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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical
Mark 2

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-12

FOURTH SECTION

ATTRACTING AND REPELLING INFLUENCE OF THE LORD. THE ENTHUSIASTIC MULTITUDE AND THE OFFENCED TRADITIONALISTS. MORTAL HATRED OF THE HOSTILE PARTY, AND WITHDRAWAL OF JESUS INTO A SHIP. THE PREACHING IN SYNAGOGUES GIVES PLACE TO PREACHING ON THE SEA-SIDE

Mark 2:1 to Mark 3:12

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First Conflict.—The Paralytic, and the Power to forgive Sins. Mark 2:1-12

(Parallels: Matthew 9:1-8; Luke 5:17-26.)

1And again he entered into Capernaum after some days; and it was noised that he was in the house.[FN1] 2And straightway many were gathered together, insomuch that there was no room to receive them, no, not so much as about the door: and he preached the word unto them 3 And they come unto him, bringing one sick of the palsy, which was borne of four 4 And when they could not come nigh unto him for the press, they uncovered the roof where he was: and when they had broken it up, they let down the bed wherein the sick of the palsy lay 5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said unto the sick of the palsy, Song of Solomon, thy sins[FN2] be forgiven thee 6 But there were certain of the scribes sitting there, and reasoning in their hearts, 7Why doth this man thus speak blasphemies?[FN3] 8 who can forgive sins but God only? And immediately, when Jesus perceived in his spirit that they[FN4] so reasoned within themselves, he said unto them, Why reason ye these things in your hearts? 9Whether is it easier to say to the sick of the palsy, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and take up thy bed, and walk? 10But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins,[FN5] (he saith to the sick ofthe palsy,) 11I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy bed, and go thy way into thinehouse 12 And immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went forth before them all; insomuch that they were all amazed, and glorified God, saying, We never saw it on this fashion.[FN6]

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

See the exposition on Matthew, and on Luke. Mark introduces the conflicts of the Lord with traditionalism earlier than Matthew; hence the earlier position of this narrative. Matthew, indeed, represents the chronological order, according to which the paralytic was healed after the journey to Gadara. The conclusion in Mark itself intimates that this must have been one of the later miracles.

Mark 2:1. That He was in the house, εἰς οἶκόν ἐστι.—This means the house which Jesus occupied with His mother and His brethren, after His settlement there, Mark 3:31. His adopted sisters probably remained, as married, in Nazareth (see Mark 6:8), when the family of Joseph passed over with Him to Capernaum.

Mark 2:3. Bringing one sick of the palsy.See on Matthew 8:6. Κράββατος, a portable bed, used for mid-day sleep, and for the service of the sick.[FN7]Borne of four.—Pictorial definiteness. So also the vivid description of the uncovering of the roof, or the breaking of a large opening through it. Luke tells us how they did it: “ I through the tiling;” thus they must have taken away the tilings themselves. Meyer:—We must suppose Jesus to have been in the upper room, ὑπερῷον where the Rabbis frequently taught: Lightfoot, in loc.; Vitringa, Syn. 145. Meyer rightly rejects the view of Faber, Jahn, and others, that Jesus was in the court, and that nothing more is meant than a breaking up of the roof-awning. Certainly it is not improbable that the roof and the upper room were connected by a door; at least, the not improbable supposition of steps leading from the street to the roof suits that view. It is not at variance with the text to assume, with Lightfoot and Olshausen, an extension of the door-opening already there. Uncovering the roof can mean nothing else than actual uncovering, whether or not by means of an already existing opening. Strauss, after Wetstein, remarks, that the proceeding would have been too dangerous for those below. But see Hug’s Gutachten, ii. p21. Moreover, a little danger would better suit the heroism of the act. It takes for granted the Oriental house with a flat roof, to which men might gain access either through the neighboring house, or by the steps on the outside.

Mark 2:6. Certain of the scribes.—According to Meyer, who cites Mark 2:16, Luke ( Mark 2:17) introduces the Pharisees too soon at this place. But why may not the scribes have been mainly of the pharisaic party? These were so manifestly.—The scribes:See on Matthew 2:4, and the article in Winer.

Mark 2:7. Why doth this man thus speak blasphemies?—That Isaiah, such a man (scornfully), such things (such great words as are fit only for God, or for the priests in His name). Meyer rightly: “This man in this wise: emphatic juxtaposition.” The idea of blasphemy, as expressed by Mark and Luke, is shown to be direct blasphemy: they cast that upon Him, because He was thought to have wickedly intruded into the rights of the Divine Majesty.

Mark 2:8. And immediately, when Jesus perceived in His spirit.—The Searcher of hearts. In this lay already the proof that He could forgive sins. Matthew ( Matthew 9:4) here takes as it were the place of Mark: [FN8] Jesus seeing (ἰδὼν) their thoughts.

