“Forgiveness Drives Distinction”
INTRODUCTION What is the Meaning of Mark 2.1-22
Mark 2. Last time, we were in chapter 1 verses 14-45. And we saw from those verses the strategy of and response to an effective gospel ministry, Jesus strategy for an effective gospel ministry. We saw that chapter 1 verses 14 and 15 that the first part of Jesus ministry was to preach. And then, in verses 16-20 we saw Jesus calling two sets of brothers and calling them to follow him so that they themselves might become fishers of men. So not only was Jesus going around preaching, he called disciples to himself that would make other disciples.
And we saw from this great confirmation in the direction of the philosophy of our ministry and that we are focusing on the preaching and teaching God’s word and making of disciples who are fully equipped to make other disciples.
And we saw in chapter 1 that this strategy for effective gospel ministry has authority and that is proved for us in verses 21-28. We saw people’s response to Jesus ministry. They observed that he had, verse 22 “authority.” And they were “amazed” at his teaching, verse 22. Jesus’ teaching was amazingly authoritative. Knowing that, verse 27 chapter 1 after he exorcised the demon, people testify that his miracles are authoritative as well. It says verse 27 they were all amazed and they were amazed at his miracles and that this was a new teaching with authority. This was a new teaching with miracles to back it up to give it the authority that it needs to prove that it is true. The miracles proved that Jesus teaching was authoritative.
But is it authority enough to make it effective? And indeed we see in the rest of the chapter that it is effective when we see various positive responses to Jesus ministry. Remember Peter’s mother-in-law after she was healed of her fever in verse 30 she immediately begins to serve Jesus and the disciples. That was one response.
And then, in verses 32-39, we see the response of searching and looking for Jesus. We noted that verse 33 the whole city had gathered at the door to be with him, verse 36. The disciples were searching for him and they found him verse 37 and said everyone is looking for him. So you can see the response here is one of searching for Jesus. We saw that when people search for Jesus what Jesus wants to give them is his preaching as it says in verse 38. The response, searching for Jesus and listening to his preaching.
The third response we saw in Chapter 1 was proclaiming Jesus, in verses 40-45. After the leper was healed Jesus exhorts him not to tell anyone else but the priest, but the leper goes ahead and proclaims it anyway. And we got an application out of this man’s disobedience that we ourselves should preach the gospel to others because this limitation no longer applies to us.
So that’s where we ended last week. The whole point of the passage was to demonstrate what a strategy to an effective gospel ministry looks like. We saw the strategy as well as the response to this gospel ministry.
Now, these are positive responses. What we have in Chapter 2 now is the opposite. What we have in chapter 2 are not positive responses but negative responses. So with any strategy of the gospel ministry that follows Jesus pattern ministry, you will experience opposition. And we know that together an introduction to the reading this morning who it is that is providing the opposition: it’s the religious leaders in that particular culture.
Our text this morning is chapter 2:1-22. Beginning in verse 23 chapter 2 and running down through verse six of chapter 3 you have 2 stories of conflict that concern the Sabbath day. We will leave that for next week.
But in these 22 verses we have three sections. Verses 1 to 12 concern the healing of a paralytic and how that relates to Jesus authority to forgive sins. Jesus says, verse 10, Mark 2:10-11 (NASB) 10 “But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—He *said to the paralytic, 11 “I say to you, get up, pick up your pallet and go home.”
And then he does just that.
So Jesus proves that he has the authority to forgive sins when he healed the paralytic. And because of the scribes response to Jesus in verse seven, that only God can forgive sins, the point here is that Jesus is God and that’s why he can forgive sins Jesus is God and he forgive us!
And then, beginning in verse 13, and running down through verse 17 Jesus defends his associations with notorious sinners. The scribes again, verse 16, create conflict with the disciples about why Jesus associates with sinners. Jesus reply is that, since he had the power to forgive sins like he had just proved in the previous section, he has come to call those sinners, that’s why he associates with them. So not only does he forgive them, in verses 1-12, but he also calls them verses 13-17.
And in verses 18-22, we have conflict between three sets of disciples. The disciples of John and of the Pharisees contrast themselves with the disciples of Jesus. And the question here concerns why Jesus disciples do not fast and the other two sets of disciples do. And Jesus responds verses 19-20 that his disciples will fast once Jesus is taken away from the disciples. He uses the illustration of the wedding party. But that brings up a larger issue that comes to the forefront. When Jesus responds as he does in verses 21-22, what he’s saying there, and we’ll see this toward the end of the message this morning, is that God has brought a new program. God is changing, in the coming of Jesus, God is changing the distinctiveness of his people. So Jesus is here arguing for the distinctiveness of his new gospel ministry.
