Mark 2:13-28

Sunday Morning Bible Study

October 3, 2004


Jesus’ ministry has begun.  He’s been using the little town of Capernaum as a sort of “home base”.  He’s called some of His disciples:  Peter, Andrew, James, and John.  He’s cast out demons and healed sick people.  Everyone is amazed at Jesus.

New Things

:13-17 Jesus and sinners

:13  And he went forth again by the sea side

Jesus is walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee

:14 And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus

LeviLeuis – Levi was also known by another name, Matthew.  He’s the fellow that wrote the gospel of Matthew.

:14  sitting at the receipt of custom

the receipt of customtelonion – the place in which the tax collector sat to collect the taxes, usually something like a desk set up on a platform.  The King James Bible calls tax collectors “publicans”.

Capernaum was on the trade route from Damascus to the Mediterranean Sea.  Part of Levi’s job was collecting taxes from the merchants that traveled along this route.  He would also be collecting taxes from the fishermen and other boats that traveled on the Sea of Galilee.

The Jews were not an independent nation at this time.  They were an occupied country, under the rule of Rome.  They were not a people liberated from a tyrant as the Iraqis are.  They were a people that had been conquered and controlled by Rome.  Rome expected to collect money from each of its conquered territories.

The tax collectors were Jewish fellows who collected taxes for the Roman government.  They were required to collect a set amount from each person to pass on to Rome.  They were allowed to collect more than the required amount and they could keep the extra.  To the Jews, the publicans were considered the lowest of scum, corrupt traitors to their own people.

Think of WWII and Nazi occupied France.  It would be as if the tax collectors were Frenchmen working for the Nazis to collect taxes from their own people.

:14  and said unto him, Follow me

followakoloutheo (from keleuthos, a road) – it means literally, “walk the same road with me”; join him as his attendant, accompany him

Jesus’ request is not for Levi to follow behind Him, but to follow with Jesus.  Jesus wants Levi to follow at His side.

Jesus does not ask him, “Would you like to follow Me?”  He commands him.  He orders Levi to follow.  Now Levi has a choice to make of whether he will obey Jesus.

For Levi to follow Jesus, he will have to leave his business and his financial prosperity behind him.

Note:  It Jesus wants people to like Him, He certainly has a poor choice in disciples.

:15  Jesus sat at meat in his house, many … sinners sat also

Apparently Levi has thrown a party at his house and invited Jesus as the guest of honor.

sinnershamartolos – devoted to sin, pre-eminently sinful, especially wicked.  This was also a “technical term” used by the Pharisees to describe people who did not follow the Pharisees’ strict interpretation of the Law of Moses.

Something has happened to Levi since he met Jesus.  He wants his other friends to meet Jesus.

We’d probably suggest to Levi that he invite his friends to church.  Perhaps that happened later, but for now, he throws a party at his house and invites Jesus over.

:16 the scribes …How is it that he eateth and drinketh with …sinners?

scribes – These were the folks who were the experts in the Law of Moses.

The Jews had a concept that when you ate and drank with another person, you were becoming “one” with that person.  You might catch their “cooties”.

:17 I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.


The Friend of sinners

Jesus is the physician that has come to heal the sick from sin.
When Jesus is referring to the “righteous”, He’s referring to the Pharisees because that is how they saw themselves.  They saw themselves as being acceptable to God.
In reality, everyone at this party, except for Jesus, was a sinner.  One of the problems with the Pharisees was that they didn’t see their own sin.
But the “sinners” knew they needed help.  Jesus is there for them.
A cultured woman found herself among people of a strange language and race.  Many varied customs.  While she was there she became a close friend of a devoted missionary.  One day she said, “I was troubled by an experience with those quarreling, difficult people, and I related my grievances to my missionary friend.  ‘They are so self- interested,’ I complained.  ‘So self-absorbed, so soft on themselves, so violent with others, so unreasoning, so totally difficult,’ and when I had finished rehearsing their faults as I saw them my friend smiled a little and said something I have never forgotten. ‘That’s why they need us.”
Do you ever hang out with “sinners”?
One of the sad things that happens to Christians as they “mature” is that they stop hanging out with non-Christians.

For some people, this is a good thing, because their non-Christian friends can draw them away from the Lord. (1Cor. 15:33).

But for most of us, we need to be spending more time with “sinners”, not less.  They need us.

Jesus doesn’t invite these particular “sinners” to the synagogue.  He goes to their house.

Jesus isn’t at Levi’s house because Levi serves a really great meal.  He isn’t there because He wants to hear the latest dirty joke.  He’s there to bring sinners back to God.

