THE LIFE OF CHRIST
In our last lesson on the Life of Christ, Jesus had called Andrew, Peter, James, and John to follow Him. Jesus went around preaching throughout Galilee. In our lesson tonight, we will begin in Mark 1:40 and then make our way to Mark 2:22. The events that occur in these verses are also recorded in Matthew 8:2 through Matthew 9:17 and in Luke 5:12 through 5:39. I will fill in some of the extra details these accounts offer, but our main text will be Markís account.
Mark 1:40 Now a leper came to Him, imploring Him, kneeling down to Him and saying to Him, "If You are willing, You can make me clean."† 41 Then Jesus, moved with compassion, stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, "I am willing; be cleansed."† 42 As soon as He had spoken, immediately the leprosy left him, and he was cleansed.† 43 And He strictly warned him and sent him away at once,† 44 and said to him, "See that you say nothing to anyone; but go your way, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing those things which Moses commanded, as a testimony to them."
Many people came to Jesus for various reasons, but this leper came to Jesus with a sincere heart because He wanted to be cured of this dreaded disease. Put yourself in the place of this leper and imagine how you would feel if† you heard about a man who was able to cure the sick and now He was close enough to you for you to ask Him to heal you. I know I would be very nervous but full of hope. I would hope that just maybe, He might be able to cure me as well and would not refuse my request.
Jesus did not disappoint the leper, He had compassion on him and touched him and said, ďbe cleansed.Ē I have always wondered, what did that feel like. Was the disease just gone or did he feel some warmth or energy pass through his body at the time? While I would like to know little details like that, they are not really that important because what is important is that this manís disease was gone.
Jesus did not want this leper to tell people about what Jesus did because the more fame He received, the more difficult it would become for Him to be able to move about freely so that He could proclaim the message He wanted to teach. He did tell this leper to go show himself to the priest. He told him to do this because it complied with what Moses taught about lepers and what they were to do (Lev. 14:1-32) .
However, this leper could not keep this to himself as we read in:
Mark 1:45 †However, he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the matter, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter the city, but was outside in deserted places; and they came to Him from every direction.†
Now you would think this man could have honored Jesusí request after curing him from his disease, but I can also understand why he told people about what he did. If I were in his place it would be hard to keep something so amazing to yourself. Luke adds the following:
Luke 5:15 However, the report went around concerning Him all the more; and great multitudes came together to hear, and to be healed by Him of their infirmities.† 16 So He Himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed.
Everyone wanted to get next to Jesus, especially the sick, but this made things challenging for Jesus because He would go long periods of time healing and teaching these people. You know it had to be extremely exhausting. Though there were times when Jesus would go without eating, He made sure to take time out to go to a private place and spend time in prayer to the Father. We can certainly learn from His example because we all should take time out of our busy lives to spend time alone praying to God. It is a great way to unwind and cast your cares and concerns on to God knowing that He loves you and will take care of you. It will help you have the energy and strength you need to press forward.
Our next miracle we are going to examine is the healing of the paralytic. Matthewís account of this miracle is abbreviated and Markís and Lukeís account gives about the same amount of details, so I am going to continue using Markís account. Matthewís† account tells us that Jesus gets on a boat and crosses over and returns back to His city. Markís account says:
Mark 2:1 And again He entered Capernaum after some days, and it was heard that He was in the house.† 2 Immediately many gathered together, so that there was no longer room to receive them, not even near the door. And He preached the word to them.
Jesus was a popular man. He had no problem drawing a crowd, but this was not an ordinary crowd because Lukeís account tells us that the Pharisees and teachers of the law had come from Galilee, Judah, and Jerusalem. Jesus was preaching the word to them, which was Jesus main mission. The miracles He did were used to prove that He was the Son of God and the message He was preaching was the truth.
Mark 2:3 Then they came to Him, bringing a paralytic who was carried by four men.† 4 And when they could not come near Him because of the crowd, they uncovered the roof where He was. So when they had broken through, they let down the bed on which the paralytic was lying.
We do not know much about these four men or this lame man either. Were they kin to the man? Had they promised him that if Jesus came back in the area that they would take him to Jesus? While there is much we do not know, we do know that these four men were bound and determined to get this lame before Jesus. They could not go through the door because the crowd was too big. So, they went up on the roof and tore it apart and they lowed the lame man down.
