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Bible Commentaries
Mark 2

Orchard's Catholic Commentary on Holy ScriptureOrchard's Catholic Commentary

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Verses 1-28

II 1-:12 Healing of a Paralytic; cf.Matthew 9:2-8; Luke 5:17-26—The dispute with the Scribes which took place on the occasion of this miracle was the first of a series of such conflicts, 2:1-3:6, and gives the earliest indication in Mk of the growing opposition to our Lord. Christ’s miracles and teaching had aroused the enthusiasm of the people; he had begun to form his own group of disciples and conducted his mission in complete independence of the traditional religious guides of the Jews. He thus incurred the suspicion of the Scribes, the recognized interpreters of the Law, who now watched him continually, and ultimately, together with the Pharisees and Herodians, determined to put him to death.

1-5. As soon as the crowds learned of Christ’s return to Capharnaum they thronged to the house in which he was staying. The bed on which the paralytic was carried was a mat or pallet used as a stretcher. An outer stairs gave access to the flat roof of the house, and it was not difficult to make an opening, as it was a simple structure of tiles, flat stones and rubble resting on cross-beams. Christ rewarded this remarkable display of faith by remission of the sins of the paralytic.

9-10. The cure of the paralytic and the forgiving of sin both equally demanded divine power. But it was easier to claim the power implied in the words, ’Thy sins are forgiven thee’ than to claim the power to cure the paralytic. The latter claim could easily be put to the test. Consequently, the miraculous cure should be taken as proof that Christ, the Son of Man, had the power on earth to forgive sin. It is noteworthy that while all four Gospels give numerous examples of the use of the title Son of Man by Jesus to designate himself, they do not give any instance of its application to him by others. In the rest of the NT the title is found only three times, Acts 7:56; Apoc 1:13; 14:14. These passages appear to allude directly to the figure mentioned in the vision of Daniel, ’I beheld therefore in the vision of the night, and lo, one like a son of man came with the clouds of heaven’, Daniel 7:13; cf. Lattey, The Book of Daniel, 83. In Hebrew and Aramaic usage ’son of man’ means ’a man’, ’a member of the human race’; cf.Psalms 8:5. The common view of exegetes until the last century was that Jesus called himself’ the Son of Man’ in order to emphasize the human nature and lowly way of life which he had assumed at the Incarnation. Nowadays it is widely held by Catholics that the use of this title was part of the scheme of progressive revelation and instruction followed by Christ in his teaching. Because of the prevalent misconceptions about the Messias and his kingdom it would have been imprudent to claim publicly the title of Messias; Cf 1:34. By designating himself as ’ the Son of Man’ Jesus gradually prepared the way for the revelation of his identity as the suffering Messias and also the Son of God. The unusual form of the title (lit. ’the Son of the Man’) as employed by Christ, and its frequent repetition were calculated to focus attention on his person, ’the man that I am’. His humanity is thus affirmed not merely when there is reference to sufferings and humiliations, 9:12; 10:331, but also when lie claims power to forgive sin on earth or authority over the divine institution of the Sabbath, 2:28. It seems probable that a limited section of Jews, who recognized the Messianic sense of Daniel 7:13 f, referred to the Messias as ’Son of Man’, but the expression was not in common use among the people at the time of Christ as a title of the Messias. It could be used, therefore, without the risk of provoking a p?pular upheaval. Moreover, when closely linked with the vision of Daniel, it pointed to the heavenly origin of Jesus, who was not a merely human Messias but the Son of God; cf. 13:26; 14:62.

13-17 The Call of Levl; cf.Matthew 9:9-13; Luke 5:27-32 —It is clear from Matthew 9:9; Matthew 10:3 that Levi the publican and the Apostle Matthew are one and the same. The NT gives several examples of this double nomenclature, e.g. Simon-Peter, Saul-Paul, John-Mark, Joseph-Barnabas. It may be that Mk and Lk used the name Levi here because they did not wish to draw attention to the fact that one of the chosen twelve had previously belonged to a class hated by the Jews. The ’publicans’ of the Gospels were local agents of the person who had bought from the State the right to collect the taxes in a particular area. Jews who took the position were commonly regarded as renegades from Judaism. The phrase ’publicans and sinners’ in practice meant ’publicans and other sinners’.

15-16. The banquet given by Matthew provided the Scribes and Pharisees with another opportunity to attempt to discredit our Lord. They were greatly concerned with questions of ritual purity and sought scrupulously to avoid contact with all possible sources of legal defilement. The question put to the disciples was intended to create a prejudice in their minds against Jesus by suggesting that he was blameworthy in associating with persons whom the Pharisees regarded as sources of defilement because of their contacts with pagans and disregard of the Law and pharisaic traditions.

