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Review of Mark So Far In the preparation time, have people make lists or notes summarizing 1: 1-2: 17 regarding some or all of the following

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Mark 2:13-17 (Week 5) Study Notes and Questions

Key Theme

Jesus' care for sinners.
Review of Mark So Far

In the preparation time, have people make lists or notes summarizing 1:1-2:17 regarding some or all of the following:

  • Verbs: Jesus' actions and commands

  • How do we see Jesus' authority? Over what/whom?

  • Categorize the responses to Jesus.

  • Look at the nature of faith: what did faith look like for these people?

  • Examine the healings. Are there any parallels, similarities, progressions?

Levi, the Tax Collector

What's wrong with tax collectors? What did they do?

They were traitors, employed by the Romans (the conquering colonial power). They cheated their fellow Jews in order to make a profit. They were known for malpractice, deceit and distortion. Jews considered tax collectors' money unclean, so they never asked for change. Tax collectors were not allowed to testify in court or tithe money to the temple.
Levi was clearly a Jew, a Levite. The fact that his tax office was by the sea suggests that he was a tax collector for fishermen.
Who did he invite to his party? How did Jesus respond?

Levi invited his friends (other tax collectors and sinners), and Jesus seems at ease with this crowd. He befriended them, spoke to them, accepted them. Eating with tax collectors and sinners is like Jesus touching the leper – no self-respecting Jew would do it. But Jesus does. How do think Jesus' followers felt about it? We don't know if Jesus' explanation about the sick and the well was for them, but they were likely pretty uncomfortable. Jesus forces them to eat with these people.

The word sinner (hamartolos) means "one who misses the mark", falls short. In the synoptic gospels, it is used by the Pharisees to describe publicans and women of ill repute.
Diagram the scene – who's present? Jesus, sinners, scribes (Pharisees), disciples.
Why do the scribes approach the disciples?

The disciples are probably also looking on. They are identified with Jesus and must answer for his actions, but they don't know what's he up to. Even so, they allow the identification and it grows. Confused.

What is Jesus' response?

As a physician is to the sick, so I am to sinners. If you want to be part of this King's kingdom, you must be a sinner. This must be your view of yourself. This is an analogy – Jesus is a savior for all sinners who recognize their desperate illness.

What did the disciples expect?

They likely expected some kind of justification. They were probably wondering exactly the same thing as the scribes. But Jesus essentially says that they are sinners too, and that they'd better get used to hanging out with other sinners.

What is he saying about the Pharisees?

They think they're righteous and don't need a doctor. If you think you're healthy, then you won't enter the kingdom. OT: there are none that are righteous, not one. Shows how importance repentance is in preparing the way.

Some background on the Pharisees: root word = peras, signifying to separate, owing to a different manner of life from that of the general public. The Pharisees appear as a distinct group in the latter half of the 2nd century BC. The Pharisees (Hasideans) are the pious ones, a society of men zealous for religion who acted under the guidance of the scribes, in opposition to the godless Hellenic party (the Sadducees) who aimed at removing from Judaism its narrowness and sharing in the advantages of Greek life and culture. The fundamental principles of the Hasideans was complete separation from non-Jewish elements.
How is sin like leprosy? Like paralysis? Like being a tax collector?

Like leprosy, it separates people from community and God. Like paralysis, there is no hope of getting better, and no way to bring about your own cure. Like being a tax collector, it leads to being cast out, snubbed, excluded, ashamed.

In society, who was the leper? The paralytic?

Lepers were outcasts. Paralytics were forgotten, invisible, poor, needy, broken, uncared for.

What ties these three stories (pericopes) together (leper, paralytic, Levi)?

They're all about sin – the leper's disobedience, the forgiveness of the paralytic's sins, Jesus caring for sinners.

Review of Mark 1:1-2:17
Verbs: Jesus' actions and commands

  • Action: movement, observing, perceiving, seeing are all important

  • Contact: touch, lifts by hand, enters home & synagogue, teaches and preaches

  • Negative contact: rebuke, sternly charged

  • Noise: calling, preaching, teaching, crying in the wilderness, demons cry out

  • Conflicts: Satan, demons, scribes, disciples break with the past

  • Passive: Jesus is baptized by John , ministered to by angels, served by Simon's mother in law, receives Spirit

Jesus' Authority

Jesus demonstrates authority over:

  • jobs

  • family

  • teaching

  • spiritual world

  • physical illness

  • sins

Responses to Jesus

  • Obedience: disciples, demons, illness, paralytic (who stood up)

  • Amazement: from healings, teachings, forgiving sins

  • Disobedience: the leper who tells everyone what happened

  • Questioning: the Pharisees, crowds, Peter trying to get Jesus to do what he wanted

  • Resistance: Satan's temptation of Jesus

  • Interest: people gather round Jesus, bring others to him

Nature of faith: what did faith look like?

