The Bible


Mark 1

Study the Inner Meaning


1 The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God;

2 As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.

3 The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.

4 John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.

5 And there went out unto him all the land of Judaea, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins.

6 And John was clothed with camel's hair, and with a girdle of a skin about his loins; and he did eat locusts and wild honey;

7 And preached, saying, There cometh one mightier than I after me, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose.

8 I indeed have baptized you with water: but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost.

9 And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in Jordan.

10 And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him:

11 And there came a voice from heaven, saying, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

12 And immediately the Spirit driveth him into the wilderness.

13 And he was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted of Satan; and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered unto him.

14 Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God,

15 And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.

16 Now as he walked by the sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers.

17 And Jesus said unto them, Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men.

18 And straightway they forsook their nets, and followed him.

19 And when he had gone a little further thence, he saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who also were in the ship mending their nets.

20 And straightway he called them: and they left their father Zebedee in the ship with the hired servants, and went after him.

21 And they went into Capernaum; and straightway on the sabbath day he entered into the synagogue, and taught.

22 And they were astonished at his doctrine: for he taught them as one that had authority, and not as the scribes.

23 And there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out,

24 Saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God.

25 And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace, and come out of him.

26 And when the unclean spirit had torn him, and cried with a loud voice, he came out of him.

27 And they were all amazed, insomuch that they questioned among themselves, saying, What thing is this? what new doctrine is this? for with authority commandeth he even the unclean spirits, and they do obey him.

28 And immediately his fame spread abroad throughout all the region round about Galilee.

29 And forthwith, when they were come out of the synagogue, they entered into the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John.

30 But Simon's wife's mother lay sick of a fever, and anon they tell him of her.

31 And he came and took her by the hand, and lifted her up; and immediately the fever left her, and she ministered unto them.

32 And at even, when the sun did set, they brought unto him all that were diseased, and them that were possessed with devils.

33 And all the city was gathered together at the door.

34 And he healed many that were sick of divers diseases, and cast out many devils; and suffered not the devils to speak, because they knew him.

35 And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.

36 And Simon and they that were with him followed after him.

37 And when they had found him, they said unto him, All men seek for thee.

38 And he said unto them, Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also: for therefore came I forth.

39 And he preached in their synagogues throughout all Galilee, and cast out devils.

40 And there came a leper to him, beseeching him, and kneeling down to him, and saying unto him, If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.

41 And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth his hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou clean.

42 And as soon as he had spoken, immediately the leprosy departed from him, and he was cleansed.

43 And he straitly charged him, and forthwith sent him away;

44 And saith unto him, See thou say nothing to any man: but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer for thy cleansing those things which Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them.

45 But he went out, and began to publish it much, and to blaze abroad the matter, insomuch that Jesus could no more openly enter into the city, but was without in desert places: and they came to him from every quarter.

   Study the Inner Meaning

Exploring the Meaning of Mark 1      

By Rev. Dr. Ray Silverman

Chapter One

Proclaiming Jesus’ Divinity

1. The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

As we begin the Gospel According to Mark, we need to keep in mind that the first thing said in any book of the Word becomes the essence of everything that follows. Like a keynote on a musical scale, the first thing said sets the tone, provides the central theme, and establishes the focus for everything that follows. It is essential, therefore, that when we are reading the Word of God, the “first thing said” should be kept in mind throughout the exposition of everything that follows. 1

In Matthew, the first thing said is, “The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” This is the beginning of the gospel narratives. Taken literally, these words refer to the merely human heredity of Jesus Christ. These “first words” describe Him as a descendent of David, who is a descendent of Abraham. While this royal lineage is an important and respected one, it is, nevertheless, a human one.

This is a picture of how we first see Jesus; we see Him as another human being, the offspring of human parents. But by the time we come to the end of the Gospel According to Matthew, something wonderful has taken place. As the idea of Jesus grows in our understanding, there is a gradual unveiling of His divinity. And by the time we come to the end of that gospel, Jesus says, “All power is given to Me in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18).

The Gospel According to Matthew, then, brings us to the recognition of Jesus’ divinity. This marks a critical stage in the development of our faith. In fact, Jesus Himself said that the recognition of His divinity is the first and foremost building block, or cornerstone, of Christian faith. In Matthew, when Peter said to Jesus, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” Jesus did not deny it. Instead, Jesus told him told him that this foundational truth did not come to him by flesh and blood, but rather it was revealed to him by “My Father who is in the heavens” (Matthew 16:17). “On this rock,” said Jesus, “I will build My Church” (Matthew 16:18). 2

The Gospel According to Mark begins where Matthew left off — with the recognition of Jesus’ divinity. Whereas Matthew began with the words, “The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Mark 1:1), Mark begins with the words: “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (Mark 1:1).

It should also be noted that Matthew refers to itself as “the book of the generation of Jesus Christ,” while Mark refers to itself as “the gospel of Jesus Christ.” The use of these different terms is significant. The term “book” signifies the successive, perfectly ordered states we go through in the process of our spiritual development as we gradually come to acknowledge the divinity of Jesus Christ. This is our “book of life,” a divinely arranged narrative that describes the rise and development of love and wisdom in us. This is called the regeneration process, or, in the language of sacred scripture, the generation of Jesus Christ in each of us. 3

But a “gospel” is not a “book.”

The term gospel comes from the Greek word εὐαγγέλιον (evangelium), which means “good news.” For the early Christians, the “good news” is that God Himself had come into the world to reveal His true nature, to conquer evil, and, especially, to teach people the way to heaven. At the end of Matthew, therefore, the disciples are commissioned to go forth into every nation and proclaim this good news. As it is written in the closing words of Matthew, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19,20).

As we examine the continuous stream of divine truth in the gospel narratives, Matthew culminates with what has become known as the Great Commission: Jesus commissions His disciples to preach the good news of His birth, life, death, resurrection, and, especially, His teachings. Mark picks up precisely at that point — with “the voice of one crying in the wilderness” proclaiming that the Messiah, the Son of God, has come. In brief, the Gospel of Mark begins as a gospel of proclamation — the proclamation that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God who calls us to go into the whole world to preach the good news. Very soon, however, we discover that the good news begins with repentance.

