Commentary in Simple English on the Gospel that Mark wroteHome Introduction Contents Notes Previous Page Next Page
CHAPTER 2 [2.1]
The Jewish Teachers in Galilee argue with Jesus
(See Mark 11:27 to 12:40 for events like this in Jerusalem.)
In this chapter the Jews ask questions in verses 7, 16, 18 and 24. In 3: 4 it is Jesus who asks the question. Chapter 3:1-6 belongs with Chapter 2.
Verses 1-12: Jesus heals a helpless man
(Compare Mark 2:1-9 with Mark 3:1-6. And see Matthew 9:2-8; Luke 5:18-26.)
(Verse 1) Jesus went to Capernaum again. The larger houses there were built round three sides of a yard. They would be built from stone with steps outside which led up to a flat roof. This would cover part of the yard where Jesus taught. The wooden roof would have been easy to brake up.
(Verse 2) A crowd gathered to hear Jesus teach. There were so many people that the crowd filled the street outside the gate into the yard. Luke tells us that not only the religious leaders from Galilee were there. There were others from Jerusalem who were even more important!
(Verse 3) We can imagine the noise when the four men who carried their helpless friend arrived. 'Be quiet! We want to listen'! (Verse 4) Then they heard more noise. This time it was on the roof. A shower of dirt fell down, perhaps on those men who thought that they were so important. Through the hole in the roof came the sick man on his mat. (Verse 5) Jesus saw what the faith of the four men had caused them to do (James 2: 17,18).
When the four men saw the crowd, they might have said: 'What a pity'! and gone home again. They thought instead of a way by which they could get their friend to Jesus. Faith gets over the difficulties! The sick man cannot have enjoyed it when they carried him up the stairs and on to the roof. He put up with it because he had faith that Jesus could heal him.
Now the greatest prize that our faith can win is to know that God has forgiven all our sins. The healing of the body is wonderful, but God's forgiveness is even more wonderful. So Jesus says first that the man's sins are forgiven.
No one can see faith itself. In the same way, no one can see that God has forgiven a man's sins. So Jesus must prove to the Jewish leaders that this man's sins really are forgiven. (Verses 6 and 7) Jesus knows what is in their minds and they are quite right. It is only God Who can forgive sin (Psalm 130: 4; 51: 1 and 2; 32: 1 and 2).
Mark does not use the word ‘sign’ here; but what Jesus does is just what is meant by a 'sign'. A sign is meant to be seen. It takes place when the speaker says it will. Jesus says to the helpless man: 'Your sins are forgiven'. No one can see that, but they can see the man stand up and walk. The claim by Jesus that He can forgive sins is seen to be true. (See Psalm 103:3.) [2.2]
Jesus knew what they thought and He still knows what people think today (verse 8).
(Verse 9) So Jesus did the miracle which the people could see. He healed the man. Then they knew that he had done the other miracle. They could not see it. Yet He really had forgiven the man's sins.
(Verse 10) Jesus also calls Himself 'Son of Man'. This may be no more than a way in which He speaks about Himself; but see Daniel 7: 13. Jesus says that He is not only the Son of God. He is also the Man whom God has chosen to save us. [2.3] You will find another 'Son of Man' saying at 2: 27-28.
Jesus is the only One who can forgive our sins. He has authority. Authority is the right to do something with the power to do it.
Put no one between Jesus and the sinner who wants to be forgiven. Angels cannot help. Saints do not give any help. Other Christians cannot help. The sinner must go straight to Jesus. God sent Him into the world to save sinners. (Rom 10: 6-10). There is no way to Jesus. He is the Way.
So in verse 11, Jesus tells the man to get up and sends him home. (Verse 12) Everyone who was there saw what happened.
Verses 13-17 - The Call of Levi
(See Matthew 9:9-13; Luke 5:27-32.)
Once again (verse 13) Jesus goes out by the Lake of Galilee. A crowd had gathered and Jesus teaches them.
(Verse 14) Levi is the same man as Matthew. We think that he wrote the first Gospel. The name 'Matthew' means disciple. That means one who is taught. Men sent out from Rome ruled most parts of the Roman Empire. Pontius Pilate was one of these men. He ruled the south of Palestine. Local men ruled some other parts of the Empire. They usually came from wealthy families, like the Herods. Herod Antipas was one of these. Men like him had to pay large sums of money to the Romans before he could call himself a 'king'. Herod Antipas would have liked to be called a king but he had not paid enough money to be able to do so. He was only a 'Tetrarch'.
The Jews had to pay one lot of taxes to the hated Romans and another lot to Herod Antipas. [2.4] Matthew collected taxes for Herod. The Romans sold the right to collect taxes to 'Tax farmers'. Many of them were greedy and collected more than was due to them.
Tax collectors had a bad name because they worked with the Romans. The 'sinners' may not have been bad people at all. They may have been people who did not take notice of all that the teachers of the law said that they should do. The Gospel is not a religion of law, as the Jewish religion was. Law in religion says what is right and what is wrong in life. The Gospel says we must have love in all we do. The Pharisees tried hard to keep the Law but there was not much love to God in what they did.
So in verse 14 Mark tells us how Jesus called Matthew. There were plenty of other people who followed Jesus and He taught them. He saw Matthew doing his ordinary day's work. It may be that Matthew already knew something about Jesus. We do not know, but Jesus knew the men He wanted. He told Matthew to follow Him. Matthew did just that. He left his office where he had been at work. He left the money he had collected, and followed Jesus. I hope there was someone else in the office to tidy up! Matthew's example when he followed Jesus is one for us to copy. But we would have to be very sure that Jesus called us to do it like this. We would not walk out in the middle of a day's work!