And so, with that, we run full circle back to the beginning of Jesus gospel ministry when he focuses on preaching and the making of disciples who make other disciples and the point here, in this passage, is that these disciples will be distinct. They don’t act like other disciples act, like the disciples of John or like the disciples of the Pharisees.
So, stepping back, and looking at these verses together then, Jesus proves that he can forgive sins in verses 1-12, he defends his associations with those sinners because he has come to call them, verses 13-17. And then with the lifestyle of these sinners that he has called, he argues that the divine program of this new gospel ministry set forth by God is distinct. And so the disciples in this new program of God should also be distinct; they should live distinctly. So, I would like to preach to you based on the authority of this passge: Forgiveness drives distinction. The application from this passage then will be if you received Jesus call of forgiveness, he demands you live a distinct life. Forgiveness drives distinction.
Jesus’ Prerogative to Pardon Proven (2:1-12)
So, first of all, we have Jesus prerogative to pardon proven in verses 1-12. Jesus proves that he has the exclusive right to forgive sins. It’s his prerogative and he proves it to us in verses 1-12.
The setting (vv.1-4)
Tell the story: vv.1-4.
After ministering in unpopulated areas from chapter 1:45, Jesus chapter 2 verse one comes back to Capernaum several days after he had ministered there. And he was the end of verse one…he was at home. This is likely the home that he had just left in chapter 1:29 when it says that he was at the house of Simon and Andrew.
So there it was at this same house where he healed Jesus mother-in-law after which the whole city had gathered at the door of that same house. Now, at this same house chapter 2 verse two, many again were gathered and there was no longer room not even near the door of the house and he was speaking the word to them. So, he was accomplishing the first part of his ministry, which was to preach.
And Mark sets up the scene of the conflict between Jesus and the scribes by saying that 4 men bring a paralytic to Jesus. Chapter 2 verse three “they” it says they come, which is 4 men, so 4 men bring this one who can’t walk to Jesus. And they arrive at the scene, verse four, and they are stuck. They can’t get to Jesus because there are so many people at this house. So in order to get this lame man to Jesus, they remove the roof above Jesus.
Now, just a quick note on the nature of the roof of this house. At that time in that part of the world, the houses had flat roofs and were easily ascended by stairs on the outside of the house. And the roofs among other things were made out of clay. So when they got there they walked along the beams and were able to clear the way some of clay order to get the man down through the roof.
So after they had dug an opening in the roof, they let down the lame man on the pallet.
So these men went to extraordinary length to get this man in front of Jesus. And it says verse five that Jesus saw their faith he saw the faith of all five of these men…the four men who were carrying Jesus and the one paralytic. And when he saw this he spoke to the paralytic… “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
What? Imagine yourself as the paralytic. You have great expectations when you went to see Jesus. You could imagine the whole scene. There you are lying on your pallet and these four men are telling you about Jesus for the first time. You get very excited that he might be able to heal you. So these four men take you to Jesus and when you get there, you’re initially very disappointed because you’re stuck and can’t get to him b/c there’s so many people. Then they device this plan, kind of a sanctified ingenuity, and get you down through the roof of this house.
And then when you’re right before Jesus…you’re heart thumping that you’re about ready to walk and all he says to you is, “son, your sins are forgiven.”
What? I want you to heal me not to proclaim some ethereal saying about my sin, that I can’t even see is true! And it would be great if all my sins were gone, but you can say that, but how I do know it’s even true? I would rather you just heal me and tell me later what to do with my sins.
We really don’t know what the paralytic was thinking I guess, but we certainly have the response of the scribes, verse six, as they were sitting they also were it says reasoning in their hearts. And they said to themselves, not out loud, verse seven…
Mark 2:7 (NASB) “Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming; who can forgive sins but God alone?”
They knew Jesus was claiming to be able to forgive sins they also knew that only God can forgive sins. And since they can see the man Jesus before them, he clearly can’t be God, in their estimation. He looks like a man to me, the scribes say. So because he claims to forgive sins and because he’s just a man, he must be blaspheming. He’s claiming to be God and he’s not, they would say.
And Jesus is very aware of this in his spirit. He knew that they were reasoning this way within themselves. And this is because of course Jesus knows all things he knows what is in man…He doesn’t need anybody else to tell him what is in man. He is omniscient, he is all-knowing.
