Christ’s Power Over Every Need
The Gospel of Mark Sermon Series
Five Characteristics of Religious People
Mark now moves from five stories about Jesus beginning his preaching ministry (calling disciples, astonishing teaching, casting out a demon, healing many, healing a leper) to now five more stories that deal with Jesus and how the religious leaders react to Him. So, Mark’s gospel is not chronological but put together in concepts. So, let’s define who Jesus is going to be arguing with.
Scribes – In pre-exile days of the nation of Israel, scribes were responsible for the care and storage of documents, and eventual copying of documents, including legal findings, laws, and deeds of purchase, etc. Over time they became known as “doctors of the law.” Because they were so familiar with the actual biblical documents and the commentaries of other teachers about the books of the Bible. By the time of Jesus, “The main business of the scribes was teaching and interpreting the law.” They were essentially religious lawyers.
Spiritual Blindness (vv. 2:1-12)
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 more room, not even at 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 bed on which the paralytic lay. 5 And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” 6 Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, 7 “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” 8 And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question these things in your hearts? 9 Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed 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, pick up your bed, and go home.” 12 And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”
(v. 1) “it was reported that he was at home” – word gets out that Jesus was back home, so people began to flood to see and hear Him. Many gathered so that there was a great crowd, “And he was preaching the word to them.” Jesus left the previous town because (even though there were great crowds) they would not receive his preaching – but here the focus of the evening was preaching and not healing.
The men bring their paralyzed friend but can’t get through the crowd. They go up to the roof, tear away the tiles (unroof the roof) and lower the man down in front of Jesus. “when Jesus saw their faith” – the four men showed faith in Jesus’ ability to heal their friend by going to great effort to get their friend close to Jesus. They believed that Jesus had the capability to heal their friend.
The scribes are mentioned in Mark 1:21 “And they were astonished at his [Jesus’] teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes.” So, word had spread of Jesus returning to Capernaum, so the scribes go and see what his teaching was like (for themselves).
Jesus is expected to heal the man, but Jesus once again focuses on teaching and preaching. He is making a point, “that all suffering is rooted in man’s separation from God. For this reason, Jesus must call attention here to man’s deepest need; otherwise the testimony of this healing would be nothing more than the story of a remarkable miracle.”
(v. 7) ““Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” Blasphemy is irreverent, profane, impious speech about God; and its penalty in the Old Testament was death (Lev. 24:16).
The scribes are right – Jesus was claiming to be able to forgive sin, and only God can forgive sin (Isa. 43:25); Therefore, Jesus has to be God in order to forgive sin. “Their fatal error was in not recognizing who Jesus really was – the Son of God who has the authority to forgive sons.” They “were not looking with open minds and hearts at a work of amazing mercy and power. They could see nothing but a departure from their tradition.”
(v. 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, pick up your bed, and go home.” Jesus preached and taught the Word of God, Then He presented a situation where there can be no question as to His claim to be God, and then proves His claim by healing the man.
“Here appears for the first of fourteen times in Mark the term, “Son of Man.” It was Jesus’s favorite way to refer to himself. It was ambiguous in that it could refer to a supernatural being; It could mean humanity or divinity. “By using the term, Jesus forced people to make up their minds as to what kind of person he was.” The term “Son of Man” was also a reference to His destiny. The one who is truly human must suffer and die. But this same person is more than a man, and he must also be raised from the dead and return to glory.
(v. 12) ““We never saw anything like this!” – Here is a clear distinction between the Jewish religion and Christianity.
Earn Your Spot (vv. 2:13-17)
13 He went out again beside the sea, and all the crowd was coming to him, and he was teaching them. 14 And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him. 15 And as he reclined at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining 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.”
(v. 13) “as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” With the fishermen who were called to be disciples, there was a connection to John the Baptist, and a seeking for the Savior. Here, with Matthew, there seems to be no relationship other than Matthew hearing the Word preached “by the sea.” If you were religious, and were following Jesus’ ministry the absolute last person expected to be called a disciple by a teacher would be a hated tax collector. This was not acceptable conduct by a Jewish teacher.
“Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.” – the call of Christ upon your life is one of action. Matthew got up, and began walking with Jesus. A disciple of Jesus is moving – not sitting around waiting for the world to come to him; he is moving with Jesus.
The question of the scribes of the Pharisees causes us to ask the question, “How long does it take for a person to no longer be considered a “sinner?”
Jesus is being criticized for associating with undesirable people, sinners. Mark is wanting to show how Jesus’ presence in their lives changed them. He is reenforcing the idea that Jesus can forgive sin, “for there were many who followed him,” Many who? There were people who the religious scribes saw as sinners, but as they circle around Jesus, he has forgiven their sin.
Jesus’ message begins in Mark 1:15 “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” There were people who repented and believed the gospel, yet would still be called “sinners” by the scribes. Jesus is not saying remain in your sin – no He is preaching repent (turn from) of your sin.
He is not saying that robbing people, or prostituting your body, or in any way sinning is ok to continue doing – but if you desire to be forgiven of that sin, to turn from it, Jesus, as the Son of God, would forgive you – and these people were circling around Jesus. It was the scribes who continued to call them “sinners.”
This is the difference between the Jewish and Christian concept to the forgiveness of sin, “No jew would have denied that God forgave people of their sin. It was the assertion ‘that God loves and saves them as sinners without waiting for them to become righteous an deserving of salvation . . . repentance to them would have meant evidence of change and the adherence to the Law’s regulations.’” Why would Jesus sit at a table and eat with people who had not shown themselves to be righteous?
(v. 17) “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” – I think this is Jesus using sarcasm. “You are righteous (in your mind), you don’t want to have anything to do sinners, I’ll focus on them, and you guys do you.”
“Jesus’ call is to salvation, and in order to share it, there must be a recognition of need. A self-righteous man is incapable of recognizing that need, but a sinner can.” No Jew would deny that the Messiah would save them from sin, but they would need to assert that God loves them and saves them as sinners.
The law was given by God and for mankind (before Jesus) was to be followed. But over time, religious leaders and teachers added to the law rules that they felt would keep people breaking the law – a wall in front of the law. So, between the law and the wall was a grey area. Jesus made the religious leaders angry because He kept jumping over the wall, and running around in that grey area.
Doing Things That Don’t Make Sense (vv. 2:18-22)
18 Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. And people came and said to him, “Why do John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” 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 unshrunk 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 destroyed, and so are the skins. But new wine is for fresh wineskins.”
In the Old Testament law the only required fast is on the Day of Atonement. However, over time, more and more annual feasts were added by the religious leaders, so that by the time of Jesus, truly religious and pious people were fasting twice a week.
How do the people know that John’s disciples and the Pharisees are fasting? How do they know that Jesus’ disciples are not fasting? So the people have been observing religious people, and Jesus and His disciples are claiming to be religious (teaching and preaching in synagogues and along the sea, etc.) Because that’s what religious/pious people do.
In response to the people’s question, Jesus gives a series of three illustrations (a wedding, a piece of cloth, and wineskin). Explain. Why would you fast at a feast? Why sew unshrunk cloth to a shrunk cloth? Why put new wine in an old wineskin? Jesus says, “these things don’t make sense.”
Also, in each example that Jesus gives, there is something old being connected to something new. Singles now wedded (married people can’t act single), old cloth connected to new cloth, old leather coming into contact with new wine.
There is a constant tension between the old and the new. Damage is done by trying to keep the two at the same time. Jesus’ new cannot be contained by the old traditions of the religious leaders. We must not try to limit what God is doing now, because it doesn’t fit into what we have experienced in the past. Remember these old practices are keeping people from the forgiveness of sin – they are keeping people away from God.
Tradition First, People Second (vv. 2:23-28)
23 One Sabbath he was going through the grainfields, and as they made their way, his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. 24 And the Pharisees were saying 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, in the time of Abiathar the 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.”
