As part of the ReMarkAble series at First Baptist Church, I will be releasing weekly posts with my notes for those who are using the Studying the Gospels Together (STGT) method in their Adult Community Group. You can read more about the STGT Method here and how this site is integrating the ReMarkAble series here.
In the second chapter of Mark's gospel, there is a cluster of four stories known as pronouncement stories, or sometimes also known as conflict or controversy stories. There is actually a fifth within this cluster as well, which begins the third chapter. We see Jesus heal the paralytic (2:1-12), call Levi and share a meal with tax collectors and sinners (2:13-17), Jesus teaching on fasting and old vs. new (2:18-22), questions about picking grain on the Sabbath (2:23-28) and healing on the Sabbath (3:1-6). Each of these stories puts Jesus at odds with the pharisees or other religious leaders of the day. Further, each of these stories tells us something about who Jesus is and why he came. In each of these stories, there is typically a climactic point where Jesus makes some sort of pronouncement. For example, when Jesus heals the paralytic, the actual act of healing and statement that accompanies the act are so that "you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins (2:10 ESV)." As you study, look for the climactic statements, it will help you understand the primary message of each pronouncement story.
Things to Note
In the STGT Method, we begin by noting five different activities of Jesus.
There is no specific reference to Jesus praying in this chapter.
(W) Reads or references God’s Word
(2:2) The setting for the paralytic man being healed is Jesus teaching from God's Word to a packed room of people. It is important to note that Jesus came to teach and preach as well as heal and restore - they are often linked together in Mark's Gospel. Jesus has a message he wants to communicate, we are now ambassadors of that message and God's Word is an integral part of what Jesus wants people to hear.
(F) Relates to God the Father
(2:12) Jesus does not interact directly with God the Father in this chapter, but we do see Jesus' actions bring glory and praise to the Father. Jesus wants to glorify the Father (John 7:17-18, 12:28), and we see it happening here.
(HS) Relates to the Holy Spirit
We do not see Jesus directly relating to the Holy Spirit in this chapter.
(R) Overflows in loving relationship with people
This will be the most common category we see. Jesus is constantly interacting with people through his teaching, preaching, healing, casting out demons, or discipleship. I will not list all possible ways that this is seen in this chapter, but only mention a few.
(2:1-12) Jesus overflows in loving relationship throughout the entire paralytic story. First, he is teaching people from God's Word. It is a loving thing for Jesus to spread the message we so desperately need to hear. Jesus then forgives the sins of the paralytic (2:5) and then heals him (2:11-12). This story is packed with ways Jesus overflows in loving relationship.
(2:13-17) Here is another story that is packed with ways Jesus loves people. First, he invites Levi, a tax collector, to follow Him. Levi would have been an outcast to the Jewish people, but Jesus looks past his transgressions and calls Levi to Himself. Then we see Jesus sharing a meal with tax collectors and sinners. This would have been a significant violation of cultural norms and purity laws. Jesus is not concerned with those things. He is changing the dignity of a person, and inviting people to follow Him. Jesus is not made dirty by spending time with these people, they are made clean by spending time with Jesus.
Questions for Reflection
What does this passage tell us about who Jesus is?
In chapter two, Jesus' identity is being further clarified. The first chapter was already leading us toward seeing that Jesus is God, and chapter two only furthers that claim. The story of the paralytic is a great example. After Jesus declares the mans sins forgiven, the question comes forward, "Who can forgive sins but God alone? (2:7)" This question preempts the answer. Jesus responds by suggesting that while forgiveness is hard to measure and easier to fake, because it is unseen, physically healing a person is more visible and therefore great evidence that Jesus has authority to both forgive and to heal. Jesus proceeds to heal the paralytic man as evidence that he also has authority to forgive sins. If only God can forgive sins, and we see Jesus forgiving sins, the only logical conclusion is that Jesus is God.
Another claim to Jesus' identity and authority comes in the questions about picking grain on the Sabbath. Jesus claims that he is :"lord even of the Sabbath (2:28)." Once again, making a statement about the kind of person he is and authority he has.
What does this passage tell us about why Jesus came?
In this chapter, there is one statement that shines forward in regard to why Jesus came. At the end of the story of Jesus calling Levi and then sharing a meal with tax collectors and sinners, Jesus says "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners (2:17)." Given the context of the statement, and who Jesus is talking with, I take the word "righteous" to mean self-righteous. Those who believe they are righteous enough to attain God's favor on their own. Jesus has come for those in need, and self-righteous people don't think they have any need at all. The incredible part of this story though, is not the confrontation with the pharisees as much as the message that anyone and everyone can come to Jesus. He invites all people to follow him. It doesn't matter if you are a tax collector, sinner, social outcast, scoundrel, down-and-outer, or scum of the earth. Jesus came for them - he came for you! But we do need to follow-him, which will require all of us. Jesus invites all types of people to follow him, but he requires all parts of the people who do.
What does it say about what it means to follow Jesus?
There is a lot in this chapter that can inform our following of Jesus. First, I think we need to recognize our need for Jesus, because he came for sinners and not the self-righteous. Do you recognize your need for him? Second, if we follow Jesus, then we need to be prepared to invite all types of people to follow him. Jesus did not put limits on who could or could not follow him, only that they recognized their need. We should not put limits either. Those are just two ways, can you think of others?
Questions for Application
The questions for application will change with each person. I have given a few comments below about how we should think about answering them, but it will be highly dependent upon each individual person and how God is stirring in their hearts based on their own study and reflection.
In response to what you have read, what is one action step you believe God is calling you to make this week?
The answers to these questions are very subjective to the person answering them. Try to consider what it means to follow Jesus, and ask yourself what is one practical way you can respond to what you have read, learned and discussed.
One suggestion might be to be more aware of the way you see other people. Do you put limits on who God might invite to follow Jesus? Take account of your own perception of who can or cannot follow Jesus this week.
Another suggestion might be to consider your own sin and need for Jesus. Do you recognize how good Jesus is, and how much you need him?
What is one thing you learned this week you could share with someone else? Who do you plan to share it with?
This question is meant to simply help us learn how to share what we are learning from Jesus. We do not need to feel the burden of sharing everything we know about Jesus in every conversation we have, but it can be more natural to share something we are learning. What is something you learned that you could share with someone else? Think about who you might want to share it with.