The sweetness of the apple makes up for the bitterness of the root. The hope of gain makes pleasant the perils of the sea. The expectation of health mitigates the nauseousness of medicine. One who desires the kernel breaks the nut. So one who desires the joy of a holy conscience swallows down the bitterness of penance.1
Now we can see how in a short time this religion has grown up, making progress through the persecution and death of its adherents and through their endurance of confiscation of property and every kind of bodily torture. And this is particularly remarkable since the teachers themselves were neither very skillful nor very numerous. For in spite of all, this word is being “preached in all the world,” so that Greeks and barbarians, wise and foolish now are adopting the Christian religion. Hence there can be no doubt that it is not by human strength or resources that the word of Christ comes to prevail with all authority and convincing power in the minds and hearts of all humanity.2
There must have been something divinely compelling in the face of the Savior. Otherwise they would not have acted so irrationally as to follow a man whom they had never seen before. Does one leave a father to follow a man in whom he sees nothing more than he sees in his father? They left their father of the flesh to follow the Father of the spirit. They did not leave a father; they found a Father. What is the point of this digression? To show that there was something divine in the Savior’s very countenance that men, seeing, could not resist.3
A beginning is made by detaching oneself from all external goods: property, self-importance, social class and useless desire, following the holy example of the Lord’s disciples. James and John left their father Zebedee and the very boat upon which their whole livelihood depended. Matthew left his counting house and followed the Lord, not merely leaving behind the profits of his occupation, but also paying no heed to the dangers which were sure to befall both himself and his family at the hands of the magistrates because he had left the tax accounts unfinished. Paul speaks of the whole world being crucified to him, and he to the world. Thus, those who are strongly seized with the desire of following Christ can no longer be concerned with anything pertaining to this life, not even with the love of their parents or other relatives insofar as this runs counter to the calling of the Lord.4
And the expressions “of old” and “in these last days” foreshadow some other meaning; when a long time had intervened, when we were on the edge of punishment, when the gifts had failed, when there was no expectation of deliverance, when we were expecting to have less than all—it was then that we were given more.5
- COMMENTARY ON THE GOSPELS. Oden, T. C., & Hall, C. A. (Eds.). (1998). Mark (Revised) (p. 17). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- ON FIRST PRINCIPLES 4.1.2. Oden, T. C., & Hall, C. A. (Eds.). (1998). Mark (Revised) (p. 18). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- HOMILY 83. Oden, T. C., & Hall, C. A. (Eds.). (1998). Mark (Revised) (p. 19). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- THE LONG RULES, QUESTION 8. Oden, T. C., & Hall, C. A. (Eds.). (1998). Mark (Revised) (p. 19). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- ON THE EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS 1.2. Heen, E. M., & Krey, P. D. W. (Eds.). (2005). Hebrews (p. 7). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.