Today in God’s Word
Genesis 31; Mark 2
In the second chapter of Mark’s account we see four controversies. The Pharisees are picking at Jesus with every opportunity they see (using the word loosely). They are searching for fault that they will not find. In each case they do not understand the identity and authority of Jesus, nor the purpose and significance of his coming, nor the spiritual nature of the law.
Who forgives but God alone?
Miracles in the New Testament are to evidence authority. Here Jesus uses his authority to heal, which is visible, to testify to his invisible authority to forgive sins. By the Pharisees correct notion that only God can forgive sins Jesus provides for them in this healing evidence to sear their conscience that he indeed is the Son of God (Mark 1:1).
Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?
The Pharisees could not understand how someone who is supposedly Godly would be in the company of people who are known to be sinners. The law and the ceremonial rites of the Jews had created distinct separation between them and the common man or “Gentile”. This was more pronounced when the Gentiles were blatantly sinful in their lifestyle so these Pharisees were like Christian fundamentalists who wanted no connection with the “dirty people” of the world.
What they missed, and hopefully we do not miss, is that Jesus came for the ones who will acknowledge their sin and guilt before God. He came to call sinners unto repentance, hence the message “repent and believe”. If the Pharisees, or if we today do not recognize that we have great need for forgiveness on a daily basis then we have no fear of the Lord and we are not a child of God. The Pharisees were misusing the law by seeing it as a holy distinctive that made them special and better than others. Paul clarifies the right use of the law in 1 Timothy 1:8-11. It is not intended to put the righteousness of man on display, but to expose the sinfulness of man and to declare the righteousness of God! Repentance and faith is the right response to the law, not pride and self-reliance.
Why do his disciples not fast?
Fasting in the Old Testament was done with a sense of mourning. It was a lamenting of our current state and a looking forward to the hope of deliverance. Fasting was a form of worship that was done in devotion to God as a means to commune with him in a physical sense by our dependence upon him to sustain us and by the experience of hunger to physically express a spiritual longing for God.
Jesus makes the point that Immanuel has come…the bridegroom is here…God is in your midst! There is no reason to fast when you are in the presence of the Son of God. There is nothing to hope for, nothing to seek except for him. Once he leaves there will be reason for his disciples to fast…but not now. And by the time Jesus ascended, everything was different. Worship was to be different. There was a New Covenant in Jesus’ blood. We cannot bring OT worship (sacrifices and festivals) or OT fasting (looking to a future deliverance) when the deliverer has come and the deliverance has been accomplished. Our fasting in NT times is different and the promise is better. We would destroy the law and dishonor the blood of Christ to bring OT worship to God. There are to be no more sacrifices and there is no deliverance found in the law, as acted upon by us. Our worship is to be directed at Jesus, our fasting is to be in celebration of Jesus, the temple in which worship occurs is our own body.
Why do his disciples do what is unlawful on the Sabbath?
Paul tells us in Romans 7:14 that the law is spiritual. We cannot try to make it physical and we cannot interpret it as merely physical. Purpose and meaning is critical. The Sabbath was given to man to help him and to nurture him. The meaning of the Sabbath is to understand the holiness of God and our dependence upon him so that we rest from our labor and understand that he has done the labor. In the example presented by the Pharisees and also the example offered by Jesus we do not see anyone working the land or baking bread. What we see are needy people receiving from provision. Jesus is helping us to see that we cannot use the law to break the law. Allowing a man to starve when you have the power to feed him would be wrong. Leaving a man to die when you can rescue him would be wrong. The Sabbath does not exist as an excuse for me to be wicked.
Any who have technical concern over the use of the bread of the presence in an unlawful manner (Sabbath or not) should consider the nature of the law regarding this bread. The bread is being used in worship within the temple as a representation of the provision of God (foreshadowing the body of Christ). It is for consumption, but in the act or worship it is to only be consumed by the priests. Removed from this use the object does not have the same meaning or requirements. This was not unlawful worship or trampling of the tabernacle…this was survival in dependence upon God’s provision. Ceremonial law had specific function in a specific context.
We must understand the spiritual nature of the law, not at all to say that we interpret it to best suit us…that is not the point. The point is that it has meaning that is deeper than the physical level. The law condemns my attitude, my motives, and my thoughts, not merely my actions. If I am interpreting any aspect of the law in a way that does not perfectly coincide with the following summary of the law (OT and a NT examples provided), then I have misinterpreted it…
“5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” (Deuteronomy 6:5, ESV)
“27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”” (Luke 10:27, ESV)
Soli Deo Gloria!