Mark 2:10. The Son of man hath power.Daniel 7:13; comp. Lange’s Leben Jesu, 2:1, 235. Meyer asserts, without reason, against Ritzschl, that Christ by this expression declared undoubtedly, and even technically, His Messiahship. Certainly Daniel’s Son of Man signified Christ; but the correct understanding of this expression does not seem to have been current in the Jewish schools at this time. Hence the choice of the expression here. They should know Him to be the Messiah, not according to their false Messiah-notions, but according to His true demonstrations of Messiahship; and the expression was meant to lead them to this.

Mark 2:12. We never saw it on this fashion.—We must assume in εἴδομεν an object seen; and that can be no other than the essential phenomenon which corresponds to essential seeing, viz.: the appearance of the kingdom of God. But it is also included, that the omnipotent working of miracles had never been so manifest in Jesus before.

DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL

1. See on the parallels in Matthew and Luke. Quickly as the glory of Christ was manifested in His first works, so quickly did the contradiction of the pharisaic worldly mind develop itself. It is most significant that the evangelical forgiveness of sins was the first stumbling-block.

2. The healing of the palsied man gives us, in a certain sense, the key to all the miraculous works of our Lord; inasmuch, that Isaiah, as the healing of the members is here definitely based upon the healing of the heart, the forgiveness of sins, awakening and regeneration. Because Christ Himself was the new birth of man from heaven, He was the principle of regeneration to sinful man. That Isaiah, in other words, because He Himself was the absolute miracle—the new principle of life breaking into and through the old—therefore the miraculous energies for the renewal of life issued from Him as sudden and great vivifications, which, proceeding from the heart of the renewed, pervaded their whole life. The quickening of the heart was, therefore, always the soul of light in the miracle; the external miracle was its dawning manifestation, though not all such quickenings resulted in permanent bodily healing. Therefore, also, the kernel of the miracle has remained in the Church, and becomes more and more prominent, that Isaiah, regeneration. The dawn has retreated and vanished, since this sun of the inner life has come forth. Yet the dynamic unfolding of the heart’s renewal in the renewal of the bodily members has in reality remained; only, now that Christianity has been incorporated with human nature, it develops itself only in gradual effect, until its full manifestation in the day of resurrection. The regenerating principle works in the regenerate gradually, and in almost invisible, leaven-like influence and transformation. But, as certainly as the regeneration of the heart is effected, so certainly is the germ of the renewal of the whole life present. Our scholastic notions have too carefully separated the external miracle from the internal, making it almost of itself a higher class of miracle. Luther, however, recognized regeneration as the great and abiding miracle, and had some feeling of its connection with the resurrection, as symbolized in the Supper of the Lord.—The power of Christ over the whole life, a demonstration of His power over the centre of life, the heart.

3. Christ the Searcher of the heart, knowing all things. In His messianic vocation, in His concrete sphere of life, He proved His Divine omniscience, and that too in the personal unity of the God-man. This concrete Divine-human knowledge He Himself distinguished from the universal omniscience of the Father. Starke:—“Christ knoweth all things even according to His human nature; not, however, through the human, tanquam per principium quo, but through the divine.” In a certain sense, also, through the human; through human sensibility to hostile dispositions, which assuredly had its source in the Divine nature.

HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL

See on the parallels of Matthew and Luke.—How the Lord’s redeeming power, breaking in, awakens the daring courage of faith.—Christ the restorer of victorious courage on earth.—Man inventive, above all in his faith.—The inventions of faith.—The boldness of faith, which leaps out of the anguish of a believing spirit.—How the miracle of Christ is appended to the word of Christ.—The miracle not without the previous word.—The return of Christ to His town; or, Christ does not willingly leave the place in which He has once settled.—And it was noised abroad that He was in the house,—when Christ is in a church, or in a house, it cannot be hid.—The courage of faith by which they uncovered the roof, in connection with the Divine courage in which Christ uncovered their hearts.—Great faith discovers and adopts wonderful plans.—Christ the Searcher of hearts: 1. This has a many-sided confirmation, 2. is full of comfort, 3. and full of terror.—The power of the forgiveness of sins a free and legitimate prerogative of Christ’s rule: 1. A free exercise of His love; 2. a legitimate administration between free grace and free faith; 3. therefore the free prerogative of Christ.—The Divine love will not be restrained by man’s narrow-heartedness.—God’s grace is not bound to the ordinances of man.—The Gospel makes the Church, not the Church the Gospel.—The ordinance of absolution no monopoly of absolution.—The glorious and boundless blessings which result from the forgiveness of sins.—The paralytic more troubled about his sins than about his bodily suffering.—Christ the fundamental Healer.—As the paralytic had a new power of moving, so the witnesses had a new power of seeing.—Only he who has seen Christ has learned rightly to see.—Christ’s miracles of grace always preachers of salvation, which prepare for new miracles.—All awakenings in order to regeneration are miracles of Christ, the subsequent influences of which must be manifest in the bodily life, though, it may be, in a very gradual manner.—The harder and the easier miracle: 1. The internal miracle was, in the Lord’s judgment, greater and harder, inasmuch as it was the condition of the external2. The external miracle was greater and harder in the judgment of His opponents, as something impossible to the absolving priests3. Both were equally hard, in as far as both were impossible to man; and hence the external miracle was Christ’s authentication in opposition to His enemies.—The limited blessing of healing a witness for the unlimited blessing of forgiveness of sins.

