Jesus didn’t come for the super religious – he came for you (Mark 2:1-17)

I often think I should be more religious. I should pray more, read my Bible more, meditate on God’s word more. I spend too much time on inconsequential things, I think. I should be doing more, doing better. I become filled with doubt. Is my faith active? Is it enough?

Partially I suppose this is my own insecurity. Partially this is an inherited view of what it looks like to be “worthy”. Me? I’m just me. Nothing special, mostly spiritually limping through life and just managing to get through every day.

Maybe you feel like this too. I should be doing more. I should be doing better.

Note: This is a stand alone blog that doesn’t depend on any other piece. But it runs as part of an online Bible study in Mark and throughout there are links to previous observations. You can dip in and out or start at the beginning if you like. If not, that’s also fine – you don’t need to have started at the beginning to be able to get into this blog.

Thankfully, we’re exactly the people that Jesus came for. He said so quite clearly.

Last week we saw that Jesus has communicated some things about himself, and is controlling how the information is delivered so his ministry is not hijacked by those who are desperate for a military and political overhaul of the Roman Empire.

Jesus had been in Jerusalem, but when John the Baptist is arrested, Jesus and his followers head north to Galilee, which is quite some distance away.


There’s still a sense that people’s understanding of Jesus is fledgling. In verses 2-5 we see the friends of a paralysed man bring their friend to Jesus to heal. They have enormous faith in Jesus ability to heal him – but not necessarily anything else.

What’s also interesting is that Jesus heals the paralysed man, not because of his faith but because of the faith of his friends. The Bible is silent on the thoughts of the paralysed man. We don’t know if he was a person of faith or if he was even ok about being dragged all over the place and lowered from a great height through the roof.

Jesus sends a powerful message by forgiving the mans’ sins, even though he knows they came for physical healing.

Why would he do this? This is not what they came for. But this is part of Jesus’ communication. First, what you think you need, is not what you need. Second, I have the power and authority to meet both needs.

In large part, this is a demonstration for the Pharisees. When Jesus forgives the mans sins, they accuse him of blaspheming because none but God can forgive sins. So is Jesus saying he has the same power as God? Or is he saying he is God? For those experiencing this first hand, this is what they are trying to work out. Who is this man?

Jesus makes it even clearer for us. He uses his power to heal an irreversible physical state to prove his ability to forgive sin.

He also uses a specific name for himself – “the Son of Man” is taken from Daniel 7 as a means of communicating that he has authority on earth to forgive sins:

“In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed. (Daniel 7:13-14)

That’s HUGE.

Take a moment. It doesn’t matter if you’re a new Christian or have been one for 60 years. This truth of what Jesus is communicating about himself is mind bending.

Well, this leaves us amazed and wondrous, just like the people in Mark 2:12. And even though Jesus has demonstrated his power and authority, he has come into conflict with the establishment. In the next episode, he comes into conflict with them again.

Jesus calls Levi the tax collector. Tax collectors are the “baddies” of the Roman Jewish world. They are collaborators. They collect the taxes of their own people to give to the Romans and along the way, skim kick backs for themselves. In our world, this would be the corrupt landlords we see on A Current Affair – the low lifes who only care about lining their own pockets. And Jesus calls this guy??

This is not a comment on favouritism or that bad people get all the good stuff with no penalties. Levi got up and followed him. Levi had an encounter with the living God and he followed him. The implication is that he changed. He didn’t keep his horrible life and then take more. He left his horrible life to follow Jesus – and you only follow Jesus when you have become aware of your own sin and the deep need you have to be saved.

I think the juxtaposition of this story with the last one is interesting. The paralysed man got up and walked out. Levi got up and followed Jesus. I don’t want to push the analogy too far as it’s a different Greek word for each instance of “got up”. But I think it’s interesting that a man who has very visible issues on the outside who is physically healed and forgiven, is juxtaposed with a man who is outwardly OK but carries his darkness on the inside. Jesus heals physically. But the point is that he heals spiritually. In both cases, the object of Jesus actions walk away into a new life.

The conflict with the Pharisees – our resident super religious types – continues as they question Jesus eating with sinners.

We see this as obvious. Of course Jesus would eat with sinners. But back in the day, the legalism of the Pharisees had a genuine intent. They believed that their religiosity and strict adherence to the law, would bring them closer to God and hasten the coming of the Messiah. It was that important. So Jesus eating with sinners and tax collectors, where purity at the feast table could not be assured, was not a matter of being snooty. It was a question of creating barriers between Israel and God. Without adherence to the law and regulations around food and purity, God’s presence was inhibited and there was a serious impact to his coming.

Of course the irony is that God had already come and their religiosity was creating barriers between them and the living God. It was even inhibiting their ability to see him.

The trouble with religion is that it becomes the focal point of faith. It stops you seeing the wood for the trees. You become so intent on following certain rules and regulations that you forget to have a heart for God and a relationship with Christ.

And Jesus didn’t come for those people. He came for us. Sinners.

We may not be the corrupt land lords who get chased down the street by a roving camera reporter, but we are in the same category. We have our darkness on the inside. We are sinners.

But being a sinner who has the opportunity of forgiveness from God, is infinitely better than being a super religious type who thinks they will earn their way to heaven by following rules.

We must never forget that we are sinners, and while we already have our salvation, we depend totally on him. We look to him in faith for our growth in Christ likeness. And we only keep growing because we have an awareness that we are prone to sin. We must always remember not to rely on rules and regulations, thinking we are better than others or that it will get us closer to God – it will alienate people and it will take us further away.

There are things that we will do regularly – church, small groups, praying, reading our Bibles and so on. But we do these because we are already saved, because we already have a relationship with Christ and we want to grow to be like him. We don’t do those things because we get salvation points, like it’s a crazy rewards program.

