Good evening and welcome to the Radio program “Simple Faith”
I am your host – Cathy Merritt
Tonight we are going to begin looking at the Gospels – In the Bible they are the first books in the New Testament – Matthew , Mark, Luke and John.
I am going to start with Mark – Unlike Matthew and John, Mark was not an eyewitness to most of the scenes he described, in fact there is only circumstantial evidence that he was present at any of them. He was not an apostle, and he isn’t associated as one of the “big” followers of Jesus, but he does appear in Scripture.
John Mark, our author, was the son of a well-known woman named Mary, who was a leading follower of Jesus at the time of death of James. Her home in Jerusalem was an early gathering place for the disciples there, and is the place Peter returned to when he was released from prison in Acts 12:12 ff. where “John who is also called Mark” is mentioned. Mary was also the sister of Barnabas of the Jerusalem church. (Col. 4:10; Acts 4:5-6, 37; 9:26-27; 11:22-24)
My fellow prisoner Aristarchus sends you his greetings, as does Mark, the cousin of Barnabas. (You have received instructions about him; if he comes to you, welcome him.)
Thus, from the earliest days of the church, and maybe before that, John Mark would have frequently found himself in the company of the apostles who had been closely associated with Jesus during His earthly ministry. Can you imagine being a youth hanging out with the apostles day after day in your own home?
As the years went by, John Mark was closely associated as the assistant for Paul and Barnabas (Acts 12:25; 13:5; 15:37-39)
Barnabas and Saul Sent Off
25 When Barnabas and Saul had finished their mission, they returned from[a] Jerusalem, taking with them John, also called Mark.
13 She who is in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you her greetings, and so does my son Mark.
11 Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry.
and later with Peter (1 Peter 5:13) and again with Paul (Col. 4:10; 2 Timothy 4:11). Certainly, then, Mark had every opportunity to have heard the eyewitness accounts of the apostles, and showed that he was far from a casual believer.
Some more recent scholars have suggested that Mark couldn’t have written an inspired account of the life of Jesus. I’m sure these scholars are much smarter than I am, because I can’t see the point of such speculations, unless Mark hasn’t reported something in a way that it fits nicely into a particular scholar’s theological conclusions, and if that is the reason, then it’s a bad reason. It also strikes me as odd that a “Christian” scholar can’t see that God can use anyone for his purposes, as though one must go to the “right” school to be taken seriously. Luke wasn’t an eyewitness either, but few, if any, question his gospel, since Luke was with Paul. John Mark was with all of the apostles and spent years with both Paul and Peter. In fact, many believe he wrote this account with Peter’s oversight.
You are free to think what you will of course, but as for me, Mark is as valid an account as Matthew, Luke or John, and is well worth our careful attention and study.
If Jesus were to make a tour like this today, a promoter might call it ‘The Kingdom Tour”. Certainly His early ministry in Galilee was tumultuous, with ever-growing crowds of admirers, lines of the sick and lame, the demon possessed… and of course His critics.
More than anything else, Mark , with his brief glimpses of one incident after another, paints for us, a picture of the Kingdom Tour as it advances from one Galilean town to the next. With this somewhat disjointed picture, we start to see a pattern of sorts, images connected together by a theme. We know that the theme is “The Kingdom is at Hand” and the trends are that Jesus preaches the Kingdom, heals the sick and lame, drives out demons and crowds grow larger. They grow so large that Jesus can no longer enter the towns, but instead meets the people in the nearby countryside.
This Kingdom Jesus is preaching brings with it God’s righteousness, a new energetic life, forgiveness of sin and healing. There is something different going on here, nothing like this has swept through Galilee before; this has and other-worldliness about it. It is hard for any of us to reflect upon this period and see the Kingdom as a mere metaphor, or a simple abstract idea, no this is different. Think about the healing that is going on; not only is sickness being swept away in Jesus’ path, but so is illness and even death itself. It is as though this Jesus can undo the consequences of sin.
Yet, this isn’t the only healing that is being done right out in the open. Jesus is driving demons out of people! These unclean spirits that have taken over human lives are being given orders to cease and desist… and they know exactly who they are dealing with; Jesus is acting to prevent them from telling the people who He is; why? Where did these demons come from? Were they always there?