Prepare the Way of the Lord

2. As it is written in the Prophets, Behold, I send My messenger before Thy face, who shall make ready Thy way in front of Thee.

3. The voice of one crying in the wilderness, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord; make His paths straight.”

Five hundred years before Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem, the Lord said through the prophet Malachi, “Behold, I will send My angel, and he shall sweep the way before Me” (Malachi 3:1). As the Gospel of Mark begins, this “angel” who will “sweep the way” is John the Baptist. He has been sent by God to prepare the way for the coming of the Messiah.

In an even older prophesy, given seven hundred years before Jesus’ birth, the Lord said through the prophet, Isaiah, “The voice of one proclaiming in the wilderness, ‘Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make His paths straight’” (Isaiah 40:3). Taken together, these two prophecies become a single statement as the Gospel of Mark begins. As it is written, “Behold I send My messenger before Your face, who will prepare Your way before You. The voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, Make His paths straight” (Mark 1:2-3). This messenger who has come to prepare the way for the reception of the Lord is John the Baptist. Although two thousand years have intervened between that momentous occasion and today, it is still possible to hear the words of John’s powerful proclamation: “The Lord is coming!” “Prepare the way!” “He is coming into your mind and your heart!” “Make His paths straight!” 4

At the end of Matthew, Jesus had told His disciples to “Go forth and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them” (Mark 28:19), and this is exactly where Mark picks up the story — with John performing baptisms. Although there is no biblical evidence that John the Baptist ever became one of the twelve disciples, there is evidence that he did what Jesus said, teaching people “to observe all things that [Jesus] had commanded” (Mark 28:20), beginning with the necessity of baptism.

As we have already noted in Matthew, baptism represents the willingness to receive new truth. It is not about a vicarious atonement, justification by faith, or instantaneous salvation; rather, it is a willingness to be spiritually washed through learning truth and doing what truth teaches while believing that the Lord gives us the power to live according to that truth. While water baptism is not saving in itself, it represents how salvation takes place — through the process of repentance for the remission of sins. 5

It is no accident that this gospel of proclamation begins with the words of a powerful preacher, urging us not only to prepare the way of the Lord, but also to receive “a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins” (Mark 1:4). Apparently, John’s preaching was well received for “all the land of Judea, and those from Jerusalem, went out to him and were all baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins” (Mark 1:5).

A baptism of repentance, then, and the confessing of sins will be key ideas as we enter the Gospel According to Mark.

The Baptism of the Holy Spirit

4. John was baptizing in the wilderness, and preaching the baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

5. And all the country of Judea went out to him, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.

6. And John was wearing camel’s hair, and a leather belt around his loins, and ate locusts and wild honey;

7. And preached, saying, “There comes one stronger than I after me, the strap of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and loose.

8. I indeed have baptized you with water, but He shall baptize you with [the] Holy Spirit.”

9. And it came to pass in those days, [that] Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized by John in the Jordan.

10. And straightway going up from the water, he saw the heavens ripped [open], and the Spirit as a dove descending on Him.

11. And there was a voice from the heavens, [saying], “Thou art My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

12. And straightway the Spirit casts Him out into the wilderness.

13. And He was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and was with the [wild] beasts; and the angels ministered to Him.

John the Baptist is aware of his limitations. While he knows that his preaching may be able to help people recognize their need for a Savior, he also knows that his words alone cannot bring about salvation. Therefore, he says, “One is coming after me who is more powerful than I am” (Mark 1:7). He is referring, of course, to Jesus, for whom John the Baptist is preparing the way. “I indeed baptize you with water,” says John the Baptist, “but He [who is coming after me] will baptize you with the Holy Spirit” (Mark 1:8).

In the language of sacred scripture, receiving the “water of baptism” represents the willingness to receive truth — especially the truth which is based on the literal teachings of the Word. This is the first baptism. But it must be followed by another kind of baptism called the “baptism of the Holy Spirit.” This second baptism takes place when the truth that we know is tested during times of inner spiritual combat. At such times, mere belief is not enough. Rather, our beliefs must be put to the test, so that they might be strengthened and eventually become an essential part of our character. If we allow truth from the Lord’s Word to fill our mind during a time of temptation, the Lord will come to us through that truth with love and power. In the language of sacred scripture, this is called “the baptism of the Holy Spirit.” 6

John the Baptist, then, is not just an historical figure. When he utters his cry in the barren wilderness to “prepare the way of the Lord,” it represents how we need to arm ourselves with truth from the Lord’s Word as we prepare for spiritual combat. As our example in all things, this is precisely what Jesus does in the next verse. We read, “At that time Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan” (Mark 1:9). As Jesus came up from the Jordan River, the heavens were torn open “and the Spirit descended upon Him like a dove” (Mark 1:10).

The descent of the Spirit “like a dove” represents the process of inner purification that Jesus is about to undergo. Whenever we are victorious in temptation, we emerge a little gentler and with the ability to see from a more elevated perspective — like a dove. In this regard, the descent of the dove is a sign from heaven, followed by a voice from heaven saying, “You are my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased (Mark 1:11). 7

In the Gospel According to Matthew, immediately after He is baptized, Jesus is led by the spirit into the desert where He is tempted by the devil. In that gospel Jesus’ temptations are described in considerable detail. He is tempted to turn stones into bread, to cast Himself down from a temple, and to worship Satan. These temptations represent, in summary form, all the temptations that Jesus will undergo as He steadily and gradually conquers hell, restores freedom, and teaches the way to heaven.

