In our study of Mark chapter two, we will look at the nature of Jesus' ministry and the opposition that arose from the teachers of the law.
A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home.
We notice that this verse says that "he had come home" but Jesus was raised in Nazareth. In chapter one, we saw that Jesus had established his ministry headquarters in the home of Peter at Capernaum.
So many gathered there that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them.
We also saw that, because the man with leprosy told everyone how he had been cured, Jesus was mobbed by people looking for a physical healing. This led to a packed house at Capernaum where He shared the word with them.
Some men came, bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralyzed man, was lying on.
We often forget that this was Peter's house and there must have been a great deal of shock as the roof was opened up and a mat descended. There was such a crowd of people looking for healing that the men could not get their friend to see Jesus so they took drastic measures. We have to ask ourselves whether we are that desperate to have our friends and family come to Jesus.
"When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, 'Son, your sins are forgiven.'
Jesus had compassion for the paralyzed man and told him that his sins were forgiven. This is a good reminder that, when we come to Jesus, He will show compassion to us as well.
Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, 'Why does this fellow talk like that? He's blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?'
Now we see the start of the opposition to Jesus' ministry. Many were coming for physical healing but that was not the purpose of His ministry. Jesus came on a spiritual ministry but the people got caught up in the physical. We see that these teachers of the law were actually in the house with Jesus and they did not oppose the healing that was going on but, when there was a hint of His spiritual ministry, they immediately opposed Him. It is much the same today as it seems that many want to get caught up in a healing ministry or some other physical thing and ignore the more serious matters of the spirit.
Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this is what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, 'Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, "Your sins are forgiven," or to say, "Get up, take your mat and walk"?'
We see that Jesus knew their hearts and we know that He knows our hearts as well. He knows our every thought and deed. When Jesus answered their thoughts, they must have been taken aback and He gives them a simple answer.
'But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins...' He said to the paralytic, 'I tell you, get up, take your mat, and go home.' He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, 'We have never seen anything like this!'
After giving them the simple answer, Jesus also gives them the big picture and that is the fact that He has the very authority that they are questioning. It was demonstrated when the man got up and walked out as they watched. That leads us to ask the question: Why did Jesus perform miracles if His ministry was spiritual? The simple answer is that the miracles were a witness to His power and authority. It is the same today as God allows His children to do miracles such as healing, etc. but it has the same purpose as it did when Jesus walked the earth.
Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them. As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector's booth. 'Follow me,' Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him.
When Jesus left the town of Capernaum, He went out to the north shore of the lake which is known as the Sea of Galilee (Sea of Kinneret or Lake of Gennesaret). This is the largest freshwater lake in Israel and it is fed by the Jordan River flowing through it from north to south. There was a great road there that ran from Damascus to some of the southern seaports of Phoenicia. It was along this profitable trade route that Levi had his tax collecting station where he collected import and export taxes for the Roman empire. In this passage, Jesus made a bold statement by calling a tax collector to follow Him. These were the lowest of the low in Jewish society and, if they could be His disciples, then, anyone could. Do you know of someone who thinks that they are too dirty to come to Jesus? If so, then, remind them of Levi and Jesus' call on his life. We notice that Levi did not argue with Jesus about being too lowly to follow Him but simply got up and followed.
While Jesus was having dinner at Levi's house, many tax collectors and 'sinners' were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him.
What a change we see in Levi as he went from being one of the most selfish of men to opening his home not just to Jesus but to the crowd that was following Him. This is an example of someone who has truly came to the Lord and is a sharp contrast to many we see today. Levi's greedy old self was replaced by generosity and hospitality and it did not take a long time but was, in fact, an immediate change of attitude and a sign of genuine repentance.
When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the 'sinners' and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: 'Why does he eat with tax collectors and "sinners"?' On hearing this, Jesus said to them, 'It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.'
Not only did Levi feed the people that were following Jesus but there were also religious leaders there. Although they were probably not eating, these leaders were welcomed into Levi's home. These men would have hated Levi and looked down on him because of his job but still they were allowed in and they spoke with Jesus' disciples. These cowards did not have the courage to ask Jesus the question but instead went behind His back to ask His disciples why He was hanging out with "sinners". We should note that, if we are following Jesus, there will be cowardly gossips who talk about us behind our backs because they do not have the courage to face the Word of God. Jesus heard about their question and gave a simple answer about His purpose on this earth. Just like the physically sick go to a doctor to be healed, He is the spiritual doctor and He has come to heal those who acknowledge that they are spiritually sick. When He says that He did not come to call the righteous, does that mean that He did not come for all men? No, it simply means that no man is righteous without Him even though these leaders were so full of themselves and their piety.
Now John's disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. Some people came and asked Jesus, 'How is it that John's disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not?' Jesus answered, 'How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot, so long as they have him with them. But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and on that day they will fast.'
The religious people still did not understand that Jesus was more concerned with spiritual things than the physical such as fasting. Jesus explained in terms that they could understand. A wedding party is happy and it would be an insult to the groom to show up to the celebration with an attitude of mourning. He goes on to explain to them the fact that He (the Groom) would not always be with them and, at that time, His disciples would fast. In this, He was already preparing them for His crucifixion but they did not realize it.
'No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, he pours new wine into new wineskins.'
Jesus uses everyday things that they would have known to explain the difference between the old covenant and His mission. A new piece of cloth will shrink the first few times that it is washed. If the rest of the clothing had been washed many times, it would have already shrank and when the new piece shrank it would rip the old fabric. Likewise, the old wineskin would be more brittle than a new one and would not be able to expand as the new wine fermented and gave off gases. As pressure built up from the gases that were given off, the old wineskin would rupture and all the wine would be lost. Fasting was a part of the Mosaic Law (see Leviticus 23:27) and the law stands opposed to grace as far as salvation is concerned (They have nothing to do with each other). Applying the Law to a Christian is what is commonly known as "falling from grace" and it has been a favorite weapon of Satan in his war on the church.
One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. The Pharisees said to him, 'Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?'
Now, we see that the opposition to Jesus and His ministry is becoming more bold. This time the religious leaders asked their question to Jesus personally. What they confronted Jesus with was not the actual Law but was their interpretation of God's Law. It was, in fact, lawful for the people to pick the grain and eat it but it was not lawful to harvest the grain and store the crop.
He answered, 'Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.'
We notice that Jesus did not argue about the issue of the Sabbath. Instead, He reminded them of King David (who they honored) and the fact that he had broken their laws when he was hungry. His disciples were not eating the consecrated bread but they were still criticizing them.
Then 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.'
Jesus used this time to educate them about the purpose of the Sabbath. In Genesis 2, God made the Sabbath a holy day of rest for mankind. Although many seem to think that this was created as a day to worship God, it was not intended for that purpose. God knew that the frail human body required a day of rest and so He gave us that day. We are called to worship Him every day and not just on the Sabbath. The religious leaders of Jesus' day as well as many of our day are stuck on legalism and suffer from a lack of understanding of the Word of God.