THE Lord is here seen presenting the kingdom to His people Israel. Of necessity, therefore, we get the same display of royalty here, on this occasion, as in other Gospels--for that was the material, the circumstance, which constituted the occasion. Still, however, there is a chastened style in Mark's account which distinguishes it.
Thus we learn that, on His entrance into the city, and on His going up to the temple, though He was there as the King, and in the zeal of God's house was casting out those who made it a house of merchandise, yet, ere He did so, "He looked round about upon all things." In Matthew He is seen as acting at once upon the defiled scene - but here, as this little action shows us, He is in the calmness and reserve of One who would give time to the scene to affect His eye and His heart, ere His hand lay hold on judgment. And this is another instance of the sympathies or sensibilities of Jesus in this Gospel. He entered personally into the scene under His eye, and did not merely deal judicially. There was something of the divine patience in this, something of God's slowness to believe evil--as He had said in other days, concerning Sodom, "I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto Me; and if not, I will know."
This, surely, gives a subdued, a chastened expression to the act of judging the temple; distinguishing it, under Mark's delineations of it, from the tone of prompt authority and decisiveness with which Matthew conveys it to us. And this is characteristic.
And again, in the course of these chapters, there is something peculiar in the notice which our evangelist takes of the scribe who questions the Lord about the first commandment. He lets us learn the exercise of that man's soul. Matthew tells us merely that he came to tempt the Lord, as one of the representatives of the revolted nation; but Mark shows him to us morally or personally, expressing what was going on within him--and then shows us, also, how the Lord took him up in the same way, morally and personally, saying to him, "Thou art not far from the kingdom of God."
How grateful it is to the heart to read this! How acceptable to us this commentary of the Lord Himself on one of the aspects or phases of the soul! It tells us (and the secret is deeply welcome to us), that the lights and shades of the inner kingdom are all under His eye, and that He knows how to appreciate them. There appears to have been some sudden visitation of this man's spirit. He came to tempt the Lord, but ere he went away he was not far from the kingdom of God. Surely in spirit he had taken a journey; a deeply interesting passage his soul had made. It may remind us of the repentant dying thief; for he, according to Matthew, seems to have joined his companion in reviling Jesus, and then, according to Luke, he ended by trusting in and calling upon Jesus.
And in closing this scene of the royal visitation, as we may call it, the Lord, I perceive, does not occupy the seat of judgment in Mark, as He does in Matthew. He goes through all the act of judicial righteousness very rapidly. He does not read out against the nation the crimes of which they then stood guilty and convicted, and upon this pass the sentence of the law. This is done elaborately in Matthew. Here it is all disposed of in a verse or two; and quickly does He turn from it all, and look beyond it, to see a poor widow casting her two mites, which was her whole fortune, into the treasury of God. He has not so much an eye for the evil as for the good, though, at that moment, He was looking on a temple full of the one, and only, as it were, two mites of the other. The touches are all in the distinctive way of our evangelist - and surely, when their sense and bearing are perceived, we deeply welcome them.
Mark 13 corresponds with Matthew 24, 25. It is the Lord's great prophetic word concerning Israel--Israel having now fully, solemnly rejected Him. They had seen the King. but He was not, in their eye, the Kin" in His beauty. The arm of the Lord had been revealed to them; but in their esteem it was a root out of the dry ground. Judgment has now to enter, and take its course, ere the kingdom can be restored to Israel.
In this chapter, as in all the rest, the style of Mark is preserved. There is one very strong expression of the Lord's emptied, humble, servant-character here, which we do not get elsewhere. I allude to the Lord's words in verse 32, "Neither the Son."
He was speaking of knowledge of times and seasons, and He disclaims such knowledge Himself. And this quite became Him as a Servant. To a servant the confidence or committal of secrets does not belong. The Lord Himself tells us so in another place (John 15: 15); and, accordingly, He here disclaims the knowledge of such secrets.
He had taken on Him the form of a servant, and, with that form, the qualities and attributes that attached to it; and among them, this disclaimer of the knowledge of details and counsels, such as the Father would put in His own power.
And beside, the kingdom to which He was referring while He thus spoke, He is to receive by-and-by as a Servant. It is not to be His simply by divine right; it is the reward of the toil of Him Who was obedient even unto death. Hence all the circumstances of it wait, not on His, but on the Father's pleasure. The right hand and the left hand honours of it thus wait, as He tells us in another place (Matt. 20: 23); and the time of its manifestation waits, in like manner, as He tells us in this place: "Of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels, which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father." Christ takes the kingdom as the Son and Heir of David, the Kinsman of men, and the Servant of God; not by divine but by human title; and therefore most fitly does He say, "Neither the Son," words which do not qualify the person of the Son but the character of the kingdom, as indeed we ought to apprehend at once; because it is not about Himself the Lord is speaking at the time, but about the introduction or beginning of the kingdom.
The kingdom is to be His as Son of man. It is to man that "the world to come" is to be subject (Heb. 2); and it is God Who is to make it so. Every tongue shall confess Jesus Lord, but this is to be to the glory of God the Father. Phil. 2. So that these words, "Neither the Son, but the Father," while they hold the distinctness of our Gospel in view, intimate likewise a profound and interesting mystery.
And we may notice also what the Lord calls Himself, in verse 35, "the Master of the house." It is "your Lord" in the corresponding place in Matthew, a title of a higher bearing.
So, at the close, He addresses the apostles in the place of service, more distinctly than He does in the same place in either Matthew or Luke. To each of them there is given work, the porter being commanded to watch; and this is peculiar to Mark. But we may observe, on the other hand, that the apostles are not set in their dignities in Mark, as they are in Matthew. We have not the special honour conferred on Peter in the midst of them, nor the thrones of the Twelve themselves over the tribes of Israel. And all this, the presence of what we do get, the absence of what we do not get, minute as the touches and strokes of the Spirit's penman may be, still all are characteristic, and beautiful in their place and season.
And as the Lord here, in a very brief way (as we noticed), arraigns and sentences the Jewish nation, though such is given fully and solemnly in Matthew, so all those parables, the Ten Virgins, the Talents, and the King from His throne separating the sheep and the goats, which are pictures of great judicial acts of Christ, are passed by here.
Humble His ways in this Gospel are; gracious and serving; the ways of One Who had laid aside His robes of state, and put on His girdle. All bespeaks His various grace in its perfections; and, next to the simple, happy, earnest assurance of His personal love to ourselves, nothing more helps the heart to the desire of being with Him than this discovery of His moral glory which the four Gospels afford us. I have heard of one who, tracing it there, was heard to cry out, with tears and affections, "Oh that I was with Him!"
This is what we need, and what we may well covet, beloved.