The same sequence of events occurs in the Gospel According to Mark. Immediately after His baptism the Spirit sends Jesus out into the desert (Mark 1:12). This is in keeping with the spiritual law that truth is not merely something to be believed; it must also be lived. Therefore, baptism (the reception of truth) must necessarily be followed by temptation (the opportunity to live according to that truth). The reception of truth, then, is merely the beginning of our spiritual development. If that truth is to become our own, it must be called to mind and used during times of spiritual combat. That’s why we see the same sequence in both gospels. In Mark, however, the whole temptation process is described in just one verse. As it is written, “He was in the desert forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild beasts, and angels attended Him” (Mark 1:13). 8

These “wild beasts” refer to the evil desires and false thinking that prevent us from living according to the truth. They are the vicious, ferocious loves of self and the world that would devour that which is from the Lord in us. But when we overcome in temptation, compelling ourselves to do what is right, we are protected throughout by truths from the Lord’s Word, and, in the end, comforted by those same truths. As it is written, “And the angels ministered to Him” (Mark 1:13). 9

This, then, is what John calls “the baptism of the Holy Spirit.” 10

Jesus Preaches the Gospel

14. And after John was delivered up, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God,

15. And saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is near; repent [ye], and believe in the gospel.”
16. And walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon, and Andrew his brother, casting a net in the sea; for they were fishermen.

17. And Jesus said to them, “Come [ye] after Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.”

18. And straightway leaving their nets, they followed Him.

19. And advancing a little from thence, He saw James [the son] of Zebedee, and John his brother, who also were in the ship, mending the nets.

20. And straightway He called them, and leaving their father Zebedee in the ship with the hirelings, they went after Him.

21. And they went into Capernaum; and straightway on the Sabbaths, coming into the synagogue, He taught.

22. And they wondered at His teaching, for He was teaching them as one that had authority, and not as the scribes.

This gospel begins with John the Baptist preaching on repentance for the remission if sins — the keynote theme of this gospel. Immediately after the wilderness temptation, Jesus continues to preach on this same theme. As it is written, “Now after John was delivered to custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the Kingdom of God” (Mark 1:14). The imprisonment of John the Baptist is a significant moment in the continuous internal sense. As we have mentioned, John the Baptist represents the literal sense of the Word — the first truths that we learn as we begin to study the scriptures. If, however, we are deprived of these truths or if these truths are twisted to mean things that they do not mean, it is as if John the Baptist has been put in prison, or “taken into custody.” 11

When this happens, Jesus takes over where John leaves off. Like John, Jesus begins His preaching with the theme of repentance: “The time has come,” says Jesus, “And the kingdom of God is near. Repent, and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15). Jesus then wastes no time gathering the evangelists who will assist Him in His mission. Walking by the Sea of Galilee, He sees Simon and Andrew casting their nets into the sea. “Come after Me, “He says to them, “and I will make you fishers of men” (Mark 1:17). He does the same for James and John; and all of them, without delay, follow Him (Mark 1:19-20).

The action is swift. Losing no time at all, Jesus “immediately goes into the synagogue and starts preaching (Mark 1:21). “And they were astonished at His doctrine, for He taught them as one that had power, and not as the scribes” (Mark 1:22).

Jesus Commands an Unclean Spirit to Be Quiet

23. And there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out,

24. Saying, “Ah! What [is there] to us and to Thee, Jesus of Nazareth! hast Thou come to destroy us? I know Thee who Thou art, the Holy [One] of God.”

25. And Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be speechless and come out of him.”

26. And having convulsed him, the unclean spirit, having also cried with a great voice, came out of him.

27. And they were all astonished, so that they disputed among themselves, saying, “What thing is this? What new teaching [is] this? For with authority He orders even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him.”

28. And straightway the report of Him went out into the whole countryside of Galilee.

The events recounted in Mark are brief, immediate, and to the point. There is no genealogy, no record of Jesus’ birth, and no Sermon on the Mount (which covers the first seven chapters in Matthew). Instead, the action in Mark begins immediately with John the Baptist preaching repentance in the desert, and now Jesus is preaching in the synagogue. There He astonishes all with His teaching, and drives out an unclean spirit. When the unclean spirit acknowledges that Jesus is “the Holy One of God,” Jesus tells it to be quiet, and the spirit obeys Him (Mark 1:24-25). The people who are standing by in the synagogue are amazed. They cry out, “What is this? What new doctrine is this?” Observing Jesus’ great power, they say, “With power He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey Him” (Mark 1:27).

In this gospel there is frequent mention of “unclean spirits,” “evil spirits,” “demons,” and “devils.” While each of these terms can have a specialized meaning, they are frequently used interchangeably to refer to any evil desire or false belief that is contrary to the Lord’s will. In this regard, it’s important to keep in mind that “unclean spirits,” “evil spirits,” “demons,” and “devils” were once people who, while they lived on earth, chose deceit over honesty, cruelty over kindness, and confidence in self rather than faith in God. Therefore, when Jesus casts out the unclean spirit and tells it to “be quiet,” it represents how the Lord works through the holy teachings of sacred scripture to cast out evil desires and silence false thoughts in each of us. 12

In this gospel, then, Jesus gets to work immediately, fulfilling His purpose: He has come to preach the gospel and thereby cast out demons. The good news is spreading rapidly. As it is written, “the news about Him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee” (Mark 1:28). It should be noticed, however, that the “good news” is about repentance. This is symbolized by Jesus’ initial preaching and His first healings. He preaches repentance and He casts out demons.

The Devils are Forbidden to Speak

29. And straightway, coming out from the synagogue, they came into the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John.

30. But Simon’s mother-in-law lay down [sick] with a fever, and straightway they tell Him about her.

31. And He came and raised her up, having taken hold of her hand, and straightway the fever left her, and she ministered to them.

32. And evening having come, when the sun set, they brought to Him all that had an illness, and the demon-possessed.

33. And the whole city was gathered together at the door.

34. And He cured many that had an illness of different diseases, and cast out many demons; and He let not the demons speak, because they knew Him.

