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Bible Commentaries
Mark 2

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Verses 1-4

A Paralytic Brought to the Lord

The story of the paralytic links up with that of the leper in the previous chapter. Both states, that of leprosy and that of paralysis, portray man in his sinful state, making him unfit to serve. The leprosy represents the outbreak of sin, and in the paralysis we see powerlessness resulting from sin (cf. Romans 5:6; Romans 5:8). Both ailments make it impossible to come into God’s presence. Yet both the leper and the paralytic come to the Lord and He causes them to be freed from their situation and to be able to serve Him.

The Lord’s service brings Him back to Capernaum. In His grace He comes to man more often than just once (cf. Job 33:14), but He does so, as it were, unnoticed. He has withdrawn into the house and still avoids the public. However, it is becoming known that He is in the house. His service is already so well known, that many gather in the house. The house is filled to the door with people. No one can enter anymore. And Christ serves with the Word. He has the salvation of each and every one of them in mind. That’s why He brings them God’s Word.

Then a paralytic is brought to Him. This one was unable to get to the Lord himself, but he has friends who bring him to Him. They carry him, they carry him as a burden that they wish to bring to Him. That is what we are allowed to do with others who are on our hearts as a burden.

If the friends want to bring their paralyzed friend to the Lord, they are prevented from doing so. There is a crowd that is blocking their way. The crowds are often an obstacle to getting to Christ. Now He could have made room for them to come to Him. But He doesn’t do that because it has to be shown whether they have faith. If there is faith, that also finds a way.

God does not always take away obstacles, but gives a way to overcome them. But then there must be faith. Obstacles make it clear if there is faith. That’s what we see in the men. They are not discouraged, but go up on the roof. They break it open right “above Him”. Through the opening let down the pallet on which the paralytic was lying.

The first thing the Lord sees is the faith of the friends. That brings Him to action. He sees a faith that overcomes all difficulties and perseveres. This perseverance of faith is nourished by the feeling of need and by the certainty that help and strength can be found in Him Who is above all difficulties.

Verses 5-12

Forgiveness of Sins and Healing

The first words the Lord speaks to the paralytic are not ‘get up and walk’, but are words of forgiveness of sins. He speaks to him first as a “son”. That testifies of His love. The paralytic also believes, but his real problem is deeper than his body. It seems that the paralysis is caused by a certain sin. The Lord knows the real cause of all ailments and provides the remedy: forgiveness of sins. His words must have been balm for the soul of the paralytic. Forgiveness means that God no longer sees sins and even no longer remembers them. For God, forgiveness is the door through which He gives all blessings to His ‘son’.

The Lord’s presence and actions reveal not only faith, but also unbelief. The scribes who are there react in their hearts. They cannot confer with one another in the crowd, but they all have the same thought. They hear something that does not fit into their theology because they do not acknowledge Him Who is the Son of God. They rightly judge that only God can forgive sins. But they err greatly by accusing Him of blasphemy because they do not see that God is among them in this serving Son of man.

Every sin is always a sin against God and therefore forgiveness through Him is needed above all. Because of that forgiveness, people can also forgive sins to each other (Ephesians 4:32). Only faith sees God in the Lord Jesus. That He is God the Son is also shown by the fact that He knows the deliberations of their hearts. He looks into the heart of the paralytic and sees His sin. He sees faith among friends. He sees in the scribes what they think. He is the incarnate Word to Whom all things are naked and opened (Psalms 94:11; Psalms 139:2; Hebrews 4:12-1 Chronicles :).

He speaks to them concerning the deliberations that they have in their hearts. He does not enter into discussion with them, but asks questions and performs an act that shows Who He is. He asks them to judge which is easier: forgive sins or heal? For them both are impossible, and for God both are possible. One of the evidences of the apostasy of the roman catholic church is the audacity to claim the power to forgive sins and perform it in the practice of confession. Forgiveness can be expressed in words, but they are only presumptuous words without any power.

The Lord Jesus calls Himself “the Son of Man”. That name speaks of His rejection now and of His glory over all creation in the future. He has power on earth to forgive sins. Forgiveness of sins happens on earth and not in heaven. It happens on the whole earth and is not limited to Israel.

He adds to His word of power of the forgiveness of sins, His word of power of healing. When He is on earth, forgiveness and healing belong together. He is Yahweh “Who pardons all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases” (Psalms 103:3). Then He lets the man pick up his pallet, which has carried him for so long, and go to his house. There he may show and tell what the Lord has done to him.

At the same time as he is instructed to get up, pick up his pallet and walk, the Lord gives the man the strength to do so, with the ability to use that strength. He therefore gets up and goes outside. At the first he was lying on his pallet in outer peace, but he was restless on the inside. Now he is calm inside and outwardly full of activity. Now he can walk and serve with peace in his heart. This is how it should be with us.

