During His ministry on earth Jesus was bitterly attacked by those who hated Him. No area was off limits and no time was ever inconvenient for the Pharisees and others to oppose and criticize the hard or various issues.
In Mark chapter 2, Mark describes a rather intense attack upon Jesus which saw His accusers question Him regarding His character and tracking. We're going to review these and see not only how Jesus handled these people but also see what their attacks managed to reveal about Jesus Himself. The beauty of Christ is that He not only received the insults of His enemies, but He managed to use these occasions to glorify Himself as the Son of God through them.
The Attacks - Mark 2:1-28
The attacks against the Lord took various forms. In Mark 2, the gospel writer lists 4 separate attacks questioning Jesus' credibility.
When He had come back to Capernaum several days afterward, it was heard that He was at home. 2And many were gathered together, so that there was no longer room, not even near the door; and He was speaking the word to them. 3And they came, bringing to Him a paralytic, carried by four men. 4Being unable to get to Him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above Him; and when they had dug an opening, they let down the pallet on which the paralytic was lying. 5And Jesus seeing their faith said to the paralytic, "Son, your sins are forgiven." 6 But some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, 7"Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming; who can forgive sins but God alone?" 8Immediately Jesus, aware in His spirit that they were reasoning that way within themselves, said to them, "Why are you reasoning about these things in your hearts? 9Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven'; or to say, 'Get up, and pick up your pallet and walk'? 10But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins"—He said to the paralytic, 11"I say to you, get up, pick up your pallet and go home." 12And he got up and immediately picked up the pallet and went out in the sight of everyone, so that they were all amazed and were glorifying God, saying, "We have never seen anything like this."
- Mark 2:1-12
In this scene Jesus has returned home after a dynamic series of healing ministries in Galilee.
- He has healed the masses
- People knew who he was and His fame was spread throughout the country
- But now he faced the home town crowd and the local "clergy men."
Had Jesus healed the paralytic right away, the meaning of what He had done would have been lost in the wonder of the miracle. Miracles were done as "signs" that pointed to something else, as a matter of fact they were called "signs" or "wonders" in other passages (Mark 16:20). The miracles Jesus did were done to "point to" His authority and His authority was necessary to accomplish His main task
Forgiving or removing the sins of men.
So when the Scribes questioned His authority in forgiving sins, they were on the right track - they understood that in order to forgive sins one must have authority, the kind of authority that only God possesses. What they refused to accept was that Jesus had this kind of authority. In doing the miracle after forgiving the man, Jesus demonstrated the kind of power that only God could possess - power to heal in a miraculous way.
In this 1st episode the people who witnessed the words and miracle understood that Jesus' authority to forgive was based on His power and His power was demonstrated through miracles.
And it happened that He was reclining at the table in his house, and many tax collectors and sinners were dining with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many of them, and they were following Him. 16 When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that He was eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they said to His disciples, "Why is He eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners?" 17 And hearing this, Jesus said to them, "It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners."
- Mark 2:15-17
Once again Jesus is in His own home (the passage suggests that the man let down through the roof was also in His own home). He is eating and welcoming into His home the "riff-raff" of the community.
Those who were considered sinners for various reasons (uneducated, unfaithful, unwanted because of their sinful behavior) as well as tax-collectors (those who worked for Rome in collecting Jewish taxes). Their objection was that He was becoming ceremonially impure (unable to enter and worship at the temple because of contact with sinners).
The real attack was that He Himself was impure and sinful like these He welcomed. Of course you notice that the passage said several things about His association with these people: These people were there along with His disciples suggesting that His disciples were bringing these people to Jesus in an effort to save them He was eating with them but there was no suggestion of a party or any form of revelry. In other words, He wasn't sharing their sinful habits, they were sharing His meal along with His disciples. These people were following Him, meaning that they were receiving instructions from Jesus like the other disciples received.
In His response in vs. 17 Jesus demonstrated that His purity did not rest upon meticulous keeping of ceremonial washings and religious traditions - His purity was based on His compassion. His association with sinners didn't make Him dirty, it made them clean!
18 John's disciples and the Pharisees were fasting; and they came and said to Him, "Why do John's disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast?" 19 And Jesus said to them, "While the bridegroom is with them, the attendants of the bridegroom cannot fast, can they? So long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. 20 But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day.
21 "No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; otherwise the patch pulls away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear results. 22 No one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost and the skins as well; but one puts new wine into fresh wineskins."
- Mark 2:18-22
Here the attack is directed towards Jesus' disciples but the inference is directed towards the Lord. Pharisee's disciples fast, John's disciples fast, but yours don't. The dedication is that since your disciples' zeal is less than there, you must also be less in stature than them.
The reason the Pharisees' disciples fasted is because there was a religious law imposed on them by the Pharisees. The reason that John's disciples fasted was because John had been arrested and was in prison and they prayed and fasted for his condition.
Jesus' disciples were not asked to fast by Jesus and since He was with them they rejoiced in His presence, there was no need to fast. The Lord tells them however that they too will fast one day when He too will be taken away (a reference to His death on the cross)
The verses about the patch and wineskin refer to their condition. He does not reveal to them the details of His death and resurrection because they could not accept it, they didn't believe. i.e. He was the new patch, they the old cloth. He was the new wine and they, in their disbelief were the old wineskin.
