AN OUTLINE OF MARKS GOSPEL
C.A.C. We have been
seeing in the book of Numbers what an important place the service of God has.
We have been considering the place and ordering of the levites, the appointment
of their service, the cities they dwelt in, and the universal distribution of
the levitical character of things among the people of God. It was thought well
that we might consider the One who is the true Servant; that we might engage
ourselves for a little time with Him and the character of His service. One
feels assured that nothing is acceptable service to God that is not after the
pattern of Christ. God, having brought in what is for His full delight, cannot
possibly accept anything of a different order. It is very touching to see that
all is presented to us as glad tidings - not in the way of demand - but as glad
tidings designed to have a very happy effect on all who read it. None of the
Other evangelists begin their gospel with "the glad tidings of Jesus Christ,
Son of God," but Mark is so full of the happy character of it, and it so
possesses him, that he bursts out with it in the first sentence. "Beginning of
the glad tidings of Jesus christ, Son of God." He plunges at once into the very
heart Of what is before him. It is as much as to say, Every word I have
to utter about Him is "glad tidings." You feel at once you are in the
presence of what is of God, and it is brought in. He is Gods anointed
Son. Mark counts on its bçing a source of real gladness to contemplate
Him and to consider how He moved, how He acted, how He spoke. We can see that
what Mark wrote is designed to have a very happy effect upon those who read it.
Ques. What is the distinction between this and Romans I? It is the gospel of God there.
C A C Yes, it is "concerning his Son," and He is declared to be Son of God according to the Spirit of holiness by resurrection of the dead. What Mark has before him is the blessed way in which the Lord came in and moved through this world in Service. This is the gospel for saints, the gospel or glad tidings for any who fear God: it is the presentation of that blessed One, the way in which He comes in and moves through this world, delighting God in every way and serving man in every way. Two Old Testament prophets are cited, Malachi and Isaiah, as showing how He was heralded by John. His messenger precedes Him; all must be suitably prepared, so that He may not be hindered. His way is really Jehovahs way. In the desert there is to be "a highway for our God." How important the preparation of His ways is! His way is prepared. The idea of preparing the way is that He must not he hindered from a plain course, He is coming to serve and He must not be hindered; so a voice cries, "All flesh is grass." That is the preparation of His way. We get one man out of the way altogether; all flesh is grass, not some flesh but all flesh. What a preparation of His way! There is nothing to hinder Him then.
Ques. Is that why baptism is introduced so soon?
C.A.C. I thought so. From the messenger we may learn the state of man, the one who says, "All flesh is grass." That voice comes out in preaching baptism and repentance for the remission of sins. They could publicly take the ground of repentance. The Jews were accustomed to baptise proselytes, but now every one must take entirely new ground; there is no escape. The glad tidings are all concerning the second Man. Speaking morally, it is impossible for God to have two men before Him of different orders. The first man and second Man cannot both be for Gods pleasure because they are of different orders, so Johns mission is essential that all the pretensions of man after the flesh should go down into death. I think John came definitely with that mission to prepare the way of Jehovah and to make in the desert a highway for our God. God wants a highway; He says, I must have everything cleared out of My way. It is not a by-road, but a highway that is secured by the pretensions of man being set aside. Johns testimony is a wilderness testimony. His whole character and appearance, what he said and did, showed that there was nothing here for God apart from the attitude of repentance. If man takes up an attitude of repentance there is a highway for God.
Ques. Do his food and raiment bring out the wilderness side?
C.A.C. I thought so. His raiment and food are suited to wilderness conditions. The Lord spoke of him as not wearing delicate raiment, He contrasts him with "those who wear delicate things," who "are in the houses of kings," Mart. v :8. They are making themselves comfortable and luxurious in the world, but John was not like that at all. Johns was a wilderness testimony and his raiment and food were in keeping with this. There is a severity about John, a severity of separation and Nazariteship; he walked apart from all the resources of man. The camels hair garment speaks of separation; the leathern girdle of a certain severity of restraint on himself, restraint upon nature. His food was clean; locusts are among clean creatures; they have legs above their feet. And wild honey would be honey out of the rock. Nothing is prepared by man, but they are things of a distinctive character found in the wilderness by Gods ordering. John is independent of man altogether. "A man sent from God, his name John." If God sends a man it is to clear away every obstacle, that there may be a highway for Himself, so that His anointed Son may come in and fill up His blessed life of service for God and man.
Ques. Would verse 5 be anything like going forth without the camp?
C.A.C. It is that principle. Judea and Jerusalem were not the places now where Gods favour was known; it is a wilderness position. It was said of old, "In Judah is God known... in Salem also is his tabernacle"; but it is not so now, it is the wilderness. They must go out away from what had status even according to God - all that has to be given up. It is the giving up of everything that one naturally looks to, and going out into the wilderness to find only a voice. John seems to hasten to hide himself behind the One who was coming and the great service which He would render. John was the greatest servant. The Lord says of him that there was no greater born of women, yet he hides himself behind Another.