  • Leper: risked, humble and desperate, came to Jesus and asked

  • Paralytic: came to Jesus, out of control, acted on Jesus' command

  • The four friends: came to Jesus at great effort

  • Disciples: leave family, jobs and security behind and follow Jesus

  • Levi: rose and followed, left tax job and income

So faith is:

1. Seeking Jesus

2. Acting on His words

3. Costly, but it's worth it

Each comes to Jesus in faith and responds in action. Faith here does not seem to be intellectual assent to certain propositions about God or Jesus. Most of these people did not understand very much about who Jesus was.
"Being a Christian" vs. "Following Jesus"

Static "in or out" assessment vs. a dynamic, movement-oriented definition

"What do you believe" vs "Where are you going?" or "Who are you following?"

How do individuals' identities change in contact with Jesus?

  • Peter & Andrew: leave nets, because they were fishermen

  • Demons: must leave a body they were at home in

  • Leper: no longer a leper, which was what identified him

  • Paralytic: no longer paralytic – who is he now?

  • Levi: defined by his job and his association with sinners, but now has left job and lifestyle

Each comes into contact with Jesus and is changed to the depths of his identity.

How has (or will) our identities be changed by coming into contact with Jesus?

The Healings

Jesus heals people and calls people in these pages. But he doesn't call those he healed.

Look back at the specific healing instances, beginning with Simon's mother in law.




Simon's mother in law












Why did Mark choose these 4 healings out of hundreds?

Mark chose these to demonstrate how Jesus is a physician and a savior. He heals the sick and forgives sinners. Jesus as Savior.

In 1:1-2:17, Mark gave us two pictures of Jesus: Jesus as King and Jesus as Savior. We learn that the king has authority and that the savior has mercy.

What is difficult about accepting Kingship?

Trust – can I trust him to exercise this authority?

How does Mark's picture of Jesus as King and Savior address the issue of trust?

Jesus is a king with compassion and mercy, knows our needs more deeply than we do. The leper is a good picture of us – often we are healed in some way by Jesus' touch, but he wants us to undergo a more thorough healing, involving discipline and obedience. We are so tempted to be satisfied with Jesus the savior, that we forget that Jesus is a king with authority. But ironically, Jesus can't heal us without our obedience to his commands.

We cannot accept Jesus as Savior without following him as Lord. He saves us by calling us to obey Him.
Something to ponder: How can Jesus forgive when he hasn't died yet?
What are the themes? Come up with a title for each of the sections we've studied.
Application Questions

  • How have we been tempted to seek Jesus as Savior without acknowledging his Lordship? Why?

  • How has your trust in him grown recently?

  • Looking at the story of the leper – is there sin in our lives that we've rationalized?

  • Looking at the paralytic's friends – can our faith bring friends to Jesus?

  • Looking at Levi's party -- how do we respond to sinners?

Mark 2:18-3:6 (Week 6) Study Notes and Questions

Key Theme

    The new and the old don't mix – be prepared for Jesus, not a set of rules.

The Old and the New (2:18-22)

What is behind the question Jesus is asked? Who asked it? Why?

Jesus and his disciples have just been partying with the tax collectors and sinners. The people observed that the disciples are not fasting like other religious types – they don't seem to fit the "religious" mold. Again, the disciples and Jesus are being identified – they must answer for each other's actions.

Identify the "why" questions asked of Jesus/disciples in 2:1-22.

There are 3:

  • Why does this man speak thus?

  • Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?

  • Why do John's disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?

Jesus is breaking the established religious rules, drawing attention and sparking questions. Jesus' actions are authoritative, but not conventional. They are parabolic, drawing out curiosity and getting people to ask "why?".
What is fasting for? Who does it? What does the law require?

