1) Mark 1:21-22: The Authority of Jesus Christ to Teach
2) Mark 1:23-26: The Authority of Jesus Christ Over the Evil One
3) Mark 2:1-12: The Authority of Jesus Christ Over Sin
4) Mark 2:13-17: The Authority of Jesus Christ Over Our Past, Present, and Future
5) Mark 2:18-3:6: The Authority of Jesus Christ Over Religion
Mark 1:21-22: The Authority of Jesus Christ to Teach
Mark 1:21-22: “They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law.”
Truth. Where do you find it? Who can you believe? How do you differentiate truth from legend? From myth? From lies? Where do you go to find truth? Is Jesus’ truth any better than Confucius’ truth or Mohammad’s truth or Ron L. Hubbard’s truth? How can we trust who speaks for truth? Who has the authority to bring us truth? Isn’t truth relative?--"If it is true for you, then it is your truth." But truth is not based upon your belief. Your belief in something does not make it true. Your opinion does not qualify as truth. Your belief does not change something into truth. Your belief should be shaped by truth.
Mark 1:21: “And Jesus began to teach and the people were amazed because He taught with authority.” The Jewish people heard teaching all their lives. They heard sermon after sermon. They had rabbis who were teaching them. They went to Sabbath school. They had all kinds of teachers, but something stood out about Jesus. Something was profoundly different about the teaching of Jesus. So, what was so different? The rabbis taught their opinion. The rabbis gave their feelings and inclinations and understanding of what others before them had said. Rabbi A may say, “Moses declared this and I think this means that you should do this.” And Rabbi B counters, “Well, I believe we should go this way.” They expressed their opinion on the truth that God had given to Moses and to the other prophets. But Jesus does not give His opinion. Have you ever heard Jesus say, “Well, I think it is like this? I believe that God meant this.” He says, “God is like this." "I tell you the truth.”
Jesus’ manner of speaking and His claims are so different from other teachers that we are faced with a dilemma. Either He is as one man puts it, a liar, a lunatic, or He is Lord. Because truly when you start looking at what He says, you cannot say He is just a good prophet, just a good teacher, just a good man, or just a good role model because He claims to be more than these. He said things like, “I and the Father are one." "If you see me, you have seen the Father." "The Father is living in me." And that is one reason He was crucified. Yes, they plotted against Him because they were not willing, like John the Baptist, to give up their positions of authority, but they also were not willing to accept His claims to be more than just a man.
And that is what the people who listened to Jesus discovered. It says, “And they were amazed.” Astounded. Literally, the word for “amazed” means, “they were beaten flat.” It is a word that is used of a blacksmith when he is pounding on red hot metal. It is kind of the same illustration we would use, “Man, you told us and it just floored me. It threw me for a loop. I was disoriented. I could not understand it. It did not make sense.” The prophets spoke for God, but they did not speak as God. Jesus speaks the very words of God to us. Do you believe that? You say you do until it demands you change your perspective and your behavior. You believe it until you have to start living by it. Once you have to make a change, it becomes personal. It is no longer just a topic for thought and discussion. That is when we rebel.
Jesus spoke with authority. What is authority? Authority is someone who has the right to influence or command your thoughts, your opinions or your behavior. Who has authority in your life? Is there anyone in your life that speaks to you and says, “You need to do this?” Is it pop culture? Advertisers? Your peers? A self-help guru? A religious teacher? Who? One in authority has the right and power to command behavior. A captain has authority over a lieutenant; a lieutenant over a sergeant, and so on. It is the behavior that matters and we will see when Jesus ends this long section, He says, “He who hears and practices what I say is the one who follows me.” It is behavior rooted in right attitude and relationship with God.
Jesus has authority to declare truth, to define what life is really all about, what works and what does not work, how God has designed life to work. But what gives Jesus the authority to declare truth? Just because He claimed such authority, does not mean He has it. There are three differences between Jesus and other teachers. First, Jesus spoke about God as if He actually knew Him. All the religious teachers spoke about God. That was their topic--about God. But Jesus was different. He talked about God with first-hand experience. Jesus taught with authority. He was telling people what God is like. What gives Him the right to do that? What gives Him any more right than Pastor Dave saying, “Well, God is like Captain Kirk?” What gives Him the right? Jesus says, “I am telling you what I have seen in the Father’s presence.” People can tell you about all different kinds of things but unless they have experienced themselves what it is like, they do not have credibility. They are imagining it, they are making it up. I could tell you what it is like to walk on the moon. "It is just amazing, folks. There is hardly any gravity. You just kind of feel like you are floating on air." But since I was never really there, you understand that I am merely repeating what others have said. But if Neil Armstrong tells you what it is like, you can believe him. He has the experience to back up what he is saying. Jesus says, “I can tell you about God the Father because I have seen Him. I have been in His presence.” Jesus tells us, “The Father is like a man who has a son who says, ‘Dad, give me my stuff. I cannot stand it anymore. I want to do my thing’ and takes his inheritance and goes away and squanders it. The father waits and waits for his son to come back. He grieves because his son is dead to him. And then one day he is looking out the window, watching down that dusty road and he sees his son coming back. The father does not sit there anymore. He does not keep watching the window. He gets up and throws open the door and runs down the gateway and throws his arms around his son and welcomes him home. The old man runs to greet the son and says, ‘Welcome home my child, for once you were dead and now you are alive.’” Jesus says, “That is what my Father is like. That is what your God is like.”
Secondly, Jesus speaks for God in a special way. The definition of a prophet is someone who speaks for God, not just about God, as a teacher does. But Jesus was different. He speaks for the Father because He is the Son, intimately related in a way that is hard for us to understand. He says in John 12, “Whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.” Think of the difference like this. Concerning a human prophet, God speaks the message He wants the people to know, then the prophet writes it down or simply conveys it to the people. The Son speaks for the Father in a different way. The Son lives with the Father and knows His heart and how He thinks. When He speaks to the people, He speaks for the Father because He has first-hand knowledge of His desires and ways. "This is what the Father is like and this is what He wants."
Thirdly, Jesus spoke as God. “The words I say to you,” Jesus said, “are not just my own. Rather, my Father living in me. The words I share with you are not just my words. This is what God is saying and the words I am speaking to you are spoken as straight from the Father’s mouth to your ears.” He is speaking as God. The Pharisees and Sadducees absolutely understood that Jesus claimed to be God in their very presence. “From before Abraham was, I am.” He claims to be God the Son. This means that Jesus not only claims to teach the truth but claims to be the truth. “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” You can follow Confucius if you want, but he is not going to take you to the Father. You can follow Krishna if you want, but he is not going to lead you to the Father. You can follow the pattern of Ron L. Hubbard, but he is not going to take you to the Father. Only the Son can bring us to the Father.
