Mark 2:4. They uncovered the roof. Houses in the east have mostly flat roofs on which they walk for the benefit of the air. They have but a narrow door, and seldom a window to the street. All their lower windows are toward the gardens.
Mark 2:7. Who can forgive sins but God only. When Nathan came to David he said, “The Lord hath put away thy sin, thou shalt not die.” The pharisees on hearing Christ, being learned in the law, said, “this man blasphemeth.” What would they have said to modern priests enthroned in the temples or confessionals, and blotting out the people’s sins as a cloud, among which are thousands of private murders in Ireland! None but God can judge of the preparation of heart for remission, none besides has authority to remit the penalty of his law: “against thee, and thee only have I sinned,” said David. Then God alone can forgive.
Mark 2:8. When Jesus perceived in his spirit that they so reasoned within themselves. Not his human soul, in which he sighed deeply when the jews demanded a sign from him, Mark 8:12; nor yet the Holy Spirit by which the prophets were inspired; but spiritus personæ ejus (Dei Creatoris) Christus Dominus. The Spirit of his Person, the Christ, the Lord. By consequence, Spirit in this place is equivalent to the Word of God. See in Poole’s Synopsis of the critics, many testimonies from the fathers, that, to use St. Paul’s word, Hebrews 1:3, the hypostasis or person of the Son is the same with the hypostasis or person of the Father. What other spirit could know the evil reasoning of these doctors? What other proof could the apostles ask of the omniscience of their Lord and master? “He knew all men, and needed not that any should testify of man, for he knew what was in man.” John 2:23-24.
Of the method of pardoning sins in Ireland, an interesting memoir has just appeared by Thomas… sergeant in the forty third regiment. Having served at Copenhagen, and nearly in all the campaigns of Spain and Portugal, on returning home he was advised to go to the priest. He had misgivings as to the value of those services, but the importunity of his friends prevailed.
“On arriving at the chapel,” he says, “which was a barn, I found a crowd of persons, all waiting to be relieved of their moral burdens. His reverence at length appeared: a haughtier figure I do not remember to have seen. On commencing the service, the latin was to me an intolerable jargon. A fierce rush was made by those without for admission. The reason for this haste did not consist in any special desire first to catch the benedictions, but because we had been told, it was a deadly sin to eat before confession. After a tremendous row, which had nearly ended in a fight, I was ushered into the presence of the priest. ‘Tell out your sins,’ said he; a terrific commencement, but there was no retreat. I related the particulars of my life, not forgetting occurrences in the campaigns abroad. He then prescribed me a course of penance, promising me the eucharist on a future occasion.
I was then advised to apply to father K… at the parish chapel, a deep old file. On approaching, he sung out for money due to the church. After such an opening I felt no desire either for his advice or pardon. In a few weeks I was induced to apply again; but in this instance I fared, if possible, still worse. He had taken his station at an alehouse. Some of the auditory were augmenting existing sins by excessive drinking; others were confessing, and a few receiving pardons. — I left the scene with unmingled disgust:” p. 204. Published by J. Mason, 66, Paternoster Row. This occurred in a rude part of the country; no doubt greater decency is observed in the large towns.
Mark 2:14. He saw Levi — sitting at the receipt of custom, and taking toll of passengers and traders as they passed the bridge over the Jordan, a little below the sea of Galilee. Dr. Lightfoot quotes a law of the pharisees to expel from their communion any man who entered on the profession of a publican, because they regarded them as robbers. The poor complain of all taxes as oppressive, because they neither see nor feel the wants and dangers of the state; but a nation without defence becomes a prey to every invading foe.
Mark 2:17. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance, such as the publicans just named. There is a sentence in the prayer of Manasseh which seems to apply here. “Oh Lord, that art the God of the just; thou hast not appointed repentance to the just, as to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, which have not sinned against thee; but thou hast appointed repentance unto me, who am a sinner; for I have sinned above the number of the sands of the sea.” Then it follows that Christ came not to call the righteous to repentance, such as Nathaniel, but to gather them by faith into the fold of the sheep. Others turn the text to the self righteous, who were called indeed, “but they would not come.”
Mark 2:18. Thy disciples fast not. They were full of labour from morning till night, and could not fast. They were rejoicing in the presence and glory of the Bridegroom; but the days would soon come when the Bridegroom should be taken away, and then they should fast and weep in many afflictions. A mild reply to a question asked with no very gracious designs. Heathens as well as jews had days and times of fasting, though unbounded in festivity, as far as money would go. Matthew 6:16. Zechariah 7:3.
Mark 2:26. Abiathar the highpriest. 1 Samuel 21:1; 1 Samuel 21:6. Ahimelech was the highpriest, and Abiathar his son the sagon cohen, the second priest. The jews always had the sagon in readiness, lest accidents should happen to the chief priest. Some think that Mark uses here the antonomasia, which puts the office for a dignity, as when we say, the orator, for Demosthenes. It is more probable that Mark calls Abiathar by that dignity, because from the moment his father was slain, he lawfully succeeded to that office.
Mark 2:28. The Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath. The sabbath was made for man, the BEN ADAM, as in Psalms 8., or the Son of man. He therefore can dispense with the sabbath in cases of need, as in the great question in chap. Mark 3:4. “Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath day, or to do evil?” The enemies were silent. The grand criterion is, whether the thing done be God’s work or our own. If it be the work of God, he who causes the winds to blow, by consequence commands the seaman to steer his ship. How wide then of those gracious laws are the pursuits of trade and labour, and licentious pleasures, fraught with contempt for the worship of God.
The case of the man afflicted with the palsy is highly instructive. His friends as well as himself believed that Christ was the best physician; they therefore surmounted all difficulties in gaining access to the Saviour. They hoisted him over the battlements, and let him down through the door of the roof. Admirable faith is admirable in its exertions to see Jesus. It will climb a tree like Zaccheus, and take no denial like the woman of Canaan.
Jesus perceiving their faith, and perceiving that the paralytic was more solicitous of salvation than of health, comforted him first with a declaration of pardon. Son, be of good cheer, thy sins be forgiven thee. Christ often speaks more comfortably to the seeking soul than is expected, and bestows favours which often confound and revolt the self-righteous. Who is this that forgiveth sins also; said those who were not worthy of a pardon. Undismayed in the exercise of grace by self-righteous clamour, our Lord healed this man’s body as a proof that he had granted remission to his soul. He said, Arise, take up thy bed and go to thy house. Let me here add, that sanctifying grace must always follow justification. Christ must still work a double cure; for the healing of our pride, our concupiscence, and self-love, are the only sure proofs that our sins are forgiven. He whom the Lord forgives receives strength to take up his cross and follow him, as this man did when he took up his bed and walked.
We are transported with admiration of the blessed Saviour. Whether with the pharisees or with the sadducees, whether disputing with daring individuals, or addressing the multitude, he was always king in Jeshurun. His words disclosed the perfection of wisdom, and his conduct was covered with glory and grace. But he most of all confounded his foes by disclosing their thoughts. They were arrested by a presence more than human, and retired in confusion and shame.
To this gracious miracle we must add another glance, on the condescending love of the Saviour. He went to dine with publicans: what a guest. What a friend was he to publicans and sinners! Nay, oh sinners, he knocks at the door of your hearts, and asks to sup with you, that you may sup with him. What do you say? Can you still keep the door shut? Must the fell murderer for ever keep possession of the Lord’s castle? For once be men; rise, like Samson, in the strength of grace, and once for all act the part of men.
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Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Mark 2". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/
Second Sunday after Epiphany