The law required fasting once a year, on the Day of Atonement (Lev 16:29, 23:26-9). Post-exilic Jews added four other annual fasts. The Pharisees thought that if once a year was good, twice a week must be better. Fasting was a time to focus on God, mourn sin and be humbled before God. It signified a renewal in one's relationship with God. But see Isaiah 58:3-7 for a description of the true fast.

What is Jesus' response?

Jesus' response relies on Old Testament messianic imagery. He describes himself as the bridegroom – see Isaiah 62:1-5, where Israel is promised that the "builder" (messiah) will marry it, and God will rejoice over Israel as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride. See also Isaiah 54:5 ("your Maker is your husband"), Ezekiel 16:8 ("you were old enough for love... I gave you my solemn oath and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Sovereign Lord, and you became mine"), Hosea 2:16-20 ("'In that day,' declares the LORD, 'you will call me 'my husband'...I will betroth you to me forever'"). The messiah has come!

Why would it be inappropriate to fast at a wedding?

It would be an insult to the bridegroom. Fasting symbolizes mourning at a time when everyone should be celebrating – in Jewish culture, the party went on for a week. When the groom is gone, fasting will again be appropriate.

What is Jesus' point? Why aren't the disciples fasting?

Jesus is the groom, he is with them. They don't need to fast to develop their relationship with God – He is in their presence. He is right there with them. Again, Jesus makes himself the issue – not his teaching or his precepts.

What is Jesus saying in the two parables about cloth and wineskins?

Jesus is talking about the old and the new. New cloth hasn't been shrunk; if you patch pre-washed jeans with new denim, the new fabric will shrink in the wash and you'll get a worse rip after washing. As wine ferments, CO2 makes it expand; new skins are pliable and can stretch, old skins are brittle and break. Old wineskins have already been stretched by the fermentation process – if you put unfermented wine in them, the skins will not be able to stretch further to handle the fermentation. The skins will break, destroying both skin and wine.

What is His point about the old and the new? Who is the old, who is the new?

New and old don't mix. We shouldn't try to patch the old with the new, or put the new into the old. The people have already noticed something distinctively different about Jesus' style (hence all the "why" questions). Jesus is making the point that the Pharisees are the old and He is the new. Don't try to put Jesus into the old structures of religiosity – he won't fit. Jesus is bringing a new thing. See 1:27: "what is this, a new teaching?"

What happens when the new and old come into conflict?

They produce conflict, tension, destruction. We have already seen this conflict – Jesus doesn't meet the Pharisee's expectations. Similarly, Jesus doesn't intend to blend into the old in our lives – we can expect tension, conflict and change. We need to be able to embrace the new.

Jesus answers the people's question at two levels. First of all, he talks about the specific issue of fasting. Then he addresses their more fundamental question: "Why do you do things in a new way?".
Sabbath-making, Sabbath-breaking (2:23-28)

What are the Pharisees asking?

The Pharisees want to know why the disciples are working (by picking grain) on the Sabbath. Their question is not about the legality of taking the grain – hand picking someone else's grain is expressly allowed by Deuteronomy 23:25. But resting on the Sabbath is required by law: Exodus 20:8-11, 34:21.
How does Jesus' defend his disciples' actions? How would the Pharisees react?

He refers to the Old Testament, to David (the most revered King of Israel): "David did this kind of thing. David understood that law was made for man, not man for the law". [1 Samuel 21:1-6, in the story, Ahimilech was priest. Perhaps Abiathar was high priest and Ahimilech the one who actually gave the bread? Don't really need to go into this unless someone brings it up]. In Jesus' view, what they are doing is lawful – they are just having a meal. In the Pharisees' view, it is harvesting and work.

The Pharisees would likely react negatively to Jesus taking David as a model: "You don't claim to have the authority of David, do you?".
What is the original view of the Sabbath? How did it change?

Originally the Sabbath was regarded positively, as a welcome rest, grace from God. But it became covered over with formalism and legalism, and rules became more important than God. The focus became how to not break the law, rather than how to rest and serve God. Note that many strict Jews today will not drive, or push a baby carriage, or turn on a light switch on the Sabbath – all of those things are regarded as work. As a result, they sometimes need to do things that may seem far less restful to get around the restrictions.

Jesus indicates that David understood the real reason for the Sabbath, and could pick grain because he was a man, and the Sabbath is for men. But Jesus (the Son of Man – see Daniel 7 – messianic imagery) is LORD of the sabbath. Not only can Jesus claim David's authority, he is actually greater than David (who was also anointed King).
What are repeated words? What is the relationship between all these terms?