Starke:—Moving to the house of God with the crowds.—The sick should come to Christ, the true Physician.—Benevolence, and still more, Christian love, demands that we should serve and help the sick in every possible manner.—He who would be a true Christian must strive to bring to Christ others who are weak and sinful, by prayer and all good offices, James 5:16.—Canstein:—We must somehow come to Christ, whether through the door or through the roof; that Isaiah, either in an ordinary or an extraordinary way.—True faith, working by love, breaks through all impediments.—Love makes all things good and decorous, though they may not externally seem so.—Those who are troubled we should not trouble more, but comfort, Psalm 32:1; Isaiah 61:2.—The ungodly change the best medicines into poison, and pervert the holiest truths.—Majus:—The slanderer’s manner Isaiah, not to try to seek what meaning the speaker has, but to pervert at once and wrest his words.—That which is visible and before the eyes seems to men harder than the invisible; and they prefer what is bodily to what is spiritual.—Quesnel:—Christ by His visible miracles taught men to understand His invisible miracles.—The priceless benefit of the forgiveness of sins worthy of all praise and thanksgiving.

Schleiermacher:—We have two things to mark in this whole narrative: first, that which passed between the Redeemer and this sufferer; and then, what referred to the thoughts of the scribes congregated around Him.—As sure as we are that the Redeemer knew what was in Prayer of Manasseh, we must assume that the sufferer thought most of the spiritual gift of Christ, and its importance to himself.—The more powerful the might of love Isaiah, as being the energy of faith, the sooner vanish all lesser evils, losing their sting, which is the consciousness of sin.—Thus we see in miniature, in this history, the whole history of the kingdom of God upon earth.—Bauer:—We can thus, by our faith and our intercession, be helpful to the good of others.

Footnotes:

FN#1 - Mark 2:1.—Lachmann reads ἐν οἴκῳ, after B, D, L,—a gloss, says Meyer.

FN#2 - Mark 2:5.—Elzevir, Scholz, Lachmann read σοι αἱ ἁμαρτίαι; Griesbach, Fritzsche, Tischendorf, B, D, G. read σου αι ἁμαρτίαι. Lachmann, after B, reads ἀφίενται for ἀφέωνται.

FN#3 - Mark 2:7.—Lachmann and Tischendorf read λαλεῖ; βλασφημεῖ, after B, D, L, Vulgata.

FN#4 - Mark 2:8—Αὐτοί before διαλογίζονται, after A, C, E, F, Syr. (utr.), Goth, Slav, Bengel, Matth, Griesbach, Fritzsche, Scholz, Tischendorf; οὕτως erased by Lachmann after B.

FN#5 - Mark 2:10.—Various order of the words: The ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς ἀφ. ἁμ. is given by Griesbach and Lachmann, after C, D, L, and others.

FN#6 - Mark 2:12.—Tischendorf reads οὕτως οὐδέποτε, after B, D, and L, &c.

FN#7 - Oftentimes, however, the bed was a simple mattress or sheepskin.—Ed.

FN#8 - In picturesque descriptiveness, i.e.Ed.


Verses 13-17

Second Conflict.—The Eating with Publicans and Sinners. Mark 2:13-17

(Parallels: Matthew 9:9-13; Luke 5:27-32.)

13And he went forth again by the sea-side; and all the multitude resorted unto him, and he taught them 14 And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alpheus sitting at the receipt of custom, and said unto him, Follow me. And he arose and followed him 15 And it came to pass, that, as Jesus sat [reclined] at meat in his house, many publicans and sinners sat [reclined] also together with Jesus and his disciples; for there were many, and they followed him 16 And when the scribes and Pharisees saw him eat with publicans and sinners, they said unto his disciples, How is it that he eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners? 17When Jesus heard it, the saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. [FN9]

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

See on the parallels of Matthew and Luke.—The narrative of Mark has here also its characteristic traits of vividness. A congregation of the people around Christ at the sea-side, and a discourse uttered there, form the introduction to the calling of Matthew. From Mark 2:15 we learn that many followed the Lord who belonged to the class of publicans and sinners (excommunicated persons). Meanwhile Matthew ( Mark 9:13) alone has our Lord’s appeal to the saying of Hosea ( Mark 6:6).

