Hello, and welcome to the STC podcast. My name is Casey Strine, I’m a member of the STC staff, and I’m excited to be sharing a few of my reflections on the Gospel of Mark with you this week.
This week we will be looking at materials from chapters 1, 2, 3, and 4 of the Gospel according to Mark. The Gospel of Mark is generally known as a fast moving story where Jesus hardly finishes doing one thing before he has started the next. Today, as we move into chapter 2 of Mark, we see Jesus return to Capernaum where he began his ministry and where, for the first time, we see Jesus come into conflict with the religious authorities of the day.
Mark tells us that Jesus returns to Capernaum, where he first healed a person in the synagogue. This time, Jesus doesn’t even get the chance to go to the synagogue, but the people come to the house where he is as soon as they know he is in town. Jesus, you might say, is getting the rock star treatment by the people, who are behaving a bit like paparazzi.
Indeed, there are so many people crowded around that no one can get to the front door, let alone through it. Some friends of a paralysed man absolutely committed to getting Jesus to heal their friend are not deterred by the situation. They take radical action, digging a hole through the roof of the house to lower down their friend. Jesus is moved by their determination and faith, so he heals their paralysed friend.
This is not what Mark is most interested in, however. Instead, the most important part of the story is that the scribes—a group of highly educated Jews with a great deal of influence—were angered by Jesus suggesting that he could forgive sins.
Likewise, the story of Jesus calling Levi the tax collector—the man known elsewhere as Matthew, author of another one of the gospels—isn’t really about Levi, or even about the tax collectors and sinners who are dining with Jesus at his house. The story is mostly concerned with the scribes of the Pharisees who are upset by Jesus keeping this company.
You may know that Jesus was often accused of keeping the wrong company, most of all by the religious authorities of his day. Jesus was clear and consistent in his response to such accusations: he was not there for those who thought they had things figured out, but for those who knew that they needed help. The first step in following Jesus has always been, and probably will always be, recognizing that you don’t have all of life figured out correctly.
No matter how familiar that concept may be to us, it can often be hard to live in this way. For most of us listening to this podcast, it is easy to think we have a pretty good handle on how to live life. There is rather a lot of evidence for this view: the large majority of people at STC or listening to this podcast are doing pretty well in school, work, or family life. By nature of the fact you’re listening to a podcast, you probably have a computer or tablet, perhaps a smart phone, and enough free time to listen to the podcast. If you’re listening to a podcast, you probably also have more education than most of the world. By the standards of the wider world, we’re all relatively wealthy, well educated, and have access to loads of opportunities. Do we think of ourselves as sick and in need of a cure most days? Maybe not.
And yet, if we’re being honest, we know our lives aren’t right most days. We’re aware of our faults and failures. We are precisely those people that Jesus came to call and to heal. As we go about our lives this Tuesday, let’s all attempt to live as people aware of shortcomings and thankful that God in Jesus has come to deal with them.
Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed. Keep me humble and aware of my need for you this day. Amen.
READING: Mark 2:1-17
A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing to him a paralysed man, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralysed man, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’
Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, ‘Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?’
Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, ‘Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to this paralysed man, “Your sins are forgiven,” or to say, “Get up, take your mat and walk”? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.’ So he said to the man, ‘I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.’ He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, ‘We have never seen anything like this!’
Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them. As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. ‘Follow me,’ Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him.
While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: ‘Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?’
On hearing this, Jesus said to them, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but those who are ill. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.’