The God of Sinners – Mark 2

Jesus returned to Capernaum and as soon as people found out, they assembled in large numbers perhaps at Peter’s home. The place was packed to the rafters with no room to even move as Jesus preached the word of God to them. At that moment, four men came looking for Jesus and were carrying a paralysed man with them. The crowds would have prevented them to come closer to Jesus but these men were not deterred by them but instead were determined to get their friend to Jesus. They made an opening through the roof of the house and then proceeded to lower their paralysed friend in the middle of the room where Jesus was preaching.

The paralysed man being lowered through the roof

Not sure why no one helped them get through the crowd but either the people gathered inside were so engrossed in Jesus’s sermon or perhaps they did not want this paralysed man to cut in line ahead of them receiving their healing. We live in a competitive world where we are taught to use others as stepping stones en route to achieving our goals. It’s a shame that even in our Christian lives we try to implement the same mantra. Just like the disciples who hoarded Jesus’s time to benefit their townsfolk, we too are tribal and look for the benefit of just ourselves and our immediate family. In our churches, we overlook the burden and sufferings our fellow believers are going through and only seek to get our prayers answered. We may think that the people present there might not have noticed the sick man because they were so engrossed in listening to Jesus but if we truly listen to Him and obey His words we would have compassion for everyone around us and not just people from our tribe.

Jesus kept moving away from such thronging crowds who had no faith and wanted only signs (Matthew 12:39). But our God is a compassionate God and even though we do not understand His will for our lives, He keeps helping us out of our problems. Jesus wanted to reveal the scriptures to His listeners so that they may recognise the Messiah among them, sent to die for their sins. However, the people would usually bring their sick to Him wanting physical healing from their new village doctor.

Authority to Forgive Sins

When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

Mark 2:5

Faith can work wonders and bring us even the unexpected. The men had brought their friend to Jesus to make his life on earth easier but by forgiving his sins, Jesus made his eternity better. Jesus knows the heart and he knew what was in the paralyzed man’s heart. When someone around us gets blessed, we try to equate their past actions and try to justify their path to their blessing not knowing anything about their relationship with God. People would have written off the paralysed man as a sinner but Jesus forgave his sins as He looks at the heart. Do we realise that Jesus knows the ins and outs of our hearts, or is our spirit paralysed to not even feel the presence of the Creator in our lives?

On hearing that Jesus claimed to forgive the man’s sins, the teachers of the law took offence as they thought He was blaspheming. Again, Jesus knowing what was in their hearts asked them what they thought was more difficult, asking a lame to get up and walk or forgiving the sins of the man. For us, forgiving sins seems easier as we do not value it as much as healing of the physical body. But for God, healing of the spirit is more important as He has planned not just for our foreseeable future but also for our eternity. Miracles, signs and wonders only have a temporary effect on people as the same group would be back at Jesus’s throat at the very next opportunity. Our modern-day ministries have been watered down to prayer requests and theatrics to leave the people awestruck but no one focuses on the spiritual health of a person. However, Jesus, caring for both the spiritual and physical well being of the man and said,

I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.

Mark 2:10

Saying this, Jesus commanded the lame to walk and the same unfolded to the amazement of those present. Everyone praised God as they were awestruck by what had just occurred but they were not aware of far more jubilation in heaven when Jesus forgave the sins of the man. If Jesus had healed the man first without talking about the forgiveness of his sins, no one would have paid any attention. But He spoke about the forgiveness of sins and having everyone’s attention on what was more important, did the latter as well, the simple task of making a lame walk. That day Jesus taught them that the Son of Man had not come to simply be their doctor but the ultimate gift of God who was ready to bear their sins as well.

Jesus Calls a Tax Collector

Levi at the Tax Collector’s booth

One day while walking along, Jesus met Levi (Matthew) son of Alphaeus at the tax collector’s booth. Tax collectors were a despised bunch in those days and were often clubbed together with prostitutes as sinners. The Jews hated paying taxes to foreign kings and coupled with the burden of temple tax (which was levied by their own) they despised anyone helping the cause of the Roman government. Tax collectors were usually local residents reporting to the governor of the region. Levi was one such official and answered Jesus’s call immediately leaving his secured job. Unlike the religious leaders of Israel who had labelled some men and women as outcasts, Jesus’s ministry brought such folks into His fold and connected them back with their Father.