Or is Jesus lying? Is He just exaggerating? Is He making Himself appear to be more than He is? If He is, He is lying. Is Jesus lying or is He telling the truth when He says, “No man comes to the Father except through me.” An ordinary man cannot say this without being a liar or lunatic. The world would have us believe that Jesus is just a prophet. He is just a teacher. Jesus taught us to be nice to each other, they say. Jesus taught us to do to others as we would have them do to us. But a nice teacher does not lie to us. If He cannot truly bring us to the Father, then He is lying to us. Yes, Jesus is a good prophet. He foretells the future without error and conveys God's message to the people without error. Yes, Jesus is a good model to follow. Do not we call ourselves Christians? But He is so much more. His death bought our salvation. His death did more than my death could do for you or your death for me. He is the Savior, Lord of all, not a liar or lunatic.
Mark 1:21 says Jesus “began to teach.” And verse 22 says, “The people were amazed at His teaching because he taught them as one who has authority.” Mark does not tell us what Jesus was teaching at the time that moved the people to say what they did about Him. Why not? Mark does not go there because he is speaking to Romans who do not want a whole lot of conversation until they know it is really worth listening to. They want to know why they should listen to this Galilean prophet. Who is he? What kind of power does he have? He had no army, he had no property, he had no wealth. He was crucified on a cross. That is how a criminal dies. Why should we bother listening to his teaching? That is why Mark, under Peter’s guidance, spends so much time telling them about the things Jesus did that showed His authority over the important aspects of life that concerns them most. He tells them true stories (all gospel writers were selective when conveying the events of Jesus’ life to fit their overall theme and goals. There were simply too many to record them all—John 21:24-25) about how Jesus has the power over evil spirits, sickness, death, sin, and eternal life. He tells them these things to validate Jesus’ message about the kingdom of God and His substitutionary death on a cross for their sin and rebellion against God. These things that Jesus did were signs that His teaching and message needs to be heeded. He is no ordinary teacher of Jewish law. He is no ordinary prophet delivering God’s message to the people. He is the Son of God come to reconcile man and God. The simple message was: “Jesus died for our sins and on the third day rose from the dead to give eternal life to all who believe.” That is an astounding message for a people who were not mentally and spiritually prepared by Old Testament history. But if He is capable of dominion over evil spirits, sickness, death, sin, and can give eternal life, then what He has to say about forgiveness and reconciliation with God must be given serious attention. They needed to listen closely to what He had to say.
Mark 1:21 identifies the place Jesus was teaching when His hearers were amazed at His teaching, the synagogue, but not exactly what He said. But there is another place in another gospel in which the crowds were also amazed. Let us look at Matthew chapters 5-7. This scene was on a mountainside near Galilee (Matthew 4:23-25). The last two verses of this section say: “When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.” So what was Jesus teaching that caused the mostly Jewish hearers to be amazed. Matthew chapters 5-7 is commonly called The Sermon on the Mount. It is too long for us to examine here but there is something important I want you to see.
Numerous times in this section Jesus tells them “I tell you” before He tells them something important—Matthew 5:18, 21, 26, 28, 32, 34, 39, 43; Matthew 6:2, 5, 16, 25, 29; Matthew 7:23. It is an interesting study to read this section and notice what teachings follow the “I tell you” declarations. In conclusion He tells them in Matthew 7:24: “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” And later in verse 26, “But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.” In verses 28 and 29 Mark records their response. “When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.”
It is not so much about the bad things you are doing, He tells them. It is more about the good you should be doing that you are not. It is more about the absence of goodness in your life that matters most. The avoidance of sin is chiefly more about just the avoidance of bad things in your life but because of the bad the good cannot find a place in you. In The Sermon on the Mount Jesus constantly puts parameters around some truth He has just taught to help His listeners understand Him better. His message is a positive one. He wants the good in our lives and in order for that to be true for you and me sin, or the bad, must be uprooted and taken out. The teachers of the law were overwhelmingly negative. Jesus was different, very different.
God is concerned that we are not simply avoiding sin but that we are doing the right things with the right heart so that our lives can be fruitful. Not having termites in your house does not make your house stronger. Having good wood in your house makes your house stronger. Not having a fungus in your orchard does not give you better fruit. Having fungus gives you bad fruit. Because you do not have it does not give you better fruit. Getting fertilizer and growing that fruit gives you better fruit. Yes, you want to avoid the bad things in your life but Jesus tells us to build good into your life so that you can be fruitful and have a better relationship with God and man. He does not want you just to survive without the termites. He wants you to flourish and be strong in your life. “Here is the bigger picture. Here is how life really works,” He tells them.
Will you let truth speak with authority in your own life. That is what it really comes down to. Will you let truth speak in your life or are you committed to lies? He is truth. That is the beautiful thing about this. Jesus does not just bring a bunch of external rules for us to follow. He does not give this big, long list of dos and don’ts. It is not an external set of rules but a living, internal power that Jesus brings into our lives. He does not just tell you what to do. He says, “I will give you the power to do it.” Where He leads, He provides. And as He nudges you and encourages and strengthens you, He will give you what you need to accomplish it.
Jesus ends this whole passage in Matthew with these words, “Anyone who hears my words and puts them into practice is like a wise man who builds his house upon the rock and the winds came and the creek rose and the storms blew, but the house stood because it was founded upon the rock. But anyone who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like the fool who builds his house upon the sand.” It was good for a time. It stood there with all the other houses. “But when the winds came and the creek rose and the storm blew, the house collapsed and there was nothing left.” Do you recognize what makes the difference? The difference is not in those who go to church on Sunday and hear God’s truth. The difference is those who hear and then live it out. That means you have to do something. God loves you and does not want you to keep on living in pain and living according to lies because they will destroy your life.
We can give all kind of excuses why we do not have to do the right thing. “It does not really matter if I do this. I mean, God will forgive me anyway.” But God says, “If you do not heed My warning, your house is going to collapse. It is going to be torn away. But he who hears and lives it out, his house will stand.” These are the words of Jesus. Do you believe them?
Mark 1:23-26: The Authority of Jesus Christ Over the Evil One
Mark 1:23-26: "Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit cried out, 'What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!' 'Be quiet!' said Jesus sternly. 'Come out of him!' The evil spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek."
