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Bible Commentaries
Mark 2

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Verses 1-12

Mark 2:1-12

Note here:

I. The helplessness of some men. All helplessness traceable to sin.

II. The social usefulness of some other men. We can all carry sufferers to Christ, even when we cannot heal them ourselves. To point a sinner to Christ is a good work; to carry a little child to the Saviour is to execute a most blessed mission.

III. The possibilities of earnestness. These men uncovered the roof in their determination to approach the Healer.

IV. The vigilance of Jesus Christ over human action. He knew the meaning of the extraordinary movement that was taking place, and the reward which He gave to the earnest men was great.

V. The censorious spirits of technical observers.

Parker, City Temple, 1871, p. 45.

References: Mark 2:1-12 . J. S. Exell, Christian World Pulpit, vol. ix., p. 229. Mark 2:3 , Mark 2:4 . Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iv., p. 542.Mark 2:3 , Mark 2:12 . Ibid., vol. vi., p. 9. Mark 2:4 . Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, p. 251; Parker, Christian Commonwealth, vol. vii., p. 407. Mark 2:5 . W. F. Hook, Sermons on the Miracles, vol. i., p. 104; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. ii., p. 409.

Verse 8

Mark 2:8

The text shows

I. An important aspect of human power. Secrecy; having two lives. These considerations make us mysteries to one another.

II. A startling instance of Divine insight.

III. A splendid manifestation of Christ's fearlessness.

IV. A solemn example of the confusion which will fall upon all Christ's objectors.

Parker, City Temple, vol. i., p. 303.

References: Mark 2:8 . Homiletic Quarterly, vol. ii., p. 561.Mark 2:9 . Preacher's Monthly, vol. iv., p. 112.Mark 2:10 . Ibid., vol. iii., p. 50; R. E. Wallis, Expositor, 2nd series, vol. iii., p. 106. Mark 2:12 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxi., No. 1269. Mark 2:13 . Homiletic Quarterly, vol. ii., p. 253.Mark 2:13-15 . Ibid., vol. vi., p. 11.Mark 2:13-17 . H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. x., p. 267; H. M. Luckock, Footprints of the Son of Man, p. 43.Mark 2:14 . J. S. Exell, Christian World Pulpit, vol. ix., p. 181.Mark 2:14 , Mark 2:15 . Preacher's Monthly, vol. ii., p. 462.Mark 2:15-17 . Ibid., p. 108; A. B. Bruce, The Training of the Twelve, p. 20. Mark 2:15-22 . W. Hanna, Our Lord's Life on Earth, p. 154.

Verse 16

Mark 2:16

I. The question which was asked by the scribes and Pharisees is very instructive, for the answer to it illustrates the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ in His work and person. Why was He at all at the feast of Matthew? Because He was and is the Friend of sinners. Here we have one of the most glorious titles of our Lord and Saviour; not merely because, being such as we are, we naturally fix our eyes upon those qualities in Him which meet most directly and consolingly the case of our fallen and wounded nature; not chiefly because, in ancient language, our wants are the real measure of our enthusiasms; but because God's condescensions reveal His glory even more completely than it is revealed by His magnificence. The magnificence of God is altogether beyond us. By His condescension He places Himself within our powers of, in some degree, understanding Him. His condescension is the visible measure of His love. And thus the glory of His work depends upon and illustrates another glory the glory of His character. He could He can afford to be the Friend of sinners. Purity is fearless where mere respectability is timid; where it is frightened at the whisperings of evil tongues; where it is frightened at the consciousness of inward weakness, if indeed it be only weakness. It was the glory of Christ, as the sinless Friend of sinners, which made Him eat and drink as He did, to the scandal of the Pharisees, in the house of Levi.

II. And the answer to the question of the scribes and Pharisees is a comment on the action and history of the Church of Christ. Of her, too, the complaint has been made, age after age, by contemporary Pharisees, sometimes in ignorance, sometimes in malice "How is it that she eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners." Like her Lord, the Church has entered into the life of sinful humanity. The idea of a hermit Church of a Church made up of recluses, such as Donatists such as some Puritans have imagined, involves nothing less than a sacrifice of the whole plan of Jesus Christ for the regeneration of the world. Still must the Church do what she may for the blessing and improvement of all departments of activity and life. Duty is not less duty because it is dangerous. Precautions and safeguards are near at hand, but she may not cease to eat and drink with publicans and sinners.

