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Mark 2:312, 1517, 2328comment (0)

September 10, 2009

By Michael Wilson

Related Scripture: Mark 2:312, 1517, 2328

Bible Studies for Life
Director, Resource Center for Pastoral Excellence, Samford University

The People Jesus Knows
Mark 2:3–12, 15–17, 23–28

Most people who have sought employment at one time or another have heard the saying “It’s not who you are; it’s who you know.” Though we may bristle at the thought of others having greater influence on our success in a job hunt than us, there is truth in these words. Given a choice, hiring managers tend to favor those whose personality, abilities and work practices have been observed by others within the organization. Employment is a risk for both the hiring company and the person being hired. The more both know about each other, the greater the likelihood of a mutually satisfactory relationship.

Applied to the life of faith, this overused saying might better be worded “Who you know is who you are.” Christians often avoid interacting with people who are different from them. Many have few relationships with people who are unbelievers, are from different cultures or are outside their socio-economic peer group. This Sunday’s lesson invites us to consider that our choices of the people we know say much about how we live our commitments to the way of Jesus Christ. 

Minister to the Hurting (3–12)
Word of Jesus’ healings and teachings had spread throughout the region. When He returned to Capernaum, news that He was “home” spread quickly and a sizable crowd of the curious gathered outside the place where He was staying. The crowd was so great that four men had to carry their paralytic friend to the roof and tear away an opening so they could place him before Jesus. Their efforts created a teachable moment that Jesus didn’t miss. Mark notes their faith led to action. How often does our belief motivate our actions?

We should not be surprised by the response of the scribes to Jesus’ declaration of sins forgiven. Regrettably the scribes were so focused on correct adherence to religious teaching that they almost missed the wonder of the Father’s miracle of healing through His Son. “We have never seen anything like this!” is one of the great understatements of the Gospel story.

Seek Sinners (15–17)
Tax collectors were regarded with contempt by the Jews. Their close ties to Gentile Roman authorities meant they were unclean before God, based on the teachings of the Jewish faith. Devout Jews were not to associate with such people. Yet Jesus chose to share a meal with not only tax collectors but also sinners. Who might these sinners have been? Might their number have included corrupt business owners, prostitutes, drunks or others regarded as unclean? Some accounts in Scripture of shared meals represent more than the satisfaction of physical hunger. The breaking of bread is sometimes symbolic of acceptance, the giving of that which nourishes the soul and brings about spiritual wellness. When Jesus fed the 5,000 hungry souls beside the Sea of Galilee, He offered more than the quieting of growling stomachs. He offered the Bread of Life.

Perhaps the reason sinners didn’t hesitate to associate with Jesus was because He didn’t reject them. Though He clearly called people to turn from their sinful practices, He did so in a way that communicated He cared about their lives and wanted them to experience healing and wholeness of both body and soul.

Confront the Religious (23–28)
Seeing stalks plucked and grain vigorously separated from chaff, the religious legalists scrutinizing Jesus immediately declared a violation. Such activity was regarded by the Pharisees as work, and they took Jesus to task. In reality, Jewish law allowed this activity when necessary to satisfy hunger so long as no harvesting was done. Jesus’ bold declaration that the Sabbath was made for people and not people for the Sabbath must have seemed blasphemous. Jesus was concerned with the needs of the people in His circle of influence — the tax collectors, sinners and self-righteous (those who were spiritually ill). His message was clear. The Jewish religious institution had validity only to the degree that it focused on the spiritual healing and nourishment of people. What might a “functional validity” test reveal if applied to the Church today? What might it reveal about your church?

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