Read Mark chapter one, verses 23-26. As we look at this passage, we are going to find some surprises. It starts off in verse 23, “Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit cried out, ‘What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the holy one of God.’ ‘Be quiet,’ Jesus said sternly. ‘Come out of him.’ And the evil spirits shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek.” I want you to notice something very important. The man is in the synagogue. We really do not like that. The synagogue was like an Old Testament church and was supposed to be a holy, sacred place. What is a demon doing in there? Satan is no respecter of persons or places. He has a complete lack of respect for anything having to do with God. His opposition is complete and total.
This man is possessed by an evil spirit and the evil spirit cries out. Notice it was not that the man stood up and shouted but the evil spirit took control of him. The demon says, “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth?” The demon recognized Jesus. Satan and those with him oppose Jesus every step of the way. Did Satan try to kill Jesus when He was just a child? Oh, yeah, when he was two years old. Do you think Satan tried to distract Jesus, Mary, and Joseph? All along the way. "If we can just nip this in the bud, we will have no problem." "He is only seven years old. We will get him here." "He is only 12. Now we can get him." All along the way they fought Jesus and His mission. So they know who He is. “I know who you are, the holy one of God.”
Recognize that demons recognize Jesus even though the people do not. This demon recognized Him right away and said, “Have you come to destroy us? We know what the plan is, we know what you intend to do but I did not think it was going to happen right now. I did not think it was today.” And it is not, but the day is coming. And here is Jesus’ reply to him, basically four words. “Shut up! Get out!” Direct, active commands. Not, “shhh, do not tell anybody. Do not speak. You are messing up what I am trying to do here.” No, Jesus is very direct and authoritative. “Shut up!” He is saying it sternly. It is not a matter of being impolite. It is an authoritative command. “And the evil spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek.”
Almost half the chapters in Mark record an incident where Jesus confronts demons—chapters 1, 3, 5, 7, and 9. And it is not just Mark. Matthew, Luke, and John also talk about it. Ephesians, 1 Corinthians, Timothy, Hebrews all talk about it. Romans talks about it. Revelation talks about it. You would have to throw the whole Bible away if you want to get around it. Evil spirits are real.
Notice. Jesus has absolute authority. Jesus does not have to grab him and shake him. Jesus does not wave a magic branch over his head. Jesus does not say some kind of incantation. Jesus says, “Shut up! Get out!” and it is done. Absolute authority, just like that. That is the reality of the light coming into the world and casting out the darkness.
When I read through these five different passages in Mark this week, I was struck by how little Jesus has to say about demon possession. And that is, to me, absolutely shocking. Jesus is a teacher. What a great teaching opportunity this would have been. He has a built-in interested audience, the synagogue. “Oh, Jesus, tell us what is going on. How did it happen to the guy? What is it like? What is he doing? Where is he going? Where did he come from? What do we do with it?” What a great teaching time, right? And what does Jesus’ teaching consist of? “Shut up! Get out! Now I am going on with my message.” Huh? That does not make sense to me. If anybody knows about demons and Satan, it is Jesus. If anyone can speak authoritatively on the subject, it is Jesus. So why doesn’t He? Jesus’ message is not about Satan. It is about God. He is the focus. Jesus’ message is not about darkness. It is about light. Jesus’ message is not about the evil one but about deliverance. John 3:16-17: “For God so loved the world He sent His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For the Son did not come into the world to condemn the world but to save the world.” His message is about salvation, not the evil one.
We can get all wrapped up in the evil side of it because of the excitement. Jesus does not do that. There are two major dangers when we talk about Satan and demons. I was reading a little bit of C. S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters this week and at the very beginning Lucifer talks to Wormwood and says, “We have two great benefits to achieving our goals. Either people will deny that we exist or people will become so focused on us that they forget about the power of God. Either they will deny that we exist or become so focused on us that they will see us in everything. Either they will deny us or they will focus upon us. Either way, we win.”
Our commission is not to cast out demons. Our commission is to share the Good News. Our commission is to go, proclaim and teach the Good News of salvation through Jesus Christ. So watch out that you do not get distracted. This is why I do not talk about it much. It is because Jesus does not talk about it much. It is not the center of Jesus’ ministry and neither should it be the center of ours. At times it may be necessary, but it is not to be sensationalized. Afterall, there will be those who "cast out demons" (Matt. 7:22) who do it without the blessing and "authorization" (Matt. 7:23, NLT; "lawlessness" in Newberry's Greek New Testament) of Jesus. To these Jesus will say, "I never knew you. Go away...."
This message is about the authority of Jesus over the evil one, but for you it now turns to the message of Jesus’ authority over you. As a Christian we do not have to worry about being possessed by a demon. A demon cannot possess someone who already belongs to Jesus. Because we belong to Jesus we are off limits to Satan, as far as possession goes. But we can be oppressed, deceived, and hindered. No one was more committed during the early years of the church than Paul but Satan attacked him regularly (2 Cor. 12:7, 1 Thess. 2:18). If Satan has the gall to attacked Jesus, the Son of God, why wouldn’t he want to attack you? Even as a believer, you can allow the demons to have authority over you. How? By listening to what they say. By denying the power of Jesus. Denying the truth of His word. When you deny the truth of His word, deny His promises, you are letting Satan have influence over you. How many want to be influenced by Satan? Well, no! But do you recognize every time we listen to his voice versus the authority of Jesus’ voice, we are choosing who is going to have influence over us?
The battle for us as Christians is not over spiritual possession, because as believers we have Christ living in us. The battle is over whether we will be empowered and strengthened to follow Him. Jesus does not want us to misunderstand His main focus and purpose. It is not about you being smarter, about you being stronger, about you being better; it is about Him having authority over you. Jesus did not come as a miracle worker. He came to be our Savior and life.
Jesus tells us to come to Him and walk with Him daily and if we do His peace will rule our hearts and empower us. In Ephesians 6:10-18 Paul tells us the same thing but uses the picture of a soldier’s armor (NLT): “A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation, as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.” And that is how you walk with Christ on a daily basis. That is how you give Jesus authority over your life on a daily basis. This does not mean you will not have struggles or be attacked. Jesus told us otherwise. The lives of the disciples tell us otherwise. The question is whether we will follow Jesus into the unknown, during hard times, as well as the good.
All authority has been given to Jesus Christ. He has the authority. He is in us and He is greater than the one who is in the world and therefore, we do not have to be overcome by evil, but we can overcome evil with the goodness of Christ. We have a God who is over it all. “I have come to bring good news, not condemnation.” Jesus does not focus on the evil one because He does not want to give him any more press time. He wants you to focus on the Father who brings truth, who brings life, who brings health to your life. You do not have to focus on the evil one when the evil one has already been defeated by the King of kings. He is just trying to scramble and pick up the pieces. But you belong to the King of kings so rely upon Him as Lord over your life.