Ques. Should that be true of every servant?
C.A.C. I think so. John is a beautiful example of a true Servant. He says, "He must increase, but I must decrease"; that is a fine model for a servant. "John did no miracle: but the things that John spake of this man were true." That is a fine testimonial for a servant. It is a great test. So here he says SO beautifully, "There comes he that is mightier than I after me, the thong of whose sandals I am not fit to stoop down and unloose," v. 7. All that God was, was to be manifested in the service of that blessed One; it was Gods way, but all to be brought out in that blessed One as Man. God will have His way; He has set aside the first man and his ways, and He has brought in His own Man who will secure things according to His own heart and delight. All that is very good news to people who fear God.
Rem. He baptises with the Holy Spirit.
C.A.C. Yes, His service transcends Johns altogether. John says in verse 8, "I indeed have baptised you with water, but he shall baptise you with the Holy Spirit." That is the great service of the Son of God.
Ques. Do we get the difference between the two baptisms in Acts 19?
C.A.C. Yes, it is very plain that they knew Johns baptism but not the baptism of Jesus Christ the Son of God. I think Johns baptism is, in figure, the setting aside of the pretensions of man; and christian baptism is the burial, typically, of that man. If he is buried he is off the scene. Then the baptism of the Spirit connects one with another world altogether, it connects one with the divine world. The baptism of the Spirit connects one with heaven. It was not until the Lord went to heaven that He baptised with the Holy Spirit: therefore the baptism of the Holy Spirit connects us with heaven and with Christ as in heaven; that is how the kingdom of God comes in.
Ques. Is going out into the wilderness the great test for christians?
C.A.C. Yes, a great many have not gone out morally from the city, so there is no taking of new ground, and there is more or less of wearing of delicate raiment in kings houses. Paul said to the Corinthians, "Ye reign as kings." You do not find John in a kings house.
Ques. Could one go into the wilderness until one had received the Spirit?
C.A.C. I suppose repentance properly understood would bring us to wilderness conditions, because if I judge myself I shall also judge the whole system which I have been living in. Repentance is not merely judging myself but all my associations, like Isaiah who said, "I am a man of unclean lips," but he did not stop there, he went on to say, "I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips." He not only judged himself but all his associations. I do not think you have reached repentance fully until you have done that; then you are prepared to go out. Peter says on the day of Pentecost, "Be saved from this perverse generation," not only from yourselves, but from this untoward generation, this perverse or darkened generation. If people wake up to realise that the generation of the world is a darkened generation, and that there is no divine light there, they will soon want to move out. We not only find evil in ourselves, but we find evil in the system around us. It was more testing for a Jew to find that the whole system of things in which man moves and acts is all wrong, because he was accustomed to connect all with God. So now a great many people live in a sort of respectable christianity which is part and parcel of the world and which is all bound up in the wrong man, not Gods Man. To go out in that sense as judging the world and myself as forming part of it is a very necessary preparation, and then we get the highway of God; there is nothing to hinder God then. God says, Clear My way, prepare in the wilderness a highway for God. The beautiful effect of considering the path of the Lord is that you feel you have got a way where you can move with Him safely.
Ques. Where you can claim the Lords support?
C.A.C. Yes. The first thing which the Lord gets when He takes His place with those that fear God is the conscious support of heaven. It is what He saw in this gospel, "And straightway going up front the water, he saw the heavens parting asunder, and the Spirit, as a dove, descending upon him." "Harmless as doves," it is gentle, dovelike. It is what He saw. Then in the next verse it is what He heard, "Thou art my beloved Son, in thee I have found my delight." It is addressed to Himself here, not to others; it is what He saw and heard Himself. It is very beautiful to see that.
Ques. What is the thought of being baptised with the Holy Spirit? Is it receiving the Spirit?
C.A.C. I think there is something more involved in it than that. The word baptised means immersed. What a wonderfi.il thought it is to be immersed with the Holy Spirit. We have known what it is to be immersed in the flesh, so that the flesh filled and surrounded us, and that was the sphere in which we hved, moved, and had our being. But it is said of the Lord that He baptises with the Holy Spirit; He takes up His saints and plunges them into a wholly new environment. One would desire greatly to understand more the service that the Lord rendered in baptising with the Holy Spirit.
Ques. Why does it say that Jesus came from Nazareth to be baptised?