However you slice it, Jesus was making a splash, and He is attracting attention as the news of His tour reaches Jerusalem, where the authorities will want to find out just what is going on up there in Galilee, from whence nothing good ever comes, as the action moves into the second chapter later today…
Parallel Texts: Matthew 9:2-8; Luke 5:17-26
In this passage, Jesus has returned to Capernaum from His Kingdom Tour, and the people are excited to have Him back in town. During this period, Capernaum is His ‘home base’. As the crowd grew with the usual curious listeners, sick and damaged people, it became impossible for everyone to gain entry into the house where Jesus was staying as He preached, and a very enterprising group of men climbed up to the roof, bringing a paralyzed man on a stretcher with them. They opened the roof door which was a common feature in those flat-roofed houses, and lowered the paralyzed man into the room where Jesus was teaching.
When Jesus saw this, He went over to the man on the stretcher and told him that his sins were forgiven.
There was a group of teachers of the law in the room, who may had come from Jerusalem to investigate the report that had reached the city about the Kingdom Tour, and these guys were pretty amazed at what they saw. It occurred to them that Jesus had just made a mistake in telling the unfortunate man his sins were forgiven, because only God can forgive sins: Blasphemy… Gotcha!
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? Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” 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!”
I love this part! Jesus, knowing their thoughts goes over to these guys and asks a question: So boys, what’s easier, to tell this guy his sins are forgiven, or to tell him to get up, pick up his mat and walk?
Who says Jesus had no sense of humor?
Then, He went back to the paralyzed man and told him to get up, take his mat and walk… and that’s just what the guy did!
I can just imagine what those old boys from Jerusalem thought then… hilarious! Boy, did they have a report for the bigwigs back home.
Of course everyone was amazed at what they had witnessed, but I wonder if they fully comprehended the scene. Right in front of the teachers of the law, Jesus had forgiven a man’s sins, the teachers were correct in what they were thinking, for only God can forgive sins. Jesus read their thoughts; a little miracles nobody seemed to notice, and went right for the jugular, so to speak. He told a paralyzed man to get up and walk, and the man was made whole again, and did just that. Thus, Jesus had taken upon Himself God’s role to forgive, and then backed it up by making the man whole physically.
Wholeness, spiritually and physically: Jesus removed the consequences of sin, at least symbolically, right in front of their eyes. To state what happened in another way, Jesus had just shown the whole crowd that He was the Son of God… and the teachers of the law, by definition if nothing else, would have had to know that.
Parallel Texts: Matthew 9:9; Luke 5:27-28
Still in Galilee, Jesus calls another disciple, and this time He has a questionable choice: Levi (Matthew) the tax collector. Tax collectors are none too popular in our day, but back then they were outright crooks in most cases. They would be informed of the amount they had to collect, and whatever they collected over and above that amount would be theirs to keep. Oh yes, this was all nice and legal under Roman law. So say you are a tax collector and you are supposed to collect $100.00 from 10 people. Let’s see, if you can get $10.00 from each one, you could turn the money over to the authorities and be done, but your family would go hungry. If you collected $ 125 eacn, you’d make $25.00 and maybe that would be fair, but if you could force them to pay $150.00 each, even better!
They definitely were seen as unpopular indeed!
Jesus called Levi to discipleship, and then they go to a party with tax collectors and other unsavory characters: The stage is set for another round with His critics.
Many tax collectors and other sinners were following Jesus around as He taught. I wouldn’t be surprised if the tax collectors were there because their “marks” were there… but the text doesn’t actually say so. If we were Pharisees, I’m sure that the mere fact that questionable sorts were listening to Jesus and becoming His followers would give us cause to wonder what He was really up to. Well, think about it like a Pharisee would!
Then, this dinner party!
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. 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?”
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.”
Obviously, these Pharisees were narrow-minded, bigoted, judgmental jerks. They see the kinds of folks Jesus is with and they draw conclusions about everybody, and we can all feel comfortable saying they were judgmental, bigots, and clearly obnoxious, after all why wouldn’t we? They are just like most of us!
“Hey Bud, if you’re such a Christian, why are you hanging out with those people?
Jesus had a rather creative answer for them: “Those people” are precisely the people who need to be saved!
I have known quite a few Christians who would never hang with the wrong crowd, and they have all kinds of reasons for their choice, some of which are reasonable. Some of the reasons are not very reasonable, with my all time favorite being that the person was simply not going to be subjected to the language that sinners use. I remember a sermon given by a young associate minister one time about sharing our faith with others. At one point, he said that our neighbors are likely to die without a relationship with Jesus Christ and face eternal consequences if we don’t share with them… “and you don’t even give a damn!”
And then he asked, “Do you know how I know this? Because you only care that I said ‘damn.’”
