Mark 2 is all about the Pharisee’s opposition to Jesus. On four different occasions in this chapter, they find fault with how Jesus and his disciples behave.
Section 1: Jesus Heals a Paralytic
Read Mark 2:1-12
Question: Who shows faith in this story and what can we learn from their example?
Verse 5 says Jesus saw their faith. Their refers to the four friends who had done everything they could to get this paralytic man to Jesus, because they had complete faith Jesus would be able to heal him. They tried getting through the crowd and couldn’t do it, so they did something extreme, removing the roof in order to lower the paralytic man down in front of Jesus. They serve as an example to us.
Thinking Question: Do we have such faith in Jesus to do anything and everything we possibly can to bring our friends to Jesus? Have we ever done something as crazy or socially unacceptable as removing someone’s roof to bring a friend to Jesus? Is there something we’re not doing because we deem it to be unacceptable to society, even though we know it would help get someone into Jesus presence?
But Jesus doesn’t heal the man in verse 5. Instead he says Son, your sins are forgiven. The love and care Jesus has for the man is demonstrated by calling him Son.
Question: But why doesn’t Jesus heal the man physically straight away?
Physical healing isn’t this man’s greatest need. It isn’t this man’s greatest need either. Having our sins forgiven is of far greater importance because it is our sins that separate us from God, deny us eternal life and mean we stand under God’s just wrath. In forgiving this man’ sin, Jesus gives him a far greater gift than physical healing.
Question: So, why does Jesus heal him later in the story then, in verses 11 and 12?
Jesus tells us exactly why he heals the man in verse 10, in response to the scribes who think in their heart that Jesus has committed blasphemy. The physical healing reveals that Jesus initial gift of forgiven sins was genuine too. Since Jesus can do the visible miracle (heal the paralytic), it demonstrates he also has the authority to do the invisible miracle (forgive sins). Physical healings have their place in Christianity and we pray and hope for them in Christ Church Fareham. But we recognise that physical healings on Earth serve a function to support and reveal the truth of the Gospel message which speaks of the far greater spiritual healing of the forgiveness of sin. A physical healing is far less important than salvation in someone’s life. Since only God can forgive sins (Micah 7:18), Jesus proves his deity in this story. Yet, as he does so, he calls himself Son of Man. He heals the paralytic man, so that the people would know The Son of Man has the authority to forgive sins.
Definition: Son of Man
On the one hand, Son of Man as a title for Jesus describes his humanity. A son of man was and is a human. However, as the title is used in the Old Testament several times, it came to take on a more important meaning. In Daniel 7:13-14, God gives to one like a son of man dominion and glory and an everlasting kingdom. This title is therefore messianic. This everlasting kingdom must be the same as the messianic everlasting kingdom. But the title also represents divinity. Isaiah 42:8 says God will not give his glory to another, he will not share glory with an idol. So, in Daniel 7 when God gives dominion and glory to this one like a son of man, it must mean that this one is also God, otherwise God would not share his glory with him. So, when Jesus uses the title Son of Man he is calling himself a human being, he is calling himself the Messiah fulfilling Daniel 7 and he is calling himself divine, since he receives God’s glory and dominion in Daniel 7.
Section 2: Jesus, the Physician
Read Mark 2:13-17
Question: According to these verses, why did Jesus come to Earth?
Not to call the righteous, but sinners in verse 17 summarises Jesus mission. Jesus mission was to save sinners, by calling them, by dying on the cross for their sins and by rising from the grave, defeating death. That isn’t a mission to save righteous people. That’s a mission to save sinful people. Just like a doctor who doesn’t treat people who are well, but people who are sick. Church is made up of sinners, whom have responded to Jesus call. There’s no reason or place for boasting or being proud of our righteousness, because all of us are sinners saved by Jesus grace and mercy.
Question: What is the significance of Jesus calling Levi (also called Matthew), the tax collector?
Jewish tax collectors were seen as traitors by the Jewish people. They worked for the Romans to take money from Jews and give it to the Romans. Remember, the Romans had invaded and conquered Israel and so were hated by Jews who wanted their land of Israel returned to them. Levi, therefore, represents the hated outsider, the worst of all possible sinners in a sense. And yet, when Jesus calls him in verse 14, Levi immediately leaves the tax booth to follow Jesus.
Section 3: Fasting & Sabbaths
Read Mark 2:18-28
Question: Why don’t Jesus disciples fast?
Jesus is with them! It’s a time of celebration! It’s like a wedding ceremony (where Jews were instructed to never fast, but to celebrate with food). Jesus, himself, is the bridegroom and the Church (Jesus disciples) are the bride. One thing that’s very interesting is that the Pharisees know that other people are fasting. In other words, fasting was this public act of religiousness, that people did openly so other people knew they were fasting.
Question: Should Christians fast today?
I think verse 20 teaches that the answer is yes. It was inappropriate for the disciples to fast during the celebration of Jesus life on Earth. But after is death and then his ascension into heaven, Christians enter into another period of waiting. We wait for Jesus return and during that time, there are a number of appropriate reasons to fast.
Read Matthew 6:16-18
The words when you fast mean Jesus expects his disciples to fast at times. These fasts are to be private and not compulsory, a matter between you and God. John Piper defines fasting like this: Fasting is a temporary renunciation of something that is in itself good, like food, in order to intensify our expression of need for something greater namely, God and his work in our lives.
Good reasons to secretly fast include:
– Worship to express that you do not live on bread alone, but that you are dependent on God
– Need – there is a particular request/miracle you want to ask God for & want to press in with prayer
– Guidance when seeking God to guide you, fasting allows you to spend more time in his presence
Question: What is the meaning and significance of the wineskin metaphor?
Jesus coming brings something new. The Kingdom of God is here! You would not pour new wine into old cracked wineskins. In the same way, Jesus disciples enjoying the newness of the kingdom of God and Jesus presence are not going to fall into the patterns and traditions of Pharisaical Judaism.
Question: In verses 23-28, does Jesus break the Old Testament law?
No. Firstly, it was Jesus disciples who plucked the heads of grain, not Jesus. But secondly, the disciples were not breaking the Old Testament law. Exodus 20:10 says but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. To harvest crops on a commercial farm would, therefore, be prohibited. Later Rabbis had argued that to pluck and eat grain was considered harvesting and therefore is also prohibited by Exodus 20:10. I think this is clearly an over-extension of the Sabbath law. But Jesus answer is different even to that. He tells the story of David eating bread that only priests were supposed to eat. This, on paper, was definitely breaking the law. But what Jesus is arguing is that David understood the law better than the Pharisees. He understood that this law about not eating the priests bread should yield to the greater law of necessity, when humans are in desperate need of food. If there was a famine in the land, then it would be wrong for the priests to withhold that bread from starving people. Finally, the Pharisees have misunderstood the point of the Sabbath. It wasn’t that the Sabbath Day was meant to restrict and hinder men. It was that the Sabbath was given as a gift to men! Jesus finishes this chapter by telling everyone he is the Lord of the Sabbath. Prayer: Worship Jesus for his humanity and his divinity, for his authority as the Son of Man spoken of in Daniel 7, for his power to do miracles and his power to forgive sin. Pray for any friends you wish to carry into the presence of Jesus