17a. Christ’s ministry is compared to that of a physician; the physician must come into contact with the sick who need his ministrations, and similarly, Christ, the physician of souls, must associate with sinners.

17b. The salvation of sinners is the object of Christ’s mission. The self-righteous Pharisees, by their pride and obstinate opposition to the claims and teaching of Jesus, are excluding themselves from the blessings of Messianic salvation.

18-22 A Question concerning Fasting; cf.Matthew 9:14-17; Luke 5:33-39—Fasting was well known to the Jews as a sign of repentance and mourning. The Mosaic Law had prescribed only the Day of Atonement as a general day of fasting, but custom had introduced other days and the Pharisces boasted that they fasted frequently.

18. The question put to our Lord was intended to place him in an unfavourable light by contrasting the conduct of his followers with the ascetic practices of the Pharisees and of John’s disciples.

19-20. Christ uses a simple illustration to show that fasting by his disciples is inopportune while he is with them. At a wedding celebration no one expects the companions of the bridegroom to fast, because it is a time of joy. Similarly, while Christ is with the disciples, fasting is out of place. But when he is taken away, i.e. after his Passion and Death, then the disciples will fast in token of sorrow. It is in this spirit, in association with the sufferings and death of Christ, that the Church orders times of fasting.

21-22. In these two illustrations Christ taught that the spirit which would animate his followers is incompatible with the spirit which inspired pharisaic observance. ’Raw cloth’ is the new material which has not yet been fulled in order to prevent shrinking. Such material is quite unsuitable for patching old garments, because when it shrinks it will make an even larger rent in the old garment. ’Bottles’: Gk ’wineskins’. Skins of animals were commonly used in antiquity as containers for liquids. New unfermented wine must not be put into old wineskins, which are worn and inelastic, as the fermentation may cause them to burst. The disciples were being prepared for a new life animated by a spirit totally different from that of the Pharisees. In the economy to be established by Christ fasting would be practised as a sincere expression of repentance, not as a display of righteousness.

23-28 The First Dispute about the Sabbath; cf.Matthew 12:1-8; Luke 6:1-5—The observance of the obligation of abstaining from work on the Sabbath, which is the subject of this dispute, figured frequently in conflicts between Christ and his opponents; cf.Mark 3:1-6; Luke 13:10-17; John 5:9-18. The Mosaic Law, Exodus 20:10, had forbidden work on the Sabbath in order to give men relief from their daily labours and to enable them to share in the public worship of God. But the Scribes, by excessive rigour in the interpretation of this law, had made the observance of the Sabbath an intolerable burden. Christ showed, Matthew 12:5, Matthew 12:11, that the Scribes were inconsistent in their interpretation and that they had lost sight of the fundamental purpose of the law.

23-24. The action of the disciples in plucking the cars of corn and rubbing out the grain is taken as a violation of the prohibition of work on the Sabbath.

25-26. Christ disregards casuistic discussion of the law of sabbath rest and considers the essential nature and purpose of the law. In effect, his answer means that the law of abstention from work is not an absolutely rigid and immutable regulation based on the nature of things. It is rather a positive ordinance intended to benefit mankind. The letter of the law must not be insisted on against the demands of charity and the needs of men. ’Loaves of proposition’. Twelve loaves were placed on the table of the sanctuary each Sabbath and when changed at the end of the week were to be eaten by the priests, Leviticus 24:5-9. The incident from the biblical narrative, 1 Kg 21:1-6, illustrates forcibly the point that the letter of the law should not be allowed to stand in the way of the urgent needs of men. ’Under Abiathar the high-priest’. According to the text of 1 Kg 21:1-6 it was the priest Achimelech, not his son Abiathar, who gave the loaves to David. Some suggest that the phrase is not authentic. Others take it to mean ’in the time of Abiathar’ or ’in the biblical passage about Abiathar’; cf.Mark 12:26; Romans 11:2. Abiathar was closely connected with David as the highpriest of the time (cf. Knabenbauer, Evangelium sec. Marcum, 87-9). He figures prominently in the biblical narrative and was presumably present on this occasion. We are not here dealing with a word for word citation from the OT, but rather with a general allusion to an incident which illustrates the point of doctrine which Jesus wished to inculcate.

27. The fundamental principle is that the law of sabbath rest was intended to benefit mankind. Its observance is subordinate to the needs of men, who were not created merely in order to observe the Sabbath. 28. Further, the Son of Man, i.e. Jesus the Messias and Son of God, has authority to interpret or even to abrogate the Sabbath. In declaring himself ’Lord of the Sabbath’ Christ claims authority over a divine institution, thus making an implicit claim to divinity.

Bibliographical Information
Orchard, Bernard, "Commentary on Mark 2". Orchard's Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/boc/mark-2.html. 1951.
 
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