Mark 2:1-12: The Authority of Jesus Christ Over Sin
Mark 2:1-12: “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 paralyzed 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 paralyzed 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 paralyzed 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!’"
So many people had gathered that He could not talk to the people. He could not teach them anymore. The people had come to be healed from all the neighboring cities. So much so that overnight Jesus withdraws to pray and remove Himself from the crowds. The disciples wake up and look outside and there is this crowd of sick people outside of Peter’s house. And Peter and John look at each other, “What are we going to do? We cannot do anything with this. Go find Jesus.” And they find Jesus off by Himself praying and the disciples say, “Jesus, you have to come. There are all kinds of people to heal. The crowd is so big we do not know what to do with them.” And Jesus says, “Great. Let us go someplace else.” Huh? Let us go someplace else? Does He not care? Absolutely He cares, but He cares more about the mission that the Father gave Him. He did not come simply to heal the sick, to fix people’s temporary problems. He came to cure mankind for eternity through His death, His resurrection, and the truth but it is so easy to get wrapped in the immediacy of the urgent that you neglect the importance of the significant. If Jesus had gone about healing everybody He came in contact with, everybody that wanted healing, His ministry would have ended in three years and we would not know His name. Oh, the learned would be aware that there was a healer back in Jerusalem 2000 years ago, but would it make a difference in our lives? Jesus does heal people to show He cares but He always emphasizes that it is His salvation mission and message that are most important. He has come to do the Father’s work—the reconciliation between God and man.
After leaving for a few days to let the crowds disperse, Jesus again returned to Capernaum to teach. But shortly afterward, “the people heard he had returned home.” Whose house is this? This is Peter’s house. Peter is a man’s man and liked to be in control; he likes things organized. Watch what happens. It brings a new perspective to this story. So many gathered at the house that many had to stand outside. And while Jesus was preaching the word to them something extraordinary happens. “Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed 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.”
This is a great Sunday School story. It is usually presented as an example of how great faith results in great things, usually healing. Four faithful men lower a faithful paralytic to Jesus and he is healed. The lesson usually taught is that healing will happen for you if you believe. It is your faith that is the determining factor. But let's look closely at this because that is not even the main point of the story.
Recognize this guy has people that care about him. It is important to have friends. Good friends are hard to come by; friends that will go out of their way for you. These guys believed that Jesus could make a difference in their friend but because of the crowd could not get him before Jesus. Four men carrying another man on a mat could not push their way through the crowd. Now what? Did they give up? What happens next is kind of humorous. They start digging a hole through Peter’s roof. Can you imagine Peter’s reaction at this point? It has to bring a smile to your face. Can you feel these men’s sense of urgency? This was their friend’s only chance to get to Jesus and they would not easily give up. Even though they may be a little scared of Peter, they do not care.
It is a flat top roof. You can get to the roof by climbing up some stairs. You could sleep up there in the summer when it is hot or work up there because it could hold your weight. The roof is made up of timbers going across a lower level. These timbers were usually about 15 feet, or so, because those are the biggest trees they could get. And then they crossed those with branches and sticks and then cover all that with six inches of mud. They press it down and mold it in so it ends up becoming very strong and waterproof. So these men have a hard, mud-packed ceiling about six inches thick to dig through to get to Jesus. This did not just take a couple minutes. They had to work at it. And you can be sure they had a lot of people yelling at them to stop.
Imagine the scene. Jesus is teaching some great truth concerning the kingdom of God and dust and mud are falling down, chunks of mud and sticks that have been up there for ten, twelve years. The whole room is covered with this haze of dust and chunks of debris falling from above. They finally dig out a hole big enough to lower the man before Jesus. The man is lowered to Jesus’ feet. They definitely have Jesus’ attention, as well as the room full of people. The people were probably very irritated by these men and waiting for Jesus to tear into them for being so rude and disrespectful. “How dare they interrupt the master while he is teaching!” The tense silence is broken by Jesus saying, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” What?! I repeat, What?! What kind of response is that? All who heard what Jesus said were shocked and some were offended, even ‘outraged’. “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?’"
It says, “Jesus saw their faith.” Does their faith heal the paralytic man? We hear a lot about faith healing. The idea is that genuine faith draws blessing, most often physical healing and in prosperity circles, riches. It is us that matters the most. Our faith “forces” a blessing response. And this story is often used to corroborate that teaching. But look closely, that is not the point of the story. Jesus does not heal the man in response to his faith. He tells him his sins are forgiven. This man has saving faith in the Messiah, the Savior of his soul. Knowing this Jesus declares what is true. This man is a child of God and hence his sins are forgiven. And that is the point of the story. Jesus has authority to declare that a person’s sins are forgiven.
Many were puzzled by what Jesus said, but the teachers of the law, Pharisees, understood and were outraged. “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 paralyzed 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.’" To prove that He indeed has authority over sin He heals this man. This healing was for teaching purposes. Jesus did not “have to” heal him. Jesus came to preach forgiveness, reconciliation, and holy living. Healing was instrumental to those ends. Healing was not Jesus’ main mission. But surrounded by such suffering He often demonstrated His compassion by healing. But He always had to seek a balance because to people the healings became the message. Notice numerous times Jesus tells someone who was healed to not publicize it, because when word spread about the healings Jesus lost opportunities to teach and minister concerning the kingdom of God. Crowds so pressed on Him and caused chaos that He could not teach. Jesus wants us to know that He cares but He also wants us to know what is most important. How would we know that Jesus cares about our every day needs if He ignored those needs while He was here? Jesus’ compassion moved Him to heal but His wisdom limits it so as not to become confused with His main mission.
Which is easier to say, you are forgiven or get up and walk? I guess they are both easy to verbalize. But which is easier to accomplish? Which is easier to validate to the listener? If I tell you your sins are forgiven, how do you know that what I am saying is true? You would have to have access to God Himself to verify that. Not too likely for the average person. But if I said I could heal you, all I have to do is heal you to verify my veracity. How do you know the guy’s sins are forgiven him? There is no tangible, physical proof of that. But if a paralytic got up and walked away you could see that. You get to experience it. So to show that He has authority over sin He tells the man to get up and go home.