III. These words are not without suggestiveness as to the duty and conduct of private Christians. On what terms ought a Christian to consort with those who openly deny the truth of religion, or who live in flagrant violation of its precepts? Here there are two dangers to guard against. (1) On the one hand, we must beware of Pharisaism; that rank weed which so soon springs up in the souls of those who are trying to serve God. (2) On the other hand, we must guard against an appearance or affectation of indifference to the known will of God, whether in matters of faith or conduct.

H. P. Liddon, Penny Pulpit, No. 898.

References: Mark 2:16 , Mark 2:17 . Homiletic Quarterly, vol. vi., p. 12.Mark 2:17 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxiii., No. 1345; D. Fraser, Metaphors of the Gospels, p. 106.

Verses 18-20

Mark 2:18-20

A Word from Jesus on Fasting.

Fasting, in its essence, is the restraint of self in respect of lower appetite, with special reference to abstinence from that which nourishes the body. Its advantages Jesus Christ never denied; indeed He availed Himself of them for forty days in the wilderness. Even the Pagans understood something of them. For example, the third day in the festival of the Eleusinian mysteries was a fast-day, and every supplicant at the oracle of Trophonius fasted twenty-four hours before he was prepared to receive the answer. During our Lord's days fasts were numerous, every Monday and Thursday being observed by the Essenes and the stricter Pharisees. He did not approve them, nor disapprove them, by any distinct declaration, but He very decidedly protested against the enforcement of them by any extraneous authority. He ordained, in short, that none were to regulate the piety of others by the rules which they might fairly make for themselves. It is to be feared that in this respect His law has often been violated. Coming now to a more close exposition of the text, we discern in it the four following truths:

I. Hypocrisy is here condemned. We do not mean that John's disciples were guilty of this sin. Our Lord did not, for a moment, imply that they were hypocrites; but He did imply that His own disciples would be if they joined outwardly in a fast which was untrue to their own feeling. Hopeful and jubilant in the presence of their Lord, they could not fast, for the Bridegroom was with them.

II. Ritualism is here rebuked. By ritualism we mean putting external religious ceremonies in the place of spiritual acts of worship. During our Lord's ministry ritualism was rife. Customary observances had gradually usurped the place of vital religion with multitudes. Sacrifices were offered with no sense of guilt; washings were frequent even to absurdity, but they did not express conscious uncleanness of soul; alms were profusely given, yet without any stirring of generosity or pity; and fasts were observed without any humiliation of soul before God. It is in accordance with the whole doctrine of Christ that He declares here that fasting is not a rite of any value in itself.

III. Freedom is here proclaimed. The law you have no right to impose on others; you may be called upon to make a rule for yourself.

IV. Joyousness is here inculcated as the prevailing characteristic of the Christian life. It is not a joy which arises from the pleasant circumstances of life, or from a happy and equable disposition, but from the assurance that Christ as your Saviour died for you.

A. Rowland, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xx., p. 121.

References: Mark 2:18 . G. E. L. Cotton, Sermons and Addresses in Marlborough College, p. 57. Mark 2:18-20 . J. S. Exell, Christian World Pulpit, vol. ix., p. 207; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. vi., p. 13.

Verses 18-22

Mark 2:18-22

I. There should be differences between Jesus Christ's disciples and the disciples of all other men. It is noticeable how soon these differences were detected by the critics of the day. The differences should be as broadly marked now as they were in the days of Jesus Christ's visible ministry.

II. These differences should find their explanation in Jesus Christ, not in the expression of the disciples themselves. Jesus Christ takes upon Himself the responsibility of determining the public attitude of His disciples.

III. The illustration about pieces of cloth and the different wines shows the perfect uniqueness of Christianity. There is to be no patching, there is to be no compromising; Christianity is to have a distinctiveness and speciality of its own.

Parker, City Temple, 1871, p. 59.

