Love him or loathe him

Mark 2.18 – 3.6

From the beginning of his teaching Jesus strongly divided people in their responses towards him. There were those who felt he was undermining the established Jewish religion by flagrant disregard for their rules. Others entered into a new freedom as Jesus revealed the underlying intentions of the law and exposed the difference between a multitude of add-on regulations and God’s purposes behind his laws. A critical factor being Jesus fulfilled the law by being the prophesied Messiah while others believed he should be a slave to the law. Additionally, secular political leadership found Jesus as problematic as John the Baptist because his teaching not only showed up their corruption it also had the force of Jesus’ remarkable authority behind it. In the above sequence of events Mark records how Jesus divides opinions and challenges the status quo.

We know from the time Jesus went into the desert to prepare for his ministry that he fasted to enable him to focus on prayer and his relationship with God. However, he was accused by people that his disciples did not publicly fast as the Pharisees and even John the Baptist’s disciples did. The implication being Jesus’ disciples were not as holy. Mark 2.18 Jesus’ answer was, that is because I am with them, it is a time for celebration and gladness. This is the time for preparation for marriage and that marriage is to be between myself and the coming church. My presence should bring great joy. He is turning on his accusers and saying, “You only think that because you do not recognize who I am.” Mark 2.19 Jesus was not ruling out the need for fasting and prayer, far from it but the time for that is in the future, when I have left, meaning after his death and resurrection.
By claiming to be the bridegroom of God’s people he was saying he is the Messiah promised in the Old Testament – Isaiah 54.5; 62.4-5; Hosea 2.16-20.

In New Testament time goatskins were used to hold wine. When the pressed grape juice was fermenting it was place in new goatskins as they stretch. Old goatskins become hardened and would crack and burst if fermenting wine was stored in them. Jesus in using this analogy Mark 2.21-22 is stating his teaching cannot be restricted by old religious forms. An assertion such as that was bound to provoke conflict where people did not recognize Jesus for who he was.

Once more Jesus was challenged regarding his disciples’ behaviour by the most rule bound group of all, the Pharisees. They interpreted picking a few grains of cereal as the disciples walked through a field as working on the Sabbath. Jesus then challenges them to understand the spirit of the Sabbath which is to be refreshed in the presence of God rather than be oppressed by petty burdensome rules. He reminded them of their great hero, King David, when he and his followers ate consecrated bread, forbidden to ordinary people, when they were being pursued by Saul’s men and their lives were in danger. He equated this to his disciples by inferring that the Pharisees should understand the law in the light of its purposes. ‘The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.’ Mark 2.28

Jesus then extended this principle when challenged again in a synagogue on a Sabbath day. Jesus’ accusers were determined to find fault. ‘Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal on the Sabbath.’ Mark 3.2 A man with a shriveled hand had walked into the synagogue. The question was, would Jesus heal him? If he did that was forbidden work. Their “stubborn hearts” had inverted God’s law, mercy and justice. Good had become bad and bad had become good. Without touching the man, Jesus told him to, ‘stretch out your hand.’ Mark 3.5 As the man did so his hand was healed. This so inflamed the Pharisees and teachers of the Jewish law that they plotted with the supporters of Herod Antipas, the tetriach of Galilee and Perea, (a section of Palestine) to have Jesus killed. The hatred of Jesus was so strong that natural enemies, agents of the Roman Empire and Jewish religious leaders joined forces against Jesus.

The dividing line between followers of Jesus and his enemies is whether Jesus is recognized as the Messiah or the Son of God. Those who oppose him fear what they believe they have to lose.

Who do you believe Jesus is?

What is it that controls your life?

Come alive – Lauren Daigle