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One paralyzed man who was dependent on the help of four men was now brought to Him. If leprosy is the type of sin's corruption, paralysis teaches us the helplessness occasioned by sin. Yet all five men realized there was help in one person. Nothing would hinder their getting the man into the presence of the Lord Jesus. Today too, though many surround the Lord Jesus, some genuine, others merely professors without reality, where pretense may be a hindrance to many, faith will overcome whatever obstacle that one in need may be brought to the Lord Jesus. Tearing up the tile roof was a drastic measure, but it accomplished the result. Peter would be faced with no small repair bill, yet likely he would feel this worthwhile when he saw the man healed.
The Lord's first words, however, did not address the question of the man's paralysis, but that of his sins, a matter far more important. He saw their faith, no doubt that of all five, and assured the man that his sins were forgiven. Scribes sitting there became most critical of this inwardly, though they did not have the boldness to speak out. Their reasoning ignored the fact of who Christ actually is, for it is true enough that only God can forgive sins.
Then they are given a sticking proof that He is God: He read their thoughts, which only God can do, and questioned them as to why they so reasoned in their hearts. Then He added another question as to which was easier to say, "Thy sins be forgiven" or "Arise, take up thy bed and walk." Of course, as to simply saying the words, there is no difference; yet neither could become effective by the word of a mere man. But the proof of the effectiveness of His first words is most evident when He tells the man, "Arise, and take up thy bed, and go thy way into thine house." For the man immediately responded, his helplessness being transformed into strength and capability. If the latter words were so manifestly effective, then certainly His first words were effective. Yet, He has told the scribes that it is as Son of Man He has authority on earth to forgive sins. He fully claims the title "Son of Man," but with it the evidence is clear that He is more than man: He is God. But their minds were blinded to the vital fact of His Manhood and Deity in one person. Still, His spoken word had produced marvellous results, and all the witnesses were amazed and glorified God.
Leaving the house He went to the seaside, with crowds coming to hear the teaching of the Word. This is only mentioned, then His observing Levi (Matthew) at his tax collecting desk, as He passed by. He spoke to him only two words, "Follow Me." His response was immediate. The voice of the Son of God had such effect on him that he unhesitatingly left his lucrative employment and followed the Lord.
Matthew himself then reports only that Jesus sat at meat in the house. Mark tells us that it was his (Matthew's) house, while Luke says that "Levi made Him a great feast in his own house," where he invited many tax gatherers and sinners to hear the Word of God. God considered it a great feast, though Matthew himself did not think of it in this way. The scribes and Pharisees give no credit to Matthew whatever for this unusual kindness, but are ready to strongly criticize the Lord of glory Himself for eating with tax gatherers (whom they considered unfaithful to their own nation because they collected taxes for the Romans) and others who were manifestly sinners. The self-righteous pride of scribes and Pharisees was certainly most serious sin, but religious zealots are commonly blind to their own sinful condition.
The answer of the Lord is clear and to the point: it is those who are sick who need a physician. Christ had come with the answer to the misery and sin of mankind, not calling the righteous, but sinners to repentance. Only the great grace and power of God can work this precious result. Scribes and Pharisees needed Him as much as any others, but their pretended righteousness kept them from Him. They had no heart whatever for repentance, just as some people, infected by cancer, strongly insist there is nothing wrong with them.
In verse 18 the Lord Jesus is now questioned by some of the people as to why the disciples of John the Baptist and of the Pharisees practiced fasting while His disciples did not do so. This illustrates the fact that people may have diverse reasons for fasting The disciples of John no doubt did so out of motives of self-judgment, for they were taught to judge the sin of the flesh. The motives of the disciples of the Pharisees were likely those of self-righteousness, a matter for boasting, as in Luke 18:11-12. This kind of thing was only an offense to God, while the former was honest and honorable.
Still, even this does not approach the preciousness of fasting simply for Christ's sake, as He intimates in His answer. While He, the Bridegroom, was present, His disciples, the children of the bride chamber, had cause for rejoicing, not fasting; but He would be taken away from them, as of course He has been now for nearly two thousand years. Believers therefore have very real reason to fast, out of motives of true affection for Christ. While He is rejected, self indulgence is unbecoming to His disciples. Their fasting too involves more than literally abstaining from food at certain times, but self-denial in many other ways. But the motive should always be that of love for the Lord, with no drawing attention to ourselves.
For Christianity is not a patching up of the old garment of law-keeping, but a totally new revelation from God that draws out the heart itself to the person of Christ. Therefore it was not correct to compare the disciples of John and of the Pharisees to those of the Lord Jesus. This was a matter of contrast, not comparison. Pharisees cling to their old garment. John the Baptist showed the old garment to be full of holes. But the Lord Jesus provided an entirely new garment. There was to be no mixture of the new with the old.
The garment illustrates what is external. The new wine speaks of the internal power of the ministry of Christ: it must be put into new vessels (wineskins), for old vessels could not be trusted to contain it. The new vessels are the true disciples of the Lord Jesus, those who have been born anew. Man in the flesh, though a zealous law-keeper, could not contain or value properly the preciousness of the ministry of Christ.
As He and His disciples pass through the grain fields, the disciples, in accordance with permission granted inDeuteronomy 23:25; Deuteronomy 23:25, began to pick the ears of grain, evidently eating them. This awakened the opposition of the Pharisees against Him, for they claimed that this was unlawful on the sabbath day. How ignorant they were of what is true service to God! Does God force His servants to fast on the sabbath day? The law had actually not forbidden this, but the traditions of the Pharisees.
However, the Lord's answer is remarkable. He refers them to David when he and his men were hungry, and were given the showbread by the high priest, though it was lawful only for priests to eat it. This was of course a ritualistic law and was in this exceptional case set aside because of human need. Of course it is evident that man cannot flagrantly set aside the moral principles of truth and righteousness in order to satisfy his temporal needs, but ritualistic laws were a different matter. In David's case, he was God's anointed king, but not being recognized by Israel, he was suffering rejection, and God cared for him. Now Christ, the Son of God had come, but was rejected as David had been, along with His disciples. Therefore even the ritualistic demands of law must give place to their needs. If so, how much more must the mere traditions of Pharisees be set aside!
He sums this up by announcing principles of vita! significance in verses 27 and 28. The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath. It was in man's best interests to have a day during the week when he might rest, yet often he will not do this unless he is virtually forced to. God was seeking the blessing of man in providing him with one day of rest during the week. Now Pharisees were turning it into a virtual curse for man by their rigid traditions. More than this, the Son of Man is Lord of the sabbath: His authority is far higher than that of the sabbath, and certainly infinitely higher than the assumed authority of Pharisees, little as the Pharisees were willing to recognize it.
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Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Mark 2". Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 22 / Ordinary 27