References: Mark 2:18-22 . A. B. Bruce, Parabolic Teaching of Christ, p. 295; Ibid., The Training of the Twelve, p. 69; H. M. Luckock, Footprints of the Son of Man, p. 47.

Verse 19

Mark 2:19

The Secret of Gladness.

There are three subjects for consideration arising from the words of my text: The Bridegroom; the Presence of the Bridegroom; the Joy of the Bridegroom's Presence.

I. With regard to the first a few words will suffice. The first thing that strikes me is the singular appropriateness and the delicate pathetic beauty in the employment of this name by Christ in the existing circumstances. Who was it that had first said, "He that hath the bride is the bridegroom," etc.? Why, it was the master of these very men who were asking the question. John's disciples came and said, "Why do not your disciples fast?" And our Lord reminded them of their own teacher's words, when He said, "The friend of the bridegroom can only be glad." And so He would say to them, "In your master's own conception of what I am, and of the joy that comes from My presence, he might have taught you who I am, and why it is that the men who stand around Me are glad."

II. A word as to the Presence of the Bridegroom. It might seem as if this text condemned us who love an unseen and absent Lord to exclusion from the joy which is made to depend on His presence. Are we in the dreary period when the bridegroom is taken away, and fasting appropriate? Surely not. The time of mourning for an absent Christ was only three days; the law for the years of the Church's history between the moment when the uplifted eyes of the gazers lost Him in the symbolic cloud and the moment when He shall come again is, "Lo, I am with you always." The absent Christ is the present Christ. The presence which survives, which is true for us here today, may be a far better and more blessed and real thing than the presence of the mere bodily form in which He once dwelt.

III. The Joy of the Bridegroom's Presence. What was it that made these rude lives so glad when Christ was with them, filling them with strange new sweetness and power? The charm of personal character; the charm of contact with one whose lips were bringing to them fresh revelations of truth, fresh visions of God; whose whole life was the exhibition of a nature, beautiful, and noble, and pure, and tender, and sweet, and loving, beyond anything that they had ever seen before.

A. Maclaren, A Year's Ministry, 1st series, p. 137.

References: Mark 2:21 . J. S. Exell, Christian World Pulpit, vol. ix., p. 318. Mark 2:21 , Mark 2:22 . D. Fraser, Metaphors of the Gospels, p. 106.

Verse 23

Mark 2:23

I. All positive laws must yield to man's necessities. The law as a formal common element may be broken, yet its spirit may be honoured.

II. There is a relation of life to positive laws; there is a relation to moral law, which is higher and more exacting.

III. Christ shows that in all ages circumstances have arisen which have necessitated a violation of literal sabbatism. David ate the shew-bread, and the priests profaned the temple, and yet were guiltless.

Parker, Contemporary Pulpit, vol. viii., p. 120.

References: Mark 2:23 . G. S. Coster, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxiv., p. 134.Mark 2:21 , Mark 2:22 . D. Fraser, Metaphors in the Gospels, p. 106.

Verses 23-28

Mark 2:23-28

I. The Pharisees were a Class. They were not only Pharisees by name, but they were Pharisees by nature; that is, they were typical men; they were representative of a large fraction of the human race. One of the chief pharisaical characteristics was a love of form, of rule, of law, of custom; a love of the formalistic and the technical, as opposed to the spiritual and the natural. A Pharisee was a man and is a man who exaggerates the value of an ordinance, of a ceremony, of a ritualistic observance. A Pharisee was a man who loved and worshipped institutions as institutions, while he was thoughtless, perhaps, of the real spirit which they embodied. All men that exaggerate form, ceremony, ritualism; all men that live in the letter of the law while they ignore its spirit; all men that make the form of government, and that which is outward in institution, more valuable than the object of government, and that which vitalizes institutions, are Pharisees in blood and bone, by the ordainment of their nature. Such men are naturally tyrannical. Such men are naturally persecutors. Such men hinder beyond expression the true growth of the world.

