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Mark 2:1-17 – Four Questions about Jesus’ Ministry – Part 1

In last week’s message, we read from Mark 1:16-45. There we saw Jesus’ pattern for ministry. Do you remember the four aspects of His ministry? There was (1) disciple-making, (2) teaching, (3) healing, and (4) prayer. I still think these provide a good template for ministry today (although healing would have to be replaced with caring for people). At the end of the chapter, Jesus had become very popular. People came from miles around to be healed and to listen to his teaching. But when the leper was healed, he “didn’t obey what Jesus had requested him to do, but had gone out and told everyone. So then the crowds pushed upon Him and our Lord couldn’t do His work.”4

At the beginning of chapter 2, things had settled down enough for Jesus and the disciples to return to Capernaum. This seemed to be his ministry headquarters. In this chapter, Mark records four events that happened. What I found interesting about the chapter is that each event involves a question asked about Jesus by various people. With this in mind, our outline will be based on these four questions. Today, we will cover the first two questions in verses 1-17.

  1. How could Jesus forgive sins? (Mark 2:1-12)

    Forgiveness is something that many people long for. I heard of a story about a father who posted an advertisement in a newspaper telling his son Pablo that all was forgiven and that he wanted to meet him in front of a building in the city. When he arrived, there were hundreds of men named Pablo waiting for their father’s forgiveness.

    As we look at the first event, we will see how Jesus offered forgiveness to a man and how he has the authority to do so.

    What is says

    When Jesus returned to Capernaum, he went back to Simon’s house. Many people came to meet him, so He took the opportunity to preach to them. “The ministry of our Lord was to preach the Word of God, and that is the emphasis that we feel should be made today.”4 But others came to be healed. When four men were unable to bring their paralyzed friend to Jesus, they took matters into their own hands. “Like many [houses in that area], this house probably had an outside stairway leading to a flat roof. So the men went onto the roof. After digging through it (a composite of grass, clay, clay tiles, and laths), they made an opening … above Jesus and lowered the paralyzed man before Him.”1 What do you think the people thought when this happened? What do you think the owner of the house thought? Wait. Whose house was this? If it was the same house as mentioned in chapter 1, this was Simon Peter’s house! Uh oh.

    As parts of the roof fell into the room in which Jesus was preaching, all eyes were on the man being lowered and then they all looked at Jesus. What did He think of all of this? “Jesus viewed the determined effort of the four as visible evidence of their faith in His power to heal this man.”1 Having noted their faith, He told the paralyzed man that his sins were forgiven. This led the scribes to accuse Jesus of blasphemy. How could anyone but God forgive sins? Jesus asked why they were thinking this way. He then asked them which was easier to do: to forgive someone’s sins or to heal them of being paralyzed. Both were impossible for a person to do, but then Jesus was no ordinary man. He proved that he could forgive sins by healing the paralyzed man.

    What it means

    “In the Old Testament, disease and death were viewed as the consequences of man’s sinful condition, and healing was predicated on God’s forgiveness (e.g. 2 Chron. 7:14; Pss. 41:4; 103.3; 147:3; Isa. 19:22; 38:16-17; Jer. 3:22; Hosea 14:4).”1 In 2 Chronicles 7:14, God told Solomon that He would forgive those who humbled themselves and sought His face. So Jesus’ offer of forgiveness to the paralyzed man sounded like blasphemy to the scribes who were there because, as they said, only God could forgive sins.

    What they were saying is true insofar as they went. It is true that only God can forgive sins. But what they did not know or believe was that God was in their midst. As God and man, Jesus had the authority to forgive sins. So He could forgive the sins of this paralyzed man. And when He asked if it was easier to announce forgiveness or healing, He wanted to show the people that He was able to do both. By His divine power, Jesus healed the paralyzed man and proved that He could forgave sins.

    How it applies

    What you believe about Jesus is important. The scribes did not believe that Jesus was God, even after they saw Him heal the paralyzed man. The people also saw what Jesus did but were merely amazed at what Jesus did. Some of them may have believed in Him. But consider this. This event in Jesus’ ministry was given to you as well. You need to be forgiven by God to be made right with God and to escape the coming judgment. But what you think about Jesus will determine whether you will be forgiven by God. Do you believe that Jesus was just a man or is He God as well? Only God can forgive sins. Since Jesus is God and because He (revealed later in the Gospel of Mark) died for our sins and rose again, He can forgive you for your sins. Do you believe that Jesus is God and can forgive your sins?