So Jesus asked them the question, verse eight why are you reasoning about these things in your hearts? Verse 9…
Mark 2:9-11 (NASB) 9 “Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven’; or to say, ‘Get up, and pick up your pallet and walk’? 10 “But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—He *said to the paralytic, 11 “I say to you, get up, pick up your pallet and go home.”
When Jesus asked ‘which is easier to say’, he’s asking which is easier to claim and not have to prove… Is it easier to claim that you have the power to forgive sins of somebody or is it easier to claim that you have the power to heal people? The answer is that it is easier to claim that you have the power to forgive sins because if someone were to ever challenge you on that, it’s their word against yours because you can’t see it.
You could say, “your sins are forgiven.” And they can come back and say, “really, how do I know that?” And then you come back and say, “because I said so.” And there is no real proof.
However, if I claim the power to be able to heal somebody, someone who wants to challenge me on that can say, “prove it.” And if I never heal anyone, I’m clearly a what? A fraud!
Now, Jesus knows this and he wants to prove that he has the power to forgive sins. Mark 2:10 (NASB) “But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”…. See, he wants you to know that he has the power, the authority to forgive sins. So they know that he does have that authority to do that, verse 11 now, he turns to the paralytic and he says to him, “get out, pick up your pallet and go home.”
In verse 12, at the amazement of everybody, he gets up and he immediately picks up that pallet and he walks out in the sight of everyone. Everybody’s amazed, glorifying God, saying that we have never seen anything like this.
And so by telling a lame man to walk, Jesus proves that he has the authority to forgive sins. Jesus said the harder thing to claim first and then the easier thing to claim in order to show that he can forgive sins.
So if you want to know for certain that Jesus has the power to forgive sin, just read this story. Jesus proves it. He proves that he has the ability to forgive sin when he also healed this man from his inability to walk.
So the point of this story, in light of the conflict that he has with the scribes, is to show that he indeed is God. Remember the scribes said, verse seven, when they reasoned in their heart that only God can forgive sins. Well, Jesus just proved by healing the paralytic that he has the power to forgive sins. Therefore, Jesus is God. If only God can forgive sins and Jesus can forgive sins, then Jesus is God. And that’s the point. He is God and that’s why he can forgive sins.
TRANS: Now, if you can forgive sinners, where would you go? What would you do? You’d go and start hanging around sinners to see if they would seek forgiveness! But if you start hanging around the lowliest of the low in front of the wrong people, you will get into trouble. And Jesus is about to get into trouble again with scribes. In verses 13-17, Jesus defends his associations. He associates with sinners and he has to defend this to the scribes now.
Jesus’ Associations Defended (2:13-17)
Verse 13 gives us the scenery of this next part of the story. Jesus is out again by the seashore and people are coming to him and he’s teaching them and he passes by verse 14 a man named Levi. We would call him Matthew. This is a Matthew that wrote the first gospel of the New Testament. And Matthew is a tax collector and so he’s sitting in his tax booth, collecting taxes. Jesus passes by him and he says to him, “follow me.” And Matthew obeys, gets up and follows Jesus.
Now, a tax collector is one of the most hated the professions of the day. It’s like today, people have all sorts of jokes for lawyers. Although back then, he was even more hated because these tax collectors would take more money from people than they should. They would go around and collect taxes from people and the way that they would earn a living is to take more than what they were supposed to take and then give a portion of that money to the government. So these men are the most hated of all society.
So when Jesus comes and he called one of these men to follow him, it’s a shocker.
And Matthew follows Jesus and he follows him like the other men in the previous passage followed him. He made a decisive break with his former life. And Matthew invites Jesus over to his house, verse 15. And Jesus is reclining at the table in Matthew’s house. So they’re eating there in Matthew’s house. And the way they would eat at that time was that they would lie down and eat. They would prop up their head with their hand and eat around together with their feet outward.
And it says in verse 15 that not only was Matthew a tax collector dining with Jesus but at that time Matthew had evidently invited many people over and there were many tax collectors and sinners who were eating with Jesus and the disciples. There were many of them and they were following Jesus.
Now the fun begins verse 16. The scribes of the Pharisees it says. There were some Pharisees who were also scribes and they saw that Jesus was eating with these people. He was eating with sinners, that is, Jews who were likely immoral and practiced immorality in some sense. And Jesus was also eating with tax collectors, again, these are employed by Rome and they are Gentiles. The Pharisees hate this! And they say to his disciples, evidently because they are unable for whatever reason to confront Jesus himself about this, they confront his disciples about it and ask the question, “why is he eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners?”
And before the disciples had a chance to pipe up on that one, Jesus himself responds verse 17. Jesus hears this and he gives the explanation. He defends why he is associating with such individuals.