They indirectly questioned His dedication and although they didn't see it right away, they would eventually see His total dedication and zeal for God and man by dying on the cross for all sinners, including them!
23 And it happened that He was passing through the grain fields on the Sabbath, and His disciples began to make their way along while picking the heads of grain. 24 The Pharisees were saying to Him, "Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?" 25 And He said to them, "Have you never read what David did when he was in need and he and his companions became hungry; 26 how he entered the house of God in the time of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the consecrated bread, which is not lawful for anyone to eat except the priests, and he also gave it to those who were with him?" 27 Jesus said to them, "The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.28 So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath."
- Mark 2:23-28
Once again the accusation is made through an attack on His disciples. The change was that of working on the Sabbath.
Jews were not to harvest or work on the Sabbath day. Jesus' disciples picked off some heads of grain to eat on their way (which was lawful - you could eat what you picked as you went through, but couldn't carry anything out with you). The Pharisees saw this and accused them (and Jesus) of improper conduct (sin) in regards to the law.
In answering them Jesus gives the example of David and his men eating the showbread (12 loaves kept in the Holy Place and only eaten by the priests) - not out of disrespect but out of need (they were on the run from Saul and had no other food available).
This example and the verse saying that the Sabbath being made for man and not man for the Sabbath explained to His enemies who were hung up on external, ceremonial religion - that outward ceremony was created to serve inward man, not the reverse.
In other words, the elements of religion are there to point to spiritual realities but they are not themselves the realities:
- i.e. - The showbread was a reminder that all the earth's produce belonged to the Lord, not just their 12 loaves.
- i.e. - The Sabbath was a reminder that one day there would be a total rest and peace for man to enjoy with God, not just one day per week.
By eating the grain, by healing and doing God's work on the Sabbath Jesus showed them that it was not the elements that are sacred, it was the ideas that they represented that are sacred, and to be served.
- i.e. - We fall into the same trap when we fuss over how to serve communion (one cup or many) - the bread and wine are the elements, what they represent is sacred - how we serve them is not.
Jesus' enemies were accusing Him of not respecting the Law because He disregarded their traditions and rules about how to handle the elements of religion. Jesus' proper use of the elements showed them that He knew the difference between symbol and substance. His conduct was not merely a blind response to Law, but rather a living embodiment of the Law.
In other words, if they watched His conduct carefully, they would have learned what perfect obedience to the Law really looked like.
- i.e. Healing on the Sabbath they said was "work" and sinful, but He showed that it was God's work to give peace to those who suffered - esp. on the Sabbath the day of peace and rest!
The Results of the Attacks
In their attempts to discredit Jesus and His disciples, the Jews searched to:
- Show Him as being without authority
- Unclean and common
- Lacking in spiritual zeal and dedication
- Basically disobedient to the Law and sinful
Jesus did not complain or defend Himself but rather managed to turn the tables on His enemies by revealing:
- His divine authority based on His divine power
- His great compassion for sinners
- His ultimate commitment in sacrificing Himself
His righteousness by living according to the true "Spirit" of the Law and not just the letter of the Law. The net result of their attacks was that He was recognized and declared to be the Son of God. In the end they came to know who He was by how He was.
Twenty centuries later we are witnesses of these attacks and how Jesus used them to reveal Himself. Twenty centuries later we learn some important lessons that serve us in our struggle with attacks against us by Satan and the world:
1. Attacks Against Faith
Satan will continually try to create doubt in our minds about who Jesus really is. If we doubt His divinity, we'll doubt His authority. If we doubt His authority we'll doubt His ability to save, bless and judge and we will fall away. We won't follow someone who isn't divine. But when you read the gospels and see how He was…
- Healings, miracles, teachings, conduct, sacrifice, resurrection.
You'll remain convinced about who He was and still is. In remaining convinced about who He is you will have confidence in what He can still do for your today.
- forgive your sins
- help you in this life
- strengthen you to resist Satan's attacks
- give you everlasting life
Seeing how Jesus responded also helps us with…
2. Seduction By The World
Paul warned Christians of the 1st century not to be conformed by the pressure (or seduction) of this world but to be transformed. Every generation has to deal with the lure of modeling or molding their lives and lifestyle according to the patterns favored in this world.
- we are tempted to give up spiritual life for the momentary pleasures of different sins.
- We are encouraged to live for the moment, live for ourselves only, live without regard to the day when we will be judged.
But Jesus provides the model that teaches us how to live, how to react to adversity, how to deal with the world without losing our souls. We can learn to be who we were meant to be by molding our lives on the way He lived His. One of the reasons for His human life was to provide a model for our own since our original model - Adam - could no longer provide the necessary example.
I encourage you to model your life after the one that Jesus lived - it's the life that never ends and is filled with job, peace and power:
- If you want to begin that life, Jesus provides the example of obedience to baptism for your to follow.
- If you want to return to that life Jesus provides the cross as an example of His love and forgiveness for your.
Do people know who you are by how you are?