In the previous episode when Jesus cast the unclean spirit out of the demon-possessed man, the evil spirit said to Him, “I know who you are. You are the Holy One of God” (Mark 1:24). It’s curious that an evil spirit would recognize Jesus’ divinity, but Jesus refuses to let the evil spirit say anything about it. “Be quiet,” Jesus said to the demon. He then commanded the demon to come out of the person, and the demon obeyed Him.

This initial story is important to keep in mind as we now consider the next series of miraculous healings. These begin with the healing of Simon’s mother-in-law who is sick with a fever (Simon is the name of the disciple Peter). As soon as Jesus touches her hand, the fever leaves her (Mark 1:31). Apparently, her recovery was so instantaneous that she was able to rise and serve the people who were in her house. This also, like the healing of the man with an unclean spirit, created quite a stir. The news about Jesus’ miraculous healings was spreading far and wide. That same evening, after the sun had set, people who were suffering from a variety of different diseases were brought to Him, and Jesus healed them “and cast out many demons.” Once again, He refuses to let the demons speak “because they knew who He was” (Mark 1:34).

This is an important detail. Although it is only the first chapter, we have seen that on at least two occasions, Jesus has not permitted the demons to speak. On the literal level it could be assumed that Jesus wants to keep His identity secret. After all, if it were discovered that He were capable of such extraordinary powers, He might arouse the suspicion of the religious leaders who were determined to destroy Him. Therefore, it would be in His best interest to keep these things secret.

On a more interior level, however, it’s important to keep in mind the audience that Jesus is addressing when He performs the miracle healings: He is speaking directly to demons and devils — also known as evil spirits. No matter what they say, demons, devils, and evil spirits cannot be trusted; they lie, they twist the truth; they make up stories about things that never happened; and they pretend to know things about the future that no one could predict. They induce worries, insinuate fears, remind us of things that should be long forgotten, and cause us to forget things that should be remembered. It is best, therefore, to refuse to listen to them. No wonder Jesus told them to “be quiet” (Mark 1:25) and “refused to let them speak” (Mark 1:34) — even if it was about His miraculous healings. They would be sure to twist a good report into an evil one. 13

Jesus Declares His Purpose

35. And in the morning, far into the night, standing up He came out, and went away into a deserted place, and there prayed.

36. And Simon and they that were with him pursued after Him.

37. And finding Him, they say to Him, “All are seeking Thee.”

38. And He says to them, “Let us go into the neighboring towns, that I may preach there also, because for this [purpose] I came forth.”

39. And He was preaching in their synagogues throughout all Galilee, and casting out demons.

40. And a leper came to Him, imploring Him, and kneeling before Him, and saying to Him, “If Thou willest, Thou canst make me clean.”

41. And Jesus, being moved with compassion, stretching out [His] hand, touched him, and says to him, “I am willing; be thou cleansed.”

42. And having said this, straightway the leprosy went away from him, and he was cleansed.

43. And He admonished him, and straightway sent him away,

44. And says to him, “See thou say nothing to anyone, but go thy way, show thyself to the priest, and offer for thy purification what Moses directed, for a testimony to them.”

45. And he, having gone out, began to preach many [things] and to make the word public, so that He could no more manifestly come into the city, but was outside in deserted places; and they came to Him from everywhere.

As the next episode begins, we find that Jesus has gone off to a desert place to pray. When Simon and the others find Him, they say to Jesus, “Everyone is looking for You” (Mark 1:37). Jesus’ answer is significant for it reveals His purpose: “Let us go into the next towns,” He says, “that I may preach there also, because for this purpose I have come” (Mark 1:38). Indeed, Jesus has come to preach the good news. As it is written, “And He was preaching in their synagogues throughout all Galilee and casting out demons” (Mark 1:39). Once again, it is important to note that the purpose of Jesus’ preaching is to “cast out demons” and this begins with repentance. 14

Most people would agree that “good news” should be spread. Interestingly, Jesus is careful about whom He allows to spread the news. As we have seen in two previous episodes, Jesus told an unclean spirit to be quiet about Him, and He refused to let the demons speak. As we shall see, it isn’t just the unclean spirits and demons who are admonished to be quiet. For example, in the very next episode, Jesus heals a man with leprosy. After healing him, Jesus says to him, “See that you tell no one about this” (Mark 1:43). Once again, Jesus gives a strict warning to say nothing about this healing. Instead, Jesus tells the man to show himself to the priest “and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded.” These things which Moses commanded, says Jesus, will serve as “a testimony” for the leper’s cleansing. (Mark 1:44).

On one level, Jesus is referring to the laws of ritual cleaning that are found throughout the Hebrew scriptures. According to these teachings, there were specific procedures for anyone suffering from an infectious skin disease, in this case, leprosy. This included the thorough washing of the leper’s home and clothing as well as the sacrifice of a bird over fresh water and the sprinkling of its blood seven times upon the leprous person. There was much more involved, as well, including the sacrifice of a lamb without blemish, and the offering of fine flour mixed with oil (See Leviticus 14:1-16). These are all symbols of an innocent willingness to keep the Lord’s commandments and be internally purified thereby from evil desires and the false thinking that arises to support those desires. 15

The true sacrifices commanded by Moses, understood spiritually, are quite simply, the giving up of selfish concerns through a life according to the commandments. This is the only testimony required. It is the testimony of a life that has been cleansed inwardly, not just healed outwardly. All the sacrifices and all the washings in the Hebrew scriptures relate to the purification of the desires and the cleansing of the thoughts. It is for this reason that David says, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a firm spirit in me” (Psalms 51:10, 17). 12

Unfortunately, even though the leper was healed of his disease, He did not do as Jesus commanded. Instead of remaining silent about what happened, showing himself to the priest, and offering the sacrifices that Moses commanded, he did exactly what Jesus told him not to do. He went out and “proclaimed freely,” spreading the news about what Jesus had done for him (Mark 1:45).