II. Now Jesus, when He came to face these men, saw that He must teach them, and through them the world, a lesson. And the lesson which He taught them and the world was this: That man, in his rights, in his privileges, that are inalienable, is greater than any institution, nobler than any form of government, and more holy than any observance. There is no law that man cannot annul if it oppresses him; no government that he has not the Divine right to rebel against if it oppresses him; no custom or habit that he cannot tear in fragments and throw to the four winds, if it injuriously cramps his liberty, hinders his growth, or prevents his happiness. Christ declared that as a man He had rights which no ecclesiasticism could take from Him; had a liberty which no priestly council could rob Him of. He declared that the Sabbath was a day to be used; used, not according to the dictation of self-constituted guardians, but according to individual necessities, individual opportunities, and individual profit. In short, He placed the sovereignty of judgment in respect to it as an institution, and as an observance, in the hands of each individual man, saying, "Therefore the Son of Man is Lord also of the Sabbath."

W. H. Murray, The Fruits of the Spirit, p. 430.

I. In this interview it is made clear: (1) That all critical inquiries are not to be condemned; (2) the question on the part of the Pharisees was not at all unnatural.

II. The perfect and inalienable supremacy of Jesus Christ is asserted in the last verse; He proclaims Himself Lord over time, over institutions, and over human affairs.

Parker, City Temple, 1871, p. 60.

References: Mark 2:23-28 . Homiletic Quarterly, vol. vi., p. 14; A. B. Bruce, The Training of the Twelve, p. 88; H. M. Luckock, Footprints of the Son of Man, p. 51.

Verses 27-28

Mark 2:27-28

During His public ministry our Lord was repeatedly accused of breaking the Sabbath; and on such occasions He vindicated Himself in one or other of two ways.

I. Sometimes He stood upon His rights as a Divine Being to work at any time for the welfare of men. That was the course which He adopted when, in answer to those who sought to slay Him because He had healed the impotent man on the Sabbath day, He said, "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work." A reply which not only made Himself equal with God, but cast a new light upon the meaning of the creation week. For it could have no pertinence to the case in dispute, unless its significance be something like this, "We are living now in the seventh day of the creation week. This is the time of Jehovah's rest." We have now no work of creation going on; no special additions have been made to the various orders of animals on the surface of the earth since man appeared; and in that sense God has been resting. But though He has not called anything new into existence, He has been continually at work in upholding all that He has made, and He has put forth special remedial efforts for the restoration of man to the state in which he was formed at first, but from which he fell by his own sin. If therefore, during the Sabbath of creation's week, and while God is resting, He can yet put forth special exertions for the redemption and education of man, I am only following on the same line when, on the Sabbath of an ordinary week, I put forth my energy in the restoration of the impotent man to health.

II. At other times the defence of the Lord was based on the nature of the works which He had performed. He held and taught that it was lawful to do good on the Sabbath day. Nay, He went further, and declared that there is a class of duties which we not only may, but must, perform on that day. It was ordained at first for the benefit of man, and therefore it was never intended that it should operate to his detriment; whenever, therefore, an injury would be inflicted on a fellowman by our refusing to labour for his assistance on the Sabbath, we are bound to exert ourselves, even on that day, for his relief. So by His sharp incisive logic our Lord cut away all the traditional ivy-growth which had so largely covered the primal ordinance of the Sabbath, and restored to it its own primal beauty and benevolence.

W. M. Taylor, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xi., p. 103.

References: Mark 2:27 . C. Girdlestone, Twenty Parochial Sermons, p. 245; H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xix., p. 228; vol. xxi., p. 92; G. Brooks, Five Hundred Outlines, p. 257; M. R. Vincent, Three Hundred Outlines on the New Testament, p. 32; see also American Pulpit of the Day, vol. i., p. 258. Mark 2:27 , Mark 2:28 . A. Barry, Cheltenham College Sermons, p. 46; Christian World Pulpit, vol. xi., p. 103; Homiletic Magazine, vol. xi., p. 95; G. E. L. Cotton, Sermons and Addresses in Mar thorough College, p. 296.

Verse 28

Mark 2:28

(1) It was instituted by Him. (2) It is kept on a day which was fixed by His authority. (3) It is intended to commemorate His resurrection. (4) It ought to be observed with a special regard to His will, and word, and work.

G. Brooks, Five Hundred Outlines of Sermons, p. 257.

Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Mark 2". "Sermon Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/sbc/mark-2.html.
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