Biblical Studies/New Testament Commentaries/The Gospel of Mark/Chapter 2
|Mark 2:1-28 (New International Version)|
|Jesus Heals a Paralytic
1A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. 2So many gathered that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. 3Some men came, bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them. 4Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralyzed man was lying on. 5When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Son, your sins are forgiven." 6Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, 7"Why does this fellow talk like that? He's blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?" 8Immediately 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? 9Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up, take your mat and walk'? 10But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins." He said to the paralytic, 11"I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home." 12He 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!"
The Calling of Levi
13Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them. 14As 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. 15While 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. 16When 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'?" 17On 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."
Jesus Questioned About Fasting
18Now 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?" 19Jesus answered, "How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot, so long as they have him with them. 20But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast. 21"No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse. 22And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, he pours new wine into new wineskins."
Lord of the Sabbath
23One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. 24The Pharisees said to him, "Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?" 25He answered, "Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? 26In 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." 27Then he said to them, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath."
1)Jesus returns to Capernaum A)Comes into a home B)Large crowds gather C)Jesus begins to preach the Word 2)Four men bring a paralytic A)The men want Jesus to heal their friend i)They are unable to get to Jesus B)The men climb to the roof C)The four men dig through the roof i)The paralytic is lowered down to Jesus D)Jesus forgives the paralytic 3)The Pharisees see this take place A)They are upset i)They accuse Jesus of Blasphemy B)Jesus responds to these accusations C)Jesus offers to prove his authority i)Jesus heals the paralytic 4)Jesus begins teaching by the lake A)On the way Jesus calls Levi to follow i)Levi leaves everything for Jesus B)Levi holds a party C)Pharisees are upset again i)They question Jesus' affiliations with people D)Jesus responds i)offers a proverb to the Pharisees 5)Religious leaders and John's disciples are fasting A)Jesus has upset the Pharisees again i)They question Jesus' lack of fasting B)Jesus responds with three parables i)Parable of the bridegroom ii)Parable of the cloth iii)Parable of the wine skins 6)Jesus and his disciples are in a grain field A)The Disciples begin to pick and eat grain B)Once again the Pharisees are upset i)They question his respect for the Sabbath laws C)Jesus quotes Scripture (1 Samuel) i)David broke laws to care for his needs D)Jesus sheds light on who he truly is
(v. 1-5) Jesus has returned to Capernaum, most likely to Simon Peter’s house (see 1:21, 29). So many people have gathered to hear him preach that there is no room for any more, in fact the people are so many that they are not only enclosed in the building but crowded outside the door as well. Some men brought a friend who could not walk in hopes that Jesus would heal him. Clearly these men were desperate to get to Jesus because they climbed to the roof and dug through its clay exterior in order to get past the crowd. Once they had broken through the roof they lowered their paralyzed friend through the opening to where Jesus was. Jesus recognized that these men did such a bold action because of their faith in him. Jesus then turned to the paralytic and said “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
(v. 6-12) The Pharisees were sitting together and when they saw this they thought Jesus was a blasphemer for claiming to forgive sins, a work reserved for God. Jesus knew what these men were thinking and immediately said to them "Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up, take your mat and walk'? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins . . . ." He then turned to the paralytic and said "I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home." (NIV) To everyone’s amazement the man did just that. He got up, took his mat, and walked home! The people praised God because they had never before seen anything like this.