Mark 2:13. Forth (from the town), again ( Mark 1:16) by the sea-side.—Setting plainly before us the position of Capernaum, connected probably with the sea by a suburb of fishers’ huts and custom-houses.

Mark 2:14. Levi (see the explanation in Matthew) the son of Alpheus.—Not to be confounded with Alpheus the father of James the Less.

Mark 2:15. In his house.—Not in his own house, as Meyer thinks. See on Matthew. The ἠκολούθησαν must be understood of the spiritual following of the disciples, and not merely of outward accompanying.

Mark 2:16. When the Pharisees (see on Matthew) saw Him.—Not coming into the house, which is improbable; but as observers of the feast, after which they came forward towards the disciples coming out.

DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL

1. See on the parallels of Matthew and Luke.

2. The offence taken at our Lord’s table-fellowship with publicans and sinners has significance, first, in respect to Church principles as against Donatism and Novatianism; and, secondly, in relation to the true idea of communion as against Confessionalism; and, thirdly, in favor of Christian and social intercourse in opposition to the narrowness of Pietism.

3. The holy intercourse of Christ with sinners, the redemption of the world, is here represented in a concentrated image.

HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL

1. See on Matthew.—The multitude of the needy people gave the Lord occasion to summon helpers to Himself.—Levi (Matthew) better than his reputation: a warning against all premature condemnation of our neighbor.—How different is the glance of our Lord’s eyes into the world from that of the Pharisees’ eyes!—Christ in the house of publicans and sinners an offence to the Pharisee; Christ in the house of the Pharisee was not strange and repulsive to sinners (the woman, Luke 7:37): 1. Historical; 2. typical.—The feast in which Christ is a guest.—The feasts in which Christ was a guest all-saving and decisive for souls.—The slavish dread with which our Lord’s enemies come to attack His disciples.—The attempt of His enemies to turn away His disciples from the Lord.—The narrative of the gradual boldness of our Lord’s opponents: 1. The features of its development; 2. its symbolical character.—The mission of Christ a Gospel for sinners, who are in evil case: 1. For them with full assurance; 2. for them preëminently, and before those who think themselves sound; 3. for them in contradistinction to the others.—Jesus come for all, according to the law that He has come only for the sick.—The feast of Christ an expression of His Gospel.—The feast of a Christian an expression of his Christian vocation.—How this history stands in full harmony with Psalm 1:1.

Starke, Quesnel:—Grace draws Matthew from the love of gold, and makes of him an apostle; the love of gold drew Judas away from Christ and his apostleship.—Hedinger:—As soon as God is revealed in thee, take no long counsel with flesh and blood.—Jesus receiveth sinners.—A converted man should bring all his acquaintance to God, and take care for their salvation.—Those are shameful enemies of the truth, who put on the guise of godliness but deny its power.—Quesnel:—He who has not love cannot understand what another may do in care for his neighbor’s salvation.—Be patient, and slow to judgment, 1 Corinthians 4:3.—That in which the children of God find their joy and blessedness is hateful to the wicked.—The more a man thinks himself righteous, the further does he remove himself from Christ.—Jesus calls to repentance.—We must bring into the pastoral work a heart filled with true sympathy with the wretched, and with Jesus the Physician.

Gerlach:—Every invitation to a feast was for Jesus an occasion for issuing His invitation to the heavenly feast.—Lisco:—Jesus the one Physician for all.—Schleiermacher:—The Pharisees a pure counterpart of the publicans.—The calling to repentance (that Isaiah, to change of mind) the essence of the work of Christ.—He describes them (the Pharisees) as they described themselves; but in such a manner that they could not but see that He thought quite differently concerning them (irony).—We should always, in our friendly social life, have spiritual things in view.

FN#9 - Mark 2:17.—The addition εἰς μετάνοιαν is found only in cursive MSS, after Luke 5:32.


Verses 18-22

Third Conflict.—The Fasting of John’s Disciples and of the Pharisees. Mark 2:18-22

(Parallels: Matthew 9:14-17; Luke 5:33-39.)

18And the disciples of John and [of] the Pharisees [FN10] used to fast: and they come and say unto him, Why do the disciples of John and of the Pharisees fast, but thy disciples fast not? 19And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bride-chamber fast while the bridegroom is with them? as long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast 20 But the days will come when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then shall they fast in those days.[FN11] 21No man also seweth a piece of new [unfulled] cloth on an old garment; else the new piece that filled it up taketh away from the old, [FN12]and the rent is made worse 22 And no man putteth new wine into old [skin] bottles; else the new wine doth burst [FN13] the [skin] bottles, and the wine is spilled, and the [skin] bottles will be marred: but new [FN14] wine must be put into new [skin] bottles.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

1. See on the parallels of Matt. and Luke.—The offence at Christ’s meal with Levi, as it might represent similar meals, was twofold: 1. As an eating with publicans and sinners; 2. as the opposite of fasting. In the former view the Pharisees took umbrage; in the latter, the disciples of John,—the Pharisees also joining them. This offence was a point in which the legal Pharisees and the ascetic disciples of John, as spiritually related, might meet.