Mark 2:5 †When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, "Son, your sins are forgiven you."† 6 And some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts,† 7 "Why does this Man speak blasphemies like this? Who can forgive sins but God alone?"
Jesus did not complain about them tearing the roof apart or interpreting what was going on. Instead, He tells the man that His sins are forgiven. These scribes immediately knew the meaning behind what Jesus was saying because only God could forgive sins. So, Jesus was implying that He was Deity, which is why these Scribes were thinking within their own hearts that He was speaking blasphemies. Notice Jesusí response to their inner thoughts:
Mark 2:8 But immediately, when Jesus perceived in His spirit that they reasoned thus within themselves, He said to them, "Why do you reason about these things in your hearts?† 9 "Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven you,' or to say, 'Arise, take up your bed and walk'?† 10 "But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins" -- He said to the paralytic,† 11 "I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house."† 12 Immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went out in the presence of them all, so that all were amazed and glorified God, saying, "We never saw anything like this!"
Remember these scribes were not voicing their opinions out loud, yet Jesus has the ability to read the heart of man. He knew what they were thinking. Think about how strange you would feel if you were just thinking about something that you did not like about someone and then that person begins to question you about the negative thought you were having. I think that would shock anybody.
Jesus argument is this. If He has the power to heal people, He also has the power and authority to forgive people of their sins. This is not the only time we will see Jesus tell people that their sins are forgiven. Jesus proves that He has the authority to forgive people of their sins by then telling the man to get up and go home. Notice, there was no delay. He immediately got up, took the very bed the four men had to carry him on and carried it out of the house. As you would expect the large crowd were amazed and glorified God for seeing such awesome power being displayed by Jesus.
Next, we see another future apostle called to follow Jesus. Markís and Lukeís calls him Levi, but Matthewís account calls him Matthew. Lukeís account says:
Luke 5:27 After these things He went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, "Follow Me."† 28 So he left all, rose up, and followed Him.
Being a tax collector was a dirty business. The Romans would hire these men to collect the taxes and the tax collectors had no problem taking advantage of the people to line their own pockets. No doubt Matthew would be considered an outcast by the mainstream Jew because they considered a Jew working for the Romans in this position as being a traitor. Matthew was willing to leave all this behind to follow Jesus.
My question to you, is what are willing to leave behind to follow Jesus? I am not suggesting that you sell everything you have as some did in the first century, but I am asking you what are willing to give up to follow Jesus? If you have a job that is keeping you from living† for God, are you willing to give it up? Are you willing to give more of your money for the cause of Christ? Are willing to give up some TV time so that you might spend time reading Godís Word instead? Maybe a better question would be, is there anything that you would not give up to follow Jesus? If the answer is yes, then we need to reevaluate our priorities because we certainly donít want to be like the rich young ruler who walked away from Jesus because his riches were more important to him.
After Matthew followed Jesus, we read:
Luke 5:29 Then Levi gave Him a great feast in his own house. And there were a great number of tax collectors and others who sat down with them.† 30 And their scribes and the Pharisees complained against His disciples, saying, "Why do You eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?"† 31 Jesus answered and said to them, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.† 32 "I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance."
Matthew was thankful to be a follower of Jesus. So, we seem him make a great feast for Jesus and some of his fellow tax collectors and some others. The mainstream Jew would consider this a den of sinners. These Pharisees and Scribes complain about Jesus and His disciples eating with these sinners, but Jesus defends their actions. He basically tells them that He is eating with them so that He can teach them because they are sick with sin. His purpose on earth was to call the sinners to repentance.
Whether these Pharisees and Scribes realized it or not, Jesus was not saying that they were righteous because they needed to take heed to what Jesus was saying just as much as these tax collectors. However, these Jewish men would have never considered that they were unrighteous because many of these Pharisees and Scribes had a self-righteous attitude. We must be careful that we donít find ourselves being like them.
For the last part of our lesson we will look at what Jesus says, when He is questioned about fasting.
