Bible Study from Calvary Chapel Newberg
with Tom Fuller
Who's The Boss?
The story of Saddam Hussein and his rule of the Iraqi people is fascinating. In my mind, the defiant ruler's power didn't come to an end in March of 2003 when American troops rolled into Baghdad and we witnessed as mobs tore down his statue. No - the end for Saddam came months later, when soldiers discovered him hiding in what they called a "spider hole" - like a rodent burrowed into the ground, Saddam emerged looking disheveled and disoriented. At that point I think everyone knew - Saddam was finished. Now a new government is coming into place.
I'm not here to argue the politics of Iraq - but to use it as a picture for what we will see today in Mark chapter 2. Like an aging but reluctant dictator - the Law held on to power in people's lives for generations - but now a new boss is coming on the scene - one who Himself is the Law. Those around this changeover reacted in different ways - some grabbed onto Jesus with all the strength they could find - others scoffed at him. Like Iraqi insurgents - they will not believe that change is coming - and so with us, how do we react when Jesus asserts His control over our lives?
In some ways this chapter represents the going out of the old and the coming in of the new.
In verses 1 through 1-12 we have Jesus taking authority over the forgiveness of sin - removing it the Jewish law and tradition and giving it to the Messiah.
In verses 13 through 17 we have Jesus taking authority over who comes into the kingdom of God, away from the subjective class system based on occupation or socio-economic status to one based on whether you are infected with sin or not.
In verses 18 - 22 we find the clear implication that there is a changing of the guard and that the old system and the new cannot co-exist - the new must replace the old entirely.
And in 23 through 28 Jesus takes authority over tradition and the Law. It is the rejection of the tradition controlling behavior to the Lord controlling behavior.
1 A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home.
Capernaum was where Jesus made His headquarters - its located on the northern shores of the Sea of Galilee. You can walk among the ruins today - and even see where they think Peter's house was where Jesus healed Peter's mother-in-law. Jesus was already getting a huge reputation as we saw last week - even though He told the people he healed emphatically not to tell, they went out and told everyone about Him - so its not surprising at all that crowds came over.
2 So many gathered that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. 3 Some men came, bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them. 4 Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralyzed man was lying on.
The roofs of the buildings in that day were flat. They were made of three layers - wooden beams of cedar or Cyprus wood, a layer of straw, then clay packed down tight to make it water proof. So these guys would have to break through the clay, part the straw, and move aside some of the sticks to make enough room to let this down through.
Imagine you're this guy - who can't move or catch himself. "You're going to do what?" he says! But he and his friends were so determined to get this guy to Jesus that they risked hurting him terribly. I can just picture the scene as Jesus is teaching then, plink, something hits somebody on the head - and plunk, a bigger piece comes down - then all eyes go up to the roof where the sun is now shining through and then down comes this guy on a mat. So look what Jesus does:
5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Son, your sins are forgiven."
The guys up on the roof may have been saying "Hey, I thought He was going to heal him - who said anything about forgiveness?" But Jesus is making a bigger point - that we are all sick on the inside from sin - we just don't show it on the outside but sin paralyzes us in our ability to make things happen and move ourselves closer to God, so forgiveness is what everyone should seek - and of course, Jesus is making the point that He is the one who can grant forgiveness.
This wasn't lost on the religious teachers present.
6 Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, 7 "Why does this fellow talk like that? He's blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?"
8 Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, "Why are you thinking these things? 9 Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up, take your mat and walk'? 10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins . . . ." He said to the paralytic, 11 "I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home." 12 He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, "We have never seen anything like this!"
Lots of things are going on here. First - Jesus knows their thoughts. We don't know of the Spirit told Him, or He just figured that's what they would be thinking - it makes sense that they would immediately pull out the blaspheme card.
But look what He says - which is easier to say - forgiveness or healing. It's a rhetorical question because these men, in fact no ordinary man, could do either. But Jesus can do both - it's a bold assertion that Jesus is God because only God can forgive sins.
Jesus first proves that He can do whatever He wants. He isn't just claiming to be somebody with a bunch of words - this sets up His assertion that it is time to make a change away from Law and towards grace through Jesus. Jesus claims authority over the forgiveness of sickness of sin as well as over healing physical sickness.
13 Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them. 14 As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector's booth. "Follow me," Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him.
This is Matthew, also known as Levi. Matthew's leaving of his tax booth was a really big deal because tax collectors were shunned by their Jewish families because they collected money for Rome. But when Levi left to follow Jesus he was literally leaving everything, including a lucrative living.
What are we giving up when we come to Jesus? Are we willing to face ridicule by our loved ones and perhaps giving up a pretty good deal in the world?
15 While Jesus was having dinner at Levi's house, many tax collectors and "sinners" were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 16 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'?"