Mark 2:18. Used to fast: ἦσαν νηστεύοντες.—Meyer: They were then in the act of fasting. It may be easily supposed that the imprisonment of John would give occasion to his disciples, and with them to many of the Pharisees, for an extraordinary fast (see art. “Fasten” in Winer). An ordinary legal season of fasting is not meant; for Christ and His disciples would not have neglected or outraged that. But if an extraordinary fast, occasioned by the Baptist’s imprisonment or by any other cause, formed the primary reason of this question, yet we think that the participle is to be taken as emphatic, according to the parallels in Matthew (νηστεύουσι πολλά) and Luke (νηστεύουσι πυκνά).—And they come.—Of course only some, as representing the mind of all (Weisse); not necessarily all, as Meyer thinks. The combination of both parties on this point does not exclude the prominence of John’s disciples, according to Matthew.

Mark 2:20. In those days.—Emphatically, in those dark days.

Mark 2:21. Else the new piece that filled it up taketh away from the old, and the rent is made worse.—The new piece is rent away from the old: the most approved reading is also the most expressive. The inappropriate and disproportionate is again made emphatic by the antithesis.

DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL

1. See on the parallels.

2. Compare the word concerning fasting, Matthew 6:16. We may distinguish: 1. Legal-symbolical fasting ( Leviticus 16:29; Leviticus 23:27); 2. personal, real fasting—Moses ( Exodus 24:18), Elias ( 1 Kings 19:8), Christ ( Matthew 4); 3. ascetic, penance fasting (the Baptist); 4. hypocritical fasting ( Isaiah 58:3-4), which may easily combine with1,3. Fasting generally is the ascetic symbolical exercise of real renunciation of the world, in which all true fasting is fulfilled.

3. Application of the two parables concerning old garments and old bottles to the history of Ebionitism, of the Interim [FN15] in the Reformation age, and of analogous incongruities in the present day.

4. The meal of Christ everywhere a sacred, spiritual feast.

HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL

How often do sincere legal souls suffer themselves to be led away by traditionalists into an assault upon the freedom of the Gospel!—The greatest danger of the weak brethren ( Romans 14:1; Romans 14:15), that they fall under the bondage of false brethren ( 2 Corinthians 11:26; Galatians 2:4), and thus become separated from the peace of the Gospel.—Wrong alliances of Christians in the Church lead to wrong alliances of ecclesiastical things, even in opposition to the right alliances of both.—Openness a characteristic of John’s disciples as of their master: they apply themselves, as later the Baptist did, with their offence to Christ Himself.—Yet they are infected with the policy of the Pharisees; for they ask, Why fast Thy disciples not? (see on Matthew).—Christ at once the Physician and the Bridegroom: 1. The Bridegroom as the Physician; 2. the Physician as the Bridegroom. Or, Christ is the supreme festal end, and the only means of salvation, in the kingdom of God: 1. He is the means of healing, while He calls souls to the participation of His blessedness; 2. He is the Prince of the blessed kingdom in the midst of His redeemed.—We should think, on our feast-day, of our coming fast-day.—Even in the greatness of His fast, Christ with His disciples leaves far behind Him all the severe penitents of the old theocracy.—The secret fasting of Christians; or, the great, silent, and festal renunciation of the world: 1. Its form; 2. its reason, the reconciliation of the world; 3. its goal, the glorification of the world.

Starke:—It is a pharisaic and very common evil, that men are very much more troubled about setting others right in their living than about directing their own.—Quesnel:—The busybody begins by talking about others, and comes afterwards to himself, but makes the best of his own case, 1 Timothy 6:8.—Cramer:—Fasting is good; but to make a merit of it, or even to burden the conscience with it, is opposed to Christian freedom.—It is spiritual pride when, in matters which God has left to our freedom, people desire that others should regulate their piety by their rules.—The fasting of a penitent does not consist only in abstinence from food, but in abstinence also from all the pleasures and all the occasions of sin, Joel 2:12.—Where Jesus is the Bridegroom of the soul, there is joy and refreshment; where He is not, there is mourning and grief of heart.—Canstein:—The right measures of pacification in religion are those in which truth and sincerity are consulted.—Majus:—The nakedness of sin cannot be covered with old traditions.