The spiritual meaning of leprosy

Earlier in this chapter, Jesus told an unclean spirit to “Be quiet and come out of him” (Mark 1:25). A few verses later, when Jesus cast out several demons, “He did not allow the demons to speak” (Mark 1:34) and, in this episode, He says to the leper “See that you say nothing to anyone.” It is noteworthy that whenever Jesus casts out an unclean spirit or a demon, He does not allow the unclean spirit or demon to say anything about what has happened. As we have mentioned, evils spirits and demons are not reliable witnesses. They lie, they exaggerate, they leave out important details, and they twist the story to make themselves look good and others look bad. Therefore, it’s best if Jesus silences them.

But what about the leper whom Jesus has just healed? This time Jesus does not address the unclean spirits or the demons. Instead, He speaks directly to the leper, telling him to not speak to anyone.


One explanation might be found in a spiritual understanding of leprosy, and what it might signify to be cured of that disease. Because leprosy is a skin disease, it represents what it looks like spiritually when people have learned the truth, but don’t really believe it. They have not, so to speak, received it inwardly. Because the healing is only “skin deep,” it represents the healing of an external imperfection. This is one kind of leprosy.

There is, however, a deeper, more serious form of leprosy. This occurs when the leprosy goes unaddressed and penetrates to the inner parts of the body, affecting the nervous system and internal organs. This represents what it looks like spiritually when people know the truth, deeply believe it, and yet do not live according to what they believe. Even worse, they twist the truths of the Word to justify their selfish lusts and evil desires. Although they may go around looking unblemished and as white as snow on the outside, on the inside, they are full of dark desires and shady schemes. Whenever this happens, there is an unholy mixture of heavenly goodness and truth with hellish evil and falsity. This commingling of good and evil, truth and falsity is called “profanation.” 17

Returning to the case of the leper whom Jesus has just healed, it should be remembered that Jesus commanded him to say nothing to anyone about the healing that had taken place. In addition, Jesus told him to show himself to the priest and offer the sacrifices commanded by Moses. If the man had done this, he would have experienced an inner healing, not just an external one. Instead, he disregarded Jesus’ directive and did what he wanted to do. This kind of deliberate disobedience indicates that the leper may have been healed externally, but not internally.

An external healing, spiritually seen, would be the correction of one’s understanding so that the Word might be properly interpreted. But an internal healing, spiritually seen, would be the healing of the affections, and this would be represented by obedience to the Word of the Lord. When the leper defied Jesus’ command, he demonstrated that his healing had been an external one. Therefore, just as Jesus commanded the evil spirits and the demons not to speak, He also commanded the leper not to tell anyone about what had happened. Before the leper did anything else, and especially before the leper was to broadcast the news about his physical healing, Jesus commanded him to first observe the Levitical laws that represented the cleansing of the inside.

This brings us to the end of the first chapter. Jesus has been baptized, fought the devil, proclaimed the gospel, cast out demons, healed the sick, and cleansed a leper. On at least three occasions Jesus told people not to speak about the healings that had taken place. As we continue our study of the Gospel According to Mark, we will take a closer look at how Jesus prepares His disciples (and us) to receive and proclaim the gospel.


1. Arcana Coelestia 8864:3-4: “The first thing said … reigns universally in each and all things that follow. Therefore, the first thing said must be kept in the memory in the things that follow and must be regarded as the universal thing that is in them…. The things said by the Lord are all of this nature, namely, that the things said first are to reign in the things which follow, and are to involve them, and so successively the things that follow in the series…. Whatever is first [in any series] is inmost, and what follows in order adds itself to the inmost successively and thus grows. That which is inmost reigns universally in each and all things [and is] essential to the existence of all things.”

2. True Christian Religion 342: “The first step toward faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is acknowledging that He is the Son of God. This was the first step toward faith that the Lord revealed and proclaimed when He came into the world…. The Lord said that He would build his church on this rock, that is, on the truth and the confession that He is the Son of God. In fact, a ‘rock’ means a truth…. The confession that Jesus is the Son of God is the very beginning of faith.”

3. Apocalypse Revealed 867: “By ‘books’ are not meant books, but the interiors of the mind…. The interiors of the mind are described as ‘books’ because in the interiors of the mind of everyone are inscribed all the things that the person has thought, intended, spoke, and did in the world from the will or the love, and thence from the understanding or faith” See also Arcana Coelestia 9325:3: “In the internal sense of the Word, ‘births’ and ‘generations’ signify the things of the new birth and generation from the Lord.”

4. True Christian Religion 110[4-5]: “As people prepare their understanding by means of truths from the Word, they adapt their understanding to the reception of faith from God. And as they prepare their will by works of charity, they accommodate it to the reception of love from God. This can be compared to a worker who cuts a diamond, preparing it to receive and reflect the brilliant rays of light. To prepare oneself for the reception of God, and union with Him, is to live according to divine order, and all the commandments of God are laws of order.”

5. True Christian Religion 621:6: “There must be repentance from sins in order that a person may be saved, and unless one repents one remains in the sins in which one was born. Repentance consists in not willing evils because they are contrary to God, in examining oneself … in seeing one’s evils, confessing them before the Lord, imploring help, desisting from them, and beginning a new life; and so far as a person does this and believes on the Lord, a person’s sins are remitted.” See also The New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine 207: “Let those therefore who are baptized know, that baptism itself does not give faith nor salvation, but it testifies that they may receive faith and be saved, if they are regenerated.”

6. True Christian Religion 138: “The Holy Spirit is … the divine power which proceeds from the one omnipresent God.” See also Apocalypse Explained 278:9: “All power is from the Lord by means of divine truth.”

7. True Christian Religion 144: “We read that when Jesus was baptized the heavens opened and John saw the Holy Spirit coming down like a dove. This happened because baptism means regeneration and purification, and so does a dove…. In heaven doves appear quite often. Every time they appear, the angels know that they correspond to feelings and thoughts about regeneration and purification.”

