01.03.18

Fragmentary Notes on Mark’s Gospel (chap. 2-3)

Series Note: As the post title suggests, this series of posts includes fragmentary thoughts on the gospel. It’s not intended as a commentary or full treatment of the texts. It’s some of the fruit of my own devotional reading offered for whatever small encouragement it might also offer others.


If we ministered the way our Lord ministered we would always be on the move:

  • : “when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home.”
  • : “He went out again beside the sea….”
  • : “…he reclined at table in [Levi’s] house….”
  • : “One Sabbath he was going through the grainfields, and as they made their way….”
  • : “Again he entered the synagogue….”
  • : “Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the sea….”
  • : “And he went up on the mountain….”
  • : “Then he went home….”

Our Lord does not waste away in a cubicle or, as I’m doing now, spend hours at a screen. He moves. He itinerates. He comes and he goes. Ministry that builds a kingdom has a rhythm and an orbit. From Capernaum to the sea to the mountains into the synagogues through the fields and home again. That’s more expansive than our tendency to make the commute to and from the office.

Question: How can we get more itineracy into our rhythms of life and ministry?

In all the movement Jesus does the same basic things:

  • At home “he was preaching the word to them” ().
  • Out by the sea “he was teaching them” ().
  • Eating with sinners and tax collectors he explained, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” ().
  • Passing through the grainfields questioned by Pharisees, the Lord declares, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is even Lord of the Sabbath” ().
  • In the synagogue and by the sea, the Lord “healed many, so that all who had diseases pressed around him” ().
  • On the mountain he appointed the Twelve ().

Our Lord teaches and He heals. Those two things relate to one another. His teaching heals broken understandings and wayward hearts. His healing teaches His true identity. He is the Son of Man with authority on earth to forgive sins (), the Great Physician who heals the sick and calls sinners to repentance (), the Bridegroom with His wedding party in joy (), the Lord of the Sabbath (), the One who casts out Satan and plunders his house (), and the one who makes followers of God His very own family ().

Question: How can we use our words and our actions to more consistently reveal who Jesus is?

As the Lord moves and as He teaches, He encounters opposition. Expect opposition in ministry from both devils and dunces. The Pharisees are the dunces, the ones who “don’t get it.” Or, maybe they are the ones who do, in fact, “get it” but in their foolishness still refuse it.

They want to know why Jesus speaks to forgive sins since only God can forgive (). Jesus performs a greater miracle–healing the paralytic–indicating He has authority to forgive sins. Instead of seeing the greater miracle and crying out to be forgiven, the Pharisees astound us by moving to their next objection.

They want to know why Jesus eats with tax collectors and sinners (). Doctors go to the sick, Jesus replies. God is interested in sinners He will make saints, not “saints” who know nothing of their sin. He can forgive sin. He has come for sinners. The Pharisees move to their next objection.

They want to know why Jesus followers do not fast like John’s disciples and the Pharisees (). Surely holy people fast? But they do not understand the joy of the kingdom of heaven. The wedding party does not fast as the bride and groom celebrate their wedding day. They rejoice! They put on the clothing of gladness and they delight in the bride and groom. They take part in the celebration with light and cheerful hearts. As long as Jesus is with His disciples, they shall celebrate instead of fast. The old religious ways will not hold this new wine and fresh cloth (). Unmotivated by joy, the Pharisees move to their next objection.

Why does Jesus’ disciples do what is unlawful on the Sabbath? By now we see the change in strategy. Unable to trap or disqualify Jesus with their first two objections, the second two turn the sniper’s scope onto Jesus followers. If they cannot discredit the Man then they will discredit His followers. Or so they think. They have not read their Bibles well or they would recall King David and his men doing in the Temple what only the priests were supposed to do. Pharisees enslave themselves to a law that was meant to serve them. Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath and He best defines its purpose–our good, refreshment, rest, wholeness, peace, replenishment, and satisfaction. Disinterested in rest, the Pharisees move to their next objection.

This time Jesus reads their hearts, the question that floats unspoken in their minds (). “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” the Lord asks. They should have known the answer based on their last interaction. They should have known the answer based on common grace. They likely knew the answer “but they were silent.” Our Lord’s response ought to sober us. “He looked at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart…” ().

To see a person in need and to refuse aid–while knowing God’s law requires mercy and relief–is hardness of heart. Such hardness angers Jesus. Such hardness grieves Jesus. If we wish Jesus to be angry and grieved with us all we need to do is refuse relief to our neighbor in need when it’s in our ability to give it.

Question: How many of us anger and grieve our Lord in our opposition and hardness of heart?

The good news: Our hardness does not hinder Jesus’ helping. He heals the man in the presence of the hard-hearted (3:5). It makes them harder still (3:6). Seeing Jesus do what is right will make us better or bitter. We will learn the true meaning of the law or we will either enslave ourselves to false meanings or seek the destruction of Christ’s witness.

The Lord moves around to the people teaching and healing so we might see who He really is and believe rather than object. As we follow Jesus we learn from Jesus. We learn Jesus.

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Thabiti Anyabwile
Thabiti Anyabwile serves as a pastor of Anacostia River Church (Washington DC). He is the happy husband of Kristie and the adoring father of two daughters and one son. Holler at him on Twitter: @ThabitiAnyabwil

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