Gerlach:—Jesus terms Himself the Bridegroom of His Church.—Longing for the Bridegroom is the feeling of the Church, when He is away; bridal love and delight, when He is present again.—Braune:—It is a special temptation to good-natured, well-meaning souls, not reconciled to Christ, His doctrine, His discipline, His life, His Church, when evil-minded cavillers fall in with them.—The disciples of Jesus a wedding company.—In all Christians there is more or less interchange of cheerful joy and gloomy sorrow, although the joyous temper when the Lord is near predominates.—New wine, new bottles.—Schleiermacher:—How Jesus would have us understand and treat the great new period which He came to bring in.—Thus the Redeemer compares Himself with John, Matthew 11:18 seq.—“That day”: the interval of uncertainty concerning the further course of the divine economy for man’s salvation.—The old garment: He would thereby intimate that it was by no means lawful to cut up and divide the spiritual power with which He was furnished by God that He might communicate it to men, in order to repair and set in order again that which was obsolete and effete.—In our joyous fellowship with the Lord, let us preserve the happiness which He declares to be the prerogative of His people.—Gossner:—They have now once more discovered something. Envy looks at and judges only others, without caring about correcting itself. Another failing of the Pharisees was, that they required all pious people to measure according to their standard, and adopt their usages. The third error was, that they began to speak about others, in order that they might come to themselves, and exalt their own reputation at the expense of others.

Footnotes:

FN#10 - Mark 2:18.—The reading of the Rec, οἱ τῶν Φαρισαίων, is not supported. Griesbach, Scholz, Lachmann, Tischendorf, Fritzsche read οἱ Φαρισαῖοι.

FN#11 - Mark 2:20.—Rec.: ἐν ἐκείναις ταῖς ἡμέραις is an emendation. Griesbach, Lachmann, Scholz, Tischendorf read ἐκείνῃ τῇμέρᾳ

FN#12 - Mark 2:21.—We follow the reading: αἴρει ἀπ’ αὐτοῦ τὸ πλήρωμα τὸ καινὸν τοῦ παλαιοῦ; adopted by Tischendorf and Meyer.

FN#13 - Mark 2:22.—The Present is more vivid than Lachmann’s Future, ῥήξει, found, also, in B, C, D, Vulgata.

FN#14 - Mark 2:22.—The addition “new,” νέος, is from Luke 5:37.

FN#15 - An ordinance of Charles V, “that all his Catholic dominions should, for the future, inviolably observe the customs, statutes, and ordinances of the universal church,” etc.; by which he endeavored to reëstablish Popery among the Protestants.—Ed.


Verses 23-28

Fourth, Conflict.—The Ears of Corn on the Sabbath; the Son of Man also Lord of the Sabbath. Mark 2:23-28

(Parallels: Matthew 12:1-8; Luke 6:1-5.)

23And it came to pass, that he went through the corn-fields [sowed-fields] on the Sabbath-day; and his disciples began, as they went, to pluck the ears of corn [began to make a way, by plucking off the ears: Meyer]. 24And the Pharisees said unto him, Be hold, why do they on the Sabbath-day that which is not lawful? 25And he said unto them, Have ye never read what David did, when he had need, and was an hungered, Hebrews, and they that were with him? 26How he went into the house of God, in the days of Abiathar the high-priest,[FN16] and did eat the shew-bread, which is not lawful to eat but for the priests, and gave also to them which were with him? 27And he said unto them, The Sabbath was made for Prayer of Manasseh, and not man for the Sabbath: 28Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the Sabbath

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

1. See on the parallels of Matthew and Luke.—In regard to the time, it is to be observed that this event belongs to a later section of the life of Jesus (after He had returned from the Feast of Purim [FN17] in782), when persecution took a decided form against Him. The same remark holds good of the healing of the man with a withered hand. But the motive of Mark in inserting the matter here was evidently to connect appropriate facts. The first offence and the first conflict referred to the forgiveness of sins, which Christ pronounced, and which was alleged against Him as a blasphemous invasion of the rights of God, meaning especially the rights of the priests; the second offence was the intercourse of Christ with publicans and sinners; the third, the opposition of His festal, social companionship to the ascetic and pharisaic fasts,—on which then follows in our narrative the account of the offence taken at the freer position which He and His disciples assumed towards the Sabbath.

Mark 2:23. Went through the corn-fields.—The παραπορεύεσθαι marks the circumstance that He opened His way right and left through the overhanging ears; whereas the disciples began to make their path by plucking and rubbing these ears. Thus does Meyer explain, and doubtless rightly, the ὁδὸν ποιεῖν τίλλοντες τοὺς στάχυας It is true that Mark says nothing directly about eating; but that is to be taken for granted in any rational rubbing of the ears, and is further manifest from the Lord’s justification of them, appealing to the fact of David having eaten the shew-bread. According to Meyer, the allusion to the history of David aimed only to vindicate the rubbing of the ears as an act of necessity; and he thinks that the unessential circumstance of the shew-bread having been eaten led to the insertion into the other Gospels of the tradition concerning eating the ears. This needs no refutation. It is impossible to make the rubbing corn in their hands, in order to clear the way, into an act of sheer necessity, such as eating the shew-bread was. In fact, Mark takes pleasure in presenting a vivid picture of everything. He here tells us how the disciples attained two objects by one and the same act. The less of the two, making a way, occupied his mind merely as the counterpart of Jesus’ πορεύεσθαι in another manner; and the suggestion of plucking the ears was quite enough to denote synecdochically the eating them also.