The Pharisees Scrutunise Jesus

The growing popularity of the ‘travelling Rabbi’ did not bode well with the Jewish leaders as they saw Him as a threat to everything they had established. Mark recalls there separate incidents where they actively pursued Jesus and His disciples trying to catch them breaking the Jewish laws and traditions.

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?”

Mark 2:16

The Pharisees were perhaps afraid of Jesus’s response and would have felt it easier to approach the disciples. It is easier to target the ones weak in faith to sow seeds of doubt than a person whose roots are in Christ. Judas perhaps heard one too many such critiques about Jesus and decided to give in to the temptation to betray his Rabbi and be a hero among the Jews. Jesus made His mission even more clear when He said that He had come to save the sinners. What the Pharisees did not seem to understand was that they themselves were also sinners who needed saving. Jesus came for everyone as all had fallen short of the Glory of God. The Pharisees moved on to their next gripe with Jesus and questioned the leniency He had provided to His disciples as they did not see them fasting.

“How is it that John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not?”

Mark 2:18

This clearly shows what they held in value as they wanted to trap Jesus as the one who encouraged His followers to break their laws and traditions. We care if others are following rules only when we’re obligated to follow them. If they fasted to connect with God and not to show off, they would not have asked this question. Jesus responded using an illustration of wine and wineskins.

And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins.

Mark 2:22

The disciples never experienced closeness with God in all their lives like they did when they started travelling with Jesus. They were neither religious nor did they know the scriptures by heart. Most of them were even uneducated fishermen. Jesus was teaching them the way of His Father day by day and did not burden them with something they did not understand just yet. The Jews were very particular when it came to storing their precious wines. Experience over centuries had taught them the best practices when it came to storing wine. The same caution they did not exercise to a fragile soul who had just been connected with its maker. The Pharisees were brought up in the laws and traditions and expected everyone around them to follow their ways. Sometimes we treat the new believers in our church with the same contempt. God has an individual plan for every soul and by enforcing our thoughts on someone, we might break their spirit and end up harming the cause for which God had sent us.

Lord of Sabbath

Field of Grains

Relentless in their pursuit to trap Jesus breaking the laws, the Pharisees seemingly even tailed them on their holy day of Sabbath to find the disciples picking heads of grains in a field to feed themselves. They claimed it was unlawful to even pick grains to feed oneself on the Sabbath. The Pharisees had forgotten the purpose of the Sabbath (the rest day) and were blindly following it and teaching others the same. The Jewish Laws had rules about the Sabbath, not just the seventh day of a week but rules that needed to be followed for a Sabbath year as well. Buried in the multitude of rules regarding Sabbath was the forgotten intention behind God establishing this day. The Sabbath was created for man to connect with God and not for man to be ruled by these myriads of laws.

Jesus and His disciples belonged to the poor strata of the society and there were laws that governed their interests as well. The gatherers while harvesting the crops would drop the grains on the floor but were not allowed to pick them back up. These grains were meant for the downtrodden who would raid the fields when no one was around. According to the law of the land, farming was to take place on all days barring the Sabbath as the workers rested. This was the only day that these poor folks had to gather the grains that had fallen during harvest. So a common site of the poor trying to feed themselves is being twisted by the Pharisees for their cause. Jesus made them recall the works of king David about breaking laws for a similar purpose.

“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.”

Mark 2:25-26

The first king of Israel, David was known for his exploits during countless wars he fought, his hymns and his stories of bravery were recounted by all the authors of the Bible. He was a hero for the Israelites, and the Pharisees would never condemn him even when he broke the law by not only eating the consecrated bread meant for priests but also gave it to his men. Jesus is not saying that David was wrong when he survived off eating the consecrated bread but is just highlighting the hypocrisy in the way the Jewish leaders treated their heroes and how they treated the commoners, binding them under unnecessary laws. Through these incidents, Mark reminds us that the Son of Man has the authority to forgive sins and is the very reason for all our fasts and Sabbaths. Let us not be like the Pharisees and blindly follow rituals that do not make us righteous but submit to the Son of Man who has authority over everything.

Discussion Questions

V1: Why did Jesus keep coming to the crowded towns?
V3: Why could the friends not bring the paralysed man to Jesus?
V5: Can our faith heal someone else?
V8: Why did Jesus forgive the sins of the paralysed?
V15: Why did the Pharisees ask the disciples rather than directly asking Jesus?
V25: Why does Jesus give them the example of David?
V27: Why is the Son of Man Lord over Sabbath?


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