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Mark 2

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Mark 2:1-5… And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. 2 And many were gathered together, so that there was no longer room for them, not even about the door; and he was preaching the word to them. 3 And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. 4 And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and when they had made an opening, they let down the pallet on which the paralytic lay. 5 And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “My son, your sins are forgiven.”

Commentary

Prior to chapter two Jesus had been traveling all over the Galilean countryside preaching the kingdom of God, healing sicknesses, and driving out demons. In 2:1 he had returned to Capernaum where he began his ministry. Verse 1 says that he was “at home” implying that he was in his own home, but he was from Nazareth, so he wasn’t actually in his own home. The Greek text says he was in “a home” or “a certain home.” It is likely that he was in Peter and Andrew’s home again given that he was in Capernaum where they lived. Verse 2 says he was preaching, for many were gathered there seeking his authoritative words and healing abilities.

In v. 3 a man is brought to Jesus on a bed where he obviously was consigned due to his paralysis. Those bringing him couldn’t get through the large crowd of people who were gathered in the home, so they went up to the roof, dug through the ceiling, and lowered the paralytic to where Jesus was. This would have been simple in those days, for houses had easy access to the roofs via a staircase, and the ceilings were overlaid with sod which covered the wooden beams. The house could contain no more than about 50-75 people while Jesus preached.

In v. 4, in all the commotion Jesus stopped preaching to look up at the tumult, and he probably smiled while the man was lowered onto the floor. And seeing their faith, he looked at the man, called him “child” (which would signify that his faith made him a son of God), and openly forgave him of his sins in v. 5. William Barclay notes that the Rabbis had a saying in those days: “There is no sick man healed of his sickness until all his sins have been forgiven.” Therefore, Jesus, in accordance with his divine nature and ability to forgive sins, forgave the man of all his sins in route to healing him of his infirmity. The man’s faith that Jesus could heal him brought life to his paralyzed body. He was then able to stand up and walk home. But it must be noted in this particular case that faith in Jesus’ ability to heal is what brought about the forgiveness of his sins. The fact that Jesus would forgive the man’s sins and subsequently heal him points to the fact that his sin is what caused his infirmity. This isn’t always the case, but sin is certainly one of the causes of our infirmities. Augustine said that one need not be paralyzed bodily, however, to be paralyzed inwardly. Sin ravages our souls from the moment we draw a breath, but our chronic sins can also afflict us physically until the point at which we repent.

Food for Thought

Not all of our physical maladies are the direct result of some sin in our lives. Some are, some aren’t. In John 9:1-7 a man was blind not from sin but so that God’s work might be shown to all. That’s why Jesus healed him –  to display his power. In the Book of Job God angrily rebuked Job’s friends for not only believing that all suffering was a direct result of blatant and/or un-confessed sin in a person’s life, but for attempting to convince Job of the same thing. In Job’s case God was working through his misfortunes to prove a point to Satan. The fact is, some illnesses are the result of sin in a person’s life, but not all physical maladies are. We must examine our lives regularly, confess our sins, and determine why we sometimes suffer as we do.

Mark 2:6-12… Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, 7 “Why does this man speak thus? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God?” 8 And at once Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question thus in your hearts? 9 Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or ‘Rise, take up your pallet and walk’? 10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,” he said to the paralytic, 11 “I say to you, rise, take up your pallet and go home.” 12 And he rose, and immediately took up the pallet and went out before them all; they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”

Commentary

In v. 6 the scribes, experts in the Law, were there to observe and listen to Jesus’ preaching. They were the ones who had been humiliated when Jesus first came into the Capernaum synagogue in 1:21. After all, when Jesus spoke that day the crowd was both frightened and amazed at his teaching in comparison to the flimsy words of the scribes. They paled in comparison to Jesus, the “real deal.” So now the scribes were following Jesus’ ministry to see more. It’s almost as if, in their humiliation, they were seeking something in his words to trip him up and discredit him. So, when Jesus forgave the sins of the paralytic they had their accusation. The interesting thing about their accusation is that they pondered it in their hearts without saying a word. But Jesus knew even their thoughts in v. 8 and made them known to all.

If Jesus was in fact speaking blasphemy, and if the scribes could prove it, the Jewish Law prescribed death by stoning to blasphemers – those who slandered God (cf. Lev. 24:16). Of course this is exactly the charge that was eventually made about Jesus, and because the Jews couldn’t enforce their own death penalty by stoning, they went to Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea, to have Jesus crucified – the Roman’s form of torture and execution.

