Sunday June 25th
A man brought his dog into a talent agency.
The talent agent said, "All right, make this quick. I have things to do, what’s your talent?"
The man said, "It’s not me, it’s my dog -- he can talk!"
"Yeah, right," said the agent. "I don't have time for this. Get out of here before I throw you out."
"No, wait," said the man. "I'll prove it." He turns to the dog and asks, "What do you normally find on top of a house?"
"Roof!" says the dog.
"Listen, pal..." says the agent.
"Wait," says the man, "I'll ask another question." He turns to the dog again and asks, "How does sandpaper feel?"
"Rough!" exclaims the dog.
"Quit wasting my time and get out of here," says the agent.
"One more chance," pleads the man. Turning to the dog again, he asks, "Who, in your opinion, was the greatest baseball player that ever lived?"
"Ruth!" barked the dog.
“You see” said the man. “He means Babe Ruth!”
"Okay, that's it!" says the agent, and he throws the man and the dog out the door.
Out in the hallway, the dog looks up at the man, and says,
"Do you think maybe I should have said Joe Dimaggio?"
Well, Mark Chapter 2 doesn’t include any talking dogs, but it does have a familiar story about a roof!
Let’s get started with verse 1:
When He had come back to Capernaum several days afterward, it was heard that He was at home.
When Mark says that Jesus was “at home” he probably meant that Jesus was at Peter’s home. Jesus was from Nazareth, which was about twenty miles away, but we know that Simon Peter’s house was in Capernaum, because that’s where Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law back in chapter 1.
And I think that makes it a little more interesting to know the possible location of this familiar story that happens next:
2 And many were gathered together, so that there was no longer room, not even near the door; and He was speaking the word to them. 3 And they came, bringing to Him a paralytic, carried by four men. 4 Being unable to get to Him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above Him; and when they had dug an opening, they let down the pallet on which the paralytic was lying.
So it seems as though this might have been Peter’s roof, that the 4 friends “removed”. Isn’t that fascinating to consider? By the way, it didn’t mean they cut a hole in the roof with saws, because houses in Capernaum at that time had flat roofs made of branches and dried clay supported by wooden beams. That’s why it says they “dug an opening”. Then they simply lowered their friend down through the hole, probably with ropes. What a wonderful picture that is of evangelism! We are called to carry the lost and the broken to the feet of Jesus, by whatever means are necessary. That’s what this man’s four friends did. And that’s when things started to get interesting:
5 And Jesus seeing their faith said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” 6 But some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, 7 “Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming; who can forgive sins but God alone?”
When Jesus says, “your sins are forgiven” this is extremely significant for two reasons.
First, this man had been brought to Jesus for physical healing of his paralysis, but Jesus focused instead on the more serious spiritual illness of his sins, and the radical healing that forgiveness would bring to the man’s life.
Secondly, since Jesus was claiming to have the power to forgive sins, a power that can only be attributed to God, then the teachers of the law who were accusing Jesus of “blaspheming” would have actually been right if He was only a man.
For instance, look at this verse from Exodus 34:6-7
“The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin.”
But since he IS God, Jesus can not only forgive the paralyzed man’s sins, he actually also knew what those scribes were thinking, which must have surprised them a bit too!
8 Immediately Jesus, aware in His spirit that they were reasoning that way within themselves, said to them, “Why are you reasoning about these things in your hearts? 9 Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven’; or to say, ‘Get up, and pick up your pallet and walk’? 10 But so 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, get up, pick up your pallet and go home.” 12 And he got up and immediately picked up the pallet and went out in the sight of everyone, so that they were all amazed and were glorifying God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this.”
Verse 9 is an interesting question: “Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven’; or to say, ‘Get up, and pick up your pallet and walk’?” Damien has used this example before in our healing school and its quite obvious when you think about it. To say “your sins are forgiven” is pretty easy, since there is no visual proof as to whether anything actually happened or not. No one could dis-prove it. But to say, “Pick up your bed and walk”, that’s a bit more risky to proclaim, because if the guy just lays there, you’re going to be accused of being a phony AND a blasphemer!
Of course Jesus is using this healing to reveal himself as the Son of Man. He used this phrase to identify Himself as the heavenly “Son of Man” written of in Daniel 7:13-14.
“I kept looking in the night visions,
And behold, with the clouds of heaven
One like a Son of Man was coming,
And He came up to the Ancient of Days
And was presented before Him.