Mark 2:24. Why do they on the Sabbath-day that which is not lawful?—Meyer tries to establish this discrepancy between the other Evangelists and Mark, that he makes the Pharisees ask in this passage, Why do they on the Sabbath-day something that is forbidden in itself? [FN18] But in that case Jesus would have replied only to the first and less important part of their accusation. But if we regard their words as a question of surprise, abruptly asked, and as it were answered by themselves, the harmony of the accounts is sufficiently established. For the Sabbath traditions of the Rabbins, consult Braune. “It was not a journey, being only a walk through a by-path; 2,800 ells’ distance from the town were permitted by the law.”—“To pluck and rub with the hand ears from the field of a neighbor, was allowed; Moses forbade only the sickle ( Deuteronomy 23:25). But the matter belonged to the thirty-nine chief classes (fathers), each of which had its subdivisions (daughters), in which the works forbidden on the Sabbath were enumerated. This was their hypocritical way, to make of trifling things matters of sin and vexation to the conscience.

Mark 2:26. In the days of Abiathar the high-priest.—According to 1 Samuel 21:1, Ahimelech was the high-priest who gave David the shew-bread (Joseph. Antiq. vi12, 6). His son Abiathar succeeded him, who was David’s friend ( 1 Samuel 22:20; 1 Kings 1:7). Moreover, in 2 Samuel 8:17, Ahimelech is inversely called the son of Abiathar. So also in 1 Chronicles 24:6; 1 Chronicles 24:31. Hence it was early supposed that the father and son had both names (Euth. Zig.), or that the son was the vicarius of his father (Grotius); while some have proposed to modify the meaning of the ἐπί (under Abiathar). [FN19] Later expositors, on the other hand, have assumed that the names have been mistakenly interchanged; but to insist, with Meyer, upon this view, appears to us hypercritical and arbitrary, when we remember that in Exodus 2:18 the same father-in-law of Moses is once called Raguel and then Jethro, and especially that Jewish tradition was possessed of many supplements of the sacred narrative, as appears from the discourse of Stephen ( Acts 7), and the allusion to the Egyptian magicians, 2 Timothy 3:8. Here the Old Testament itself gave occasion to supplementary tradition, and the scriptural knowledge of the time incorporated and used it. Moreover, it is to be assumed that the priest’s son Abiathar stood in a nearer relation to David, which made the unusual proceeding more explicable. The tabernacle was then at Nob.

Mark 2:28. Therefore the Son of Man is Lord. —The Son of Prayer of Manasseh, and not merely as man (Grotius); not, however, the Messiah in the official sense, but the Son of Man in His inviolable holiness, and in His mysterious dignity (intimated in Daniel) as the Holy Child and Head of humanity appearing in the name of God.—Lord over the Sabbath; that Isaiah, administrating and ruling over it in its New Testament fulfilment and freedom (comp. Meyer).

A clause is found appended to Luke 6:5 in some Codd.: “The same day Jesus saw one working on the Sabbath, and said unto him, ‘ Prayer of Manasseh, if thou knowest what thou doest, thou art happy; if thou knowest not, thou art accursed.’ ” This historically questionable saying has been placed by some in the same traditional category with the words, “To give is more blessed than to receive,” Acts 20:35. See Meyer on Luke, and Braune, Evangelium.

DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL

1. See on the parallels.—For the Jewish Sabbath and the Sabbath ordinances, consult the article in Winer. First, the opponents of Jesus thought that He sinned against sound doctrine; then they went further, and urged objections against His free treatment of discipline and pious usages; but now, finally, they would allege that Hebrews, in the person of His disciples, sinned against the decalogue, and against one of its most sacred commandments, that concerning the Sabbath. And if, at first, their exasperation against Him was only an internal matter, they now directly attack Him in the persons of His disciples, as appears without any disguise in the history that follows in the text.

2. Christ, even in the silent corn-field, is not safe from the plots of His enemies.—The different manner in which Jesus and His disciples made their respective ways through the field.

3. Abiathar=Ahimelech; or, the freer relation of the New Testament believers to the Old Testament. For the shew-bread, consult the article in Winer, as well as the various writings on Old Testament Symbolism of BÆhr, Kurtz, Hengstenberg, Sartorius, etc.

4. The Sabbath for Prayer of Manasseh, not man for the Sabbath.—The spirit of traditionalism and fanaticism perfectly inverts the ordinances of the kingdom of God; making the means the end, and the end the means.

