Mark 2:1 And again he entered into Capernaum, after some days; and it was noised that he was in the house.
In the second chapter of Mark we find Jesus approached and asked four questions covering four distinct topics. Here are the four questions:
1. Isn’t God the only one who can forgive sins? - Mark 2:7
2. How can Jesus be in the same company as sinners? - Mark 2:16
3. Why didn’t Jesus’ disciples fast? - Mark 2:18
4. Why do they on the Sabbath day that which is not lawful? - Mark 2:24
The first question revolves around Jesus’ claim to the title “God the Son” and can be summed up to how the forgiveness of sins is administered. In the second question, we see that the Pharisees were confused by Jesus’ ability to stand equal with God the Father, yet also stand in fellowship with those the Pharisees deemed less than desirable. Thirdly, questions concerning Christ’s doctrine on fasting in comparison to the followers of John and the Pharisees is brought forth. Lastly, liberty or freedom in the context of God’s law is questioned. Forgiveness, fellowship, fasting, and freedom—These four questions represent an interesting array of topics brought forth by a group less interested in truth and more interested in stumping Jesus. Why are these topics important to us today? We will take a moment to see how Jesus addresses each topic.
Let’s begin with the question of forgiveness. Who can forgive sins? Only God, isn’t this right? We see Jesus clearly forgiving sins in Mark 2:5, and the Pharisees claimed this was blasphemy. We believe the Bible is clear on this topic and Jesus is making a firm point. He is the answer to our sin problem! Only Jesus can offer forgiveness, and it’s through the blood that He shed that we can find redemption. This is most comforting to us because it’s not through our own works of righteousness that we are saved. We fall so desperately short of any redeeming virtues. It’s through the work done on the cross and completed at Jesus’ resurrection that we rest our salvation on.
Not only is our forgiveness rested here, but also our security. “Everlasting life” is secured in our Savior’s hand. No man can remove it. The Devil would love to have us doubt our eternity and our flesh will pull our hearts away from God. But none of this changes our status before our Savior. If you simply remember who you put your trust in anytime you doubt, you will find a peace that passes all understanding. (If you are trusting in anything else besides the finished work of Christ to gain forgiveness of sins, please read Romans 3:32, 6:32, 10:9, and Titus 3:5)
Once the question of true forgiveness is addressed, we move on to the second question which deals with fellowship. Jesus, who was sinless, came to rescue those who needed Him. He made it very clear that He wasn’t here to save those who didn’t need a Savior. The exact response of Jesus was this: “They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”
Isn’t this interesting? Jesus spent time with those that needed and wanted Him. Nothing has changed in two thousand years. Guess who Jesus spends His time with now? Those who want Him and need Him. You will never find Jesus rejecting an honest invitation in the Gospels. He was invited into a poor part of town for a wedding. He was invited to help those who were sick. He was invited by those stuck in life’s hard places. Our Savior always RSVPed with a “Yes”!
If our relationship is lacking today with the Lord, it’s not something we can blame on Jesus. How much do you need Jesus? Do you need Him more than your job, your family, or even food? He desires to be number one in your life, and it begins with inviting Him in. He is not an imposing Savior. He will not crash your party. He awaits your invitation.
The fasting tradition of John’s disciples and the Pharisees were compared to Jesus’ disciples’ fasting habits. Specifically, it was noticed that Jesus’ disciples weren’t fasting at all. While Jesus does make the assumption that we would fast as implied in Matthew 6 by stating, “When ye fast…”, there is no direct command for us to fast in the New Testament. The Pharisees assumed that their traditions were to be the riding factors in the disciples’ life. Jesus’ response was simple and to the point. He reminded those who asked that His disciples would have need to fast in the future. The time for fasting had not yet come because Jesus was presently with His disciples.
Fasting is a way for us to get a hold of God. God obviously knows when we need Him most. With that said, humans have an issue of forgetting that we need God. Even the mere fact that we have consistent food and water because of God, can slip from our minds. In times of trouble, we can forsake the basic necessities of life and pray to God, because He is greater than all our worries and troubles.
Jesus was there with the disciples, and they had direct access to Him. When they were in trouble, they cried out and He answered. When they were hungry, they asked and He delivered.
When they were drowning, all they had to do was cry out to Jesus, and He saved them. The purpose of fasting is to get a hold of God. With Jesus being present with them, they had no need to fast.
Lastly, we answer the question of freedom. The Pharisees asked Jesus, “Why do they on the Sabbath day that which is not lawful?” Jesus used three approaches when explaining His justification for picking food on the Sabbath. He first approached it with a story of David entering into the house of God to eat the shewbread. This was forbidden because only the priest could eat the shewbread. Yet, because of David’s hunger and need, it was more appropriate to show mercy rather than keep this ritual law. We also see this mercy in God’s law where He makes an exception to work on the Sabbath if we have an animal that’s fallen into a ditch. The Bible says to rescue your animal as an exception to the law.
Next, Jesus uses the example of an Old Testament priest offering sacrifices on the Sabbath in the parallel story told in Matthew 12. This seemed to be in direct contradiction to Scripture. The Sabbath day was a day of rest and for a priest to sacrifice was to work! We see a clear exception to the rule here.
Lastly, Jesus exercised His judicial rule. Jesus reminded the Pharisees that “The Son of man is Lord also of the Sabbath.” Jesus again reminded the Pharisees that He was equal with God and because He instituted the Sabbath as a way to help His people, He could also adjust where He pleased. An example of this in practice would be the attack on Jericho. This attack was brought forth on a Sabbath day, but the LORD allowed it and even commanded it. Jesus claimed His authority over the Sabbath as Lord of it.
While we understand that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, we also understand that the law of God will not contradict itself. Neither is our interpretation of God’s law to run counter to God’s will. God’s law won’t ever prevent us from worshiping and bringing glory to
God. David was hungry and the priest had bread, so God fed David. The priest needed to worship God on the Sabbath by sacrificing a lamb, so the priest worked on the Sabbath. Jesus’ disciples were in need of food and had nothing else to eat, so Jesus allowed them to pick corn on His day.
The liberty we find in Christ is just that, liberating. We are not restrained by a list of religious rules. We are constrained to help those in need. We are not tied down by a list of dos and don’ts. We are freed to help others who have fallen into sin and are trapped by the world.
Neither do we look for loopholes in God’s Word, but rather we look for opportunities to serve the less fortunate and to love our neighbors. Remember this when it comes to the liberty we find in Christ. According to the letter of God’s law, we are guilty. We deserve hell and nothing less. It’s only by God’s grace that we are saved. Our past and present sin, even if you put the word “little” before it (which I don’t find the words “little sin” in the Bible anywhere), is just as bad as anyone else’s sin. Yet, God has forgiven us and we now have the opportunity to share His liberating grace with others. What a privilege we have!
In closing, we see that the King of kings carried Himself as a humble servant and reminded a group of religious men that forgiveness was through Him, fellowship was to Him, fasting was to reach Him, and finally, freedom is only found in Him. Remember this, the Pharisees were religious, faithful, and zealous, but they didn’t understand who Christ was and what He wanted for their life. Sadly, these men didn’t seek the truth. They sought to be right. They were so busy trying to prove Jesus wrong they forgot that they needed to get right.
May it be our prayer to forgive like the Lord forgave, seek out fellowship with the Lord because we desire and need Him, fast when urgent needs arise and find freedom in doing right rather than finding wrong.
Life is not made up of the things which we possess, it is made up of the eternal relationship which we have with Christ.
As a Christian you must, on purpose, do what we can to allow good things into our hearts.