“Much more significant to Judaism than fasting was the observance of the sabbath. The sacredness of the day was traced back to God’s creative work (Gen. 2:1-3), and the charge to keep the sabbath day holy is one of the ten commandments (Ex. 20:8-11).”
“The main point at issue was not the act of harvesting the heads of grain (v. 23). Such activity as Jesus and his disciples were involved in was explicitly allowed in the law: “If you enter your neighbor’s grain field, you may pick kernels with your hands, but you must not put a sickle to his standing grain” (Duet. 23:25). What the Pharisees objected to (v. 24) was doing this (regarded as reaping) on the Sabbath.”
Jesus responds to their accusation by asking them a question from 1 Samuel 21:1-6, where David and the men with him were hungry and they ate consecrated bread, “twelve loaves baked of fine flour, arranged in two rows or piles on the table in the Holy Place. Fresh bread was brought into the sanctuary each Sabbath to replace the old ones that were then eaten by the priests.
Jesus is not saying that the Sabbath law has not been technically broken but that such violations under certain conditions are warranted. Human need is higher than religious ritualism.
Hardness of Heart (3:1-6)
3 Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand. 2 And they watched Jesus, to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him. 3 And he said to the man with 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.
By the time we get to Mark’s fifth story of Jesus’ encounters with the religious leaders, we see that instead of accepting him as the Son of God, or Messiah, or Son of Man they are intentionally looking “so that they might accuse him,” and “how to destroy him.” They were there not to worship God, but to catch Jesus.
Notice that they fully believed that Jesus had the ability to heal, “And they watched Jesus, to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath.” So, the issue was not could He heal, but would He heal “on the Sabbath.” Think about their reasoning; it is better for a man to suffer another 24 hours, than to be healed.
Why were they so angry with Jesus? Jesus refuses to submit to the adding on of man’s traditions. He didn’t recognize the Jewish leader’s skewed interpretation of the law (which He is the author). Even in the fact of healing proof, they held to the traditions of men.
Why is Jesus so angry with the religious leaders? Because he was “grieved at their hardness of heart.” They are accusing Jesus of breaking the sabbath, while at the same time plotting to kill him. They don’t see the hypocrisy in their own hearts. It is more important for these religious leaders to hold on to an old way, even if it is keeping sinners away from God.
 This consisted mainly in the transmission of traditional legal judgements, known as HALACHAH, and distinguished from HAGGADAH, or edifying religious discourse. The scribes’ real interest – and this applied especially to the Pharisaic scribes – was less in the plain meaning of the text than in the preservation of the legal system built upon it. . . . It was to their faithful transmission of the religion of Israel in the Greek and Roman periods that we owe the preservation of our OT scriptures, together with the foundations in Judaism of the Christian religion.” George Arthur Buttrick, Dictionary Editor, The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, R-Z (Nashville, Tennessee; Abingdon Press, 1962) 248.
 Frank E. Gaebelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 8 (Grand Rapids, Michigan; Zondervan Publishing, 1984) 632.
 Geabelein, 633.
 Buttrick, 671.
 James A. Brook, The New American Commentary, Volume 23, Mark (Nashville, Tennessee; Broadman Press, 1991) 59.
 Brooks, 59.
 Clifton Allen, The Broadman Bible Commentary, Volume 8 (Nashville, Tennessee; Broadman Press, 1969) 281.
 Geabelein, 635.
 Lev. 16:29, 31; 23:27-32; Num. 29:7
 Allen, 284.
 Geabelein, 637.
 Exod. 25:30; 35:13; 39:36; Lev. 24:5-9.
 “According to the passage in Romans 1:18-32, the wrath (or anger) of God followed this pattern: (1) men who knew God nevertheless did not honor him but followed their own willful thoughts: (2) this resulted in futile thinking: “their senseless minds were darkened” (v. 21); (3) God gave them up to themselves, their own choices, their own baseness; (4) they received in their own persons the due penalty for their error” (v. 27); and (5) they came finally, no matter what they may have understood earlier to be right, blindly approve of evil (v. 32). This description of the workings of God’s wrath is also a description of hardness of heart.” Allen, 287.