C.A.C. It is very beautiful that Nazareth was His place, not Jerusalem. That is, a despised place was His place, and He only moves out of that place to identify Himself with the divine movement. It is very touching that there could not be a public movement without the Lord identifying Himself with it. There was no occasion for Him to repent or be baptised, no necessity for Him to take that ground, but they took new ground, and it was ground where He loved to be with them in the spirit of what is said in Psalm i 19, "I am a companion of all them that fear thee, and of them that keep thy precepts." It is beautiful to see that spiritual movements attract the Lord. As soon as we begin to move spiritually, even if it is as poor sinners giving up our pretensions, as soon as that movement begins, He joins Himself with us, and then heaven confirms Him. It is very wonderful that heaven should come in at that moment, at the moment when He takes His place with that repentant crowd, just there He gets this wonderful approbation of heaven. It is as if the delight of God could not be kept in any longer.
Ques. John presented the greatness of His Person?
C.A.C. Yes, he was glad to hide himself behind that Person.
Rem. This should make Nazareth very precious to us; the Lord did not move out of Jud~a or Bethlehem.
C.A.C. Yes, Nazareth was His own place, and He grew up out of His own place, as the prophet said. He says from heaven, I am Jesus of Nazareth." He was that still, He never gives it up as His place. The Lord has no place in this world but that of reproach: the Nazarene and the crucified go together. They put on the cross, " Jesus of Nazareth . . ." The Lord here saw the heavens parted asunder, and the Spirit as a dove descending upon Him; it is what He saw, it is not a question of what anybody else saw.
Ques. What is the importance of His seeing it?
C.A.C. I think He got this before He began His service: He got the personal evidence of the support of heaven. I suppose that would be an important matter for us all in any little service we take up. If we do not start out with the consciousness of the support of heaven we are likely to be feeble in the service. The Lord sees, not only the heavens parted asunder, but the Spirit as a dove descending upon Him. He sees the character of the power that was coming upon Him in the anointing.
Ques. Would you suggest that the character of His service was dovelike?
C.A.C. I thought it indicated the spirit in which the service of that blessed One was to be carried out. The Lord Himself enjoins His disciples that they were to be "wise as serpents, and harmless as doves." The Spirit says of Him that He was harmless. I have often thought that this verse is very like Isaiah 64: i: "Oh, that thou wouldest rend the heavens, that thou wouldest come down." It says here that He saw the heavens parting or rent asunder. Then again in that chapter in Isaiah the judgments are mentioned, but in verse 4 it says, "Never have men heard, nor perceived by the ear, nor hath eye seen a God beside thee, who acteth for him that waiteth for him." That truly was the attitude of the Lord; He waited for Him, He waited thirty years, and never moved out in service, lie waited for Jehovah. Then the heavens are rent and God manifests Himself as acting for Him. I suppose the thought of God rending the heavens shows what He can be in His blessed power and support to the one who waits for Him.
Ques. It is the Father who speaks?
C.A.C. Yes, a voice out of heaven says, "Thou art my beloved Son, in thee I have found my delight." There is One on earth with the Sons affections in His heart. If service is not taken up in the spirit of sonship, I am sure it becomes servile.
Ques. Would you connect this with Isaiah 42?
C.A.C. Yes, it is a Son serving; that is the beautiful thing about it. It is a Son-servant; there was never such a Servant before. Moses was one of the greatest servants in Scripture, and God said he was faithful in all His house, but he was not a son. Now we have One who comes in and serves in all the freedom and affection of a Son. A son would not be checked or turned aside in his service by anything which could come in. He has the support of heaven behind him, he has the Fathers love behind him filling his heart, he has the Spirit of the Son. That is the true character of all service now.
Ques. We have to learn to serve that way?
C.A.C. Yes. We see it in all its perfection in Him, " In thee I have found my delight." Everything now is to be for Gods delight; it is not just a question of doing ones duty.
Ques. Is this service manward?
C.A.C. I think it is. He was Jehovahs servant, and He carried out Jehovahs pleasure in regard to man, but He does it in the affections of sonship. That is the kind of service which He sets going in His own; He gives impulse to that kind of service.
Ques. In Matthew the Lord is carried into the wilderness, in Luke He is led, and here He is driven (v. 12). Is there any significance in the difference?
C.A.C. There is a peculiar urgency here that is very striking: it is as if the Spirit were eager, if we may so say, to have His affections tested at once. The Spirit realised that His blessed service could not begin until this testing was over, so there is an urgency about it from that point of view.
We have been seeing how the Lord began His service in the consciousness of the support of heaven and the consciousness of sonship, because it is what He sees and hears Himself that is emphasised here, not what others saw and heard. He enters into the testing in the full consciousness of heavens support, and of the Fathers love resting upon Him. It is a poor thing to be tested from any other standpoint. I think the support of heaven and the consciousness of sonship, the place we have in the love of God, are necessary to stand even the smallest test. In all three synoptic gospels it is put in that way; He is led or carried or driven; there is no voluntary going into testing even with the Lord, it would not be mans place to do that. What we have here is a divine Person in manhood, so all the power of the enemy is met by the power of a Man.
It is a principle in the ways of God that nothing is useful in His service but that which has stood a certain test. It is what comes through the test that God can use; otherwise Satan might say, If that man had been tested he would have broken down. God puts His servants through testing, often quite in secret. Every one who is called to special service is put through the test, and it is what goes through the testing that God can use.