"Lawful", "humankind", "sabbath". We should understand laws as helpful guides, lines on the road, but our tendency is to start following, stressing about the lines rather than the One we are following.

The Pharisees think about the law all the time, but don't think about the purpose of the law – the WHY of it. They were experts in the WHAT of it. This is how structures (like God's sabbath command) become dead institutions, old and lifeless, like empty crusty wineskins. Jesus is bringing new stuff, and this is causing tension and conflict with the Pharisees, the upholders of the old. Jesus is the New Lord, by contrast with the old lords, the Pharisees. (Remember that the Pharisees were once a new thing too – they were a revival movement, seeking a fresh outpouring of God's spirit to revive dead Judaism in the inter-testamental period. But they have since become old).
Healing the Withered Hand (3:1-6)

Describe the situation: the mood, the glances, the non-verbal communication.

Jesus is being watched, the scene is tense, a stand-off. The Pharisees are probably in the synagogue to trap him. Little is said, but much is communicated. The man appears – perhaps it is even a set-up, a staged event. The Pharisees want to accuse, but Jesus outmaneuvers them beautifully.
What is Jesus' question?

He asks "what is the purpose of the sabbath?". Again, the Pharisees have not focused on the purpose of the sabbath laws, only on the minutiae of content. They say "do nothing on the sabbath", and Jesus says "to do nothing is to do harm".

The sabbath law was made for man, to do good. The man's withered hand is not an emergency, not urgent. But Jesus chooses to heal on the sabbath to demonstrate his authority over it, to do good on it and fulfil its purpose. The Pharisees were silent, convicted – they had nothing to say.
Jesus is showing a new view of people, while the Pharisees have an old view of people. He asks the Pharisees whether the sabbath is for saving lives or killing. He goes ahead and saves, they then go out and plot to kill. Jesus was grieved at the condition of their hearts, seeing murder there. [The "Herodians" were probably influential Jews who were friends and backers of the Herodian family; therefore supporters of Rome. Would typically not be on same side as Pharisees.]

Drawing the Stories Together

Jesus makes it clear that when the new and old come together, there will be conflict and destruction. If the new is pressed into old categories, both will be destroyed. We can already see the conflict between the new and the old, as Jesus and the Pharisees come into conflict again and again. There is also the possibility of destruction, as the Pharisees plot to kill Jesus.
Look at the connections, thinking of specific words as the screws or slots that join the different pieces: "stretch, hardness of heart, restored, withered" as connections to the parable of old, shriveled and withered wineskins. How is the man's hand like the wineskins? Like the Pharisees' hearts? What does Jesus call the man to do? (stretch it out so it can be restored). What does Jesus want for the Pharisees? (to stretch out, be restored). What does this require? (softness of heart, willingness to let Jesus make new structures in your life for his new wine).

Actions of Jesus/disciples

Response of Opposition

New standards: not fasting

Old standards: Jesus is unconventional

New Lord: plucking grain on the sabbath

Old lords: that's unlawful

New view of people: heals hand

Old view of people: plot to kill Jesus

Application Questions

  • How are we tempted to force the newness of Jesus into the old ways of thinking and living in our lives? What is the danger of us trying to force the new into the old? We will lose both skin and wine: Christians who don't let Jesus make them new will have the worst of both worlds.

  • What is something new that you would like Jesus to do in your life? What old wineskins would have to go for that to happen? We often want to patch the new with the old but it doesn't work -- i.e. wanting to receive from Jesus a healthy Christian relationship but not willing to give up current unhealthy ones or a grasping for intimacy.

  • What are old wineskins in our lives (ways which were good in the past – results of God's spirit – but are now crusty old structures that we trust in without understanding the purpose)? What would new wineskins look like? How can we be open to them?

  • What newness of Jesus is causing the most tension for you right now? What will go, and what will tear?

  • How do we tend to think about the law (Jesus' commands, obedience to God)? Do we recognize that it's made to serve and heal us, not that we are made to slave away and serve the law? God works to serve us, and the law and Jesus' commands are an instrument of our healing, not a strict standard of our judgment.

  • What do you think is the purpose of the sabbath? What role has the sabbath played in your life? Complete this sentence: I feel closest to God (and/or most restful) when...? How can you build sabbath into your life this semester?

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