14 “And to Him was given dominion,
Glory and a kingdom,
That all the peoples, nations and men of every language
Might serve Him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion
Which will not pass away;
And His kingdom is one
Which will not be destroyed.
Let’s face it, if you’re going to make those kinds of claims about yourself, being the Son of Man who has the power to forgive sins, then you’d better be able to back it up, which Jesus certainly does by healing the man’s paralysis, causing the people to admit “We have never seen anything like this.”
Of course, in Mark’s gospel, we see Jesus moving quickly from one important moment to another. So here in chapter two he moves immediately from this healing at Peter’s house to the nearby seashore, teaching while he walked:
13 And He went out again by the seashore; and all the people were coming to Him, and He was teaching them.
14 As He passed by, He saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting in the tax booth, and He said to him, “Follow Me!” And he got up and followed Him.
Levi is identified in Matthew 9:9 as “Matthew” himself. He was Matthew-Levi, just like Peter was Simon-Peter. Jesus sees him at a tax booth near the shore. Sometimes tax booths were set up near lakes to tax the fishermen on what they caught that day.
And just like the fishermen Peter, James, and John did when Jesus called them, Matthew Levi rose up from his tax booth, left it all behind, and followed Jesus from that day forth.
Now notice what an impact it had on the other tax collectors once Matthew became a follower of Jesus. It appears that the next house that Jesus goes into isn’t Peter’s house, its Matthew’s house:
15 And it happened that He was reclining at the table in his house, and many tax collectors and sinners were dining with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many of them, and they were following Him. 16 When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that He was eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they said to His disciples, “Why is He eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners?” 17 And hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Think about what an open door this one conversion had on a whole group of people. “Hey, if Matthew can become a follower of Jesus, then maybe it’s okay for the rest of us tax-collectors and sinners to follow him too.” So Matthew hosts a party at his house and invites all of his other sinner friends, and they are all loving this good news that Jesus cares about sinners. They’re thrilled, but not everyone shares their opinion.
As far as the Pharisees were concerned, any such contact with sinners would make Jesus a sinner too.
The Pharisees were known for their strict rules regarding the Law of Moses, especially when it came to ritual purity, such as “the righteous” staying away from “the sinners” so that the “unclean-ness” of sin wouldn’t rub off on them. The fact that Jesus was eating with these tax collectors and other riff-raff really freaked them out!
But Jesus has the most wonderful response to put them in their place:
“It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Here’s an interesting insight into these words from one of the commentaries:
“There is both truth and biting irony in Jesus’ words. Tax collectors, prostitutes, and the like are indeed spiritually “sick,” but Jesus does not really intend the Pharisees to think of themselves as “healthy”. Jesus is breaking down the artificial categories of legalistic religion. Jesus teaches that we all are sinners, and that righteousness is only a gift of God, given to repentant sinners.”
If you want a clear proof that Jesus didn’t consider the Pharisees to be spiritually healthy, look at Matthew 21:31, where Jesus tells the Pharisees:
“Truly I say to you that the tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the kingdom of God before you.”
That sure spells it out, doesn’t it?
This then opens the door for more confrontation with the Pharisees over rules and laws, this time about fasting:
18 John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting; and they 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, “While the bridegroom is with them, the attendants of the bridegroom cannot fast, can they? So long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. 20 But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day.
The Mosaic Law actually only required one fasting day per year, which was the Day of Atonement. Any other requirements for fasting were simply laws that the Pharisees had made up as a sign of their own outward holiness. If you read Isaiah 58 you will see that God considered most of these fasts to be nothing more than empty rituals. The Pharisees apparently fasted twice a week, and were very proud of this fact. The disciples of John the Baptist had possibly picked up this practice as well. Jesus, however, didn’t require his disciples to fast.
When he is criticized for this, the reason Jesus gives is simple - that what is happening through his ministry is different from everything that had come before him.
In Jesus’ case, the “bridegroom” that everyone had been waiting for and preparing for (which is him) has now come, and is present in his disciples’ lives. Jesus is declaring that the presence of the King of Kings is a time for celebration, just like a wedding. And who fasts at weddings? Instead of fasting, Jesus’ disciples should be feasting in his presence and his love!