The 'religious' people of the day would have been quite shocked when Jesus called Matthew to follow Him. There were many others like Matthew that the 'religious' people would have nothing to do with. They were not good enough! Those people were pleased to know that Jesus had called Matthew.
(Verse 15) Matthew gave a meal and his friends came to it. I quite think that he talked to Jesus about this first. He wanted tax collectors and sinners to meet Jesus. This is often a good way to spread the 'good news'. (Verse 16) The Law Teachers said: ‘Jesus leads people down. His followers mix with people who are less good than they are. This is not the way to become better'. However, it is not the followers of Jesus, but Jesus Himself Who can give us a new life. Every Christian can point to a Master, Christ, Who is far better than he is.
(Verse 17) The Good News does not make good people better. It makes sinners into saints, God's own people. 'The righteous' here means people who think that they are very good.
Verses 18-22 - The followers of John the Baptist
(See Matthew 19:14-17; Luke 5:33-38.)
About twenty years after this there were still some followers of John the Baptist. They did not yet know about Jesus (Acts 19: 2-6).
(Verse 18) Some people go without food for a time as part of their religion. This is 'fasting'. They think that they will please God and that he will honour them for it. Both the followers of John the Baptist and the stricter Jews, the Pharisees, 'fasted'. The Pharisees fasted on two days each week - Mondays and Thursdays. See Luke 18:12. Mark does not say why John's followers fasted. Probably they fasted and prayed for him to be set free from prison. (See 1: 14.) He had been taken from them. They wanted God to know that they really wanted their teacher back.
The Pharisees fasted just because it was the Jewish custom. (See Zechariah 7: 2-4; Isaiah 58: 2-9.) However, God is not fooled. Our hearts and lives must be right if we are to please Him.
Some people came to Jesus to ask Him why His followers were different. They did not fast. We can see, of course, that the Pharisees and John's followers fasted for quite different reasons. Really, the followers of John and the followers of Jesus were very much alike. The people who asked the question said: 'The Pharisees are good people. The followers of John look rather like them. But there seems to be something wrong with the followers of Jesus.'
In verse 19, Jesus says that He is like a man who will soon be married (Isaiah 62: 4; Revelation 19: 7; Matthew 25: 6). He is like a bridegroom. His followers are like the bridegroom’s friends. They feel joy because He is with them. (Verse 20) However, Herod had taken away John from his followers. Herod had put him in prison. In the same way, Jesus will be taken away. Already Jesus looks ahead to His suffering and death. When He is taken away, His followers will feel sorrow.
Notice that Jesus says: 'You must worship God. But how you worship God depends on how you feel. It does not depend on the date in the month.' (See James 5: 13.)
Talk of weddings brings two other things into the mind. We dress up for weddings. So Jesus says (verse 21) that the Jewish religion is like a piece of clothing which is worn out. There are holes in it. Clothes like that are hardly worth mending. It is no good if we stitch a new piece of cloth over the hole. New clothes are needed. That is what the teaching of Jesus is like. It is not just a piece sewn over the hole. It is new.
Then (verse 22) people drank wine at weddings. They kept wine in bottles made from goatskins (Psalm 119: 83). If they hung the skins up for a long time, the wine would get better, but the skin would become stiff. When they drank the wine, no one could use the skin bottle again for new wine.
God poured in' new wine'. This 'new wine' was the teaching of Jesus. In the past the Jews had had new wine in them. Now they are empty, but they are too stiff and hard to receive the teaching of Jesus. God will find new skins. Jesus does not say what you do with the old skins!
Verses 23-28 - Jesus, Lord of the Sabbath
(See Matthew 12:1-8; Luke 6:1-5.)
God rested on the seventh day from His work when He made the world (Genesis 2: 2,3). God told the people of Israel to work six days in the week. Then they had to set apart the seventh day for rest. They had to keep it holy (Exodus 20: 8-11). 'The Lord blessed the Sabbath day'. God still blesses the first day of the week, which we use to worship Him.
(Verse 23) The Law said that the Jews could pick ears of corn to eat (Deuteronomy 23: 25). The Jewish teachers in the time of Jesus said that this was wrong on the Sabbath. If you picked and sorted out the grains to eat, that was work. Paul tells us, 'Do not go beyond what is written'. (1 Corinthians 4: 6). God guides Christians by what He has said in the Bible. He leads us by His Spirit. He gives us love in our hearts to guide us. We must not make up all sorts of rules.
(Verse 24) The Pharisees say that the followers of Jesus are wrong. In verses 25 and 26, Jesus will not even talk about the rules that the Jews have made. He talks about the time when David and his men were hungry (1 Samuel 21: 1-6). They ate bread, which was 'holy'. Only priests could eat this bread. Jesus means that He is as great as David. He gives no answer to the Jews. They thought that He would tell His followers not to pick grain to eat. Instead, in verse 27 He gives much deeper teaching than the Jews wanted.
There may be something else here in what Jesus says. Jesus and His followers are like David and his men in 1 Samuel 21. In verse 7 we find that there is someone else about. He is a man called Doeg. The sad story of what Doeg did is in 1 Samuel 22:6-23. See also Psalm 52 where the note before verse 1 speaks about Doeg. Jesus did not need to say to the Pharisees: -’You are like Doeg’. Doeg went back to King Saul to make trouble. The Pharisees would go back to Jerusalem and make trouble for Jesus.
When God made the world, He set apart one day in seven. This was for the good of man who keeps it. It was not only for Jews. As the Son of Man, Jesus has the right to set free the one day in seven from man-made rules. He can show people how God wants them to use the seventh day. [2.5] This is what Jesus means (verse 28) when He says that He is 'Lord of the Sabbath'. [2.6]
Christian parents will want their children to love the Lord's day. It should be the best day of the week for their children.
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