Jesus *said to them, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Jesus illustrates when he says it is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick. That’s the illustration. The explanation in plain terms follows that statement. Just like only sick people need a physician, only sinners need Jesus. Only those people who know in their heart of hearts that they are sinners only those people Jesus calls. Jesus came he says I have come, not to call those who think they are righteous, but to call sinners. Jesus knows right well that there is none righteous, no not one. Jesus does call people who think they don’t need help.
So the point here is that he calls sinners, and that’s why he associates with them. Whereas before the point was, when he healed the paralytic, that he is God and has the ability to forgive sinners. Here, the point is that he calls those very sinners and that’s why he associates with them.
Again, if you were Jesus and you had the power to forgive sinners, where would you go? You would go and be with sinners and seek to forgive them.
Now the amazing application of this section is that Jesus is hanging around these kinds of people and does not demand anything from them. He is gracious to them. To hang around Jesus in his day you did not need to reform yourself. Come as you are to Jesus and let him do all the work in your heart. That still stands today. Come, be with Jesus, and let him do a work in your heart. Forget about living life your own way, just come to him. Let him do it. He calls sinners to himself that’s why he wants to hang around… with you!
TRANS: Jesus calls sinners to himself and wants to forgive them. Whereas this story was about associations when Jesus eats, the following story of confrontation is about whether to eat at all; it’s about fasting in verses 18-22!
And to set this up, we have a distinction between three different sets of disciples: the disciples of John, the Pharisees, and Jesus disciples. And Jesus applies this distinction to a broader truth in verses 21 and 22 which we will explain in a minute. But let me just point this out now, that this is not just about fasting but it’s about God’s new program of his people that has come in the person of Jesus.
Jesus’ Gospel Distinctiveness Argued (2:18-22)
Answer #1: Everything in its proper time (2:19-20)
In this passage, Jesus will argue for the distinctiveness of his gospel ministry. As we begin in verse 18, there seems to be no break and it seems to be the same setting. So there’s Jesus sitting in Matthew’s house eating. And he’s eating with those kinds of people. And some men approach Jesus and they’re not eating. John’s disciples and the Pharisees come up to Jesus and they are fasting. They are not eating any food. And they asked him Mark 2:18 (NASB) “Why do John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast?”
So you see there are three sets of disciples. John’s disciples, the Pharisees disciples, and Jesus disciples. And the issue is why do John’s disciples and the Pharisees disciples fast and Jesus disciples not fast?
And Jesus swallows his food, and answers the question of these hungry men.
In similar Jesus fashion, he starts with what seems like an illustration. His response in verse 17 indeed did begin with an illustration and he spoke plainly after that. However this time, it seems not to be an illustration.
It was always confusing to me, this bridegroom. To me, you either have a bride or a groom, not a bridegroom. If this confuses you too, just strike through the first part of that word bride. This is talking about a groom. And when it says verse 19 the attendants of this groom, what we’re talking about is the friends of the groom, kind of like the groomsmen.
So here’s what Jesus is saying then. Picture it like on your wedding day. Could you imagine on your wedding day if people had all this food in front of them and they didn’t even eat it? That’s the nature of Jesus’ point here. While the groom is with the groomsmen, the groomsmen can’t fast can they? Answer: no! So long as they’re all there together, there’s a big feast! That’s the way we do it, and that’s the way they did then as well.
But, verse 20, this is where it kind of breaks down, when the groom is taken away from the groomsmen, then the groomsmen will fast in that day. Now, I don’t know about you, but when I left my wedding party, my groomsmen didn’t fast. Actually, they probably took some of the food home with them! That’s where the illustration breaks down.
However, when Jesus leaves his disciples, then the disciples will fast. And that’s the point there. So, Jesus answers their question. “They don’t fast now, they’ll fast later when I’m gone.” Jesus gives a clear indication there that He knows what will happen to him.
Now, there’s a greater truth here when Jesus speaks of himself as the groom. Many times in the Old Testament, Yahweh is pictured as the groom and Israel as the bride. You have it most graphically portrayed in the book of Hosea. You have it as well in Isaiah and Ezekiel. We won’t take the time to detail this this morning but the point here is that Jesus is claiming to be the groom of the bride, which is Israel. Jesus is claiming to be the groom of the Old Testament. Jesus is claiming to be Yahweh. Just like when Jesus proved to be able to forgive sins in the first part chapter 2 and thereby He proved that he was God in flesh, so now Jesus is claiming to be the Yahweh and he says that he is the bridegroom as it says in verse 19.