17 On hearing this, Jesus said to them, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."
So you can see how this continues the thought from the earlier healing and the idea of Jesus taking authority over the forgiveness of sin. In that culture eating together was a very big deal - you all sort of sat around and plunked bread into a common bowl - and, of course, the Jews wouldn't eat with those they felt were "unclean" because it would make them unclean.
This was true - yet they took it to an illogical conclusion. God wanted His people to tell the world about Him, not keep away from the world. But look at this - Jesus is not made unclean by being with these people, He makes them clean.
Jesus is a physician - He heals the soul, makes the clean the unclean. This is something that would have blown the minds of the Jews of that day.
This represents a paradigm shift. The Jews considered themselves righteous because they were Jewish. But Jesus is saying - you can't judge whether someone is righteous by outward appearances or social class. It is an inward sickness that Jesus comes to heal.
It is a shift from groups being allowed or not allowed into the faith community - to individuals. Each person on their own must be judged - each person on their own must come to faith in the Messiah. You aren't a Christian because you were born into a Christian family. Each of us must decide on our own whether Jesus will "cleanse" our sins as the Great Physician.
18 Now John's disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. Some people came and asked Jesus, "How is it that John's disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not?"
19 Jesus answered, "How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot, so long as they have him with them. 20 But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast.
Fasting is a form of self denial - denying the flesh food. It's the opposite of rejoicing and having a good time. Jesus says that when the bridegroom is there then its time to party and rejoice - but later on will come a time for fasting - Jesus is making some reference to His crucifixion - and of course we see the implications of all of this, but the people hearing this would not have.
21 "No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse. 22 And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, he pours new wine into new wineskins."
The old wineskins were fine for the old wine - but Jesus is talking about new wine. You can sew preshrunk cloth onto an old garment - but Jesus is talking spiritually about new cloth.
You can't sew the New Covenant onto the old. Law and grace cannot co-exist. This is a common mistake that people make to this day. We come to Jesus to forgive our sins but then we set about trying to earn God's favor by how good we can be - and that if we are really really good then God must answer our prayers.
In fact we are not deserving of anything from God - and anything we do get is from His mercy and unmerited favor. It's not about us - its about Him - trusting Him and His righteousness, not our own.
You can't pour the idea of grace into the container of the law - grace would break right through.
Think of it as changing computer operating systems. Going from DOS to Windows - you can't just take the old way of typing commands in DOS, it won't work in Windows because it is a "point and click" system. The law was obedience to a set of rules and sacrifices when those rules were broken. The new system is faith in the Person who obeyed perfectly and was sacrificed for our disobedience.
23 One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. 24 The Pharisees said to him, "Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?"
These would have been wheatfields. You could, walking through a field, take a few plants off the stem, rub them together to get to the grain kernel - then eat it. This was an accepted thing to do - but not on the Sabbath according to the Pharisees.
25 He answered, "Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? 26 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."
The story Jesus tells is from 1 Samuel when David went to the priests and got the showbread, which was only legal for priests to eat - to feed to his men. David's hunger - is real need, plus his position as the next king and a progenitor of the Messiah - made it okay to make an exception. His point is:
27 Then he said to them, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath."
This would have been blasphemous to the Jews - and in fact they tried to stone Him on several occasions for breaking the Sabbath. Even though it was but one of the commandments, the Jews created hundreds of sub rules around it. That's because it is so external - don't work on the Sabbath. OK, we can think up all kinds of things that are or are not work and know that we have fulfilled this commandment.
But when it comes to things like loving the Lord with all of our hearts and love my neighbor as myself - well, that's kind of hard to quantify. If I have a hateful thought towards my brother no one else knows so how do they know if I've fulfilled that commandment.
Put yourself in the sandals of the people experiencing Jesus in these situations.
1. The friends of the paralyzed man
They knew Jesus could heal, and yet all He does at first is say to their friend: "Your sins are forgiven." The important thing was not the outcome, but that they had come to Jesus - throwing themselves at His mercy no matter the cost.
When we come to Jesus - storming the gates of heaven in prayer - asking, no demanding for something we want - does it ever happen that He answers in a way that doesn't seem to answer?
We need to let Jesus decide what we need, but we do need to come - and sometimes force our way through the many obstacles that stand in our way.
2. The Pharisees
All of their ideas - everything that made up their comfort zone - were being challenged. The idea of who controls sin and forgiveness, who controls entrance to the kingdom of God, who controls even the Law of God itself.
You see, ultimately, faith is about trusting a person, not a system of laws and rules and regulations.
Sometimes God is going to upset your applecart - He's going to challenge things you thought were right and show you how wrong you were through His Word. Be open to that - don't assume that all of your beliefs are correct, let His Word flow into you and challenge you.
Finally - who's your boss? What decides whether you do or say or act in a certain way? Is it you, or is it Jesus?
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.
Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.