^A Matt. IV.23-25; ^B Mark I.35-39; ^C Luke IV.42-44.
^b 35 And in the morning, a great while before day, he rose up went out [i. e., from the house of Simon Peter], and departed into a desert place, and there prayed. [Though Palestine was densely populated, its people were all gathered into towns, so that it was usually easy to find solitude outside the city limits. A ravine near Capernaum, called the Vale of Doves, would afford such solitude. Jesus taught (Matt. vi.6) and practiced solitary prayer. We can commune with God better when alone than when in the company of even our dearest friends. It is a mistaken notion that one can pray equally well at all times and in all places. Jesus being in all things like men, except that he was sinless (Heb. ii.17), must have found prayer a real necessity. He prayed as a human being. Several reasons for this season of prayer are suggested, from which we select two: 1. It was a safeguard against the temptation to vainglory induced by the unbounded admiration and praise of the multitude whom he had just healed.2. It was a fitting preparation on the eve of his departure on his first missionary tour.] ^c 42 And when it was day, he came out and went into a desert place. [Mark has in mind the season when Jesus sought the Father in prayer, and so he tells us it was |a great while before day.| Luke has in mind the hour when Jesus faced and spoke to the multitude, so he says, |When it was day.|] ^b 36 And Simon. [As head of the house which Jesus had just left, Simon naturally acted as leader and guide to the party which sought Jesus] and they that were with him [they who were stopping in Simon's house; viz.: Andrew, James, and John] followed after him [literally, |pursued after him.| Xenophon uses this word to signify the close pursuit of an enemy in war. Simon had no hesitancy in obtruding on the retirement of the Master. This rushing after Jesus in hot haste accorded with his impulsive nature. The excited interest of the people seemed to the disciples of Jesus to offer golden opportunities, and they could not comprehend his apparent indifference to it] ; 37 and they found him, and say unto him, All are seeking thee. [The disciples saw a multitude seeking Jesus for various causes: some to hear, some for excitement, some for curiosity. To satisfy the people seemed to them to be Christ's first duty. Jesus understood his work better than they. He never encouraged those who sought through mere curiosity or admiration (John vi.27). Capernaum accepted the benefit of his miracles, but rejected his call to repentance -- Matt. xi.23.] 38 And he saith unto them, Let us go elsewhere into the next towns [the other villages of Galilee], that I may preach there also; for to this end came I forth. [I. e., I came forth from the Father (John xvi.28) to make and preach a gospel. His disciples failed to understand his mission. Afterwards preaching was with the apostles the all-important duty -- Acts vi.2; I. Cor. i.17.] ^c and the multitudes sought him after him, and came unto him, and would have stayed him, that he should not go from them. [They would have selfishly kept his blessed ministries for their own exclusive enjoyment.] 43 But he said unto them, I must preach the good tidings of the kingdom of God to the other cities also: for therefore was I sent. [Jesus sought to arouse the entire nation. That which the disciples regarded as a large work in Capernaum was consequently in his sight a very small one. Those who understand that it is God's will and wish to save every man that lives upon the earth will not be overelated by a successful revival in some small corner of the great field of labor.] ^b 39 And he ^a Jesus went about in all Gailiee [The extreme length of Galilee was about sixty-three miles, and its extreme width about thirty-three miles. Its average dimensions were about fifty by twenty-five miles. It contained, according to Josephus, two hundred and forty towns and villages. Its population at that time is estimated at about three millions. Lewin calculates that this circuit of Galilee must have occupied four or five months. The verses of this paragraph are, therefore, a summary of the work and influence of Jesus during the earlier part of his ministry. They are a general statement, the details of which are given in the subsequent chapters of the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke -- the Gospel of John dealing more particularly with the work in Judæa], ^b into their synagogues throughout all Galilee, ^a teaching in their synagogues [The word |synagogue| is compounded of the two Greek words |sun, | together, and |ago,| to collect. It is, therefore, equivalent to our English word |meeting-house.