The people who have seen all this are all amazed. Many of them had come to the house where He was because they had heard of Him. Now they have also seen what He is capable of. They glorify God for this unprecedented miracle. Any miracle that enables a person to serve is a reason to glorify God.

Verses 13-17

Call of Levi

The Lord is going out again, to the sea. In the Gospel according to Matthew, the sea is a symbol for the nations as opposed to Israel. In the Gospel according to Mark, the sea especially points to the vast expanse of His service. He teaches in the houses and in public (cf. Acts 20:20). The terrain of His service is now public. By the sea, the whole crowd comes to Him and He teaches them again. His teaching is a blessing, a rain, a dew (Deuteronomy 32:2) to refresh the hearers. His words “are spirit and are life” (John 6:63), in contrast to the teaching of the scribes and Pharisees who do not live by what they teach and tie up heavy burdens on men (Matthew 23:3-Numbers :).

After the crowds have learned, the Lord moves on. He also has an eye for the individual. He sees Levi, that is Matthew, sitting in the tax booth. Here we do not see a man who comes to Him, like the leper, or a man who is brought to Him, like the paralytic, but a man to whom He goes. He knows Levi and knows from whom he is descended. He also knows what is in this man for Him. That is why He says to Levi to follow Him. He speaks only two words: “Follow Me.” Here’s the amazing attraction of the word, His Word. Two words are enough to make Levi leave everything and commit his whole future to Him.

After his calling, Levi immediately shows something of his Master’s spirit. His service begins immediately, without training. He begins at home, where he prepares a meal. He begins to live according to what is written in Psalm 112 (Psalms 112:9), without having been commissioned to do so. He shows hospitality, first of all to the Lord and His disciples, but also to his colleagues and other sinners, in the hope that they too will find Him Who has captured his heart. They are all people of whom we read that they follow Him.

The scribes and Pharisees are blind to His glory. For them He has no attraction whatsoever. They only criticize and oppose Him, for they do not follow Him. They see what the Lord is doing, without taking part themselves in the meal of joy which Levi organized because Christ came into His life. It shows that they are completely insensitive to grace. They don’t want to participate in it themselves, but they also begrudge grace to others. That is always the hallmark of a legal person.

Tax collectors and sinners are groups of people they despise, whereas these are the very people for whom the Lord has come. Between what concerns Him and what drives the religious leaders is an enormous distance, a deep gulf. They express their criticism about Him to His disciples. The Lord Jesus hears how these people have approached His disciples. The disciples do not have to answer. He does that for them.

His answer makes clear what spiritual state of health the leaders are in. They consider themselves healthy. That’s why they don’t need Him as the Physician. The sinners and tax collectors He eats with know that they are sick, that they are sinners and need salvation. The leaders find themselves righteous. He did not come for them.

Verses 18-20

Question About Fasting

Although the Lord has come and John has pointed Him out , John still has followers. Apparently they are so attached to the teachings of John that they will not let go of them in order to follow the Lord. Tradition has more influence on them than the grace that Christ shows. This also connects them to the disciples of the Pharisees. Outward appearances in different religious directions not only separate these religions, but sometimes unite them.

Both the disciples of John and those of the Pharisees therefore notice that the disciples of the Lord deal differently with fasting than they do. What the Lord’s disciples do does not fit into their conceptions of fasting. They ask Him questions about it. That in itself is a good thing. He therefore patiently, but also clearly, explains the difference to the two groups of disciples.

He points to Himself as the Bridegroom. He has just had a meal with tax collectors and sinners. These meals are meals of joy to Him and His disciples. He calls His disciples ‘attendants of the bridegroom’. As long as He is with them, it is a feast. His presence brings joy and freedom.

The word ‘attendants of the bridegroom’ has to do with sonship, because the words literally mean ‘sons of the wedding hall’. Sons are there for the pleasure of the Father (Ephesians 1:5). They rejoice in Him Who is the Bridegroom and Who serves to acquire His wife. His wife is not spoken of, but the sons of the wedding hall are. They already share in the joy of looking forward to the wedding because they are in the presence of the Bridegroom.

The Lord also points out the time when He will no longer be present. He will be rejected and killed. This will cause sorrow to His disciples (John 16:19-Song of Solomon :) and bring about a great change. That change relates only to His Person Who will be taken away from them. His absence is the cause of great changes in serving God on earth. Outward religious acts lose their significance. Then there will be worship in the “Spirit of God” (Philippians 3:3).

Verses 21-22

New and Old Are Incompatible

In the example of “a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment” the Lord shows that the new power of the gospel which He preaches is not compatible with the old Jewish forms. The gospel would destroy Judaism with which they wanted to connect. The disciples of John and the disciples of the Pharisees must choose. If they stay with the old, they have no part in the gospel and the joy and freedom that goes with it. If they want the new, they will have to let go of the old completely.