Jesus does point out that a time is coming soon when his disciples will fast. When it is time for Jesus to suffer and die, “the bridegroom [will be] taken away from them.” So after Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, he fully expected that fasting would become a part of the lives of his followers. So fasting is an acceptable Christian practice.
The fact that the Pharisees couldn’t grasp the difference between the “old” things which they were holding onto, and the “new” things that Jesus was bringing, caused Jesus to use two examples to explain why their thinking just wasn’t going to work in trying to figure him out:
21 “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; otherwise the patch pulls away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear results. 22 No one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost and the skins as well; but one puts new wine into fresh wineskins.”
The images of a piece of new cloth being sewn onto an old, worn-out garment, and the problem that occurs when new wine is poured into wineskins both emphasize the situation that has been brought about by the coming of the King into a world that is not ready to receive him.
That’s why Jesus tells the Pharisees in Matthew 21:43
“Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people, producing the fruit of it.”
New wine is alive! It is fermenting, changing, and adapting to each new situation through the leading of the Holy Spirit. Old wineskins are brittle, hardened, and inflexible, unable to contain the new thing that God is desiring to do in their lives. If we want to be open to a fresh move of God in our lives, we can’t allow “stiffness” to enter into our thinking. We can’t make the mistake of trying to put God in a box. The only box that can contain the fullness of God is the box that He himself designed, which is His word – he will never violate His own word!
But as long as what is happening in our midst lines up with the word of God, we never have to fear it or reject it.
Unfortunately for the Pharisees, they were actually LOOKING for things to reject about Jesus’ ministry:
23 And it happened that He was passing through the grain fields on the Sabbath, and His disciples began to make their way along while picking the heads of grain. 24 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 he and his companions became hungry; 26 how he entered the house of God in the time of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the consecrated bread, which is not lawful for anyone to eat except the priests, and he also gave it to those who were with him?” 27 Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”
The problem with the legalism of the Pharisees is made clear by this incident. They were accusing Jesus’ disciples of doing “farm work” by plucking a few grains of wheat as they walked through the fields, and farm work was prohibited on the Sabbath.
But that was a classic example of how extreme the Pharisees could get with their interpretations of the law. They had also accused Jesus of “working” on the Sabbath when he healed people!
I think Jesus’ answer is priceless! He says to them, “Have you never read about what David did?” One commentary calls this question “an ironic criticism of their knowledge of Scripture”. The Pharisees prided themselves in their knowledge of the bible, but they didn’t know how to apply it correctly to the situations that they were facing.
Jesus points them to a story from 1st Samuel 21:5-6, where David the future king, along with his followers, ate the consecrated show-bread that was normally reserved for the priests only.
The reason the priests gave David the holy bread was because they recognized him as God’s chosen king.
The point that Jesus is making is that he, as the anointed king, and his disciples as well, are free to partake of God’s resources as they carry out their kingdom work.
In verse 28 Jesus declares His authority as God’s chosen king, the messiah, using the term “the Son of Man” again and adding that this role makes Him also “Lord of the Sabbath”. Since the Sabbath was a part of the creation process, the Lord of creation is therefore the Lord of the Sabbath.
I was thinking that this chapter could be summarized as “Hurting people and how they respond to Jesus”.
We start out with the paralytic, who is so hurting that he needs his friends to bring him to Jesus. Maybe that was once you, a prisoner of sin, and by God’s grace some friends brought you to the one who could set you free from the sin that had paralyzed your life. Maybe now you can be a friend to someone else who needs to be carried to Jesus.
Then we have Matthew Levi. His life didn’t look as messed up on the outside as the paralyzed man, but inside, he was just as sick. He knew it, and so did Jesus. But Jesus also knew that there was a call on Matthew’s life, and it wasn’t to be a tax collector. And perhaps you too have been called to leave behind what you once called “your life” to follow a much higher call, a much more fulfilling call.
Then of course we have the Pharisees. Jonathan Swift is quoted as saying “There Are None So Blind As Those Who Will Not See”.
But this truth has its roots in the Biblical verse Jeremiah 5:21 ‘Hear now this, O foolish people, and without understanding; which have eyes, and see not; which have ears, and hear not’.
Hopefully this wasn’t you, but I think it probably was me, rejecting the clear truth of the Bible because I believed I was smarter that all that.
Thank God that the major theme of this chapter is that Jesus is always there for the sick, once they are willing to admit how much they need a doctor, how much they need a savior!