Luke 5:33 †Then they said to Him, "Why do the disciples of John fast often and make prayers, and likewise those of the Pharisees, but Yours eat and drink?"† 34 And He said to them, "Can you make the friends of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them?† 35 "But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them; then they will fast in those days."† 36 Then He spoke a parable to them: "No one puts a piece from a new garment on an old one; otherwise the new makes a tear, and also the piece that was taken out of the new does not match the old.† 37 "And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine will burst the wineskins and be spilled, and the wineskins will be ruined.† 38 "But new wine must be put into new wineskins, and both are preserved.† 39 "And no one, having drunk old wine, immediately desires new; for he says, 'The old is better.' "
Not only does Jesus answer the question posed to Him, He also gives them a three part parable. The exact meaning of these three parables can be difficult and many have different ideas on what they mean. I have always said that you should not limit a parable to one meaning. I have found at least two possible meanings of what Jesus was teaching in these parables. Letís look at our text again from Markís account:
Mark 2:18 The disciples of John and of the Pharisees were fasting. Then they came and said to Him, "Why do the disciples of John and of the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast?"
Mark tells us that Johnís disciples and the Pharisees were behind this question, but according to Matthew, it was Johnís disciples that asked the question. However, we can safely assume the Pharisees were the driving force behind this situation based on their history of plotting against Jesus (Mat. 12:14; Mk. 3:6). Luke adds that Jesus was questioned about prayer as well, but the main focus was on fasting.
I will say this, there are many things we can fast for today, but we are not commanded to do so under the new covenant. Fasting is voluntary for the Christian. However, under the old covenant, fasting was commanded once a year on the Day of Atonement as we see in the following verse:
Leviticus 23:27 "Also the tenth day of this seventh month shall be the Day of Atonement. It shall be a holy convocation for you; you shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire to the LORD.Ē (Lev. 16:31)
As we get back to our main text, itís important to realize that we have two different groups of people that were fasting for different reasons. Our first group, the Pharisees, were famous for making up new laws from their man-made traditions and trying to bind them on others. One of these man-made traditions was fasting. The Pharisees would fast for many different reasons, but they ritually fasted twice a week (Luke 18:12). Most of what the Pharisees did was for an outward show, and for seeking the praise of others (Mat. 23:1-5). In other words, their fasts were not sincere.
Now when the disciples of John fasted it was most likely done out of sincerity as they followed the example of John who did not come eating or drinking (Mat. 11:18). Johnís disciples had another reason for fasting at this time because John was in prison and his life was in danger (Mat. 4:12).
Now that we examined the differences between these two groups, letís focus in on the answer that Jesus gave to questions about fasting and prayer.
Mat. 9:15 And Jesus said to them, "Can the friends of the bridegroom mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast.Ē
This answer would have one meaning to the Pharisees and even a deeper meaning to Johnís disciples. Jesus answers their question by drawing a parallel with something that they are familiar with, a wedding feast. A typical wedding feast lasted about seven days. During this time, the friends of the bridegroom stayed with him (Judges 14:10-11). A wedding feast was a time of joy and feasting. Tradition says that even the Pharisees and other Jews would refrain from fasting during these seven days. Both of these groups would have understood that Jesus was teaching them that it wouldnít make any sense for His disciples to fast since He was with them now.
Now Johnís disciples would have gained an even deeper meaning from this based on Johnís teaching in (John 3:22-35). In these verses, John points out how much greater Jesus is than he, and he points out that Jesus is the bridegroom. So, Jesusí answer should have reminded them of what John had taught them about Jesus.
After Jesus answers their question, He then proceeds to prophecy about his death and how it will mark the beginning of His discipleís fast because He would no longer be with them. Jesus had made His point, but He continues on and gives them a three part parable. Luke is the only one that calls this a parable.
1. Luke 5:36 Then He spoke a parable to them: "No one puts a piece from a new garment on an old one; otherwise the new makes a tear, and also the piece that was taken out of the new does not match the old.
2. 37 "And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine will burst the wineskins and be spilled, and the wineskins will be ruined.38 "But new wine must be put into new wineskins, and both are preserved.
3. 39 And no one after drinking old wine desires new, for he says, 'The old is good.'"
The question becomes, what is Jesus talking about here and how does it apply to what has just been said? As I said earlier, we should not limit just one meaning to Jesusí parables, and my studies have led me to two possible ways to explain them.
First, letís take a look at the first part of this parable of putting the new cloth on the old garment. Jesus points out how this will not work. We need to keep in mind that most of their clothing back then was made from wool, and part of the process of getting wool ready to sew is to shrink it first. So, if a person tried to patch an old garment with a new unshrunk one, it would tear away from the old garment when it gets wet making the hole even bigger. This was common knowledge for the first century people. The basic message here is you cannot mix the new with the old.