There are all kinds of people that we don’t find acceptable.  I’m not sure Jesus would agree.
The disciples wanted to run off the children to keep them from bothering Jesus.  But Jesus wanted to spend time with the kids.
The woman at the well was an outcast in her own Samaritan town, having had five husbands and currently living with another man.  Yet Jesus sought her out to spend time with her and tell her about the life He offers.
Even on the cross, Jesus was taking the place of a convicted murderer and robber, Barabbas, a man whose name simply means “son of a father”.  He was a bad person, like all of us, and Jesus saved him.
Do you feel like the “sinners” that all the “nice people” avoid?
Jesus doesn’t avoid you.

:18-22 Fasting

:18 …but thy disciples fast not?

fastnesteuo – to abstain as a religious exercise from food and drink

It’s interesting that the disciples of John and the Pharisees are mentioned side by side.  John had called the Pharisees a “brood of vipers” (Mat. 3:7).

It’s possible that John's followers were fasting in mourning for him.  At this time, John the Baptist is sitting in prison, under arrest by Herod.

There were only three required public fasts: the Day of Atonement; the day before Purim; and the ninth of Ab, commemorating the fall of Jerusalem.

The Pharisees went into fasting big time – they fasted twice a week (Luke 18:12), on Mondays and on Thursdays.

It is very possible that Levi’s party has fallen on one of the “fast” days.  The disciples of John and the Pharisees are hungry from their fasting, drooling at the meal on the table, while Jesus and His disciples are feasting on roast beef.

:19  Can the children of the bridechamber fast…

Fasting was also an expression of sorrow.  How can you be sad at a wedding when you get to hang out with the groom?

John the Baptist had called himself the “friend of the bridegroom” (John 3:29)

:20 …then shall they fast in those days.

There would be a day when Jesus would no longer be with them.  He would die on a cross.  He would be raised from the dead.  He would ascend to heaven.  Then the disciples would learn to fast.

Fasting is a good thing.  Fasting is an important thing.  The purpose of fasting is to learn to deny your flesh and draw near to God.  Fasting seems to be tied with learning to pray better.

The New Testament church did practice fasting:

(Acts 13:2-3 KJV)  As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. {3} And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.

:21 No man also seweth a piece of new cloth on an old garment

In those days, cloth did not come “preshrunk”.  If you had a hole in an old garment and you wanted to patch the hole, you would need to be careful what kind of cloth you’d use for the patch.  If you used a new, unshrunk piece, then when you washed your clothes, the new piece would shrink and tear away from the old piece of cloth.

Jesus’ own ministry was like the “new” cloth.  The rituals of the Pharisees were like the old, worn out, moth eaten garment.

:22 And no man putteth new wine into old bottles

bottlesaskos – a leather wine skin

Old wine skins lost their elasticity.  If you pour new wine into old wineskins, as the wine begins to ferment, the wineskin will explode from the pressure.


New things

Jesus is talking about the clashing between the stiff legalism of the Pharisees and His own gospel of grace.
This is one of the characteristics of legalism, like the Pharisees.  They have their strict lists of what is acceptable and what isn’t.  But sometimes God doesn’t want to stay within the boundaries we have for Him.
This principle can apply to us as well.
We are creatures of habit.
There’s a part of us that likes to put our brain on “autopilot” and just do what we’ve always done.
Sometimes we react negatively to some new idea because, “We’ve never done it that way before”.
Jesus is trying to show these people that some of their old habits aren’t quite appropriate at the moment.
Doing things the same way day in and day out is comfortable.  Making changes is uncomfortable.
Some folks can take this idea of doing new things to an unhealthy extreme.
It’s not good to change things just for the sake of change.
Some things we should never change.

How we do church might change.

We might not sing hymns any more.  We might not have stained glass windows.  We might not have organ music.  Some churches will use video screens and satellite feeds.

But the message of the gospel never changes.

The Bible.  The cross.  The blood.  Repentance.  Faith.

Yet Jesus’ challenge is that we be open to doing things differently every once in a while.
On the day of Pentecost when the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit, they were accused of drinking “new wine”.
If you want “new wine” in your life, you need new wineskins.  You need to be open to new things.
New things
(Isa 43:18-19 KJV)  Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old. {19} Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.

Will you be flexible enough when God wants to do a new thing?

You have to stay fresh and be willing to learn new things.

:23-28 Sabbath rules

:23  he went through the corn fields on the sabbath day

corn fieldssporimos – fit for sowing. Not corn as we have in America, like “corn on the cob”.  This was probably wheat or barley.

:24 …Behold, why do they on the sabbath day that which is not lawful?