There were two responses on that day. The people who were there to listen and be taught by Jesus praised God. The Pharisees who were not there to be taught by Him but rather to find fault in Him so they could reject Him as their Messiah cursed Him. They were correct that only God can forgive sins but they refused to receive the healing as a direct statement by Jesus that He indeed had authority over sin, and hence not an ordinary man. The Gospels record many incidents where Jesus said or did something that declares who He is but instead of receiving it the unrepentant religious leaders hated Him all the more. Even the power of God to heal did not deter them. Their traditions and interpretations held more power with them than the words and works of Jesus, the Son of God. And in rejecting Jesus they showed their opposition to the Father.
One of the great faiths of Christianity is that Jesus is the Son of God—as Colossians 1:15 says, He is the “physical representation of the invisible God.” But Jesus here in Mark uses the term Son of Man to describe Himself. What is the significance of this designation? This is the first time it occurs in Mark. It occurs a little bit later in this chapter and it occurs nine other times later on. Jesus uses it to describe himself over 80 times in the New Testament. Why does He pick that? He could say the “Son of David.” He could call himself the Messiah. He could call himself Jesus of Nazareth. Why does He call himself the “Son of Man?” Remember Daniel? Remember all the visions? There was a lion, a bear, a leopard and the dragon, all the different visions. In chapter seven he records, "In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed. “ Daniel talked about the Son of Man having absolute authority with the blessing of the “Ancient of Days.” The Jews knew who the Ancient of Days was. It was God Himself, the Creator of all things. And with the blessing of this Ancient of Days, the Son of Man was to be worshipped and have authority over all.
The other major place in the Old Testament Scriptures in which the Son of Man is prominent is Ezekiel. God calls Ezekiel, “o son of man” ninety times. God would speak to Ezekiel, “O son of man do this,” “O son of man do that,” “O son of man, this is what you need to say,” “O son of man, go here.” He says in chapter two, “Son of man, I am sending you to the Israelites, to a rebellious nation that has rebelled against me; they and their ancestors have been in revolt against me to this very day. The people to whom I am sending you are obstinate and stubborn. Say to them, 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says.' And whether they listen or fail to listen—for they are a rebellious house—they will know that a prophet has been among them.” What did Jesus come to do? If any of you know Ezekiel, you know the story in chapter 37, the story of the dry bones. God addresses Ezekiel as son of man and then tells him what to do. "Prophesy to these bones and say to them, 'Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! This is what the Sovereign LORD says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the LORD.’” And that is what Jesus came to do—give life to all that believe.
Notice this. God promised through Ezekiel to give life to a lifeless Israel. In his vision Ezekiel speaks and the bones gain flesh. He breathes on them and they come to life. In Mark Jesus tells a physically lifeless man that he has been given life and to verify that the man rises up much as the dry bones rose up in Ezekiel’s vision. This man is not just a vision. What happened to him really happened. As Ezekiel prophesied, The Sovereign Lord gives life, and before all in that room Jesus gives life. That man represented what God wanted to do for Israel. But the response of the Pharisees showed they were not willing to receive Him into their lives. Forgiveness requires faith. The paralytic had it; the Pharisees did not. That man walked away with the life of God in him. The Pharisees were still dry bones. And that is the point of what happened that day in Capernaum.
The Authority of Jesus Christ Over Our Past, Present, and Future
Mark 2:13-17: “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 the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.’"
Each of the gospels is written to a distinct audience and Mark’s gospel, written by Mark by the direction of Peter, is written to the Roman mindset, to the Roman world. In fact, some even point out that it might have been written by Peter and Mark while Peter was in prison in Rome awaiting his execution. Peter was able to say, “I was there. Here is what Jesus said and did. Here is what happened.”
The Roman asks, “What gives this man, possibly of illegitimate birth (not being aware of the Incarnation and Virgin Birth), born in some obscure village in Israel the right to tell us or anybody else how to live? What gives some Jew the right to tell me, a Roman citizen, how I should live? I am accountable to one authority only, and that is to Caesar. So what gives Him the right to teach us? Why should we listen to Him?” The book of Mark focuses on the authority of Jesus. Jesus demonstrates His authority to teach. Jesus demonstrates His authority over evil spirits. Jesus demonstrates His authority over sickness. Jesus demonstrates His authority over sin.
And now we are going to see how Jesus can have authority in your daily life; if you let Him. Unlike Jesus’ authority over evil spirits, sickness, and sin, in order for Jesus’ authority to be real and active in our daily lives, we have to want it and allow it. During this time on earth He has given us the power to say “yes” or “no” to Him. And we will see that demonstrated in Mark 2:13-17.
Let’s look at Mark 2:13-17. “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 the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.’" This Levi is Matthew, the writer of the Gospel of Matthew. Recognize that this person and others like him were hated by the Jewish people because they had turned from their loyalties to Judaism, from their fellow man, and turned to security of an income by becoming a Roman tax gatherer. They are considered traitors and untrustworthy. If there is a court case, they could not testify in it. Even if the court case was against his own son a tax gatherer could not testify. He could not testify because “you know those tax people. They lie all the time.” He could not go to synagogue. He could not go to the temple. He could not do anything with the religious people. He was an outcast. Knowing all this he had to make a choice whether to follow the Roman way. And Matthew had been following the Roman way a long time. But in doing so he lost his Jewish heritage and so he was considered an outcast. He was not part of the Jewish family anymore.
And then Jesus says, “Follow me.” And guess what Matthew does? He follows Him. It is just one short sentence, about twelve words, but Mark and Peter wanted to stress the radical call of Jesus. Following Him means a willingness to leave your old life behind. It is more than following His teaching, although that is important. He is telling Matthew, “I want you to get up, leave your occupation, leave your security, leave your future, leave the bank account behind, give them away and go with Me. We are going to wander all over Galilee, without any visible source of income. We are going to trust God to provide for us. No more houses. We are going to sleep wherever we find ourselves or if someone offers hospitality to us. We are going to walk away from everything that you have relied on so far.” When you are called to follow Jesus, it is a pretty radical call. You may or may not be called to Borneo, China, Columbia, or anywhere else foreign in the world, but the call to follow Jesus where you are is still radical. His ways are different. His mindset is different. His heart is different. To follow Him means to be different.
Let us go on. “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'?’ house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples for there were many who followed him.” First thing that Matthew does is invite his friends. He is willing to share the good news, willing to share what he found in Jesus. In fact, there is the possibility that one particular guy was there that we read about later. His name is Zaccheus who later comes to Jesus (Luke 19).
It says, “Many tax gatherers or tax collectors (or some verses say tax farmers—kind of a strange concept for us), and sinners.” I want you to know because it says it three times in these two verses. Tax collectors and sinners. Tax collectors and sinners. Sinners and tax collectors. The New International Version does something rather interesting here. They put quotation marks around the word sinners. Tax collectors and “sinners.” What does that mean? There are no quotation marks in Greek. What gives them the authority to do that? Why are they doing that? Because “sinners” is a label that is being placed upon individuals by the Pharisees. They are calling them sinners, not God. They have been labeled sinners. Do we ever negatively label people without knowing them? These people were labeled “sinners” and it was meant in a very derogatory way. Four times it is used in just this passage.