(v. 13-17) Jesus moved out to a lake to teach the surrounding crowds. He saw a tax collector named Levi, who was the son of Alphaeus. Jesus told Levi to follow him and Levi got up and did so. Jesus then went to have dinner at Levi’s house with other tax collectors and others who were looked at as “sinners.” When the Pharisees saw this they were appalled, and asked Jesus’ disciples why he was eating with these people. Jesus overheard what they were saying and said “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (NKJV)
(v. 18-22) At this time John the Baptist’s disciples were fasting, most likely because of John’s imprisonment. People asked Jesus why the disciples of John and the Pharisees were fasting and Jesus’ disciples were not. He responded, “The friends of a bridegroom don't go without eating while he is still with them. But the time will come when he will be taken from them. Then they will go without eating. No one patches old clothes by sewing on a piece of new cloth. The new piece would shrink and tear a bigger hole. No one pours new wine into old wineskins. The wine would swell and burst the old skins. Then the wine would be lost, and the skins would be ruined. New wine must be put into new wineskins.” (CEV)
(v. 23-28) Jesus and his disciples were walking through the grain fields on the Sabbath and picking heads of grain. The Pharisees saw this and reminded Jesus that this was unlawful. He answered “Really? Haven't you ever read what David did when he was hungry, along with those who were with him? How he entered the sanctuary and ate fresh bread off the altar, with the Chief Priest Abiathar right there watching—holy bread that no one but priests were allowed to eat—and handed it out to his companions? The Sabbath was made to serve us; we weren't made to serve the Sabbath. The Son of Man is no lackey to the Sabbath. He's in charge!" (The Message).
Jesus Heals a Paralytic (1-12)
Vs. 1. It is stated that Jesus is returning to Capernaum again. This ties into the fact that he has been there before only days before. Now Jesus was not one to enter a town wanting everybody to know, but rather secretly (1:45). However, as secretive as he tried to be, he was still unable to hide his presence. Inevitably, large crowds began to come and see him. Commentators often debate as to whose home is referred to in this passage. It is considered likely that it is Peter's home. However, since the actual Greek phrase is idiomatic for "at home", it could also simply be referring to whatever house Jesus happened to be staying in while visiting Capernaum.
Vs. 2. The fact that the crown is so large emphasizes Jesus' fame. Jesus hear is said to be preaching the "word". This "word that Jesus is speaking is most likely the same message he is found preaching in Mark 1:15 which reads: "The time has come," he said. "The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!"
Vs. 3. In vs. 1:32 people are bringing to Jesus their sick and demon possessed, here again we find the same thing, four men bringing those in need of healing to Jesus. The fact that this verse mentions the number of men carrying the paralytic is emphasizing how detrimental this man's situation is. He can not even walk, let alone crawl to Jesus, but instead has to have four of his friends carry him. This also sheds light on the great faith that these men have in Jesus, both the paralytic and his friends, which in turn highlights Jesus' fame again.
Vs. 4. This scene is quite similar to vs. 1:23 where Jesus was interrupted during his teaching by a man with an unclean spirit. This time we find four men digging through the roof of the house Jesus is speaking in and lowering a paralytic down to Jesus. Now the building that this is taking place in is probably a typical Galilean house. These homes usually had some sort of stairway or ladder to get on the roof, which was flat. The reason that these men had to "dig" through the roof indicates that it is made of mud like most houses during this time period. They lower him through the roof in order to get past the crowd so that Jesus can heal the man.
Vs. 5. These men had made their faith more than just internal, they turned their faith into actual work. The faith of these men was so great that they took initiative to get their friend to Jesus because they believed he could heal him. Jesus admired the faith of these men but did not physically heal the paralytic right away as one would expect. Instead, Jesus took care of the paralytic's mos important problem, his need for forgiveness. Jesus' words "your sins are forgiven" may be a bit confusing to a modern day reader. However, this was very relevant in the first century. During this time sin and disease were related. People considered any kind of disease or physical problem a result of past sins.
Vs. 6-7. The "scribes" mentioned in these verses are somewhat of a contrast to the four men and the paralytic who had such great faith in Jesus. In many translations the term "thinking in their hearts" appears when describing how the scribes felt about what Jesus was doing. Heart is not taken literal, but as a metaphor for the heart being the core of a persons feelings and emotions about something. They accuse Jesus of blasphemy, which is punishable by death according to Lev 24:15. The scribes accuse Jesus of blasphemy not because he was claiming to be God, but because he was employing the act of forgiveness that is solely God's work. Whether the scribes believe it or not, their questioning shed's light on the fact that Jesus is the promised Messiah, the one who would have the authority to forgive sins without it being blasphemous.
