Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 31: Matthew, Mark and Luke, Part I, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
MATTHEW 4:12, 17; MARK 1:14-15;
LUKE 3:19-20; 4:14
Matt. 4:12, 17
12. And when Jesus heard that Jesus had been delivered up, 317 he withdrew into Galilee. 17. From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
14. Now after that John had been imprisoned, 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.
19. Now Herod the tetrarch, when he was reproved by him for Herodias, his brother’s wife, and for all the wicked actions which Herod did, 20. Added also this above all, and shut up John in prison.
14. And Jesus returned by the power of the Spirit into Galilee, and a report went out through the whole country concerning him. 15. And he taught in their synagogues, and was glorified by all.
Luke 3:19. Now Herod the tetrarch. Luke alone explains the reason why Herod threw John into prison: though we shall afterwards find it mentioned by Mt 14:3, and Mr 6:17. Josephus says, (Ant. 18, v. 2,) that Herod, dreading a popular insurrection and a change of the government, shut up John in the castle of Macherus, (because he dreaded the man’s influence;) 318 and that Herodias was married, not to Philip, who was Salome’s husband, but to another Herod. But as his recollection appears to have failed him in this matter, and as he mentions also Philip’s death out of its proper place, the truth of the history will be obtained, with greater certainty, from the Evangelists, and we must abide by their testimony. 319 It is well known, that Herod, though he had been married to a daughter of Aretas, King of Arabia, fell in love with Herodias, his niece, and carried her off by fraud. This injury might possibly enough remain unrevenged by his brother Philip, to whom the same Josephus bears testimony, that he was a person of a mild and gentle disposition, (18:4:6.)
This history shows clearly, what sort of reward awaits the faithful and honest ministers of the truth, particularly when they reprove vices: for scarcely one in a hundred bears reproof, and if it is at all severe, they break out into fury. If pride of this sort displays itself in some of the common people, we have no reason to wonder, that cruelty to reprovers assumes a more hideous form in tyrants, 320 who brook nothing worse than to be classed with other men. We behold in John an illustrious example of that moral courage, which all pious teachers ought to possess, not to hesitate to incur the wrath of the great and powerful, as often as it may be found necessary: for he, with whom there is acceptance of persons, does not honestly serve God. When Luke says, he added this to all the evil actions which he did, he means, that Herod’s malice is become desperate, and has reached its utmost height, when the sinner is enraged by remedies, and not only refuses correction, but takes vengeance on his adviser, as if he had been his enemy.
Matthew 4:12. When Jesus had heard. These words appear to be at variance with the narrative of the Evangelist John, who declares, that John and Christ discharged the office of public teachers at the same time. But we have to observe, that our three Evangelists pass over in silence that short space of time, because John’s course was not yet completed, and because that course was intended to be a preparation for receiving the Gospel of Christ. And, in point of fact, though Christ discharged the office of teacher within that period, he did not, strictly speaking, begin to preach the Gospel, till he succeeded to John. Most properly, therefore, do the three Evangelists admit and declare, that the period, during which John prepared disciples for Christ, belonged to his ministry: for it amounts to this, that, when the dawn was passed, the sun arose. It is proper to observe the mode of expression employed by Luke, that Jesus came in the power, or, by the power, of the Spirit into Galilee: for it is of great consequence, that we do not imagine Christ to have any thing about him that is earthly or human, but that our minds be always occupied, and our feelings affected by his heavenly and divine power.
Mark 1:14. Preaching the Gospel of the kingdom of God. Matthew appears to differ a little from the other two: for, after mentioning that Jesus left his own city Nazareth, and departed to Capernaum, he says: from that time Jesus began to preach. Luke and Mark, again, relate, that he taught publicly in his own country. But the solution is easy; for the words which Matthew employs, ἀπὸ τότε, from that time, ought to be viewed as referring, not to what immediately precedes, but to the whole course of the narrative. Christ, therefore, entered into the exercise of his office, when he arrived at Galilee. The summary of doctrine which is given by Matthew is not at all different from what, we have lately seen, was taught by John: for it consists of two parts, — repentance, and the announcement of grace and salvation. He exhorts the Jews to conversion, because the kingdom of God is at hand: that is, because God undertakes to govern his people, which is true and perfect happiness. The language of Mark is a little different, The kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the Gospel But the meaning is the same: for, having first spoken of the restoration of the kingdom of God among the Jews, he exhorts them to repentance and faith.
But it may be asked, since repentance depends on the Gospel, why does Mark separate it from the doctrine of the Gospel? Two reasons may be assigned. God sometimes invites us to repentance, when nothing more is meant, than that we ought to change our life for the better. He afterwards shows, that conversion and “newness of life” (Ro 6:4) are the gift of God. This is intended to inform us, that not only is our duty enjoined on us, but the grace and power of obedience are, at the same time, offered. If we understand in this way the preaching of John about repentance, the meaning will be:” The Lord commands you to turn to himself; but as you cannot accomplish this by your own endeavors, he promises the Spirit of regeneration, and therefore you must receive this grace by faith.” At the same time, the faith, which he enjoins men to give to the Gospel, ought not, by any means, to be confined to the gift of renewal, but relates chiefly to the forgiveness of sins. For John connects repentance with faith, because God reconciles us to himself in such a manner, that we serve him as a Father in holiness and righteousness.
Besides, there is no absurdity in saying, that to believe the Gospel is the same thing as to embrace a free righteousness: for that special relation, between faith and the forgiveness of sins, is often mentioned in Scripture; as, for example, when it teaches, that we are justified by faith, (Ro 5:1.) In which soever of these two ways you choose to explain this passage, it still remains a settled principle, that God offers to us a free salvation, in order that we may turn to him, and live to righteousness. Accordingly, when he promises to us mercy, he calls us to deny the flesh. We must observe the designation which Paul gives to the Gospel, the kingdom of God: for hence we learn, that by the preaching of the Gospel the kingdom of God is set up and established among men, and that in no other way does God reign among men. Hence it is also evident, how wretched the condition of men is without the Gospel.
Luke 4:15. He was glorified by all. This is stated by Luke for the express purpose of informing us, that, from the very commencement, a divine power shone in Christ, and compelled even those, who cherished a malignant spirit of contradiction, to join in admiring him.
“Que Jean estoit prisonnier;” — “that John was prisoner.”
“Pource qu'il savoit que c'estoit un homme de grande authorite envers le peuple, et pourtant se dutoit de luy.” — “Because he knew that he was a man of great authority among the people, and therefore had doubts about him."
The solution usually given, we believe, for this apparent discrepancy, is, that the name of the person in question was Herod-Philip. — Ed.
“Les rois, princes, et grans tyrans.” — “Kings, princes, and great tyrants.”