He adds another comparison to that of the unshrunk cloth and the old garment. The comparison of the patch of unshrunk cloth and the old garment is more about the outside, the appearance, of both systems. The comparison of the new wine into old or fresh wineskins is about the inner strength of the new, the young, the freshness that has come with the coming of the Lord. The old system is full of precepts, the new one shows grace. The new Divine power of the grace seen in Him cannot flourish in the old forms of the Pharisees.

The old garment and the old skins represent the old Jewish garment. It is not a question of refurbishing the old, but of accepting something new. The attempt to combine the new appearance and the spirit of the kingdom of God with the old method of Judaism will only end in the destruction of both. A combination does not mean the restoration of Judaism and it degrades Christianity to an earthly religion.

This is exactly what the history of Christianity has shown. Satan managed to mix the old Jewish institutions with Christian truths. In all its apparent glory this can be seen in the roman catholic church. But also in many protestant churches and evangelical groups, more and more Old Testament rituals are being recalled and introduced.

Verses 23-28

Picking the Heads of Grain on the Sabbath

This event in the grain fields is an illustration of the new that the Lord has come to bring. There is freedom to pick and eat from the ears on the Sabbath. He is there. The sons of the wedding hall are free to enjoy the blessings of the land on the Sabbath.

Once again the Pharisees make themselves heard because they see something that is not in accordance with their conceptions of the law. That is what they are after, they are searching for it. Tirelessly, they will point out anything that contradicts their conceptions which belong to the old garment and the old skins. They appeal to the Lord about the behavior of His disciples.

It is clear that there is no law that forbids eating on the Sabbath from the grain of the field; on the contrary (Leviticus 23:22). Their disapproval is based on a law they have made themselves. Legalism always makes the law heavier than God has said. It adds human opinions to God’s law, paying attention only to outer things and making a system out of them. This is a danger to which man is constantly exposed. Those who are guilty of this show their complete ignorance of God, Who is out to show grace.

In His answer the Lord appeals to their knowledge of Scripture. The history to which He refers is from the time when David, God’s anointed king, was still rejected and fleeing from Saul. At that time David suffered want, and so did those who were with him. This is exactly what the Pharisees now see before them in the true David with His disciples. They are also hungry.

The Pharisees have, of course, read this history many times, but they have never read it properly and therefore have not really understood it. They have never seen its true meaning. The true meaning stands for them in the Person of Christ, but they are blind to it because they behave like Saul.

Could it have been God’s intention to let His anointed king die of hunger by His precepts, together with those who were with him? God did not give His precepts for this. If people had kept them, this situation would never have happened. Now that His anointed king was being persecuted, sticking to His precepts had not the least value for Him.

The showbread that represents God’s people in their unity before Him (Leviticus 24:5-1 Samuel :) had lost that value for Him, because the people had turned away from Him. This showbread no longer had any symbolic meaning for God. By rejecting His anointed king, God did not limit the eating of the showbread to the priests, but allowed it to be eaten by David and his men. David was called to a service by God, but was on the run. He was holy, that is to say, separated to God to serve Him, and so were his men, through which they could eat of this holy bread (1 Samuel 21:1-Joshua :).

The Sabbath should be looked at in the same way. The Sabbath was not meant to be a means of aggravating the suffering of poor people. It was meant as a blessing. The Sabbath was not a day to reign over man, but for the welfare and rest of man, to direct his thoughts through that day to something higher than the work of his hands. The Pharisees had made the Sabbath a yoke, whereas God had intended it as a blessing. Under the law there are precepts attached to the Sabbath celebration, but the Lord restores the Sabbath to its original, true meaning.

The Sabbath is based on two great divine truths: creation and the law. Both events are of great importance to man and to Israel. But the Christian belongs to neither. He is not bound to the old creation, for he is a new creation, and he is not bound to the earthly Israel, but to the heavenly church. For the Christian, therefore, the first day of the week is the day of remembrance, for then Christ rose from the grave and opened the new world with a new state of affairs.

To the Pharisees, who have falsified the meaning of the Sabbath, He lets it be known that He is the “Lord also of the Sabbath” and not they. The Person of Christ is above all institutions. The name “Son of Man” shows the glory of His Person as the rejected, suffering Man. As such, and not only as God, He is exalted above the Sabbath: He is Lord of the Sabbath. This will become visible when the great Sabbath for creation comes when He accepts His reign, which is at the introduction of the millennial realm of peace. Then His people, all who belong to Him, will share in it.

The question is whether God can act in grace and bless in sovereignty among His people. Should He submit Himself to the authority of people who, while turning against His goodness, make false appeals to His institutions? Or can He do good according to His own power and love as the One Who is above all things? Will God allow Himself to be limited by man in the work of His goodness, which in truth is the new wine that the Lord Jesus brings to man?

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Mark 2". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/mark-2.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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