8. Arcana Coelestia 9335: “By ‘beasts’ of various kinds mentioned in the Word are signified good and evil affections; consequently, by ‘wild beasts’ are signified the affections of falsity that arise from the delights of the loves of self and of the world. Moreover, these affections are represented in the other life by wild beasts, as by panthers, tigers, wild boars, wolves, and bears. They are also like wild beasts, for those who are in these loves are in evils of every kind and in the derivative falsities, and like wild beasts do they look at and act toward their associates.”

9. Arcana Coelestia 5036:3: “In this passage the ‘beasts’ do not mean beasts, but the hells and the evils that rise out of them. And the ‘angels’ who ministered unto Him do not mean angels, but divine truths, through which from His own power He overcame and subjugated the hells.”

10. Arcana Coelestia 5120:13: “Temptation arises when evil, by means of falsity, combats against goods and truths. For baptism signifies regeneration, and this is brought about through spiritual combats. Therefore, ‘baptism’ also signifies temptation.”

11. Apocalypse Explained 619:16: “John the Baptist’s clothing of ‘camel’s hair,’ which signifies the most exterior things of the natural man, also signifies the most exterior things of the Word. His ‘leathern girdle about the loins’ signifies the external bond and connection of these exterior things with the interior things of the Word, which are spiritual…. By his clothing and his food, John represented the most exterior sense of the Word [which is] the Word in the sense of the letter or the natural sense.”

12. Heaven and Hell 311: “All the people in heaven and in hell are from the human race — in heaven the ones who have lived in heavenly love and faith, and in hell the ones who have lived in hellish love and faith…. People who were devils in the world are devils after death.” See also Apocalypse Revealed 458: “In hell, those are called ‘demons’ who [while in the world] did not search out any evil in themselves as a sin against God. Therefore, after death they are called ‘demons.’” See also Apocalypse Explained 586: “By ‘demons’ are meant evil spirits. All evil spirits in hell are nothing but evil desires.”

13. Spiritual Experiences 1622: “When spirits begin to speak with a person, one must take care not to believe them at all, for almost everything they say, they have made up, and they are lying. If for example they are allowed to tell what heaven is like, and how matters stand in the heavens, they would tell so many lies, with great assurance, that the person would be astounded…. They are very fond of fabricating, and whenever any topic of conversation is raised, they think they know all about it, and express their opinions about it one after the other, as if they knew exactly; and if anyone then listens to them and believes them, then they press on, and in various ways trick and mislead the person.”

14. Apocalypse Explained 586: “In the Word, ‘demons’ signify infernal spirits. All spirits in the hells are nothing but evil lusts…. The affection of evil and falsity is called ‘lust,’ and is signified by the word ‘demon.’”

15. Arcana Coelestia 3919:5: “Lambs without blemish are states of innocence.” See also Arcana Coelestia 4581:4: “Fine flour mingled with oil, signifies celestial good, or what is the same, the good of love, ‘oil’ signifying love to the Lord, and ‘fine flour’ charity toward the neighbor.”

Arcana Coelestia 2634: “The precepts concerning the purification of the heart constitute divine order wholly and in every single detail. To the extent therefore that a person is living within those commandments one lives within divine order.” See also Conjugial Love 340:3: “The Lord directed His teaching to the internal, spiritual self…. Thus, His precepts concerning washing related to the cleansing of the inner self.”

17. Arcana Coelestia 6947:4: “A person who is ‘leprous from his head to his heel’ is one who knows internal truths but does not acknowledge or believe them. Such a one is not inwardly in profanation, but outwardly. This kind of profanation can be removed, and therefore the person is clean. But if the person knows the truths of faith, and believes them, and yet lives contrary to them, the person is in profanation inwardly, as is the case also with one who has once believed, and afterward denies.” See also Arcana Coelestia 716:3: “Leprosy signifies the profanation of holy things.”


From Swedenborg's Works

Explanations or references:

Arcana Coelestia 730, 870, 1444, 1573, 1663, 1690, 1748, ...

Apocalypse Revealed 55, 378, 405, 458, 478, 546, 553, ...

Divine Providence 114

Doctrine of the Lord 12, 18, 19, 30, 41, 42, 48, ...

Doctrine of Life 103

Interaction of the Soul and Body 20

True Christian Religion 104, 113, 123, 144, 164, 342, 528, ...

References from Swedenborg's drafts, indexes & diaries:

Apocalypse Explained 66, 120, 204, 293, 376, 443, 475, ...

Canons of the New Church 39

Coronis (An Appendix to True Christian Religion) 3

Marriage 104, 113, 123

Scriptural Confirmations 2, 3, 9, 12, 13, 27, 81

Hop to Similar Bible Verses

Leviticus 14:1, 2

2 Kings 1:8, 20:5

Psalms 33:9

Isaiah 40:3, 42:13

Malachi 3:1

Bible Word Meanings

‘Gospel’ signifies the coming of the Lord. ’To preach the gospel’ is to announce His coming. ‘Gospel’ is glad tidings, and ‘the everlasting gospel’ is...

jesus christ
It is relatively well known that "Jesus" means "Savior" and "Christ" means "the anointed," but there are spiritual meanings that extend well beyond these natural...

Christ is one of the names of the Lord. It derives from Greek, and means "the anointed one," a King or Messiah. Christ as King...

son of god
The Lord, in some places, calls Himself 'the son of God,' at other times, 'the son of man (ἄνθρωπος).' This is always according to the...

If knowing what’s right were the same as doing what’s right, we would all be thin, healthy, hard-working, law-abiding, faithful to our spouses and free...

"Angels" in the Bible represent qualities of the Lord himself, or a variety of things that come directly from the Lord. On a lower level...

These days we tend to think of "roads" as smooth swaths of pavement, and judge them by how fast we can drive cars on them....

In general, when something is "prepared" in the Bible it means that it is in the proper spiritual order, which happens when our hearts and...

'To make,' as in Hosea 8:11, refers to good. In the opposite sense it refers to evil. To make heaven, and earth, and the sea,...

These days we tend to think of "roads" as smooth swaths of pavement, and judge them by how fast we can drive cars on them....