In v. 9 Jesus set out to prove his authority to forgive sins, thus equating himself with God. Any charlatan could say he could forgive sins, but Jesus asked them, “Which is easier? Me to forgive sins or for me to tell this man to get up and walk?” So in v. 10 Jesus proved his ability to forgive and to heal by doing both for all to see. And in v. 11 the paralytic did exactly what Jesus told him to do by getting off of his bed and walking home. He was God, and he did forgive sins.

In calling himself the “Son of Man” Jesus equated himself with God once again in v. 10. The “Son of Man” was seen by Daniel (7:13-14) 550 years before Jesus as one who was given “dominion, glory, and a kingdom, that all the peoples and nations might serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away; and his kingdom is one which will not be destroyed.” Truly Jesus could forgive sins, for had been preaching that the Kingdom had come.

In v. 12 “amazed” means to be “stunned beyond description” after the man actually got up and walked away. Even those who doubted stood in disbelief over what had transpired. This episode proved that Jesus could forgive sins. It didn’t matter to the scribes, however, because they refused to believe. They would only believe what they wanted to believe, even after they’d witnessed the miracle. Miracles just won’t sway those who refuse to be taught the truth.

Food for Thought

            Faith brings us to Christ. Our faith in His power and in His authority to forgive sins brings us to him to “seal the deal” by granting us a pardon and thus saving us from God’s wrath. And those who come to Christ are those that have been drawn to Christ by the Father (cf. John 6:44). Jesus Christ, like he did with the paralytic, will raise them up to life eternal in heaven. It comes by God’s grace alone, through faith in Christ alone, and results in eternal life with God.

Mark 2:13-17… He went out again beside the sea; and all the crowd gathered about him, and he taught them. 14 And as he passed on, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax office, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him. 15 And as he sat at the table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were sitting with Jesus and his disciples; for there were many who followed him. 16 And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 17 And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Commentary

            Once again Jesus left the house in Capernaum and went out by the Sea of Galilee. As always a crowd followed him there while he taught them. Notice once again that Jesus, in showing his love for the people, continually taught them and preached to them while he was here. This is what the love of Jesus looked like while he was alive. It consisted of instruction in the truth which healed the sin-laden souls of those who believed in the content of his words.

            As he was walking along and teaching the crowd that followed him he passed by a man named Levi, the son of Alphaeus. The parallel account in the Gospel of Matthew calls Levi “Mathew.” Matthew was a Jewish man who had gone to work for the Roman Empire collecting taxes. When a Jew like Levi (Matthew) entered the service of tax collection he was regarded as an outcast from Jewish society and synagogue, for he would be considered a traitor and a disgrace to both Judaism and his family. Tax-collectors in Palestine were considered to be the vilest of people ranking right alongside murderers and thieves. Levi was a customs agent of sorts, and these tax-collectors usually exacted far more tax than what was actually required by Rome. Levi sat at the tax booth on the outskirts of Capernaum on the main trade route from Damascus where fisherman would enter the city with their catch. He exacted a toll on incoming fish from local fisherman around the Sea of Galilee. This is of course where Peter, Andrew, James, and John worked, so it’s very likely that they knew Levi quite well.

            As the crowd following Jesus passed by Levi’s tax booth Jesus interrupted his preaching and called out to him, “Follow me,” and Levi inexplicably left his work and followed Jesus on demand. This must have amazed the crowds, not only that Jesus would call such a man but that he would follow. But he not only followed Jesus on demand, he also had him over for dinner in v. 15 along with his tax-collecting friends. Whoever they were, they were considered the rabble of the area. They were so “sinful” that the scribes (the pompous experts of the Jewish Law) took notice and commented that Jesus’ own character should be questioned because he would actually eat with such vile people. But in v. 17 Jesus answered their concerns by telling them that he didn’t come to help those who thought well of themselves, he came to help those who knew they were sick. This is why Jesus was eating in the home of Levi, the vile traitorous tax-collector, and his co-workers and friends. They needed salvation, and Jesus came to grant it to them.

Food for Thought

            One of the terrible things about being rich, having a great education, and/or a “royal” family name, as it were, is that these things cause people to think they are righteous and in need of nothing and no one. People who have these things take far too much comfort in them, and it causes them to be blind to their miserable spiritual state. The poor, however – in spirit and in their bank accounts, and those who know how sinful they are, are the ones who see their need for salvation. These are the ones Christ taught in order to save them. We should do no less!     