Vs. 8-9. Now Jesus does not even hear these accusations about himself, according to v. 6 the scribes were "thinking to themselves." Yet Jesus is still aware of what they are thinking whether they had confronted him or not. Mark gives his audience no explanation as to how Jesus could perceive such a thing. It is likely though that mark would have assumed that if the prophets of the Old Testament could do this than of course Jesus could, leaving no reason for there to be an explanation. However, the original Greek leaves room for the interpretation that the scribes were whispering or talking amongst themselves, in which case Jesus would have overheard them. Despite how Jesus came to this knowledge, he did, and he is obviously a little bit bothered by their thinking and immediately responds to them. He asks them why they are thinking these things. His response is not one of anger or defense, but teaching. When he asks which is easier, forgiving the paralytic or healing him, it is rhetorical, because the answer is obvious, neither. These are both acts that not man, but only God can accomplish.
Vs. 10. When Jesus says "so that you may know" he is indicating that if he heals the paralytic, than he is proving to the scribes and all who were present that he has the authority to forgive sins. Jesus refers to himself as "the Son of Man" in this verse. This is the first of fourteen different times in the book of Mark that Jesus refers to himself under this title. Mark does not explain what this means most likely because the audience to whom he was writing understood what it meant. When Jesus says "man" it should not be assumed that all "men" have the authority of forgiveness. Only Jesus, the Son of Man has that authority. An interesting thing to note in this passage is that Jesus does not say that he has received authority to forgive sins, but he says "the Son of Man has authority." This would imply to the people that he is the promised Messiah.
Vs. 11-12. Here is the proof that Jesus has. He commands the paralytic to pick up his mat and walk, and he does. This action confirms Jesus' ability to heal and authority to forgive. The verse goes on to say that "all were amazed." The fact that it says all includes everyone in the room, even the scribes who were so quick to criticize and reluctant to believe Jesus. The story ends without any mention of the scribes, but only with God's glorification, which is Mark's intention in writing this. The purpose of the story is to amplify Jesus' authority. (Collins, Stein, Williamson)
The Calling of Levi (13-17)
Vs. 13-14. The lake, or sea, that Mark is referring to is the Sea of Galilee. When Levi is called, the situation is very similar to past events where Jesus has told someone to follow him. For example, Simon and Andrew were both called by Jesus using similar terminology as with Levi such as "passing by", "he saw", and "follow me". The fact that Mark mentions Levi as being the "son of Alphaeus" causes some confusion for several reasons. First of all, the Levi in this verse is only mentioned one other time and that is in Luke 5:27. Another problem is that James is also mentioned several times in the New Testament as being the son of Alphaeus. To make things more complicated, the tax collector in the Matthew parallel is named Matthew instead of Levi. The disciple Matthew in the Gospel of Mathew is said to be a toll collector, while none of the other gospels give this designation to him. There are several different opinions in trying to explain this confusion. One of the most widely accepted is that Matthew and Levi are the same person which is likely because of the several other men in the Bible that go by two different names such as Simon/Peter, Saul/Paul, and John/Mark. Another common assumption is that Levi and James are brothers since they are both mentioned as being the sons of Alphaeus. What we do know about Levi is that he was not a well liked person. During this time period, Jews considered publicans such as tax collectors were as unclean and defiling as people with leprosy. The majority of tax collectors were corrupt in that they overcharged people on their taxes in order to gain their own personal wealth. Needless to say, they were hated by almost everyone. This in turn opens up the readers eyes to Jesus' indiscriminate love when he directly asks Levi to follow him.
Vs. 15. In this scene we find Levi holding somewhat of a celebration for Jesus, Jesus' disciples, and all of Levi's friends (which were other tax collectors and business acquaintances). This dinner was a way for Levi to make these people aware of his new life and the master of that life. Now it is widely assumed that this was Levi's house, especially since the Luke parallel states this. However, the original can be debated to be either saying it is Levi's or Jesus' house. Since there is no indication of Jesus having a house anywhere in Mark, it is usually assumed to be Levi's home. The text says that they ones at the table were "tax collectors" and other "sinners". The "sinners" referred to here were most likely Jews who no longer acknowledged Mosaic Law or those involved in economic trading that the Orthodox Jews deemed unclean.
