Mark chapter 2 offers us a glimpse of who Jesus really was.
In the first section we see that he is one who had the ability to forgive individuals of their sin. A man who is paralyzed is brought to Jesus for healing by some of his friends.
The important thing for this man’s friends is that their friend be healed. The place where Jesus is located is so crowded that they cannot get their friend to Jesus by simply taking him through a door. These guys have to get a little more creative. So they climb on the roof, and then they lower their buddy down to Jesus.
These guys are expecting healing, but that’s not initially what their friend receives. The first thing he receives is forgiveness. Forgiveness is the bigger issue for Jesus. The issue of forgiveness has to be taken care of before the healing takes place. Jesus is the Lord of forgiveness.
I want us to take a look at what verses 18-22 of Mark chapter 2 tells about Jesus before we take look at what I believe to be the most important characteristic of Jesus to be revealed in this chapter. In these verses we see that Jesus is the Lord of change.
As so often happens, Jesus is questioned about something he does or does not practice. Jesus once again, as he has done many times, responds to the question he receives with another question. When he does this he is challenging their mindset. I believe he is trying to help them change their way of thinking.
Those questioning Jesus believe he should be fasting just like John the Baptist, John’s disciples, and the Pharisees did. Since Jesus is indeed the Lord of change he helps them see why he is not fasting like they think he should. He goes on to illustrate that some things must change.
Here’s what he says in verses 21-22 of Mark chapter two: “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.”
He takes something they know and understand and applies it to their spiritual walk. Brilliant. Those trying to understand now get it. They now understand it better. Most scholars agree what Jesus is doing here is taking the Old Testament religious system — the old — and comparing it with the new thing he is doing. Jesus was bringing about change, and it was unsettling to them.
This leads me to the last few verses I would like to examine. As I already stated, I believe these verses are crucial. In verses 13-17 of Mark chapter two Jesus calls this guy Levi, a tax collector, to follow him. Tax collectors were bad news for a couple of reasons. 1) They collected taxes for Rome and were viewed as traitors. 2) They were known for collecting more than need be and pocketing a little extra.
So along comes Jesus, and he invites this “bad news” guy to follow him. This action of Jesus was disturbing to say the least to the religious leaders of his day. As if it was not bad enough that Jesus invites Levi to follow him, the story gets better. Jesus goes to Levi’s house.
Guess what kind of people are at Levi’s house? More tax collectors and sinners! Scandalous! What is going on? How can Jesus be surrounding himself with these people?
This brings me to third characteristic revealed about Jesus in Mark chapter two. He is the Lord of redemption. Jesus’ response to their questions is found in verse 17 of Mark chapter two: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Jesus did not come to take care of the healthy people. He came to take care of the sick.
This way of thinking has huge implications for those of us who are following after Christ. We must be about the business of caring for sick people. When I say sick people, I am referring to the tax collectors and sinners of our day.
It’s great to be about forgiveness and change, but I believe the most important work to be a part of is the work of redemption. The work of redemption is difficult work. In fact, only God can bring about full redemption, but as his followers we are called to participate in that work with him. The only way we will see redemption take place is by surrounding ourselves by those who need it the most. Just like Jesus did.