Those people who are outside of the Jewish legal system were looked down at and called “sinners.” The Pharisees defined exactly how an individual was to behave and if you did not behave exactly that way you are called a “sinner.” The word sinner means different things to different people. Without going into a long list of people’s ideas and attitudes the Bible paints a different picture. One definition of sin I have heard often is to “miss the mark.” The idea is that God’s law states what is expected and to violate it in any way is to sin. The focus is on behavior. This is not a wrong view but incomplete. The focus is on the law. But Jesus told them they missed the point. God has always wanted men and women to worship and walk with Him in spirit and truth (John 4:23). Sin therefore is to walk separate from Him—to go your own way. Straying from God’s way. The Pharisees totally missed this. In fact, the Pharisees also misrepresented the law. Their own traditions, teachings, and opinions became the standard by which they judged others. A sinner was someone who was not like them. The Pharisees felt their role was to straighten everyone else out but the real tragedy was that they themselves were crooked.
Notice the contrast between Jesus and the Pharisees. The Pharisees exist to certify your goodness. “Ok, you have done good. You get the kosher stamp of approval. You have done all the right things this week. You had a good week. You get a star on your report card.” Jesus did not come to certify us. He came to save us. He came to redeem us. He came to give us life. He came to teach us how to let that life permeate all that we do—how to walk with God.
So, what does that mean for us? Jesus has called us to open our hearts to Him that He might stir and rebuild them. His focus is not to merely change our behavior, but to transform us from the inside out. If He is our Lord and Savior He has put a new heart, a heart that is sensitive to Him, within us (Ezekiel. 36:24-26). It is change from the inside out, not imposing new behaviors on us as the Pharisees were constantly trying to do. We are called to be healed that we might have an open heart to Him and might have the strength to do what He says. Matthew gives us an example of how to let Jesus have authority in our lives—“he rose to follow Him.” No matter your past, things can change for you, if you also follow Him from this day forward. Matthew went from being a greedy, materialistic tax collector to a man who went to foreign nations (Unger’s Bible Dictionary) to witness for Jesus. And it all started that day when he “got up and followed Jesus.”
Mark 2:18 -- 3:6: The Authority of Jesus Christ Over Religion
Mark 2:18- 3:6: "Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. Some people came and asked Jesus, 'How is it that John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not?' Jesus answered, 'How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot, so long as they have him with them. But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast. 'No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. Otherwise, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins.' One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. The Pharisees said to him, 'Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?' He answered, 'Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.' Then he said to them, 'The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.' Another time Jesus went into the synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath. Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, 'Stand up in front of everyone.' Then Jesus asked them, 'Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?' But they remained silent. He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, 'Stretch out your hand.' He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored. Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus."
We have been looking at the authority of Jesus. First of all, we looked at the authority of Jesus to teach, that Jesus did not teach like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel. He did not teach like the prophets. He did not teach like the scribes. He did not even teach like David, but He taught like Moses, as someone who spoke with authority, as if He got His words directly from God, which He did. That is what makes the message of Jesus so important. I will say it is even more important than Moses’ message because Jesus comes to correct all the messed up thinking that man has done to Moses’ message.
God gave this message clear and simple to the Israelites. But when mankind gets a message, they tend to reframe it according to their understanding and their comfort level. I am going to say the same way that you can take the message of Jesus and reframe it according to your comfort level. We reframe even the words of Jesus into our own comfort level and that is what creates what we are talking about in this message—religion. When you take the message of God and reframe it according to your thoughts, your ideas, your impression, your interpretation of it, it becomes a religion. Religion is a man-made path to God. It may start off as the right path to God, but it gets contaminated by other things that you add to it. We have examples of all kinds of other churches, churches even within our neighborhood that have taken the word of God and added their own teaching to it and even have their own books. God, protect me from adding anything to the word of God, even my own ideas and thoughts unless they are firmly grounded and routed in the truth that God has in His word.
I have a pretty good imagination. Some of you have talked to me and you know that about me, but that is not appropriate for this kind of conversation. It is what God thinks that is important. Not, what does Dave think? We need to ask, what does God say? What does His word say? What is His message to us? We are talking about the authority of Jesus over religion, over man’s path to God. Religion is a system of beliefs or actions used to earn divine favor. If you say certain words, if you go to this place, if you do these things or donate these foods, then God will be pleased with you. If you sacrifice this thing, if you do this or that, go here or there, then God will be pleased with you and maybe you will get His help with your problems, your fix for your situations, or added blessings of things you want. People all around us, and even we end up sometimes playing that game, do we not? Do we sometimes take the truth of God and add our own interpretation to it? Our own understanding of what God wants from us? It is Jesus’ authority in your life that matters. Anything that adds to or takes away from the message of God in your life becomes a religion.
A relationship is a heart-bond, rooted in personal interaction. Many of you I know but I do not have a relationship with you because we have not been able to connect in a heartfelt way, where you really know me and I really know you. We are what somebody would call acquaintances. Jesus does not want to be your acquaintance. “Oh, I know Him. Yeah, he goes to my church.” Jesus also wants to be more than your friend. “Yeah, I know him. I play racquetball with him.” He wants to be your partner in life. He wants a heart connection. “I want to know you. I want to know when you are happy, when you are sad, what things are moving you, what temptations you are wrestling with, what is going on inside of you so that I can be an encouragement to you, so I can lift you up.” We have a God who wants to have a relationship with us.
As we read through Mark we find areas of conflict better Jesus and the religion of the Jews that show the separation between Jesus and Judaism, between a personal relationship with the living God and a form of religion that seeks to earn God’s favor. Read Mark 2:18 – 3:6. In these verses we find three areas of conflict that exposed who and what the religious leaders were really about.
Mark 2:18-22 talk about fasting (fasting is not eating or drinking food and drink, or certain foods and drinks, for a period of time). Mark 2:23-28 talk about the Sabbath. Mark 3:1-6 talk about healing and the doing of good. Mark chapter 2, verse 18. “Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. Some people came and asked Jesus, ‘How is it that John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting but yours are not?’” In other words, “Why aren’t your disciples as religious as the Pharisee’s disciples and John’s disciples? Why aren’t they doing the religious things?” Verse 19: “Jesus answered, ‘How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot so long as they have him with them. But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them and on that day they will fast.’” Did Jesus answer the question? Yes, but you have to look for it. Do you go on a fast on a feast day? No. Feast days are celebrations of God’s provision. Jesus came to bring a time of celebration and good news, not fasting. We will see what that means shortly.
