Jesus’ ministry was marked by His authoritative teaching and His power to heal illness and cast out demons. As He brought hope and healing to many, the establishment took note of this rogue Rabbi.
Forgiveness and a Feast
Not all looked at Jesus’ words and actions with wonder and awe. The religious leaders saw Jesus as a threat. He challenged their traditions, and anyone who drew large crowds and spoke of His own kingdom threatened Roman rule. Simply put, Jesus threatened the status quo.
Starting in chapter 2, Mark groups together live stories of conflict between Jesus and the religious leaders. Each encounter reveals more of who Jesus is, building the tension until the religious leaders must make a choice.
Good Friends Do Demolition
Jesus returned to Capernaum, preaching His message to a crowd gathered within a house. In this instance, He focused on teaching, not healing the crowds.
That didn’t stop four friends of a paralyzed man. They believed that Jesus could heal their friend. So they stopped at nothing to get him in front of Jesus. Picture a small, one-room building with a flat roof, accessed by an outdoor stairway. The people squeezed inside listening to Jesus heard the sound of scraping on the roof. Dirt fell on their heads, light poured in, and a man was lowered on a mat in front of Jesus.
The last thing they expected to hear Jesus say was, “Son, your sins are forgiven” (2:5). They expected Jesus to heal the man! But Jesus wouldn’t let this be simply another miracle story. He redirected everyone to His greater purpose.
The listening scribes picked up on this instantly. No one can forgive sin but God. Jesus was claiming to have divine authority to forgive. And this was a major problem for the scribes.
Mark has set us up perfectly for the first conflict with the religious leaders. They actually had it right that no one can forgive sins but God. So when Jesus responded in verses 9 and 10, it should have been a major wake-up call to those religious leaders. By walking out with his mat, the man proved two miracles had occurred—physical healing and forgiveness of sins. Which begs the question, who is this Jesus who can forgive sins?
Eating at the Wrong Table
Jesus continued to shock the religious leaders by calling a hated tax-collector, Levi, to follow Him and then eating at his house. Tax collectors were Jews who worked with Rome, so many saw them as traitors. Additionally, tax collectors frequently extorted the people, lining their own pockets.
It’s difficult to overstate the importance of sharing a meal with someone in this culture. Sharing a meal meant an invitation to relationship. Jesus wasn’t just eating with these questionable characters; He was calling them friends.
The response of the religious leaders puts us in the middle of their second conflict with Jesus. They look aghast at this dinner party and turn to Jesus’ disciples in shock. Jesus responds for Himself, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (2:17).
What the Pharisees failed to realize was that they were sinners as well, equally in need of Jesus. In responding to them as He did, He revealed the radically inclusive nature of His kingdom.
What do the Pharisees misunderstand about Jesus in these two conflicts? What do we learn about Jesus’ identity in each scene?
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