The next part of the parable is about putting new wine into old wineskins is similar in meaning. These wineskins usually came from a goat. Once a wineskin is used, especially for fermenting wine, it becomes stretched out and brittle. The residue yeast that is left in the wineskin will cause the new wine to ferment faster than it is supposed to. When the new wine starts releasing gases from the fermentation process, the old wineskin will break open under the pressure and both will be lost. Again, we can see the point is that the new doesnít mix with the old.
Our final part of the parable talks about how a person who is drinking old wine wonít suddenly desire to drink new wine because he is satisfied with what he has. The message here is simple. When a person is satisfied with where they are or with what they have, they will have little desire to try something new or different.
Now, letís take a look at the two possible meanings that Jesus is trying to convey with this three part parable. The first way is a simple approach. When Jesus is asked about His disciples fasting, He responds by saying that they canít fast right now because He is with them. He uses the wedding feast to show them they wouldnít be fasting either if they were the bridegroomís friends during his wedding feast.
One way to look at this three part parable is to say that Jesus is simply using it to drive His point home of how ridiculous it would be for His disciples to fast right now. In other words, Jesus is saying that it makes just about as much sense for His disciples to fast as putting a new garment onto an old one or putting new wine into an old wineskin. In the third part of the parable, Jesus is saying, for my disciples to desire to fast right now, would be like a person desiring new wine when he is satisfied with the old. While this is a possible explanation of this three part parable, I believe there is much deeper meaning that can be found. The only problem with this simple approach is that Jesus doesnít usually use parables this way. Instead, most of them are used to describe the future kingdom that Jesus would establish, or they are used to teach a spiritual lesson.
Let us now consider a second way of looking at this three part parable. We have already established that Jesus answers the question about fasting using the wedding feast, but in that same verse, He prophecies about His death and states this is when His disciples will fast. So, the last thing that He says has His listeners thinking of the future while remaining on the topic of fasting. This is why I believe this three part parable is talking about the future and the new covenant that Jesus would usher in at His death. Basically, the first two parts of the parable teach us that we cannot make the old and the new work together. Now both the Pharisees and Johnís disciples were living by the old Law which was passing away.
The Pharisees were also living by their man-made traditions as well. Jesus is letting them know that their teachings and the old Law will not mix with the teachings or the new Law that He will establish at His death. Jesus did not come to patch up the old Law. Instead, He came to establish a new one. Moses prophesied of this in Deuteronomy 18:15, 18-19 and so did Jeremiah in Jeremiah 31:31-34. Jesus makes it clear that He is going to establish a new covenant in Mt. 26:28. Many other passages show that Jesus was not patching up the old covenant but that He was making a new and better covenant (Heb. 8:6-7,13, 9:15, 12:24). Jesus fulfilled the Law (Mat. 5:17-18; Lk. 24:44) and He nailed the old covenant to the cross at His death (Col. 2:14). As Jesus was looking toward the future when His disciples would fast, it is possible that this is what Jesus was teaching with these two parables.
In the last part of the parable, I believe it is teaching that many, including the Pharisees and Johnís disciples, are not going to immediately desire the new teachings of Christ or the new convent that He would establish because they are satisfied with the old Law and their man-made traditions. This certainly was the case with the Pharisees as they fought Christianity from day one. We also know that some were satisfied with Johnís teaching for quite some time until they heard and accepted the good news of Jesus Christ (Acts 18:24-28, 19:1-5).
Another problem that arose during this time was when some of those who did desire the new wine or the new teachings of Christ began to try to mix the new wine or new covenant with the old wineskin or the old covenant or man-made traditions (Acts 15:1; Gal. 1:6-7). Peter and Paul warn us not to do this (Gal. 1:8-9; 2 Pet. 2:18-22).
So, while my first explanation is reasonable, I prefer the second one. I also believe that we can get something from this three part parable that would apply to us today. From this idea of not mixing the old with the new, we must be careful that we donít try to mix man-made traditions with the perfect Law of Christ. Since we have become a new creation in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17), we must do our best not to allow our old lifestyles of sin to be mixed into our new way of life. Well, this brings us to the end of our lesson.† I hope you will be able to be here for the next lesson in this series as we will be looking at John 5.