It says, “The bridegroom is with them.” Jesus calls Himself the “bridegroom.” If you know your Old Testament, that is the image that God gives to Israel about His relationship with them, that He is the bridegroom, that He is the groom and Israel is to be His wife, but, unfortunately, history records that they were continually unfaithful. In fact, God tells Hosea to marry a prostitute who was unfaithful to him time and time again and even had children with other men. Now, if I am Hosea, I am saying, “Huh?” This is not just a temporary thing. This is his life. But God does it to show Israel how she has been toward Him and how longsuffering He has been toward her. Despite God’s graciousness and provision, Israel continues to chase after other gods. Even though they had everything they needed they spurned the true Creator God for false gods and their shiny trinkets.
Going on, verses 21 and 22: “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. Otherwise, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins.” What is Jesus saying here? Jesus is saying, if you are going to follow God, you are going to have to be flexible. Israel took the liberality of God and regulated it to a strict list of do’s and don’ts. They had lost all the freedom and enjoyment of life that God wanted them to have. They had robbed God of bringing blessing into their lives. To follow God, we must learn to remain flexible and open to His leading.
And then comes the contention about the Sabbath. The Sabbath is a big deal to them. “Jesus was going through the grain fields and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some of the heads of grain. The Pharisees said to them, ‘Look. Why, what they are doing is unlawful and why are they doing that on the Sabbath.’ Jesus answered, “Have you ever read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? In the days of Abahar, the high priest, he entered the house of God, the temple and ate the consecrated bread, the showbread that was on the table, which is lawful only for the priest to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.’” Then he goes on to explain, “Then he said to them, ‘The Sabbath was made for men, not man for the Sabbath. So, the son of man is Lord even of the Sabbath.’” The Sabbath was made for men. It was made by God as a gift to us. Do you realize the Sabbath was given for us to enjoy life. Not an interruption in our schedule, not a burden, not a problem, not a “oh, I cannot, oh, man. It is almost the Sabbath. We had better get our fun stuff done.” The Sabbath was given by God so that you could enjoy and relish and have joy in life. And what the Jews had done to the Sabbath was an “oh, dear. Clock struck. We are stuck now.” But Jesus says, “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath. Of the most visible, public sign of your religion, I am the God of that. I am the God of the Sabbath.”
The Sabbath is how everyone knew these people were Jewish. They did not go around checking everyone’s circumcision. But when they do not show up for a Saturday event there is a reason. Everyone understood why. It is a visible sign and always has been and still is today. From Friday night to Saturday night, the people were to stop working, spend time with their families and worship God. It was intended to be a time of physical rest and spiritual renewal. The religious leaders made it into a system of rules and regulations that became burdensome and contrary to God’s original intent. It became so bad that they condemned Jesus for healing the sick and helping people. Their rules quenched the doing of good. Their religiosity blinded them to God’s will for their lives and shut them off from following His daily leading.
And he goes on and says, “Then another time he went to the synagogue and a man with a shriveled hand was there and some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus.” Imagine, they were looking for a reason to accuse Him. “So they watched Him closely to see if He would heal him on the Sabbath. And Jesus said to the man with shriveled hand, ‘Stand up in front of everyone.” Jesus knows they are looking for an excuse and He is not going to hide out. “Okay, you think I might do something like heal someone on the Sabbath? Stand up. I am going to do it right in front of you so there is no mistaking it.” He wants them to know how far they were removed from God’s heart on this issue. He wants them to know He is Lord of the Sabbath; He is Lord Jehovah Jireh. He is the one who is in charge. “And Jesus said to Him, ‘Which is lawful on the Sabbath—to do good or to do evil? To save or to kill?’ But they were silent.” He said “Stand up” and then He asked him, “Okay, is it right for me to heal, to help, to do good or should I leave him in his condition?” It is interesting that the Jews had a list of what was okay and what was not okay to do on the Sabbath. They listed 49 major things you could not do on the Sabbath. Number three on the whole list was reaping or harvesting which was what they thought Jesus was doing in the first one but He was not. But healing was never part of it because that just did not happen. You could only be healed, what they are talking about here, with the power of God and well, there is no point in legislating against that because God is not here. But Jesus says, “I am here.” And He does heal and it is not against the law. But look at Jesus’ reaction. “And Jesus looked around at them in anger and deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts and he said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand’ and he stretched it out and his hand was completely restored.” Jesus looked at them in anger and deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts.
Do you recognize what is happening here? Jesus is angry? Why is Jesus angry? Because they do not care about good, about mercy, about a miracle, about kindness, about the work of God in their lives. They care about what they think God should be doing. They have put God in a box. We have defined what can be done and so this should be done and Jesus says, “You are just like your fathers.” Not just your fathers, but your fathers’ fathers “who have come before you from generation to generation.” God in Christ looked at them with anger and was deeply distressed. God, Yahweh, looked at the Israelites with anger and deep distress because of their stubborn and hard hearts. And that is the core of rebellion and of the issue that have plagued every one of us from the beginning. Stubborn hearts!
We are barely through two chapters and already we have reached a turning point. Everything shifts from this point forward. “At this point then, the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus.” Not shut Him up, not quiet Him down, but how they might kill Jesus. Why do they want to kill Him? Not because He is teaching wrong things but because He is declaring Himself to be God. He is Lord of the Sabbath and all of the things He has done have clearly shown Him to be God and they cannot handle that because it does not fit in their nice little box. Here is the contrast. He has just asked them, “Is it right to do good and save a life or to do evil and kill?” And it says, “And they are silent because they cannot answer.” They know it is right to do good on the Sabbath. Scripture is very clear. For every Sabbath rule saving a life pre-empts it. That is the most important thing before God. You are permitted to break your Sabbath routine to save a life, even the life of an ox or a goat or a chicken. Saving a life pre-empts Sabbath rest. Doing good is not work. But what does it say they do next? The Pharisees begin to plot how they might kill Jesus. And who do they start plotting with? This is the irony of the whole thing. These who are so pure in their own eyes and separate themselves from impurity, partner with the very Romans authorities they despise. They do not have the authority to execute so they team with the enemy to get rid of, in their eyes, an even greater enemy—Jesus.