It has often been said that the Lords temptation was in perfect contrast with Adams circumstances. It was not a beautiful garden but a wilderness; and not beasts that come up meekly and gently to take their names and character from Adam, but wild beasts. There were no natural resources there at all, and what there was of creature conditions was adverse and unintelligent. Wild beasts are just the opposite in character to the dove which rested on the Lord. It would indicate that He was entering upon a service in which there was no natural resource at all, and in which there would be no sympathy; you would not look for sympathy in a wild beast. The Lord was entering on a service feeling how uncongenial everything was around: they were all wild beasts around Him. Scripture says, "I am for peace; but when I speak, they are for war," Ps. I20:7. We do not get the detail of the Lords temptation in Mark, because the Spirit just brings it in as necessary in view of His service. Details are not given here; it is the general character of testing that precedes service. There were no human resources in the wilderness; then Satan seeks to bring something in not of God in the way of relief or escape from such conditions. The wild beasts would indicate that what was there of creature character was unintelligent and adverse. All the testing was to bring out that nothing could cripple that blessed One, He was incorruptible. Satan had not a word to say, he was driven from the field. There was a full testing but it did not go on indefinitely: it had its term, forty days, and the Lord is looked at then as in the condition when support is needed. He is not independent of the support of heaven, so at the end of forty days we are told that angels ministered to Him. The support of heaven had waited forty days. It is a measured period. All our testings are measured, they do not go on interminably; the succour from heaven comes in just when it is needed in every testing.
Paul was greatly tested by all the exercises he went through about the Corinthians, but at the end of forty days, so to speak, he says, "God, that comforteth those that are cast down, comforted us by the coming of Titus." Titus was the angel to minister to him. If we thought Satan was going to be let loose on us without limit we should give in, but there are always time-limits to every testing. Whatever the nature of the testing it is strictly and divinely limited. There is a completeness about the forty days. In Lukes gospel it says, "When the devil had completed every temptation"; Satan had not another word to say. Forty is a number that seems to speak in Scripture of full testing; forty years in the wilderness was a full testing. In the case of the blessed Lord there was full testing, but nothing could cripple Him; Satans object in all testing is to cripple us for the service of God. If a servant can be seduced from the path of obedience and dependence he is crippled; if he turns to human resources and takes a natural way of escape from his difficulties and testing, he is crippled for the service of God. Luke tells us the Lord returned in the power of the Spirit; He comes back from the testing with power unimpaired, He has gone through it untouched. The object of this gospel is that we should be in the good of the kingdom. If we go through this gospel with God we shall understand what the glad tidings are, and what the kingdom of God is in power, so that we are set up entirely for God, just as the blessed Lord was.
Ques. Was Johns mission over?
C.A.C. Yes. It is rather striking that the Lord waits for a providential indication before He begins His service in this gospel. He does not set John aside, He would not appear as a rival to John; that is a beautiful model for a servant. We are told that when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that He baptised more disciples than John, He withdrew, He would not appear as a rival to John. He waited for a providential indication, the shutting up of John in prison, that the time had come for Him to come out. We know as a fact from Johns gospel that He had done miracles before that; His glory could not be hid, it subsisted in His own Person. But here in Marks gospel it is His path as a Servant, and He waits for John to pass off the scene, for the testimony of His forerunner to terminate, before He appears. It is not Gods way to bring one servant in to set aside another. If God has used a man and He brings in another servant, it is to confirm what the first did, not to set him aside. We see that wonderful mark of the true servant in the Lord. Even He, who must have known His superiority to John, would not come out in sçrvice until John had finished his course. That was a great contrast to Moses, who began to serve too soon: he felt he had a divine mission, and he thought the children of Israel ought to understand, but he was forty years too soon!
In service there is no getting in the way of another servant. Paul desired Apollos to go to Corinth: it was a beautiful unjealous feeling in Paul to wish another servant to go, perhaps a more brilliant man than himself; but Apollos would not go to be a rival to Paul. He says, "No, I am not going there, they are the kind of people to make me a rival to Paul." One has known cases of men coming in and setting aside everything that was there for the Lord, but that gets no divine support. A true servant recognises all there is for the Lord and supports it, he never puts himself in rivalry with it. It is the kingdom of God that is before a true servant. The Lord came out full of the kingdom of God: we do not think enough of it. God was absolutely supreme with Him. That is the primary thought in the kingdom of God. It is a realm where God is supreme, and yet His supremacy is not authority exercised judicially, but exercised in the way of fullest blessing for man. The kingdom of God meant that God was coming in, things were not going to be left in the hands of men, but God was coming in Himself to take things up and deal with them for His own glory, and yet for the most wonderful blessing for men, even for sinful men. It is a good question to put to people, Do you know anything about the kingdom of God? "Jesus came into Galilee preaching the glad tidings of the kingdom of God," v. 14. The kingdom comes in as good news. One can understand the people following the Lord because of the wonderful character of what was seen in Him: they followed Him to learn what the kingdom of God really was.