Vs. 16-17. The scribes start to complain, not to Jesus, but his disciples, about Jesus' direct disobedience of the law when he ate with such people. Now we see earlier that the scribes did not directly state their opinions to Jesus. It has now escalated to them speaking to his disciples about their disagreements. It then further escalates in 2:18 and 24 when they speak directly to Jesus. Then in 3:2 and 6 they begin to plot against Jesus so as to kill him. One can see a pattern here, the religious leaders at the time are progressively beginning to despise Jesus. When Jesus deliberately eats with these people it is symbolically indicative of his grace to all in entering into the Kingdom of God. Jesus' words "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick" was a commonly known proverb that the scribes would have been familiar with. This is metaphorical to why Jesus has come, that is for the broken, the sinners, and those in need of forgiveness. (Collins, Harrington, Sanner, Wessell)
Jesus Questioned About Fasting (18-22)
Vs. 18. According to the law, there was only one required fast and that was the Day of Atonement. The two groups, the pharisees and John's disciples, were probably fasting for different reasons. John's disciples were most likely fasting with the purpose of mourning for John the Baptist while he was in prison or because of his execution. The pharisees were probably doing a common, ritualistic fast that took place biweekly during New Testament times. What they were fasting for exactly is not of great importance, the fact that fasting itself was a sign of piety is the issue. The pharisees saw that John's disciples were wasting as well and questioned why Jesus and his disciples were not attesting to this by fasting as well.
Vs. 19-20. Jesus response to the pharisees again comes in the form of teaching. This time he speaks in parable about something that these Jewish leaders would be very familiar with, weddings. Fasting was an indication of mourning. Therefore it would be ridiculous to fast around the time of a wedding because it is such a joyful occasion. Jesus compares himself to the bridegroom and his disciples are compared to the guests. In this Jesus was saying that it would be inappropriate to fast while Jesus was with them, they should take joy in the time that he is with them. However, he does bring up the fact that the bridegroom will be taken away and during that time it would be appropriate for the disciples to fast. Some scholars think that when Jesus speaks of the bridegroom being taken away he is foreshadowing his death without being blatantly obvious. This is a good argument considering that when this took place could have been late in Jesus' ministry.
Vs. 21-22. Jesus then goes on to tell two more parallels. Scholars assume that they were not really spoken side by side like it is portrayed in this scene. Rather, they were spoken by Jesus on separate occasions and then Mark went ahead and put them together for this story because they both deal with the same point in question. These second two parables help explain the inappropriateness of fasting while Jesus was still with them. It would be foolish to sew an old piece of cloth onto a new garment, if this is done, the new garment will shrink and the old cloth will tear off. It is the same concept with the wine skins. It is foolish when new wine is put into an old wine skin. If this is done the wine will ferment and burst the old wine skin because in no longer stretches. One must put new wine in new wine skins. The wine parable also indicates that the newness of Jesus and what he brings can no longer be restricted or held back by old Jewish laws, rituals and customs. (Harrington, Mann, Sanner)
Lord of the Sabbath (23-28)
Vs. 23-24. What is in question here is not the actual act of picking heads of grain. According to Jewish law this is perfectly fine as long as they are not taking a sickle to standing grain (Deut 23:25). What the Pharisees are upset about is the fact that they are doing this act on the Sabbath. This act was completely forbidden in Jewish custom and would obviously lead these Pharisees to question Jesus. The Greek in vs. 24 literally translates "See! They are doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath!" This shows how upset the Pharisees were and indicates that they were more than just voicing their opinion, but truly trying to put Jesus in the wrong. They are telling Jesus that he is responsible for the actions of his disciples.
Vs. 25-26. Jesus responds to the Pharisees' question with another question. His response includes a reference to 1 Samuel 21:1-6. In this scene David and his men were hungry and ate the bread of the House of God which was only lawful for priests to eat. Mark's account of this is slightly different than the account in 1 Samuel, but it still sends the message. The fact that David knowingly did something that went against the law but was not condemned for it is what Jesus wants them to understand. Jesus does not deny that he has broken the law, he offers a new law instead. Jesus is promoting the idea that religious rituals should in no way interfere or take away from human necessities such as food or water.