What the disciples were doing actually was lawful.  They could quote:

(Deu 23:25 KJV)  When thou comest into the standing corn of thy neighbour, then thou mayest pluck the ears with thine hand; but thou shalt not move a sickle unto thy neighbour's standing corn.

But the Pharisees considered what the disciples were doing to be work on the Sabbath, and so they considered their actions unlawful.  They could quote:

(Exo 34:21 KJV)  Six days thou shalt work, but on the seventh day thou shalt rest: in earing time and in harvest thou shalt rest.

Which was right?

:26 …and did eat the showbread …

The showbread was the twelve loaves of special bread that was baked each week and placed inside the Tabernacle or the Temple before God’s presence.  When the bread was changed each week, the old bread was given to the priests to eat.

Jesus is talking about an incident recorded in 1Sam. 21:1-6 when David was fleeing from King Saul.  He found the priests at the Tabernacle and asked them for food for himself and his men.  The priest gave David the week old showbread.

David and his men are not criticized for doing something unlawful.

David and his men were hungry.  They had a need.

We need to be careful to understand the spirit of the Law.  The spirit of the Law in respect to human need takes priority over the ceremonial regulations of the Law.

In other words, God was not angered when real need drove a human being to violate a ceremonial aspect of Old Testament Law. People are more important to God than ritual observances.[1]

:27 The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath:

The Sabbath law was not made to be a burden to man, it was meant to be a blessing to man.

Yet the Pharisees had created such a strict code of additional traditions that the Sabbath was a pain to man, not a help.

:28 Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath.

Jesus is the master of the Sabbath, not the slave of the Sabbath.

Jesus has authority of what ought to be done on the Sabbath.


Legalism vs. People

There is something in us that likes to have rules.  Rules keep things in their place.  Rules keep things predictable.  Rules help me know when I’m going the wrong direction.
Yet sometimes our rules can get kind of silly.

Young girls are never allowed to walk a tightrope in Wheeler, Mississippi, unless it’s in a church.

In Blackwater, Kentucky, tickling a woman under her chin with a feather duster while she’s in church service carries a penalty of $10.00 and one day in jail.

No one can eat unshelled, roasted peanuts while attending church in Idanha, Oregon.

In Honey Creek, Iowa, no one is permitted to carry a slingshot to church except a policeman.

No citizen in Leecreek, Arkansas, is allowed to attend church in any red-colored garment.

Swinging a yo-yo in church or anywhere in public on the Sabbath is prohibited in Studley, Virginia.

Turtle races are not permitted within 100 yards of a local church at any time in Slaughter, Louisiana.

-- Robert W. Pelton in The Door.  Christian Reader, Vol. 33, no. 5.

Sometimes our rules are good for things, but not for people.
Years ago there was a problem with Calvary Chapel when the hippies began to show up to church with bare feet.  Some of the leaders were upset because this was going to get the new carpet dirty.  Chuck’s response:  “If I have to choose between carpet or kids, I’ll choose the kids.  Take out the carpet.”  The carpet stayed.  So did the kids.
The church was made for man, not man made for the church.
Falling back to living a life according to “the rules” demonstrates that we’ve lost the closeness of walking with Jesus, letting Him guide us.
Jesus came to bring the “new covenant” (Jer. 31:33) where God’s laws would be written on our hearts, not on tablets of stone that we beat each other over the head with.
Paul Tournier (1898–1986) wrote, I cannot keep count of the number of people in whom religion, the love of God and the desire to serve him, or even a quite secular ideal of perfection, lead only to a life of sterility, sadness, and anxiety. The fear of sinning has killed all their spontaneity. The subtle analysis of their conscience has taken the place of that childlike simplicity of heart that Christ demands. All joy has been replaced by the pursuit of duty. They have come to the point of doing nothing that gives them pleasure, as if God, who loves us, never required any but disagreeable things of us! They make incredible efforts but win no victories. They are always comparing themselves with those they look upon as their betters.
A. W. Tozer wrote, There is today an evangelical rationalism which says that the truth is in the Word and if you want to know truth, go learn the Word.  If you get the Word, you have the truth.  That is the evangelical rationalism that we have in fundamentalist circles:  “If you learn the text you’ve got the truth.”
This evangelical rationalist wears our uniform.  He comes in wearing our uniform and says what the Pharisees ... said:  “Well, truth is truth and if you believe the truth you’ve got it.”  Such see no beyond and no mystic depth, no mysterious or divine.  They see only, “I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth; and in Jesus Christ His only Son, our Lord.”
They have the text and the code and the creed, and to them that is the truth.  So they pass it on to others.  The result is we are dying spiritually.  To know the Truth, we must “know” the Son.

[1]Richards, L., & Richards, L. O. (1987). The teacher's commentary. Includes index. Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.