Jesus as a man in the Bible represents Divine Truth, the pure and perfect expression of the Lord's infinite love. That truth is contained within...

girdle of a skin
'The leathern girdle' which John the Baptist wore signifies an external band that receives and contains interior things.

'The seven spirits' in Matthew 12:45 signify all falsities of evil, and as a result, a total extinction of goodness and truth. 'The seven spirits'...

came to pass
The phrase “it came to pass,” often also translated as “it happened,” generally indicates the end of one spiritual state and the beginning of a...

Galilee was the northernmost province of Biblical Judea, a hilly area relatively remote from the center of Jewish culture in Jerusalem and bordered by foreigners...

The symbolic meaning of "seeing" is "understanding," which is obvious enough that it has become part of common language (think about it; you might see...

"Air" in the Bible represents thought, but in a very general way – more like our capacity to perceive ideas and the way we tend...

To open,' as in Revelation 9, signifies communication and conjunction.

'The seven spirits' in Matthew 12:45 signify all falsities of evil, and as a result, a total extinction of goodness and truth. 'The seven spirits'...

'Upon' or 'over' signifies being within.

"Air" in the Bible represents thought, but in a very general way – more like our capacity to perceive ideas and the way we tend...

In the Word, 'Satan' signifies people who are caught up in the pride of self-derived intelligence. Similarly, from Apocalypse Revealed 841, "they are in untruths...

"Angels" in the Bible represent qualities of the Lord himself, or a variety of things that come directly from the Lord. On a lower level...

'To put' has reference to order, arrangement, application, and influx.

In the most general sense, a kingdom in the Bible represents a church. In a more specific sense, a kingdom represents a church in regards...

When the Lord said that all things which were written concerning him were fulfilled, he meant that all things were fulfilled in their inmost sense.

The meaning of "believe" in the Bible is pretty straightforward, but runs deeper than what appears on the surface. When in the Old Testament people...

'The sea and the waves roaring' means heresy and controversies in the church and individual.

sea of galilee
A large percentage of Jesus's ministry was performed around and occasionally actually on the Sea of Galilee, a large freshwater lake in northern Judea, also...

'Simon, son of Jonah,' as in John 21:15, signifies faith from charity. 'Simon' signifies worship and obedience, and 'Jonah,' a dove, which also signifies charity.

For something to be cast down or cast out generally refers to a rather dramatic move from a higher spiritual state to a lower one....

Fishers from Engedi unto Eneglaim, as in Ezekiel 47:10, signifies those who shall instruct the natural man in the truths of faith.

As with many common verbs, the meaning of “to say” in the Bible is highly dependent on context. Who is speaking? Who is hearing? What...

'To jubilate' or 'make a joyful noise' signifies worship from the delight of good.

James' denotes faith, charity, and the goods of charity.

All changes of place in the Bible represent changes in spiritual state. “Entering” – usually used as entering someone’s house or “going in unto” someone...

Power,' as in Revelation 4, signifies salvation, because all divine power regards this as its final purpose. A person is reformed by divine power, and...

'The chief priests and scribes,' as in Matthew 20:18, signify the adulterations of good and the falsifications of truth.

Angels do give us guidance, but they are mere helpers; the Lord alone governs us, through angels and spirits. Since angels have their assisting role,...

Coming (Gen. 41:14) denotes communication by influx.

'Torn,' as in Genesis 31:38, signifies death caused by another, so evil without blame. 'Torn' relates to good, which falsity is injected into, which means...

In Revelation 5:2, 'a loud' or 'great voice' signifies divine truth from the Lord, in its power or virtue.

There are two aspects to the life of each person. We might call them "heart" and "mind," a part of us that wants and feels...

'The sick,' as in Matthew 25:35, signify people in evil, and those who acknowledge that in themselves there is nothing but evil.

'To tell' signifies perceiving, because in the spiritual world, or in heaven, they do not need to tell what they think because they communicate every...

Cities of the mountain and cities of the plain (Jeremiah 33:13) signify doctrines of charity and faith.

In a general sense, doors in the Bible represent the initial desires for good and concepts of truth that introduce people to new levels of...

'Healing' signifies reformation by truth derived by good. 'Healing in his wings,' as mentioned in Malachi 3:20, signifies reformation by divine truth from good.

Like "say," the word "speak" refers to thoughts and feelings moving from our more internal spiritual levels to our more external ones – and ultimately...

It is common in the Bible for people to "rise up," and it would be easy to pass over the phrase as simply describing a...

rising up
It is common in the Bible for people to "rise up," and it would be easy to pass over the phrase as simply describing a...

When people pray in the Bible, it means they are opening up their internal states. When it is the Lord praying, or a figure who...

In the physical world, the places we inhabit and the distances between them are physical realities, and we have to get our physical bodies through...

Imagine having your mother touch your cheek. Then imagine having your spouse or someone you love romantically touch your cheek. Then imagine having a baby...

As with many common verbs, the meaning of “to say” in the Bible is highly dependent on context. Who is speaking? Who is hearing? What...

The symbolic meaning of "seeing" is "understanding," which is obvious enough that it has become part of common language (think about it; you might see...

As with many common verbs, the meaning of “to say” in the Bible is highly dependent on context. Who is speaking? Who is hearing? What...

'Shew' signifies instruction to the life.

Moses's name appears 814 times in the Bible (KJV), third-most of any one character (Jesus at 961 actually trails David at 991). He himself wrote...

All changes of place in the Bible represent changes in spiritual state. “Entering” – usually used as entering someone’s house or “going in unto” someone...

Videos from the Swedenborg Foundation

The videos shown here are provided courtesy of our friends at the Swedenborg Foundation. You can find out more about them here:

What the Bible Is - Swedenborg and Life

Is the Bible just an outdated book of confusing and contradictory moral lessons? Here’s one spiritual explorer’s philosophy on the hidden meaning of the Word.

Resources for parents and teachers

The items listed here are provided courtesy of our friends at the General Church of the New Jerusalem. You can search/browse their whole library at the New Church Vineyard website.

