Mark 2

Jesus' Authority

Mark will begin to present the authority of the Servant of the Lord.

The authority to forgive sins (2:1–12)
The authority to eat with sinners (2:13–17)
The authority to let the disciples not fast (2:18–22)
The authority to pick grain on the Sabbath (2:23–28)
The authority to heal on the Sabbath (3:1–6)

The Paralytic Healed (1-11)

Mark then picks up a story of Jesus returning to his home in Capernaum where a great crowd gathered. There was no room in the house nor any room to get in the door. With such a mess of people pressing in on Jesus, He preached. While He was preaching, four men carrying a paralytic arrived late. Seeing they could not enter and get close to Jesus by way of the door, they removed the branches of the roof which were spread over rafters and were then covered in plaster. They made an opening and then let the bed down right in front of Jesus. Not caring about the mess they were making, the dust falling on Jesus and the people inside, nor what anyone thought about what they were doing, they made their way to Jesus.

Jesus recognized their faith and told the paralytic his sins were forgiven (1-5).

Jesus' power to forgive sins was being questioned by the scribes who were present but their questions were happening within their hearts. They were thinking thoughts like, “Why?" and "He is blaspheming" and “Only God can forgive." Jesus, the Servant of God, perceived what they were thinking in their hearts and confronted their questions.

Mark then tells us Jesus posed a question to them: what is easier, to heal or forgive? (6-9)  

It might be helpful to understand that usually forgiveness was deemed a sign of weakness; to be forgiving was to show weakness of leadership, not demanding people pay or make restitution for their misconduct.

Jesus, as the Servant and the Son of Man, makes it clear that He has the authority to forgive, thus the authority to heal. Jesus then told the paralytic to rise, pick up his bed, and go home. He was healed and the crowd in Jesus’ home was amazed, having never seen anything like what they had witnessed (10-11).

The Jesus Party (12-17)

After Jesus left His home, He went out walking by the sea, the crowd following right behind, so Jesus stopped to teach them. After a while, He took a break and walked some more when He came upon Levi and a tax collector. Jesus then broke with convention and invited a complete outsider, a Jewish enemy, to follow Him and become one of His students (12-14).

Levi followed Jesus and brought Jesus into his home, inviting all his other outsider sinner friends to his party. At the party, Matthew announced the good news of his having been selected as one of Jesus' students. There were some Pharisees who were tagging along listening to Jesus teach, watching Him call Matthew, and had followed Him to Matthew's home. They then watched as Matthew threw a party, having invited some notorious people. The Pharisees then went to Jesus' disciples and asked why He was eating with such scum (15-16).

Mark points out that Jesus had overheard them and told them plainly that, as a Servant, He had been sent to those who need a doctor and those who need a doctor are those who are willing to admit something is not right—they are sick inside.

Jesus then told the Pharisees that those who think themselves to be righteous based on their deeds are not the ones who are being called by the Messiah—Jesus is the Servant sent to call sinners, those who don't think they are good enough (17).

Jesus on Fasting (18-22)

Mark next tells of an event where John's disciples and the Pharisees came together to ask a question about fasting, wondering why Jesus did not teach His own disciples the practice of fasting (18).

Mark gives two illustrations from Jesus on that occasion. The first was a wedding day illustration. It would be absurd to fast on a wedding day because a wedding day is a day of celebration. Fasting is used to empty oneself to get closer to God; Jesus' disciples could not get closer to God than they were already. Jesus' presence was like one huge wedding as He was joining His disciples exclusively to Yahweh. Jesus' presence was like a grand wedding. Jesus did mention there would be, when He was taken away, plenty of time to fast later (19-20).

Jesus' second illustration was even more specific. He made it clear that the new life found in God's Kingdom having come to earth was not going to fit into the old structures of religion. Like a wineskin, His new life was going to burst old structures, and like a new cloth sewn to an old cloth, the old weathered material would rip away leaving a bigger hole. The new life of God's Kingdom which had come was going to require whole new structures, more flexible structures to contain it (21-22).

Plucking Grain on the Sabbath (23-28)

After Jesus' disciples were walking through a grain field and plucking grain on the Sabbath, some Pharisees took issue with the action as being a violation of working on the Sabbath. Jesus doesn't defend whether or not they were violating the Sabbath, and possibly they were not. They certainly were not stealing (Deuteronomy 23:25). What Jesus did do was use an example from Scripture to demonstrate that violating the law for human need was indeed permitted in Scripture, like David and his men who ate bread devoted to God and the priests (23-25).

Jesus then gave them the Kingdom truth: the Sabbath was originally made to meet the needs of humans, especially their need for rest. The Sabbath was not designed as a religious principle to keep.

Second, Jesus said the Son of Man, referring to a designation of Messiah from Daniel 7, was the Master of the Sabbath to use it any way He deemed necessary to meet the needs of people (27-28).