New Testament in 6 months – day 26

27 Apr

Mark 2:1-3:19
A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. So many gathered that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them. 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. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” 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 the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins …” He said to the paralytic, “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!” Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them. 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. 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.” 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?” 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. But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast. 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. 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.” One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?” He answered, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? 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.” 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.”
Another time he went into the synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath. Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Stand up in front of everyone.” Then Jesus asked them, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they remained silent. He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored. Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus. Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the lake, and a large crowd from Galilee followed. When they heard all he was doing, many people came to him from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, and the regions across the Jordan and around Tyre and Sidon. Because of the crowd he told his disciples to have a small boat ready for him, to keep the people from crowding him. For he had healed many, so that those with diseases were pushing forward to touch him. Whenever the evil spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God.” But he gave them strict orders not to tell who he was. Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. He appointed twelve–designating them apostles–that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons. These are the twelve he appointed: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); James son of Zebedee and his brother John (to them he gave the name Boanerges, which means Sons of Thunder); Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

“Back in your box!” That’s how we could sum up these verses. The Pharisees have a very clear idea of what a teacher should be like, how they should act, when they should do things and who they should be with. They were very clear in their disdain of those who stepped outside of these parameters, and clearly all the more so when they recognised that the person doing things they didn’t want them to had power from God.

So first we see the story about paralytic and his vandal friends, who make a hole in the roof if the building Jesus is in so that they can get him to be healed. And Jesus, rather than healing him immediately, tells him that his sins are forgiven. And the Pharisees’ minds are screaming “Back in your box!” immediately, because humans can’t forgive sin.
Then Jesus meets Levi (also known as Matthew) and goes and has a meal him and his friends. “Back in your box!!!” goes the Pharisees’ minds as they ask the disciples why Jesus is doing this.
Then some people saw that the Pharisees and John the Baptist’s disciples were fasting and that Jesus’ disciples weren’t, nor was Jesus encouraging them to. “BACK IN YOUR BOX!” Screams older in the words they use to ask why they aren’t.
Then we see Jesus and the disciples walking through a field and they pick some wheat heads (presumably to eat), on the Sabbath. “BACK IN YOUR BOX!!!” scream the Pharisees, declaring these actions unlawful.
And finally we come to Jesus healing a man’s hand on the Sabbath. Well, the Pharisees have had enough by now. “We’ll put you in your box ourselves!” they decide, as they plot to kill Jesus.

Every step of the way the Pharisees wanted to reduce Jesus to what they thought was the right way to live. They never seemed to question whether what they believed was actually the right thing to believe, they just accepted that it was in all circumstances. And this is a challenge for us in our daily lives. For we have things that we understand about God and how He calls us to live. We also have a world that He calls us to love. Or challenge is to continue to find ways to show that love whilst at the same time remaining true to what God calls us to be.
Sometimes that can mean changing the status quo, as Wilberforce and others did regarding slavery. Sometimes it means showing love for a person but being clear about an issue that must remain the same (though always doing so in love).
Jesus challenged the Pharisees and they failed the test. Jesus continues to lay down the challenge to us, how will we do?

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