Mark 2:1-17 (AD 27)
Jesus didn’t waste any time, once he started his public ministry, in forcing people to have an opinion about him. Here we have a pair of stories in which Jesus first acted in a way that could only have been justified if he was God himself. And then flouted and contradicted their rules and dared them to confront him about it.
a.) Claimed to be God (v.5)
The lengths the friends went to in order to get their paralysed buddy in front of Jesus was impressive. But not really that surprising, given Jesus’ burgeoning reputation as a healer with miraculous powers, and definitely not the point of the story. If I thought that trashing someone’s straw-and-mud roof, which could quickly be repaired, was the price of getting a paralysed person healed, there’s quite a long list of people I’d be prepared to do that for. No big deal.
What IS a very big deal indeed is the miraculous healer guy claiming to be God. First, he identifies the man’s real (spiritual) problem as distinct from what he THOUGHT his problem was (physical); then (without being asked) Jesus fixes it.
Which is of course a parallel for Jesus’ entire mission:
He came as the long-awaited Messiah whom people were looking forward to seeing liberate them from the physically oppressive regime of the Romans. A great and impressive military leader to whom they could all look and say ‘Wow, he’s awesome’. Pretty much like they did with King Saul 1,000 years earlier.
He repudiated that idea utterly by being born into poverty in dubious family circumstances, and having a Dad who young. During his ministry he mixed with the outcasts, got rejected by almost everyone and died in humiliating agony as a criminal…and by so doing brought salvation to all mankind.
Even as Christians our relationship with God can easily slip into being rather more ‘please rescue me from the Romans’ than we’d like to admit; we need to focus more on the ‘please make me more like you’.
b.) Ate with openly immoral people (v.15)
The Pharisees thought this would stop God from saving the Israelites from their enemies, and was considered to be the mingling with anti-God people that God had prohibited and was the cause of much of ancient Israel’s immorality. Except of course that God was talking about intermarriage, not dinner…one is rather more serious a commitment than the other! But the rules they put around this were a theme for the religious leaders that Jesus picked up on at other times in his ministry. So for example the command not to work on the Sabbath was codified by the Pharisees to say that, for example, there was a set distance you were allowed to walk (less than a mile). That was OK. But if you walked further than that distance you were suddenly in breach of the Ten Commandments and risking God’s wrath on the whole country. So they made it all a massive deal and effectively controlled the people through theological emotional terrorism.
c.) Claimed that eating with openly immoral people is an obviously God-honouring thing to do (v.17)
A word of caution here: Jesus was in someone’s house eating with them, not just hanging out with them in a general socialising kind of way. He was not close friends with those people and not spectating their enjoyment of evil (see Psalm 1:1), but he knew the value of putting himself at their level by sharing a meal with them. He combined a ‘come to me’ approach of public speaking with a ‘I’m with you’ strategy of being in their lives so he could more appropriately speak into their lives.We reach the lost – in the first instance – by getting to know the lost, and genuinely caring about them – not merely regarding them as projects.