Who Over How
Welcome to the study series over the Gospel of Mark! Before we begin, I encourage you to pray and read Mark chapter 2. Ask God to clear your mind and open your heart as we read his word today. :)
Fun Fact! The disciple of Levi is also referenced as Matthew later in this book and in the Gospel of Matthew.
Key Themes Throughout Mark 2:
Jesus was popular, and he wasn’t popular in the way we typically think. Usually, when I hear the term “popular”, I think of someone being the star of the football team in high school or someone who is voted “Most popular” in the yearbook. But, there were no high schools or year books during the time Jesus walked the earth.
Anyway, in Mark 2, it is explained that Jesus’ ministry is gaining traction! People are drawn to him because they hear of the miraculous things he has done. He can heal people of their incurable illnesses, he casts out unclean spirits, and he touches the untouchable. People want to see Jesus in action; they want to hear what he has to say.
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. (Mark 2:2)
A lot of people want Jesus to heal them of their sickness. So, Mark 2 starts with a story of one of those people and his four friends. A paralytic is lowered through the roof of the house where Jesus is teaching. This fact alone is interesting to me. First of all, had to take apart the roof in order to lower the man down. Second, they had to have a tremendous amount of faith to do this.
We don’t know if these men had seen Jesus heal people or if they had just heard about it. The Bible doesn’t say. What we can infer is that they were so sure that Jesus could heal their friend, that they found a way to get into the room, even if it meant climbing on top of the roof.
And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” (Mark 2:5)
Jesus saw their faith! Now faith is an intangible thing. However, it is so powerful that it can produce tangible results. Even though faith in Jesus is invisible, it should lead us to do visible things. The paralytic and his friends had faith that Jesus could do the impossible: they could make him walk again. They were likely relying on him being healed.
“They counted on Jesus healing their friend, because it would be a lot harder to bring him back up through the roof than lowering him down. They counted on him walking out of the room.” (source)
But, initially, Jesus doesn’t heal him. He gives him the gift of forgiveness.
Forgiveness is not what the paralytic or his friends came for. They came so he could be physically healed. However, Jesus knows this man’s greatest need was forgiveness; his greatest pain was his sin.
Jesus addresses sin first before addressing his physical ailment, which is incredible! Like faith, forgiveness is invisible. Does the audience know if the man was forgiven of his sins, even if Jesus said so? Were they convinced? Some were not. To authenticate his power to forgive sins, he physically heals the paralytic.
“But that you may know that the Son of Man had authority on earth to forgive sins”--he said to the paralytic--”I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” (Mark 2:10)
Coming to Jesus in faith leads us to a place of immense healing. He gives us more than we could ever ask for or imagine. The paralytic came so he could walk again; Jesus not only gives him physical healing, but he also gives him freedom from all of his wrongdoings, all of his past mistakes, and all of his sins. Jesus’ healed his legs, but he also healed his heart and gave assurance to his soul. Often, we come to God with what we think are our biggest problems. However, only he understands our true needs.
After this story, Mark introduces us to the disciple Levi, who was a tax collector. The account of Jesus calling Levi in this book is relatively short, however, it is still significant. Tax collectors were despised for working with the Roman Government. They would often over charge for taxes so they could make a profit for themselves. Unlike Simon and Andrew, who could probably go back to their fishing jobs whenever they wanted, Levi likely did not have that option. Him following Jesus meant leaving a stable job and a lifestyle of greed.
However, when Jesus called Levi, he didn’t hesitate to leave everything and follow him. We don’t know Levi’s history of hearing Jesus’ previous teachings or witnessing miracles, but he followed Jesus immediately after he was called.
I often wonder if the disciples were worried about what they were getting themselves into when they followed Jesus. I think we worry about that more often than we should. When Jesus calls me into unknown territory, I often hesitate or run the opposite direction. Part of being a disciple of Jesus is following him even if we can’t see the next step. In a nutshell, that’s what having faith is--trusting in God even when we do not see him. Even though our lives can be uncertain, we can be sure, through our faith, that Jesus will continue to guide us.
“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.” (Mark 2:21)
For the last half of Mark, Jesus introduces his disciples to the concept of new life. Jesus’ life begins a new era. He fulfills all the scriptures and prophecies about him while introducing new ways. The law that the Jews were given in the Old Testament has been clouded over with man-made tradition. This is especially true with the concept of The Sabbath.
I am not an expert on the Sabbath, but I do know that it was the Jews’ day of rest. A lot of tradition was set for this day that did not fall in line for God’s intention for the Sabbath. For example, they set a tradition that you could only walk a certain distance and that small things were considered “work”. So while Jesus may have made the Pharisees angry by picking grain and eating it, he never violated any of God’s commandments for observing the Sabbath.
And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27-28)
The Sabbath was supposed to be a benefit to mankind and the Jews, not a burden! I think we can relate to this in more ways than we know. Sometimes when I come to Jesus, I think it has to look a certain way or be in a certain system. However, Jesus constantly shows us that we do not need to be perfect before coming to him. As humans, it’s in our nature to create habits and routines. Having a habit of spending time with God is an amazing thing! However, we need to be cautious not to get caught up in how we spend time with God. Instead, we need to focus on Who we are spending time with.
The Pharisees often got hung up on the how. Jesus shows them that God cares more about us than our traditions. The Sabbath was originally designed to connect people with their Creator, not to be a burden with man-made rules.
I encourage you this week to meet God in a place you may not typically meet him. This could be physically or spiritually or both! Where are places you willingly come to God at? What/where do you tend to hide from him? Maybe pray that God opens your eyes to him while you’re pumping gas in your car or grocery shopping. Maybe come to him when you’re not put together emotionally. He will welcome you in whatever state you are in because he loves you! He values your heart over you being traditionally “put together”. Have faith that he can heal the areas of your life in the place you least expect it.
Thank you for taking part in our study over the Gospel of Mark! If you have any questions or thoughts, feel free to leave a comment below.
Until next time,