 Baptism and the Dove
Color the pictures and assemble to show the dove that appeared—and the words that were heard—when the Lord was baptized.
Project | Ages 8 - 11

 Be Made Clean
Spiritual tasks offer a reflection on a Biblical story and suggest a task for spiritual growth.
Activity | Ages over 18

 Destructive Nature of Evil
Sketch a fierce animal in a way that pictures the ferocity of evil OR use the lion provided. Add your reflections about what the Lord accomplished for us by taking on the forces of hell.
Project | Ages over 15

 For Reflection: Hell Is Like a Huge Lion
How does the Lord help us fight against evil?
Activity | Ages over 15

 Preparing for the Lord
Compare John the Baptist with Elijah. Elijah prepared the way for Elisha, and John the Baptist prepared the way for the Lord.
Activity | Ages 12 - 14

 The Baptism of Jesus
Color the pictures. Then hold the picture of the angels behind the picture of the Lord being baptized to show them rejoicing as the Lord begins His public ministry
Project | Ages 4 - 7

 The First Steps of Change
Spiritual tasks offer a reflection on a Biblical story and suggest a task for spiritual growth.
Activity | Ages over 18

 The Lord’s Baptism
Family lessons provide a worship talk and a variety of activities for children and teens..
Religion Lesson | Ages 4 - 17

 The Lord’s Baptism
This lesson discusses a story from the Word and suggests projects and activities for young children.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 4 - 6

 The Lord’s Baptism and the Dove
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 The Lord's Baptism: Mark
A New Church Bible story explanation for teaching Sunday school. Includes lesson materials for Primary (3-8 years), Junior (9-11 years), Intermediate (12-14 years), Senior (15-17 years) and Adults.
Teaching Support | Ages over 3

 The Meaning of Baptism
Look at an illustration of the Lord’s baptism by Julius von Carolsfeld and reflect on the spiritual meaning of various elements in the story.
Activity | Ages over 13

 The Parable of the Ewe Lamb
The story of Nathan and David shows us how the Lord gently leads us back into order when we stray. Nathan does not accuse David or threaten him. He simply presents the truth to David, and then lets him judge himself in comparison to the truth.
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 Who Obeyed or Disobeyed the Lord?
Use names from a word bank to identify people in the Word who obeyed or who disobeyed the Lord. Story references are provided to help you.
Activity | All Ages

 You Are My Beloved Son (sheet music)
Sheet music for a beautiful song about the Lord’s baptism.
Song | Ages over 11



Explanation of Mark 1


By Rev. John Clowes M.A.

Explaining the Inner Meaning of Mark 1

Verses 3, 4. That the Jewish Church was in a state of vastation at that time, so that there remained in it no longer any good or any truth, and in this state was instructed from the Word to shun all evils as sins against God, and to believe in the Lord's Divine Human principle, since otherwise the evil of sin can never be removed.

Verse 5. That this instruction was received by the humble and the penitent, who were thus admitted into the Church, being made sensible that of themselves they are nothing but evil.

Verse 6. The ultimates of the Word, which are natural, are figuratively described.

Verses 7, 8. Which ultimates testify that they can only effect external purification, whereas the Word itself, by and through its internal sense, is effective of internal purification, which is regeneration, by Divine Truth and Good.

Verse 9. That the LORD as to His Human essence, submits to be initiated into the external truths of the Word, because He thus became the Word in its ultimates, as He was the Word in its first principles, and because also He glorified His Humanity, or made it Divine, as He regenerates man, and makes him spiritual.

Verses 10, 11. Yet ascending rapidly out of external truths. He enters into the interior truths and goods of the Word, even to the Divine Truth and Good in Himself.

Verses 12, 13. And is thus admitted, as to His Humanity, into temptations, which are nothing else but the assaults of infernal spirits, seeking to destroy what is true by what is false, and what is good by what is evil.

Verse 13, latter part. But these assaults are succeeded by victory, attended with divine peace and consolation.

Verses 14, 15. Whence a greater measure of Divine power was communicated to the LORD'S Humanity to announce the descent and nearness of Divine Truth and Good, calling man to forsake all evil as sin against God, and to believe in the manifestation of GOD in the flesh.

Verses 16-20. Which annunciation was first received by those who were in the investigation of scientific and rational truth, and who were thus led to the pursuit and acquirement of spiritual and celestial truth.

Verses 18-20. Renouncing the cravings of self-love, and adoring the LORD as the Divine source of all that is good and wise and blessed.

Verses 21, 22. Who teaches Truth from the Divine Good of the Divine Love, in which all Truth originates, and not from any end of worldly reputation and gain.

Verses 23-27. And who by that truth cleanses man from his natural evils, and thus casteth out the infernal spirits who are in connection with those evils, and who yet are principled in heavenly knowledge, but not in the life of such knowledge.

Verses 27, 28. So that inquiry is hence excited respecting the LORD'S Humanity, which thus proves its Divinity by the subjugation of the powers of darkness, and by the brightness of the Divine Truth which it teaches.

Verses 29-32. And also by its omnipotence in delivering the affection of truth in the Church from the infestation of the love of evil.

Verses 32-35. And in likewise liberating those who were infested with evil and false persuasions, and who, in consequence of such liberation, became receptive of Truth and Good.

Verses 35-40. But the Humanity of the LORD can of itself do nothing but through union with its Divinity, and therefore it is occasionally let into temptation, that by the labour of combat it may attain a fuller union, and thus a greater measure of power to impart instruction, and to deliver mankind from infernal influence.

Verses 40-43. And especially to check the profanation of truth in all those who, through prayer and humiliation, and the acknowledgement of the LORD'S DIVINITY, sought to be cleansed from their sins.

Verses 43, 44. To whom instruction is given, that truth, when rescued from profanation, ought to open itself to the reception of the heavenly good of love and charity, by acknowledging that it thence derives its life and quality.

Verse 45. In which case truth acquires a greater power of making itself known, yet not in connection with its Divine Good, which is still in a state of persecution.