  2. How could Jesus associate with sinners? (Mark 2:13-17)

    Would you feel uncomfortable if a woman with a bad reputation came to your pastor’s house to eat? Would you feel uncomfortable to eat dinner with someone known for drunkenness? If we could set aside the obvious cautions for safety reasons and if we made sure that others were present so as to keep from any rumors spreading, would you feel uncomfortable spending time with a person known for sinful behavior? This is the question that Jesus faced in our next section.

    What it says

    Jesus later went to the sea and taught the many people who gathered around him. He later met Levi “who was a Jewish tax official in the service of Herod Antipas, the ruler of Galilee. For such service, often involving fraudulent practices, these officials were despised by the Jews.”2 Despite his suspect reputation, Jesus called Levi to follow Him as a disciple and he did. Just as Peter and Andrew left their nets to become Jesus’ disciples, so Levi left his tax collecting to follow Jesus.

    “Shortly afterward, Levi gave a dinner for Jesus and His disciples.”2 During the dinner, many tax collectors and sinners sat with Him and the other disciples. These were probably friends of Levi who had been invited to the meal. The scribes and Pharisees considered these people to be “untaught in the Law, who did not abide by rigid pharisaic standards.”2 But they were more than that. They were sinful people who needed to hear what Jesus had to say. But when Jesus allowed them to crowd around Him, the scribes and Pharisees asked our next question. Why does Jesus eat with sinful people? Jesus heard and responded that a doctor works with sick people not those who are well. Jesus’s goal was not to take care of righteous people but to call sinners to repentance.

    What it means

    Why did Jesus eat with tax collectors and sinners? Mark included this event in his gospel to show us one of Jesus’ goals. As he said, He didn’t come to call the righteous but to call sinners to repent of their sin. This shows us two things. First, He did not come for the righteous. “The words, the righteous, are used ironically to refer to those who saw themselves as such, namely the Pharisees (cf. Luke 16:14-15). They saw no need to repent and believe.”2 As you may recall, the Bible says that “there is none righteous, no not one.” And yet Jesus stated that He had not come to help righteous people. Second, He did come to help sinners. Just as a physician seeks to treat the sick, so Jesus came to call sinners to repentance from sin. If they would come to Him and humbly acknowledge their sin, He was willing to work with them. Jesus came to call sinners to repentance.

    How it applies

    There are two applications here. The first applies to you if you have not yet repented of your sin and believed Jesus. God wants you to repent of your sin and follow Him. This involves a humble acknowledgment of your own sin from God’s perspective. When you realize that you are a sinner in God’s eyes, your next response should be to admit it and turn from it. After that, you should follow Jesus to learn from Him. At this point, we have not talked about His death on the cross, but as we study the Gospel of Mark together, we will eventually see that Jesus died for our sins on the cross so that God could forgive you. But at this point, start with getting your heart right with God. Turn from your sin to the Lord.

    The second application involves those who are already believers. Part of being a Christian is living a righteous life. We are told to be honest, to obey authority, to abstain from evil, and many other things. We are to do this because we love the Lord and want to please Him. But in your quest to be a godly person, make sure that you remember where you came from. When God saved you, He changed you and made a big difference in your life. But remember that He had to change you and that He saved you when you were a sinner. So, when you interact with people who are “sinners” don’t become so separated that you can’t talk to anyone. Be like Jesus and talk to sinful people so that they can hear about Jesus and be changed by Him, too.

Conclusion

As we consider what Jesus said and did in this section of Mark chapter 2, we should make a note of how He carried out His ministry to people. First, He was concerned with forgiving the sins of the paralyzed man. As God, He had the ability to both forgive and heal the man. And He did this with great kindness. Did the paralyzed man deserve to be forgiven or healed? No, but Jesus loved him and did it anyway. You might think about this today. None of us deserved what Jesus did for us, but we should be thankful that He loved us and died for our sins despite us being unworthy.

Second, Jesus was willing to tarnish His perfect reputation in order to reach out to sinful people. Although religious people questioned what He was doing, Jesus brushed off their criticisms and showed why He came. He came like a physician to care for those who were spiritually sick. There are many people who are spiritually sick today. They need to hear the gospel—the good news about Jesus—and they probably won’t ever hear it unless we take it to them. So, consider how you can brush aside criticisms and fears and interact with people so that they can learn about Jesus, who died for them too!

If nothing else today, I hope that every Christian will consider how Jesus ministered to people. His life is an example that each of us should follow. And now that we have seen how He ministered to sinners, maybe it’s time for us to do the same. How about it?

Footnotes

1 Grassmick 112.
2 Grassmick 113.
3 Grassmick 114.
4 McGee 167.

Bibliography

Grassmick, John D., “Mark” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary New Testament, USA: SP Publications, 1983.

McGee, J. Vernon, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, Vol. IV, Matthew through Romans, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1983.