Mark 2:18-22… Now John's disciples and the Pharisees were fasting; and people came and said, “Why do John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but not yours?” 19 And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. 20 The days will come, when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day. 21 No one sews a piece of un-shrunk cloth on an old garment; if he does, the patch tears away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made. 22 And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; if he does, the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost, and so are the skins; but new wine is for fresh skins.”

Commentary

            In first-century Palestine there were many religious groups. Three of them are seen in the above passage: followers of John the Baptist, followers of the Pharisees, and Jesus’ followers. The former two were apparently undergoing a fast, but it’s not known if they were fasting for the same reasons. In the OT only one fast (self-depravation from food) was mandatory, and it was observed on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). The fast was to cleanse the soul as the one fasting spent the day repenting of sins in preparation for making amends with God due to sin. Other traditional fasts were later observed which bled into the first century. The Pharisees normally fasted regularly on Mondays and Thursdays as an outward expression of their piety.

            Since fasting is sometimes associated with mourning, it has been surmised that John’s disciples were fasting due to the death of their former leader. Though an option, this lacks biblical support, but they might have been fasting in preparation of the coming salvation through Christ whom John had pointed to as the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”

            Jesus and his disciples, however, were not fasting. On the contrary, they were eating feasts in the homes of outcasts, sinners, and tax-collectors. So the self-righteous Pharisees condescendingly asked Jesus why this was in v. 18. But Jesus replied that just as fasting isn’t appropriate during a wedding celebration, so too was it inappropriate to fast while he was among them. In other words, Jesus was equating himself with God, and while God, who was married to Israel in numerous OT texts, was walking the earth as the bridegroom there was no need to fast. On the contrary, there was a need to celebrate! The Kingdom had come in the person of Jesus. They could fast when he left, in v. 20, but while he was present there was cause for great joy.

            Jesus makes a parallel comment in vv. 21-22 about the new garment and the new wine which describe preposterous actions. He told them that fasting while he was present on the earth was as inappropriate as taking an new patch and sowing it onto an old garment. The new patch would shrink and make the tear worse. Going further, Jesus added that fasting while he was on the earth would be as inappropriate as pouring new wine into old wineskins. The new wine would burst the old skins, so the action would be inappropriate. So too was fasting in that day.

Food for Thought

            Even though the Kingdom of Heaven came in the person of Jesus Christ during his first coming, fasting is appropriate for Christians today. While he was here in the first century it was a time of celebration. He left us his Holy Spirit that resides in God’s children, so his kingdom does exist in some form here on the earth. But Jesus is coming back a second time to take his children away with him into eternity. Fasting for the purpose of developing spiritual character and strength is appropriate today. All believers should undertake this task as we repent of our sins, purify our bodies, and prepare for Christ’s return when the marriage feast will be inaugurated. Only those who place their faith in Christ will enjoy that time with him (cf. Rev. 19).

Mark 2:23-28… One Sabbath he was going through the grain fields; and as they made their way his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. 24 And the Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” 25 And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him: 26 how he entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him?” 27 And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath; 28 so the Son of man is lord even of the Sabbath.”

Commentary

            The next accusation thrown at Jesus and his disciples concerns their behavior on the Sabbath. In Mark 2:23-28 Jesus and his disciples are seen going through a grain field and eating the grain. Eating the grain wasn’t forbidden, for Deut. 23:25 states that one can in fact eat his neighbor’s grain as long as he doesn’t take a sickle to it. But they were doing so on the Sabbath, and reaping was forbidden on the Sabbath (cf. Ex. 34:21). Though Jesus himself wasn’t guilty the scribes considered him responsible for his disciples’ behavior because he was their teacher.

            Jesus’ answer to the accusation was to refer to the Scriptures (as he did on numerous occasions when falsely accused of something or tempted by the devil). He recalls an incident in v. 25 that the Pharisees were very familiar with from 1 Samuel 21:1ff. The event concerns a  time when David and his men came to the high priest on a certain occasion when David was fleeing from King Saul who sought his life. He and his men were hungry, but all the priest had that day was “the bread of the Presence” (Ex. 25:30). This bread was placed in the holy place of the temple as a thank offering to God for his provisions of daily bread to His people. It was strictly for priests (Lev. 24:9), and when the twelve loaves became old they were replaced with fresh ones. Then the priests would eat them. The high priest in David’s day, however, because there was no other food he could give David and his men, gave them the bread of the Presence, and they weren’t priests! This was a ceremonial law given to Moses, but David and the high priest disobeyed it – seemingly a willful sinful act – the very act Jesus justifies his actions with.

