What does Mark chapter 2 mean?The second chapter of Mark includes four stories of Jesus declaring His authority. To this point, He has revealed His authority over demons (Mark 1:23–26, 32), physical disease (Mark 1:29–34, 40–42), and traditional teachers who timidly interpret Scripture according to the teachings of past rabbis (Mark 1:21–22). In this chapter, Jesus shows He has authority over sin, public opinion, manmade tradition, and the Sabbath. Mark 3:1–6 will relate a fifth story, again about the Sabbath.
In the first story (Mark 2:1–11), Jesus publicly forgives a man's sins. This same event is also described in Luke 5:17–26 and Matthew 9:2–8. A paralyzed man is lowered through the roof of the house where Jesus is teaching. Instead of healing him immediately, Jesus declares that his and his friends' faith has resulted in God forgiving his sins. The scribes—biblical scholars in the Pharisee sect—are horrified. They accuse Jesus of blasphemy, their first such charge in the gospel of Mark. In order to validate His assertion that He does have authority to forgive sins, Jesus heals the paralyzed man as well.
By calling someone the public would have labelled a crook to be His disciple, Jesus shows love has precedence over popular opinion (Mark 2:13–17). Thus far, Jesus has only commissioned Peter, Andrew, James, and John to be His disciples (Mark 1:16–20). While walking by the sea, He finds the tax collector Levi, also called Matthew, and invites him, as well. This incident is also captured in Matthew 9:9–13 and Luke 5:27–32. Tax collectors were considered disgraceful in the eyes of Jews. Not only did they work for the Roman occupiers, they often cheated their countrymen. But Jesus not only calls Levi to be His disciple, He eats at Levi's house with other tax collectors and "sinners." The scribes, who would never share a meal with such people for fear of becoming unclean, question Jesus' motives. Jesus responds with the famous, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners" (Mark 2:17).
In a third argument with the scribes, this time about fasting, Jesus shows He has authority over manmade traditions (Mark 2:18–22). A parallel account of this event is found in both Matthew 9:14–17 and Luke 5:33–39. The Old Testament, presumably, dictates only one fast: Yom Kippur. Significant events in Jewish history led the nation to voluntarily enact five more. In addition, national hardship or personal inclination induced people to fast as they felt led. The Pharisees had taken this loose suggestion and made an art form of it. Both they and John the Baptist's disciples fasted regularly, in contrast to Jesus and His disciples, who did not. When questioned about it, Jesus explains that fasting for mourning is inappropriate while He is there; His presence is a time for celebration. He is bringing a new paradigm of worshiping God which is inconsistent with some of the old, manmade ceremonies.
To this day, although Christians agree Jesus has authority over the Sabbath, they differ in opinions over what that means for us. While walking through a field on the Sabbath, Jesus' disciples pick heads of grain and eat them (Mark 2:23–28). The same story is told in Matthew 12:1–8 and Luke 6:1–5. The Pharisees accuse them of breaking the Sabbath law, as expressed in both Leviticus 25:1–7, which prohibited working in fields, and their own extended, thirty-nine-part addition. Instead of quibbling about the minutiae of the law, Jesus merely asserts that the ceremonial law must submit to He who wrote it. He also teaches that the point of ceremonial law is to bring people closer to God, not create an unbearable hardship.
While the people readily accept Jesus' healing and teaching, the Pharisees and their scribes filter everything Jesus does through their ideas about the Law. Jesus, however, shows that His identity gives Him a different perspective than their hide-bound writings and rules could even fathom. His priority is to love God and others, and He has the authority to do so.
The slow revealing of Jesus' agenda results in increasing antagonism from the Pharisees. It begins with amazement (Mark 1:27), transitions to evil thoughts (Mark 2:6–7; Matthew 9:3–4), and escalates to subtle attacks on the disciples (Mark 2:16, 24), and a stake-out (Mark 3:1–2). Before long, it will reach the apex in an active attempt to destroy Jesus (Mark 3:6).