Ques. Is the kingdom of God objective or subjective?
C.A.C. It is objective at first because, in following Him and seeing His wonderful works and hearing His words, we see What the kingdom of God is. But the object of it is that men may be brought in their affections under the sway of God, caught for Him. That gives the subjective side; there is a result for God, not only men get great blessing, but men are to be caught for God. The Lord said, "Repent and believe In the glad tidings"; the glad tidings are all that is set forth in Himself. Then the great end of the kingdom of God is that Iflen are to be caught for God, so the fishermen are brought in at once," I will make you ... fishers of men." Men are to be caught by being brought to see what a wonderful God He is, and the wonderful character of His kingdom. If people saw the character of the kingdom they would be caught for God. We see the wonderful character of the gospel record: it is divine intuition that makes the servants of the Lord so often turn to the gospels for subjects of gospel preaching. My idea is that the gospels are the net: the Lord has given us a good net to catch men with. We cannot afford to leave out one of these incidents in the gospels; they bring out the nature and character of the kingdom of God. They show what God is in relation to all the sorrow, need and ruin of man, and how he can be completely delivered so that no influence is left to rule in his heart but the knowledge of God.
One can understand how the crowds followed Jesus from place to place; they wanted to see a little more of this wonderful kingdom. The Lord says, "I will make you. . . fishers of men"; that implies that He will give them a net to catch with, and the wonderful incidents that came out in the life of the Lord are like the net. When Peter stood up on the day of Pentecost he had all the truth that came out in the life of the Lord in his soul. "A man approved of God among you": he sums it up in a few words. "Miracles, wonders and signs " - that wonderful life. Peter lets down an unbroken net, and he gets a great catch: he was a fine fisher of men. I am sure that is how God catches men. We get another thought in connection with John; Simon was fishing but John was mending nets. We get there a suggestion of a broken net: that gives you Johns ministry. John comes in bringing spiritual material after the net was broken, so that the assembly might at the end of her course still be able to catch men. John is a reserve man, and after the breakdown of public testimony, John comes in to give spiritual material so that things may be preserved right away to the end. What John gives is imperishable, he comes in and repairs things at the end so that the assemblys witness may be as complete at the end as it was at the beginning.
Ques. What is your thought of "I will make"?
C.A.C. That is very important. The Lord says "Come after me" and "I will make." We learn to be fishers by following. We were singing just now:
Wherever we follow Thee, Lord,
Admiring, adoring, we see.
In following Him we learn the many sides of the kingdom: we become furnished with divine means to catch men. There are divine means and the Lord never used any other sort; He never appealed to peoples natural feelings or minds, but He appealed to their consciences and affections. The Lord says, Follow Me and you will become fishers of men. In this same gospel He ordained twelve "that they might be with him, and that he might send them to preach."
Ques. How does John 21 come in?
C.A.C. I think that is a service chapter. It brings out two great characters of service, fishing and feeding. One is the gospel side and the other is the ministry of food in the household. It shows that without the Lord we can catch nothing; they laboured all night but they caught nothing. It is no doubt a dispensational picture, but it does set forth the conditions of service. These men were a good sample of levites, they left everything, they came under a dominant influence, and everyone who serves the Lord must know what it means to come under a divine, dominant influence. They left their business and their natural relationships because another influence came in to dominate their affections. With many men their business is the dominant influence, and then their natural affections; and if anything is left the Lord gets it. That is reverting the whole thing. The Lord should be the dominating influence, and then the natural relationships should be influenced by the dominant influence, and the business comes in for its share in the end. I believe that is the divine order. The three synoptic gospels show how following the Lord would adjust us in regard to all the things that are temporal, but following Him in Johns gospel puts us in right relation with the things that are eternal. The Lord is moving there, we see Him as He walked. He is moving into the region of spiritual and eternal things, and those who follow Him in John pass into the region of the spiritual and eternal. But following Him in the other three gospels is connected more with the adjustment of things temporal: business, natural relationships, taking up the cross, denying self, all is connected with that which is temporal and Passing away, and as we follow the Lord we get adjusted in regard to all that.
Ques. A levite is not a hired servant?
C.A.C. No, a hired servant serves for wages and gets them. A. good deal of service in christendom is like that. If people serve the Lord for wages they will get them, every penny, but that is not the kind of service that the Lord likes. He does not like servants who bargain for what they get: He likes those who go into the vineyard and leave the pay to Him; they come off best after all. The fact is that the compensation in service is so great that it knocks the thought of any future compensation very much into the background.