            But David and his men were not in sin that day, no more so than Jesus and his disciples were in reaping grain on the Sabbath. The reason being was that David and his men were hungry, and the heart of the Law was to do good, to save lives, and to show compassion. Legalistic interpretations that denied such were wrong interpretations. Even though it appears that godly men like David and Jesus were sinning by breaking the OT Law, the real interpretation of what they did is that it is always lawful to do good no matter what the Law prohibited. Both David and Jesus were well within the spirit of the Law even though they seemed to break the letter of it.

            Jesus concluded the matter by directly affirming himself as “lord of the Sabbath” – a second reason why their actions were kosher. The Sabbath was never meant to overwhelm God’s people with unattainable rules and prohibitions which is what their traditions had become. Jesus emphasized His (God’s) real purpose for the Sabbath: a day of restoration for man – spiritually, mentally, and physically – to worship, rest, pray, and do good – the heart of the Law.

Food for Thought

            The role of the Sabbath day today confuses many Christians. After all, we worship not on the Sabbath (Sat.) but on Sunday in honor of the resurrection of Christ. But the Sabbath principle still lives. We’re not to be confined to a cell to keep from doing all work, but we are to spend that day worshipping Christ with other believers, resting from normal work, and doing good.

Mark 3:1-6… Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there who had a withered hand. 2 And they watched him, to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him. 3 And he said to the man who had the withered hand, “Come here.” 4 And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. 5 And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. 6 The Pharisees went out, and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.

Commentary

            During Jesus’ three year ministry on the earth he was always scrutinized. Mark reveals a handful of instances where the naysayers were attacking Jesus. In 2:1-12 they asked, “Why is he forgiving sins?” In 2:13-17 they asked, “Why is he eating with outcasts?” In 2:18-22 they asked, “Why aren’t his disciples fasting?” In 2:23-28 they asked, “Why is he eating what is unlawful on the Sabbath?” And in 3:1-6 they ask, “Why is he healing (working) on the Sabbath?” One can almost see them like little children pointing their accusing fingers at Jesus trying to get him in trouble. Each time they fail because he answers their accusations with truth.

            In 3:1-6 Jesus demonstrates that he is “lord of the Sabbath.” He proclaimed it in 2:28, and now he’ll prove it. There was a man in the synagogue on a particular Sabbath day who had a “withered” hand. His hand was either paralyzed and/or shrunken. Given that Jesus had silenced the criticism of the Pharisees and humiliated them on numerous occasions it’s no wonder that they were watching him closely so as to trap him. It’s very likely that they planted the man with the withered hand in the synagogue on the Sabbath on purpose just to trap Jesus. When the text says that they “watched him” the picture is that of a lion waiting to jump on his prey. They wanted grounds to “accuse” him – the very word used to describe Satan as the “accuser” of God’s people in Revelation 12:10. The accusations of the Pharisees were satanic to the core.

            In v. 3 Jesus fell right into the hands of his accusers. He called the man with the withered hand over to him, but instead of healing him immediately, he posed a question in v. 4. He asked, “Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But no one answered him. It’s noteworthy, however, that it was within the tradition of the Pharisees that saving a man’s life was in fact permissible on the Sabbath even though Ex. 31:14-17 said that no work was ever to be done on the Sabbath (death was the result!). So Jesus basically put the question to them that they had already agreed on – that saving a life was permissible on the Sabbath. Clearly, however, the man’s life was not in danger, so curing him could have waited until the next day. But their silence infuriated Jesus. He looked at all of them with rage at their silence while at the same time being grieved that they had such hardened hearts.

            The latter part of v. 5 reveals that Jesus, amidst the cowardly silence, exercised his lordship over the Sabbath by healing the man’s hand, but he did so without doing any work! He spoke, and the man was healed. But the Pharisees were blinded to the Messiah in their midst in favor of their own jealousy and hatred. So they went out and conspired with the Herodians – the ruling family in Judea – in how they might destroy Jesus. Instead of celebrating, they disdained.

Food for Thought

            Augustine said, “If angry emotions which spring from a love of what is good and holy charity are to be labeled vices, then all I can say is that some vices should be called virtues.” Jesus’ anger not only attests to his humanity, it also shows that there are some things worth getting angry about. Disbelief and hardened hearts who hate Jesus IS cause for righteous anger.

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