The Word Made Fresh
1After some time had passed, Jesus returned to Capernaum. But the word soon got around that he was at home, 2and so many people gathered that the room wouldn’t hold them and they crowded in front of the door while Jesus was teaching them. 3Four men came carrying another man who was paralyzed. 4When they couldn’t get inside because of the crowd they lifted off some of the roofing above Jesus and lowered the man on a mat. 5When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “My son, your sins are forgiven.”
6There were some experts in the law of Moses sitting there wondering, 7“Why does he talk like that? It’s blasphemy. Only God, and God alone, can forgive sins!”
8Jesus immediately sensed that they were discussing this, and asked them, “Why are you thinking like that? 9Is it easier to say to the man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or, ‘Stand up and take your mat and walk away.’? 10But to prove to you that the Son of Man has the authority on earth to forgive sins…” he turned to the paralyzed man and said, 11“Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home.” 12He got to his feet, picked up his mat and walked out in front of them all. Everyone was amazed and gave the glory to God. They said, “We’ve never seen anything like that!”
13Jesus went again out to the sea, followed by a huge crowd, and he taught them. 14As they walked along he saw Levi, son of Alphaeus, sitting in the tax office. He said, “Follow me!” And Levi got up and followed him.
15He went to Levi’s house for dinner. A lot of tax collectors and sinners were present, sitting with Jesus and his disciples. There were many people following him. 16When the scribes, who were experts in the law of Moses, saw him eating with sinners and tax collectors, they questioned his disciples, asking, “Why does he dine with tax collectors and other sinners?” 17Jesus overheard them and told them, “People who are well have no need of a doctor – only those who are sick. I haven’t come to call the righteous. I have come to call the sinners.”
18The Pharisees and the disciples of John were fasting, and people asked Jesus, “Why are John’s followers and the Pharisees fasting, but not your followers?”
19“Wedding guests don’t fast while the bridegroom is with them, do they?” Jesus asked. “As long as the groom is present there is no need to fast. 20But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and that is when they will fast.”
21“No one,” Jesus continued, “sews a piece of new cloth on an old coat. The new patch will shrink away from the old and an even worse tear will appear. 22And no one puts new wine in an old wineskin because the new wine will cause the old skins to burst, and the wine will be lost. That’s why people put new wine into fresh new wineskins.”
23On one Sabbath Jesus was walking through the grainfields. As they walked his disciples began to strip the grain from the stalks. 24The Pharisees complained, “Why are they doing that? It is against the law to harvest the grain on the Sabbath!”
25Jesus replied, “Haven’t you read what David did when he and his friends were hungry and needed something to eat? He went into God’s house when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence which no one is supposed to eat except the priests. He also gave some to his friends.” 27Then he told then, “The Sabbath was made for people, not people for the Sabbath. 28So, the Son of Man rules the Sabbath.”
1-12: Mark’s version of this story has some significant differences from Matthew and Luke (see Matthew 9:2-8 and Luke 5:17-26). In Matthew the incident apparently takes place outdoors, while in Mark and Luke is it indoors. Luke does not identify the location. Matthew has it in Jesus’ “own town,” and it is clear from the context that they are in Capernaum. Only Mark has Jesus “at home,” which invites speculation about how he supported himself. Matthew and Luke give the impression that he depended on the hospitality of followers and well-wishers everywhere he went. Mark presents a more settled Jesus. All three sources present the story as a contest of Jesus against the religious authorities, with Jesus as a miracle worker who has the power to heal both soul and body.
13-17: (See Matthew 9:9-13, Luke 5:27-32) Luke and Mark call the tax collector Levi, while Matthew calls him Matthew. I don’t know why, and have found no suitable explanation. In fact, when Mark gives his list of the twelve disciples (3:16-19) he names Matthew, but not Levi! I wonder if the use of the name Levi is intended to emphasize the conflict between Jesus and the scribes, who are the equivalent of the Levites in the Old Testament. Like Peter, Andrew, James, and John, Levi drops what he’s doing and follows Jesus, then hosts a dinner party at which Jesus is the honored guest, thus setting up another head-butting session with the scribes. The theme of forgiveness is thus emphasized and Jesus’ authority to forgive sins is reiterated through his association with sinners.
18-20: Jesus compares his ministry to a wedding feast, which begs the question of the bride’s identity. Many commentators agree that the soon-to-be instituted Church is the intended bride.
21-22: The old wineskin would thus be Judaism. Jesus is presenting a new teaching and a new understanding of who God is and how God relates to people; therefore, a new vessel must be found to contain it. That vessel will be the Church.
23-28: (See Matthew 12:1-8) Step by step Jesus is challenging the way the religious leaders interpret the Law and the scriptures.
The purpose of religious leaders is to steer people in the direction of following the will of God. Their task is to demonstrate in their own lives what that looks like. If you find yourself in a position of leadership – full time ministry, Sunday School teacher, officer in the church’s organizational structure, etc. – your job is to model what it means to be a Christian.