Rules and regs, or a relationship with the Son of Man. Ponder what Jesus said about himself and know that he came for you.

“In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed. (Daniel 7:13-14)

15 thoughts

  1. One thing I find interesting in this passage is the theme of forgiveness. In my own mind I tend to have the idea that if someone does something wrong to me I need to forgive them regardless of whether they are sorry for what they have done or not but when I come to God I feel as though the only way He will forgive me is if I confess to Him all the things I’ve done wrong and then ask for His forgiveness and feel bad sbout whay I’ve done for a really long time. What I find interesting in this passage is that the man being lowered down on the bed doesn’t ask to be forgiven for his sins but Jesus says his sins are forgiven. Do we need to confess our sins in order to be forgiven by God or is there another reason we confess our sins to God?

    The other thing I find interesting is that Jesus proves that he has the authority to forgive the man’s sins by healing him physically. From this it would seem there’s a link in this passage with this mans physical ailment and sin. I know in other passages in scripture Jesus’ disciples ask whose sin caused a man to be blind and Jesus responded that he wasn’t blind because of sin (John 9:3). I just wondered if, in some cases, there are links between physical ailments and sin?

    Another thing I see in this passage and many others is that large crowds came to hear Jesus. I wonder why I don’t see large crowds gathering at church to hear what Jesus says now. I know in some churches they do but most don’t seem to have large crowds. Any thoughts on why large crowds came to Jesus while He was alive but often not when His word is preached at church? I sometimes wonder if we’ve become like the religious people and that we judge or look down on people instead of loving them like Jesus did and whether we water down Jesus words so they don’t impact the way they did when He taught in bible times?

    1. These are such good thoughts! I hope I do them justice….

      Lets take the easier one first! I see how there might be an apparent link between physical ailment and sin in this passage but you rightly pick up how later Jesus quashes that link. If you look at this passage, I don’t think there’s anywhere where the sin is linked to the ailment – they are treated as two separate ailments or two separate conditions. Jesus heals one condition as proof that he has the power and authority to deal with the other condition. I think the more interesting echo is with physical degeneration and spiritual death. Our bodies degrade and die but spiritually sin is death. I think in passages like these, Jesus is drawing our attention to the separateness of the conditions – the body dies, but we are already in spiritual death. He can heal our bodies – but there are many he doesn’t heal. But his sacrifice is sufficient for all who take the gift God has offered to all.

      That leads me to your first point. What you’re tapping into here is what Calvin called the “ordo salutis” or the “order of salvation”. this was an attempt to pick apart what exactly happens between predestination and eventual glorification of the believer. In Calvin’s ordo salutis, faith actually comes before repentance. This makes sense since in our own experience (well, certainly mine!) I repented because I had started to believe, and in believing, understood the depth of my sinfulness. This led to my repentance and justification. This seems very bureaucratic but there are important distinctions – I suggest your own reading and research but one of the key implications is the sense that “we forgive as God forgave you”. We think this means we have to exercise forgiveness freely and without any repentance on the part of the person who has wounded us. What the ordo salutis shows is that while God’s forgiveness is available to all, only those who accept his gift are forgiven. This means that while his forgiveness isn’t conditional on repentance, it does mean that forgiveness is predicated by repentance. This is profound for us in that we can feel the pressure to forgive. We must be ready to forgive, certainly, and there is a work of the heart to be undertaken to get to that point. I can highly recommend the following on forgiveness in real life:

      Your last point about crowds around Jesus and crowds in our churches is a great one and if I had the answer, all our churches would be full! Culture…..a history of the church being seen as (or actually being) legalistic…..drowned out by the Enlightenment (and the 20th century equivalent)…..there are so many many reasons that the church has faltered in modern times. Would you believe that France is a mission field now? The French Revolution and the humanist movement eradicated Christianity from culture – even down to changing religious sounding street names. so there’s no simple answer. But what I do know is that the church has always been counter cultural and has always been under pressure from the world around us. We just need to stay faithful and obedient, grow in Christlikeness and allow him to work through us. Its why online communities like this are so important!

      1. Thanks for the response. I have been considering it and in going back to the scripture passage I can now see that Jesus forgives the man’s sins first but when He does this it doesn’t change the man’s physical condition. So in looking more closely at the passage it would seem there is no link between the man’s sins and his physical healing as it’s only when Jesus tells the man to take up his bed and walk (an act of faith) that the man is healed physically. It would seem then that Jesus healing the man is an outward sign that He has power to both heal physical ailments and forgive. Do you believe this is an accurate understanding?

        I’m now considering that maybe, like the disciples in John 9, the pharisees probably believed sin and physical ailments were linked, which may have been why Jesus used healing the physical condition as proof of his authority to forgive sin. If the man wasn’t healed physically the pharisees could have argued his sins weren’t forgiven either!

        The article link you posted about forgiveness was interesting and I’m looking forward to looking at it and Calvins order salutis more deeply. Like you, I also came to believe in Jesus and his resurrection before I repented. Once I realised Jesus died for my sins and that I had sinned, repentance seemed to flow on as the right and necessary response to the truth i’d discovered. I’d never thought of the order or it’s importance before. I also look forward to considering this further.

        In regards to forgiveness, this may be out of the scope of this bible study, but John 20:23, which says if you forgive men their sins they are forgiven but if you retain them they are retained, is another scripture that puzzles me a bit. Do you have any insights on this scripture? It’s the retaining part that puzzles me.

        Really enjoying engaging with you in this bible study. Thanks for responding to my questions. I’m learning a lot and your responses are encouraging me to think and pray more deeply about the scriptures which is an answer to my prayers.

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