Where does fasting fit in our lives? “You do not fast when the bridegroom is with you,” Jesus says. What does that mean? Should we fast? We can fast if we want to. That is your choice before God, but you should not do it because you have to or because you are going to try to get God to do things your way. We fast to express our deep-felt dedication and commitment to God. Jesus says, “Fasting is fine but now is not the time.” Why? All of history, from the Garden of Eden, from the sin, all these things from Abraham giving a promise of a seed that would come, all of this has funneled down to this point in history when the Son of God walks on the earth to be the Savior of mankind. And then everything from here is going to go the other way. This is a cross-point of history. Fasting is for a time of grief and repentance and submission before God. Jesus’ presence is a time of celebration before God. That is why He equates it to a wedding feast because He has come to join with those who love Him, to provide the way to Heaven for all of those who accept Him. “Good news, the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” That is the message He came to bring to us. Not, “Here is a list of 40 more things you have to do.”
It is important for you to know God commanded Israel to practice only one fast day per year. You know what that was? The Day of Atonement. On the Day of Atonement the High Priest goes in and sprinkles the blood of the lamb for the forgiveness of sins on the Mercy Seat, signifying Christ’s blood shed for us on the cross. That was a day of confession and repentance to show there is nothing more important than forgiveness and relationship with God. But Israel started thinking, “You know, if one day is good, then more must be better.” And so they started adding to it. They said, fasting is a time of repentance and of mourning and so what could be more important to remember and fast over than when the law was broken? When Moses came down from Mt. Sinai, he broke the tablets and we have a day of fasting to remember the breaking of the law. And well that one, yeah, the temple being destroyed. That is horrible. We will have another day of fasting to remember when the temple was destroyed. Or when Babylon came and conquered Jerusalem. That is another important day. We will have to fast to remember and mourn over that. And then the high priest who was killed. We will fast and remember that. What about Esther? Remember when Israel was going to be wiped out by King Xerxes and Esther said, “Fast and pray with me that we might be delivered.” Let us celebrate that too. And so they added five more fastings to show their dedication, but also their thanksgiving for what God had done.
Those are all voluntary fastings, but they started becoming religious. This is what we do. I do not care if you feel like it. This is what we are going to do because this is what religious people do and then by the time of Jesus, if one is good, six must be better. Well, they keep wanting to be better and better and better. By the time of Jesus, there were over 100 fast days every year. Every Monday and Thursday were fast days for the Pharisees. They had multiple fast days to show their religiousness and how important God is to them. Now, there is a rightness about giving up things, about fasting for God. But there is a wrongness when it is for show and an external thing you do to earn God’s favor. Jesus says very clearly fasting is good. But do not fast and say, uh, uh, all I can think about is Big Macs. He says, “Wash your face and comb your hair and put on your clean clothes. Do not walk around looking like you are fasting that you might be doing it before God rather than for the opinion of man.”
Religion turns dedication into imitation. It is phony and it can be phony for us in our prayer life, in our worship time, in our church going, in our ministry. Does going to church earn points for you in heaven? If you are on the point system, you have missed the point because you can never earn enough points. It is by grace you are saved through faith. All those things we do, we do to express our heart thanks to God and dedication to Him. Our worship is not about singing good. Our worship is about expressing our hearts before God. He rejoices at hearing your heart lifted up to Him. Whatever you do, serve God wholeheartedly. With your heart, not out of ritual, not out of routine.
So, what about now? It was time for fasting in the Old Testament. It was time for feasting and celebration when Jesus was here. What time is it now? What should we be doing? Fasting or feasting? Neither one. Those were different times. Now it is time to continue to share the good news and to reach out to others with the good news. That is exactly what Jesus told us to do. “Go ye into all the world and proclaim the Gospel. Make disciples of all nations, teaching them to obey all I have commanded you.” Teach them. Give them the forgiveness He have given you. Help them to understand. Reach out to them. That is His commission to us and while we are doing it fulfill the Great Commandment to love God with our heart, mind, and soul. And secondly, love one another as ourselves. That is what time it is. That is what we are to be about. Our job is not to fast. We may fast occasionally but that is not our primary job.
To follow God, you must remain flexible. What does that mean? Jesus talks to the Pharisees and says, “Oh, you Pharisees, you carefully tithe everything, even your spices. But you completely ignore the great things of God--justice and love and mercy. “ God is like a river, flowing and washing over us. Men keep putting Him in a box, easily manageable. In Ephesians He says , “For I am the Lord. He who can do abundantly more than anything you can think, dream, or even imagine.” I have a pretty good imagination. But my imagination and your imagination cannot contain God, of what He can do, what He will do, what He would love to do in and through your life. To follow God you must remain flexible. Religion puts God in our own little box and makes us less responsive to His daily leading. God is not limited to the Ten Commandments. He is not in the pillar of fire. He was there as leader showing the people but it does not contain Him. That is one way He showed Himself.
“I have come that you might have life in abundance.” Abundance in our lives is going to be different for each one of us. That is because He is our personally connected Lord and Savior. We are all individually loved and treasured. Is your heart open to higher living? Are you willing to let God do something in your tomorrow that He never has been able to do in your past? You say, “No, I am just not sure if I can get there.” You cannot. But God, Christ in you, can. That is His promise. It is not just up to you. It is about you teaming with the Creator of the universe to do great things.
Moses said, “I can’t talk good.” God said, “Who made your mouth?” Paul said, “Ah, ah, ah.” God said, “Let us go. In your weakness I am made strong.” Religion follows rules instead of following God. You will not find a lot of rules about how you are supposed to be, what you are supposed to do this week. There are a lot of things you are not supposed to do, but God wants to nudge you in normal, common ways to talk to someone, to encourage them, do this, do that. Religion follows rules instead of following the living God. Jesus’ constant invitation to His disciples and to you is, “Follow me.”
So, how do you know you are having a relationship with God rather than rules? What is the relationship about? Because I am used to religion, doing the right thing, how do I know I am in a living relationship with God? Rely on His truth to come into your heart and follow through with His power. His truth in your heart with His power. His truth, not just your ideas. His truth will quicken your heart so it affects the way in which you feel and think, not just what you know. He wants it to be saturating your heart so it comes out of your life. It is His power, not your strength. And that ties back to what God really intended for mankind from the beginning. Even in the Old Testament when they were living by the religious rules, God kept saying, “This is not what I want. I have shown you, o man,” Micah 6:8, “what is good. And what [I] the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with [Me].” He wants your hearts to be soft and to love mercy. He wants you to know the truth and be constantly connected with Him. We constantly go in wrong directions if we express ourselves without “bringing every thought to the obedience of Christ first” (2 Corinthians 10:5). Jesus cannot make it any simpler than this--“Follow me!”