Mark 2:1-3:6 Notes

[Continued notes for my Davenant Hall class, "Reading the Gospels with Wisdom."]

Mark 2 opens with Jesus' return to Capernaum. It refers to this as Jesus "at home," which does not introduce a great deal of meaning but nonetheless strikes one accustomed to thinking so much of Jesus' deity as unusually familiar. Ignoring that tangent, Jesus is immediate crowded beyond reason. A paralytic comes through the roof in all of the chaos. One might expect that "Jesus saw their faith" would lead immediately to a healing and conclude a simple healing story, but instead of a post-climax cooldown the tension is raised. Jesus forgives sins rather than healing, and the scribes accuse Him of blasphemy. They seem on solid ground when they say that God alone can forgive sins, but rather than rebuke them theologically, Jesus asserts that the Son of Man has authority to forgive by then healing the man. The sign confirms His claim to authority and implicitly identifies Himself as this "Son of Man." What this means theologically is left for the reader to think through. How does the Son of Man have a divine prerogative? Ought He be identified with God? Is the Son of Man given a special delegated authority? No answers yet appear.

Jesus then abruptly moves to the sea to teach some more, and on the way from there He (almost casually) calls Levi to follow Him. The tax collector does. Given his profession, with an ungodly reputation, and the place implied in being the student of a Rabbi, this may follow up on Jesus' authority to forgive as He can call a rank sinner into the ranks of His followers.

This prepared another conflict as He dines with tax collectors and other sinners. The Pharisees are offended, but Jesus points out that He ministers to the (spiritually) sick because they are those who truly need help. This will mark a consistent theme and point of conflict with Himself against the Pharisees and scribes. They wish to maintain a pure Israel on legal and cermonial grounds; He will come healing the sick, forgiving sinners, cleansing the unclean. These are radically different approaches to purifying the people of God, a necessary task before God comes to judge and bring in His kingdom.

This leads to three more small conflicts. Jesus' disciples do not fast, and the Pharisees want to know why. Jesus says they are with the Bridegroom, an eschatological occasion for joy. Jesus' disciples pick grain on the Sabbath, and the Pharisees object. Jesus defends them by pointing out the needs of rest and wholeness to which the Sabbath points and for which God granted it; it would be undermined if people were hurt by observing all possible legalistic implications of the rule to rest. How could they know this is a legitimate principle? The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath: it is His institution to pass judgments over. This again seems to conflate Him with God.

In a final conflict for this passage, Jesus heals a man's withered hand on the Sabbath. As the reader can easily predict by this point, the Pharisees complain and accuse, but Jesus responds by appealing to the same principle before about the need for goodness and rest and other such things on the Sabbath rather than their contraries. So the Pharisees are flustered, angry, and begin plotting. So begins a new looming threat to Jesus.