It strikes one as so marvellous to follow Him and see every hour some new phase of the kingdom of God, to see it set forth livingly in Him and in His service. What a supreme, satisfying portion it must have been! There was wonderful power in the attraction of His Person; one longs to know more of it; we are all tested as to what that power of attraction has become in our souls.
I think the Lord had established Himself in the hearts of these men before; this was not the first time they had seen Him. The incidents in John i come before this, and show that the Lord had established Himself in their affection. This is a definite call to service, and I suppose there is that in the case of each one, however little we may have taken account of it and responded to it. I think it is the sense of a definite call that gives one authority. The Lord goes into the synagogue and speaks with authority, there was the consciousness of a definite commission. We are all apt to be too indefinite, and to feel it is left us to do what presents itself or what is pleasant, and we have not sufficient sense of divine appointment as to service. Every levite had his service divinely appointed: they could not do just as they liked.
Then that would shut out all the unclean element. The Lords presence in the synagogue brought to light the man with an unclean spirit. The unclean spirit is just the contrast with what we are speaking of: it is the contrast to the Holy Spirit. The Lord is introduced as the One who would baptise with the Holy Spirit, and this man is in an unclean spirit - the same word - immersed in what is unclean. While he recognised Jesus as the holy One, yet everything about him was in contrast to the holy One of God. He was in the synagogue, too; in the religious sphere there may be what is unclean, but the first wave of the power of the kingdom displaces it. The Lords first act is to displace what is unclean. The man was in their synagogue as well as the man with the withered hand: as if to say that there was room in their system for what was unclean and withered. But there is unsullied purity in the kingdom of God. It is presented so especially in Mark, "exceeding white as snow; so as no fuller on earth can white them." That is the character of the kingdom in power, white as snow, unsullied purity, the unclean spirit is gone.
We have to beware of what works in our spirits. The unclean spirit suggests what works in the spirit of a man. That is the contrast between the unclean spirit and leprosy. A man in an unclean spirit represents what is working in the spirit inwardly, and which is only brought to light by the presence of the Son of God. Leprosy is more what comes out in ones body. Paul said to the Corinthians, "let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit"; that would be set forth in leprosy; it is what comes out in word and deed, in ones body. But behind that there may be a lot of bitterness of spirit: things work in the spirit which are positively unclean, and perhaps do not come to light at all, but it is all under the eye of the Lord. Paul puts the spirit first when he speaks of our whole spirit, soul and body being preserved blameless. In Hebrews 12, when it is a question of the discipline of God, He is called the Father of spirits. It is a great thing to be cleansed in our spirits. One feels how often things work in ones spirit that no one knows anything about, and yet they are positively unclean. There is something working contrary to the holiness of God and that must be unclean. It seems to me that the power of the kingdom went to the root of things and dispossessed the unclean spirit, the spirit that is not in accord with Jesus. If my spirit is not in accord with Jesus it is characteristically an unclean spirit, and the first wave of the power of the kingdom deals with that. But it is with much exercise to me; perhaps it will tear me - it tore him, but it left him.
We cannot get rid of what is unclean without suffering. One would not mind being torn to get rid of every movement of what is unclean in ones spirit. We do nOt naturally like to be freed in our spirits, but it has struck me much in thinking of this, that the first wave of the power of the Spirit in the kingdom deals with the spirit of a man. What Spirit am I of? Is my spirit immersed by the Holy Spirit? I have to confess that I do not know much about it. Here I see a man immersed in an unclean spirit. It is a question of what your spirit is, not what you say or do, but the character of your spirit. In Romans S we read, "the Spirit. . . bears witness with our spirit." It shows that your spirit is to be a suited companion for the Spirit of God, so that the Spirit of God can talk to your spirit as one friend to another; that is a clean out. Is it possible that my spirit can be so purified that the Holy Spirit can talk to my spirit personally? The Spirit witnesses that we are children of God. It is not mere profession. We are children of God, clean, and marked by this wonderful purity. If the kingdom starts like this, what will it be in the finish? Mark speaks of the beginning of the glad tidings of Jesus Christ: we do not read anything about the end!
Ques. Is there any significance in the Lord moving out of the synagogue into the house?
C.A.C. One would conclude the synagogue is the place of public profession;. and I think in the house we find ourselves in the circle of the brethren. The Lord acted sovereignly and authoritatively in the sphere of profession to deal with what was contrary to the holiness of God, but He acted sympathetically in the circle of the brethren. It was a necessity that the Lord should act sovereignly to dispossess the unclean spirit or we should never find our place in the circle of the brethren. If the Lord did not act sovereignly in the public profession men would remain immersed in an unclean spirit, just the contrary to what obtains in the kingdom of God, where the Lord immerses men by the Holy Spirit. In principle we are either immersed in one or the other.