Vs. 27-28. Jesus then goes on to make the point that the Sabbath was made for men. The purpose of it was never to put restrictions on men to the point of being in hunger, it was made for the good, well being, rest, and opportunity to worship for men. Scholars often debate about vs. 28 being Mark's words or Jesus' words. Both are quite possible. It could be that Mark added this second part in order to heighten the climax of what Jesus was saying. It is also possible that Jesus said this about himself considering the numerous other times in Mark that Jesus refers to himself this way. Whether it was Mark or Jesus who made the statement it is still true. Jesus, being the lord of man for whom the Sabbath was made, is able to determine the law. (Mann, Wessell)
The following image is a side by side comparison of Mark 2 with the rest of the Gospels.
Blue = All three
Yellow = Matthew and Mark only
Red = Matthew and Luke only
Green = Mark and Luke only
Observation of Parallels
1. It is strange that there are no similarities between all three of the Gospels in reference to how Jesus got where he was.
2. Mark is the only Gospel that says it is in Capernaum.
3. Why is Matthew mention that Jesus comes on a ship?
4. Matthew does not mention that there is no room in the house. Mark and Luke both make this point clear.
5. Luke mentions the power of the Lord being present to heal them; Matthew and Luke only indicate Jesus being there to teach at first.
6. Matthew says “his own city”, which city is he talking about?
7. Mark is the only Gospel that indicates the man was born with palsy.
8. Matthew doesn’t mention the fact that the man with palsy has to be lowered through the roof.
9. Mark and Luke both describe a scene where the friends get on the roof in order to bring the man to Jesus because of the large crowds.
10. Mark describes the man breaking apart the roof while Luke talks about them removing the tile, why the difference?
Capernaum - Greek Root(s): Καφαρναούμ
The city is named 16 different times throughout the New Testament. Capernaum was a city in Ancient Palestine. It was located on the Northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee.
Paralytic - Greek Root(s): παραλυτικός
The word appears 18 different times throughout the New Testament. Every single mention of a paralytic, or someone with palsy, in the New Testament is always associated with Jesus' healing. The injury was most likely caused by such things as injury during birth or spinal cord damage. (Elwell)
Roof - Greek Root(s): στέγη
The word appears 7 different times throughout the New Testament. It usually assumes the commonly known oriental style of roof during this time period. They were commonly flat and used for a living space despite being out in the open air. (Balz)
Bed - Greek Root(s): κλίνη, κλινίδιον, κοίτη, κράβαττος, σεαυτο, στρωννύω
The word appears 33 different times in the New Testament. It is often used along side with someone who is ill or suffering. It has been used to refer to the pallet that paralytics or other ill people are carried on. (Balz)
Bridegroom - Greek Root(s): νυμφίος
The word appears 16 different times in the New Testament. It is not used in a general sense very often. It is most commonly used in order to have christological implications. For example, in Mark 2:19 Jesus compares himself to a bridegroom in order to teach the Pharisees about fasting. (Balz)
Fast - Greek Root(s): κατέχω, κολλάομαι, μετά, νηστεία, νηστεύω
The word appears 43 different times in the New Testament. "To abstain (to eat; fast) from food for a period of time is a discipline practiced by believers, not as an end in itself (severity), but as a sign of repentance or of seeking God" (Vine)
Balz, Horst. Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1990.
Collins, Adela Y. Hermeneia: A Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible. Minneapolis: Fortress P, 2007.
Elwell, Walter A. Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1988.
Harrington, Daniel J. Sacra Pagina: The Gospel of Mark. Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 2002.
Mann, C.S. Mark: A New Translation With Introduction and Commentary. Garden City: Doubleday, 1986.
Sanner, A. E. Beacon Bible Commentary. Kansas City: Beacon Hill P, 1964.
Stein, Robert H. Mark: Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008.
Vine, W.E. Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary Topic Finder. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Inc, 1984, 1996.
Wessell, Walter W. The Expositors Bible Commentary. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984.
Williamson, Lamar. Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching. Atlanta: John Knox P, 1983.