And that’s the point here: Jesus is Yahweh.
TRANS: But this brings up an even larger issue that Jesus addresses in these next 2 verses. And this larger issue has to do with the relationship of Jesus’ ministry and John’s ministry in the ministry of the Pharisees. Let’s broaden this concept out now. What is going on here and why is there such a distinction between these three sets of disciples anyway?
Answer #2: Distinct ministry demands distinct conduct (2:21-22)
Brings up a broader issue:
And Jesus’ point here in verses 21 and 22 is that because Jesus has a distinct ministry, it demands distinct conduct by His disciples. A distinct ministry demands distinct conduct.
Jesus gospel ministry is distinct, that’s why his disciples act distinctly. That’s why they don’t fast.
Let me show you this. The key to understanding verses 21-22 is noting the words old and new. Let’s find those words together. Verse 21 concerns what happens when you put a new patch on an old garment. Verse 22 concerns what happens when you put new wine into old wineskins.
Verse 21 now, a patch of unshrunk cloth: that the new cloth. What would happen if you put a new cloth like that, that has not been shrunk, on an old garment that has lost its elasticity? What happens is what Jesus says happens in the next part of verse 20 when He says that if you do that, the new patch will begin to pull away from the old garment. The patch would eventually shrink up and then an even greater tear would result from that. So you don’t sew a patch that has never been shrunk on an old shirt. Because when that patch shrinks, it pulls on all of those threads and a tear happens.
Similarly, verse 22, it works the same way with new wine in old wineskins. An old wineskin is likely pouch made out of goatskin and it’s old, so it’s not very flexible. But when you put new wine in there that wine is still fermenting and fermenting wine produces gas. Now, if you put gas producing wine into wineskins that cannot accommodate all that extra gas in them, by expanding, what will happen is that those wineskins will break. All that gas from the fermenting wine will build up in that old wineskin that can’t flex with the pressure and it will burst.
Now, what do these two illustrations have to do with the context? The context is one of the relationship between three sets of disciples. What is the relationship of Jesus disciples with other disciples and with the practices of those other disciples? For example, the practice of fasting?
Here’s the point: just like you can’t put new wine into old wineskins, so also you can put God’s new program for his disciples back into an old system of practices. You can’t fit Jesus’ new gospel ministry into the old system of Judaism.
God has, in Jesus Christ, begun a new work of redemption of the world! And because of this, you can’t put the people that Jesus has forgiven into an old system of practices. Everything has changed now that Jesus has come. God has brought forth a new program.
And so, you can’t just add Jesus to your present religious practices. Someone in that day who was used to practicing various things in the Temple, observing sacred Jewish holidays …you can’t just add Jesus to all of that and go on sacrificing animals. You can’t add Jesus to other religions. Jesus is the God of the Old Testament! He’s fulfilled all the prophecies of the coming Messiah. He can forgive sin. He calls sinners to repentance.
And if you had any idea who the person of Jesus is, you would be living in up like you’re at a wedding! You wouldn’t be doing things the same way anymore. And we know from this context who Jesus is. He proved it. He proved that He is God when he forgave that paralytic of his sin and healed him. And he did what someone who can forgive sins would do and he hung around these sinners and says that he has come to call these sinners. And he has the right to call them because he is the groom. He is the groom of the Old Testament, He is Yahweh come for his bride. And he has come with God’s new program of redemption.
His gospel ministry is distinct and that’s why his disciples act distinctly. That’s what you expect, given who Jesus is, Yahweh in flesh. And that’s what you would expect given his proven ability to forgive sins and his desire to call sinners to repentance. This kind of proven authoritative strategy for gospel ministry demands that the forgiven sinners within it live distinctly.
APP: Are you living the distinct life of someone who has been forgiven of their sins? Have you been forgiven of your sins? Have you called on the name of the Lord for salvation? You are not a Christian just because your parents are…have you called on Jesus yourself?
If you have not and desire to, please talk to somebody here. Whether it’s me, one of your parents, or one of the men or women in our assembly here.
But if you have, are you living distinctly? What distinguishes you from the world or from the world’s religions? Have you received this awesome person, the Lord Jesus? The one who has the power to forgive sins and the one who has the power to heal the lame? If you have received him for who he is, the Lord over all the earth, are you living like he is?
This is the message of this passage: forgiveness drives distinction. If you have been forgiven, it will drive you to live a distinct life. Forgiveness drives distinction. Jesus came to call sinners, have you been called by Jesus? Have you been called upon by Jesus to repent of your sin? If so the awesome privilege of that call should drive you to live a distinct life.