The next day, I was invited to a closed-door meeting with the associate minister and the senior minister, in which the senior was telling the associate that he wouldn’t be asked to preach again, until he apologized to the entire congregation for his obscene language, and repented from further actions that exhibited ungodly and wicked behavior, and asked me to back him up in this, as I was a representative of the Leadership Team.
I declined, informing the senior that the associate had delivered the line I had suggested to him with impeccable timing; very effectively in fact. After we looked the word “damn” up in Webster’s and put to bed the idea that it is obscene, that was that.
There was no chance on earth that a Pharisee could ever lead a “sinner” to repentance, for in order to do so, they would first have to form a relationship with that person. Jesus did this effectively, and He is our model to follow. When we appoint ourselves to the high and mighty position of “righteous,” we are no longer able to share Christ.
Parallel Texts: Matthew 9:14-17; Luke 5:33-39
The next scene Mark jumps to is one in which we find both John’s disciples and the Pharisees fasting, while Jesus and His disciples are going on as normal. Curious about this, one of John’s disciples asks about it; why aren’t you fasting? There is a fairly clear implication that they should be, at least in this man’s mind, but Jesus doesn’t think so.
Jesus gives the man three answers to one question, beginning in verse 19. Likening Himself to a bridegroom, and His disciples to guests of the bridegroom, Jesus indicates to the man that fasting is not appropriate at that current time, for they are in a mood of celebration, yet the day will come when the bridegroom is no longer with His guests, and they will have occasion to fast then.
The second and third answers to the question begin at verse 21:
“No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. Otherwise, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins.”
In essence, Jesus gives two short parables that are designed to draw a profound distinction between the ministry of John, the Law and the ministry and purpose of Christ. John’s ministry was limited to preparing the way for Jesus, it was really a transitional ministry, under the Law. Jesus, on the other hand, had an entirely different purpose, for His was the purpose of fulfilling the Law and ushering in an entirely new order; the New Covenant. There was nothing about the ministry of Jesus that would serve to patch the old garment of the Law, He was not there to refill an old wineskin; the old garment and the old wineskin had served their purpose and Jesus would replace them both.
There would be no fasting! The Kingdom was at hand in the Person of Jesus Himself. While He was on the scene, fasting was not appropriate.
I often wonder if I harp on this point too much, the point being that the New Covenant has entirely replaced the Old. Am I simply riding a “hobby-horse”?
No I am not. This is a key point in the Christian faith; the Law is over. Just as John’s ministry was transitional in nature, preparing the way for the ministry of Jesus, the Law was transitional in nature, illustrating the reality that was to come through Christ in the New Covenant; that is what Jesus is telling this man in the story, and it is the point we need to comprehend.
Parallel Texts: Matthew 8:1-8; Luke 6:1-5
Mark has shifted the scene to the countryside. Jesus and the disciples, and apparently some Pharisees, are walking through grain fields on the Sabbath. They are hungry and the disciples pluck a few heads of grain to eat as they go along, and the Pharisees object, for it is unlawful to harvest a field on the Sabbath. The law on this point is contained in Exodus 20:10 if you’d like to read it just to bring in a little context. By the way, if you do look it up, you will notice that the law doesn’t say this. It says you shall do no work. Were the disciples actually working? Well, that is the real question.
As the years went by, it became apparent that Exodus 20:10 was subject to interpretation, and many well-intentioned leaders believed that there was a great potential for misunderstanding Exodus 20:10, so they adopted a very long list of additional rules to help people avoid an unintentional violation of the Sabbath. This list of rules is not actually part of the law, but as more time went by, it was treated as if it were the law itself; this is what the Pharisees were actually referring to.
In verses 25-26, Jesus cites a well-known example of David feeding his men food reserved by the law for the exclusive use of the priests when necessity required it, with the implication that necessity required the disciples’ actions that the Pharisees were objecting to. He concludes His answer in the following verses:
Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”
I wish I could have been there to see the look on the faces of those poor Pharisees when they heard that!
As you know, there are those critics out there who claim that Jesus never said He was divine. Even if that were true, He sure implied it strongly on many occasions, and this is another of those. If the Sabbath was made for man, and that makes the Son of Man the lord over the Sabbath, then it is because He’s also the Lord over Man.
My friends I appreciate your time and if you are listening to me tonight
There is a great deal of pain in this world, but pray that God has a purpose for this suffering and that we’ll conquer this world with faith in Jesus Christ your son.
Good night my friends – This is Cathy Merritt signing out for Simple Faith.
My email is: firstname.lastname@example.org.