| Tradition and the Targums say that these Jewish houses of worship existed from the earliest times. In proof of this assertion Deut. xxxi.11 and Ps. lxxiv.8 are cited. But the citations are insufficient, that in Deuteronomy not being in point, and the seventy-fourth Psalm being probably written after the Babylonian captivity. It better accords with history to believe that the synagogue originated during the Babylonian captivity, and was brought into the motherland by the returning exiles. Certain it is that the synagogue only came into historic prominence after the books of the Old Testament were written. At the time of our Saviour's ministry synagogues were scattered all over Palestine, and also over all quarters of the earth whither the Jews had been dispersed. Synagogues were found in very small villages, for wherever ten |men of leisure,| willing and able to devote themselves to the service of the synagogue, were found, a synagogue might be erected. In the synagogues the people met together on the Sabbaths to pray, and to listen to the reading of the portions of the Old Testament, and also to hear such instruction or exhortation as might be furnished. With the permission of the president of the synagogue any one who was fitted might deliver an address. Thus the synagogues furnished Jesus (and in later times his disciples also) with a congregation and a suitable place for preaching. We find that on week days Jesus often preached in the open air. But the synagogues are thus particularly mentioned, probably, because in them were held the most important services, because they were necessary during the rainy and cold season, and because their use shows that as yet the Jewish rulers had not so prejudiced the public mind as to exclude Jesus from the houses of worship] , and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, ^b and casting out demons [Mark singles out this kind of miracle as most striking and wonderful], ^a and healing all manner of disease and all manner of sickness among the people.24 And the report of him went forth into all Syria [caravans passing through Galilee back and forth between the Mediterranean seaports on the west and the Persian cities on the east, and between Damascus on the north and Egypt on the south, would carry the reports concerning Jesus far and wide]: and they brought unto him all that were sick, holden with divers diseases and torments, possessed with demons, and epileptic, and palsied; and he healed them. [Thus, by his actions, Jesus showed that the kingdom of God had come. The wonders of Moses were mostly miracles of judgment, those of Jesus were acts of compassion. The diseases here enumerated are still among the most difficult for physicians to handle. The term |palsy| included all forms of paralysis, catalepsy, and cramps.] 25 And there followed him great multitudes [these popular demonstration, no doubt, intensified the erroneous notion of his disciples that the kingdom of Jesus was to be one of worldly grandeur] from Galilee and Decapolis [Decapolis is formed from the two Greek words |deka,| ten, and |polis,| city. As a geographical term, Decapolis refers to that part of Syria lying east, southeast, and south of the Lake of Galilee. There is some doubt as to which were the ten cities named, for there seem at times to have been fourteen of them. Those commonly reckoned are 1. Damascus.2. Philadelphia.3. Raphana.4. Sycthopolis.5. Gadara.6. Hyppos.7. Dion.8. Pella.9. Galas.10. Kanatha. The other four are Abila and Kanata (distinct from Kanatha), Cæsarea Philippi, and Gergesa. None of these were in Galilee save Sycthopolis. According to Ritter, these cities were colonized principally by veterans from the army of Alexander the Great. A reminiscence of their Macedonian origin is found in the fact that there was a city named Pella in Macedonia. These cities are said to have been formed into a confederacy by Pompey the Great. In the time of Jesus they were chiefly inhabited by Greeks or heathens, and not by Jews. Josephus expressly calls Gadara and Hyppos Greek cities] and Jerusalem and Judæa and from beyond the Jordan. [The land beyond Jordan was called Peræa, which means |beyond.| According to Josephus, it included territory between the cities of Pella on the north and Machærus on the south. That is to say, its northern boundary began on the Jordan opposite the southern line of Galilee, and its southern boundary was at Moab, about the middle of the east shore of the Dead Sea.] ^c 44 And he was preaching in the synagogues of Galilee.