Service must be altogether in the power of the Spirit. The light of the candlestick is maintained by pure oil: it is the pure candlestick. No doubt Mark answers to the candlestick, and the great thought of the candlestick is purity - pure oil - so that what is unclean must be set asidc by divine authority. What marks the Lords service in the synagogue is authority: He speaks and acts with authority; it is the assertion of power to bring about conditions suitable to God. A man is unclean inwardly, that is the first thing. The Lord proposes to set the spirit of a man right.
Ques. What is the thought of their telling Him about Peters wifes mother?
C.A.C. It has an application. We find ourselves in a narrow circle: it seems to be the circle of the brethren, James and John, Simon and Andrew.
Ques. Was there sympathy also on the part of the brethren? They tell the Lord about her.
C.A.C. Yes, there was a sympathetic interest on the part of the brethren: there was one there incapacitated for service, and they all felt it. We ought to feel it if a brother or sister is incapacitated for service. It is quite easy to see defects, but to have a sympathetic interest and desire that anyone should be in perfect liberty for holy service is a lovely exercise to be found in the circle of the brethren: it sets the Lord in motion. The Lord waits for suggestions in the house, but He does not wait in the synagogue. We find repeatedly that in the synagogue He acts on His own initiative sovereignly, but in the house He waits for suggestions. What marks this incident is that all the elements that hinder service should be dealt with in sympathetic grace. There is a priestly character about this incident. We are having great instruction about the things that are found in the kingdom. In the kingdom we find divine authority against what is unclean, but there are divine sympathies and priestly grace in regard to weakness. A great deal of service is hindered, not by an unclean spirit but by fever.
Ques. Is fever characterised by restlessness?
C.A.C. That is a prominent symptom. It is an overheated state in which the strength, instead of being expended in useful service, is being burnt up in unprofitable, inward disturbance. The proper thing in the house is that service should be carried on; and however awkward our position, if we are preserved in quietness, we shall be happy. The position of a mother-in- law is not easy in a house: it is admittedly a difficult position, and there is such a thing as saints being placed in positions not easy to fill if they are to avoid friction. If a mother-in-law interferes she makes trouble for herself and all in the house, but the divine way is to be in the spirit of service. However difficult the position, if we are in the spirit of service everything will go happily. The secret of all difficulties is a very simple one: it is that we get out of the spirit of service, and that is abandoning the testimony. The testimony is gone when we get out of the spirit of service.
Ques. It was seen in the Lord?
C:A.C. Yes, the testimony was there; and from the point of view of this gospel the testimony is connected with service. It is wonderful how things straighten out if we are in the spirit of service. The worst of fever is that it incapacitates for Service. The strength, instead of being employed in benefiting Others and being happy oneself, is burnt up in inward activities that are unproductive and destructive.
Ques. If we enter on the truth of the holiness of Gods house, there must be holy conditions?
C.A.C. Yes. If God and our Lord Jesus have their right places, holy conditions would be preserved. If there is not holiness there is something unclean, and that is why the dispossessing of the unclean spirit comes first.
Rem. If we are morally defective as to the power of the kingdom, we shall not be prepared for the teaching of the second incident.
C.A.C. Yes, that lies at the base of the testimony. The point of all this instruction is that it may have its place and power in the saints.
Ques. Is the wifes mother in right condition at the end of the verse?
C.A.C. Yes, she rises up to serve them: that is the result of the fever being subdued. The brethren speak to the Lord about her and He went up to her and raised her up. The Lord takes her by the hand : that is the expression used in Hebrews 2 in regard of His priestly grace. If the Lord takes us by the hand, the fever goes. We cannot have fever if that powerful and gracious hand is reached down from the glory of God to take ours. He raises her up : she was prostrate, she lay in a fever, but she is in the right position now. Fever might be an undue occupation with things that could very well be left alone. Some people fill up their time with this, that, and the other, without ever giving it a thought that they are called to serve the Lord in the kingdom of God and to serve the brethren. People have all sorts of objects and considerations that keep them in a restless state. I suppose many things come in which are really fever; a restlessness of spirit which hinders us from serving the brethren, strife, vain glory, murmurings, reasonings all coming of self-importance. Each one must face the exercise with himself and herself. The Lord is to be served and the brethren, but fever hinders the service. The Lord takes hold of us in priestly grace that His deep interest in us may be known in relation to these things which are the evidence of our infirmity. He can reach down His hand from the right hand of God to lift us into superiority to everything that would hinder serving.
Rem. Evening has come and the sun has gone down. We have come to the end of the dispensation, but there is still a time of activity for the people of God.
C.A.C. That is like Leviticus 24. The candlestick was still to be attended to and the light maintained though conditions of apostasY were amongst the people. It is beautiful to see here that the Lords activities result in the securing of a circle of which He is the centre.
Rem. He was the centre of attraction, whether in the house or whether when the sun had gone down and the whole city was gathered to Him.
C.A.C. Yes. The Lord would give us a great sense of resource in Himself: all the power of the kingdom of God was tjiere in Himself, whatever the conditions were; and He served one and another to make them vessels of the power of the kingdom.
