and iron; there the riches of this present age were heaped together, much cattle. This is the world!

Man's heart, alienated from God, tries to make the earth, where he was set at a distance from God, as pleasing to himself as possible; and, in order to accomplish this, he uses God's gifts and creatures to be able to do without Him. It is said that there is no harm in these things: - this is true, but this is not the question. They are good as being created things; it is said (as a figure) that there will be music in heaven also; but in heaven it will not be employed in order to divert the mind without God. It is a question of the use we make of these things. For instance, there is no harm in strength, but in the manner of employing it; with it one does harm to one's neighbour. Is it not true that the world which knows not God uses all kinds of pleasures to enjoy itself without Him? The heart which has not God in it endeavours to amuse itself, and for this it employs all the things which are seen, heard, and invented; as for instance, the theatre, music, and every kind of thing, because it is empty and sad and cannot satisfy itself; and after a few years, during which it has kept up its natural spirits, it finds itself tired and weary, even of trying everything, and says with Solomon after having essayed all, "All is vanity and vexation of spirit." God is neglected, and the soul lost.

272 For the Christian too, amusements only lead him away to a distance from God, and destroy his communion with Him. All that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father but of the world. The world and its lust pass away, but he that does the will of God abides for ever. The prince of this world is Satan, who seduced Eve with these things, having first of all destroyed her confidence in God; and it was with these things that he tried to seduce the Lord also, although, thank God, in vain. But with little trouble he succeeds but too often to seduce the hearts of men and of Christians; and to cause the pleasures of the world to have more power upon the soul than Christ Himself, than the love of a dying Saviour.

It was thus with poor Peter! It is true, he had not yet received the Holy Ghost, but this does not change the nature of his desires. He wished for this world's glory, and that under the appearance of love for the Lord. Notice here too the Lord's love for His disciples and how great is His tender care for them; He turns round and sees how great a stumbling-block Peter's words may be for the other disciples, and reproves him as severely as his words deserved. Then the Lord puts two principles before the disciples, first, the soul is worth more than everything, it is not to be exchanged for anything; secondly, the Lord is about to come in glory, and whosoever shall be ashamed of Him in this corrupt world where He is rejected, of him will the Son of man be ashamed when He shall come in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.