5. The Son of Man the Lord; or the roots of the supremacy and dignity of Christ which are found in the relation of His sacred human nature to mankind. The Son of Many the Lord in all aspects and on all sides; therefore Lord of the Sabbath.—But the Lord is a ruler, administrator, and fulfiller of His ordinances; not the abolisher of them.

HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL

The Lord’s patience in making His way, and in abstaining, as contrasted with the conduct of His disciples.—Christ in the field among the ears of corn, a noble figure.—The blessing of nature and the blessing of grace in their unity.—The first tokens of the coming freedom of the disciples in its significance; or, Christian freedom a child of need and justification felt in the spirit of Christ.—The peculiar need of the moment pointing to the means of help for ever: 1. The failing way; the lacking bread; the idea that one need might be removed by the other2. The significance of this fact for the spiritual relations of the kingdom of God.—To make a way for the Lord the best means of nourishment for His disciples.—The Pharisees everywhere like a shadow of the free Gospel.—Man himself the oldest Divine institution, and what follows from it: 1. Nothing in favor of the arbitrary treatment of Divine institutions; 2. but much in favor of free dealing with human traditions.—The kingdom of heaven is preëminently a kingdom of personal life or of love.—The Sabbath for man; that Isaiah, 1. its law is for the life of the soul, 2. its rest is for devotion, 3. the ordinance for salvation.—The Sabbath for Prayer of Manasseh, and therefore for his eternal Sabbath; and this also was made for Prayer of Manasseh, as man for it.

Starke:—Quesnel:—Christ never performed miracles to feed Himself and His disciples in their hunger; in order to teach them that they should never without necessity seek extraordinary ways, and that their neighbors’ need should press on their hearts more than their own.—Jesus hungers, while His disciples eat; and thereby shows that a teacher, ruler, and leader should be more perfect than his disciples.—Osiander:—“We should learn to suffer want with Christ, and to abound with Christ.—Quesnel:—The pride of the Pharisaic nature drives a man to make himself a judge of others, and to demand of them an account of all they do.—Canstein:—God’s will Isaiah, that we should diligently read the books of the Old Testament, and set them before the people; that we may derive thence teaching and example.—Majus: —All errors must be refuted out of Holy Writ.—Quesnel:—The usages and ordinances of religion should have for their object the glory of God and the profit of men.—The true Sabbath festival.—Believers are with Christ and through Christ lords of the Sabbath, that they may use it for their own and their neighbors’ necessities.

Lisco:—The highest end is man himself. The whole law was only the means for the education of men, whom God keeps thus under external discipline until the law is inwardly and spiritually apprehended and obeyed. But believers adapt themselves, in the spirit of love, to all outward ordinances (although, of course, in the spirit of the Lord),—Gerlach rightly adds: To all outward ordinances that assist the need of the Christian Church.—Every arbitrary violation of legal discipline, without the justification of the spirit of grace and love in Christ, is a heavy sin.—Only the spirit of adoption makes free from the yoke of the law.—Braune:—As David was pitilessly persecuted by Saul, so were the disciples by the Pharisees.—Men are to find rest and refreshment in holy days, but not to suffer hunger and distress.—There is no law given to the righteous; and where the Spirit of the Lord Isaiah, there is liberty.—Schleiermacher:—The Redeemer might have more easily vindicated Himself had He referred to the words of the law, Deuteronomy 23:24, etc.; but He aimed at something higher, to show that all such laws were subjected to a higher spiritual law (the example of David).—The Son of Man Lord of the Sabbath; the Redeemer is the measure of all; the question must be, whether a thing is according to His mind and of advantage to His kingdom.—Bauer:—The Lord of the Sabbath has given to every believing mind a Sabbath-law, for its direction and not for its trouble: Thou shalt worship God in spirit and in truth.

Footnotes:

FN#16 - Mark 2:26.—“Under Abiathar the high-priest” is wanting in D.; omitted on account of the historical difficulty.

FN#17 - A festival introduced by Mordecai, to commemorate the deliverance of the Jews from the designs of Haman. It was celebrated on the 14 th or 15 th day of Adar, or March, and was called Purim, from a Persian word which signifies lot; because Haman ascertained by lot the day on which the Jews were to be destroyed. Esther 3:7; Esther 9:26.—Ed.

FN#18 - Meyer would find a discrepancy between Mark and Matthew with Luke, in the fact that the former says nothing about eating the grain, but only speaks of “making a path” through it. According to him, the Pharisees objected merely to the travelling on the Sabbath and the labor therein involved, and the story of the eating is an interpolation. But aside from the fact that ὁδὸν ποιεῖν may be rendered as in the English version “to go,” it seems improbable that the disciples should have taken pains merely to “make a path” through the yielding grain by pulling it up or plucking it off, when the simple stride would tread it down.—Ed.

FN#19 - Wetstein and Scholz suggest that it stands for coram. Ed.

 


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Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Mark 2:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lcc/mark-2.html. 1857-84.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, October 16th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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