Ques. Should we experience something of that if conditions were right?
C.A.C. Yes. There is no resource in christendom outwardly today, no power to stand against evil, and no power for testimony or the service of God. If the Lord gets a place, if there is a house where He can have a place, there is power there and power that is felt outside. We see what is outside in verse 34. One would like to be attractive to need, one would covet that; not to be attractive to men as having no need, but to be attractive to need. It is what the Lord Himself was. There is about the Lord, in this gospel peculiarly, a certain hiding of Himself; He will not suffer the demons to speak because they know Him, and He leaves Capernaum where there was great interest; then in the next incident He charges the, leper to say nothing to anyone. It shows on the part of the Lord a retiringness and a hiding of Himself. I think we get an important principle in the Lord saying, "Let us go elsewhere into the neighbouring country towns." It was not because the thing was played out with no interest, for the disciples had said, "All seek thee." One might lose the sense of the scope of the service. If we take up the question of testimony it is important to remember how wide is the scope of it.
The Lord indicates to us the secret of power and preservation in Service; He rises a great while before day. There are twelve hours in the day; there is a period of service, but if is to be divine power and leading in that service there must be a rising a great while before day. The burning of incense always went along with the trimming of the lamps: we burn the incense here. Is not that the real power of everything on our side? Prayer is the secret of power. The Spirit is definitely the Spirit of grace and supplication - prayer is very much connected with the Spirit.
Ques. What is the thought of His going to a desert place to pray?
C.A.C. I think it suggests that there must be a withdrawal from all the influences of the present scene. The result of prayer here seems to be that there is an enlargement of the sphere of testimony. I think it is a warning not to get unduly localised as to the testimony, which is really a universal thought.
The importance of preaching comes in here. The Lord emphasises the preaching; He puts that before the works of power, He was sent forth to preach. One wonders whether we give the preaching its due place in the testimony. The word preach is really herald; it gives the thought of a definite announcement. The position has to be plainly declared on Gods part. The Lord carries the brethren with Him; He says, "Let us go elsewhere into the neighbouring country towns, that I may preach there also." The house gives the idea that there is a circle of sympathetic interest and then they go forth together. They did not preach; the Lord preached, and they went with Him. It is a great privilege to go with any little preaching that may go on now. Paul also desired to carry the sympathies of his brethren in his service.
The effect of preaching is that the leper comes; that is why the preaching goes on. I think the preaching of the kingdom of God awakened desire in the heart of the leper. A leper is one in whom the will of the flesh has become manifest. The leper evidently got through the preaching a great sense of the power of God that was present, but he needed to learn another feature of the kingdom, and that was the very dominant place compassion had. He said to the Lord, "If thou wilt." It is easier for man to entertain the thought of Gods power than of His compassion. It is a great point to reach in ones soul that the character of the kingdom of God is such that every kind of moral need establishes a claim on divine compassion. The leper is an extreme case, he is an excommunicated man, not fit company for God or man. This extreme case brings out the marvellous compassion found in the kingdom of God. There was something in the leper that responded to the preaching. One would expect that, if right conditions are brought about, a divine result would be reached. What God does is not inoperative, so that, if the glad tidings of the kingdom of God are preached and the brethren are in sympathy with it, we shall expect to see lepers come in.
Ques. Why does the Lord tell the leper to go to the priest?
C.A.C. It seems to emphasise the thought that he was cleansed in view of the testimony. It brings out what the Lord has come to do in the depths of divine compassion. He had come to touch the leper, and to cleanse him by touching him. It is the compassions of the cross that are brought before us. We never realise how leprous we are until we see what it cost the Lord to bear the judgment of our state.
Rem. The note in the margin here is "touch freely, or handle."
C.A.C. That is beautiful; it gives the thought of divine conipassions. It would do us good to ponder deeply and in a prolonged way the sorrow psalms of Christ. Nothing will affect us more deeply than the sorrows of Christ. I suppose it is in that way we get cleansed; the cleansing is not a judicial act but a moral process. I think often people think of the cleansing of the leper as if it were the same as forgiveness of sins. To my mind it is quite different, it is a moral process by which the person is purified from all taint of that terrible disease which had established itself in every part of his being.
Ques. The corruptible condition of man?
C.A.C. Yes, the cleansing of the leper intimates the setting up of an incorruptible condition, a condition that corresponds with God. The cleansing comes about by realising the wonderfiil character of that "I will." You can put into the "I will" all the sorrow psalms of Christ; if you leave any of them out you leave out some element that is bound up in that "I will." It is the compassionate will of Christ to take up the whole question of our corruption and to touch it. What it cost Him to touch it we can only know by what He tells us Himself. If I understood what it cost Him to take up that corruptible condition, and so to deal with it that it might be removed from before God, what a revolution would be effected! I should be cleansed.
END OF CHAPTER ONE
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