Jesus was never accused of being a legalist, but here we see several occasions wherein He is accused of antinomianism. The question we face today is whether Jesus means to dismantle and do away with the whole Law–or if His teaching and fulfillment of the Law lead us to another understanding.
Remember, Paul’s Spirit-led teaching in Romans says we do not nullify the Law, but on the contrary uphold it. We know our flesh cannot fulfill the law, Jesus does. And we know that part of the Spirit’s work in us is to write the Law on our hearts (Hebrews 8), and empower us for a new kind of obedience–obedience from the heart, not from rote; no more lip service, but true worship; and serving from His strength, not our own; obedience motivated by Love, not letter.
Paralytic healed, roof dismantled…whose home? Most likely Peter’s home mentioned in Mark 1:30. Left Capernaum to go throughout the towns nearby, returned home, and as soon as they returned a crowd gathered, and He was speaking the word to them. Speaking it. Imagine… He was not reading. How refreshing this must have been! Now, Luke makes the point in chapter five of his gospel that at this point “the power of the Lord was present for Him to perform healing.” Jesus sees the paralytic, commends his faith and forgives him of his sins. This sounds like blaspheme to many listeners, they did not know who He really was.
Can you think of a time when you knew God’s work was inwardly amazing, but you still grumbled, wishing for the outward? Which is more amazing? Which fulfills our deepest longings?
We are led to see, as they were for the first time, that Jesus’ fulfillment of many of the promises would be unseen–rather than physical healing He offers forgiveness. He also calls Himself Son of Man. Last week we read that Jesus announced the coming of His Kingdom, and then this Kingdom title from Daniel 7:13. He was claiming to be God. And to prove it, He did yet another miracle. All were amazed and glorified God. He walked out again to sit by the sea and teach. I envy how much of their life was outdoors.
Another accusation of lawlessness. Jesus calls Levi to be a disciple, and joins him and others at his house for a meal. He is judged for eating with sinners. Verse 17 is sometimes removed from context to preach a “come as you are, and never change” false gospel. But is that what we see happening here? What other passages can you think of that teach us to come as we are, and that He will indeed sanctify us, refine us, free us from sins, etc.? God has promised to transform us into the image of His Beloved Son. He has made known to us that all who abide in Him will be fruitful; apart from Him we can do nothing but abiding in Him we will bear the fruit of righteousness. We come as we are. We come knowing we are sinners. We find forgiveness, healing, acceptance, redemption, reconciliation, growth, flourishing, hope, purpose, and a righteousness that is not our own but from faith (see Philippians 3).
Another moment when it seems to the original audience that Jesus is spreading lawlessness… What does this passage teach us about His presence, and fasting? The fasting of John’s disciples was still a fasting that looked forward to the Messiah coming. Jesus claimed that He was with His own and therefore they did not need to fast. When He, the Bridegroom, is present, there will be feasting. But when He leaves they will fast. And will that fasting be different? It would be a longing for His presence, His help, His filling and refreshing, and for the time when they would again see Him face to face.
Verses 21-22 make no sense out of context–please do not rip them apart from the text! Is the old garment, and the old wine skin representative of the Law, or of tradition and ceremony? Jesus is hinting that He is doing something new, not merely mending the old thing or filling the old thing. New wine in fresh wine skin–the fasting from now on will feel different, likewise many other acts of worship will be done in fresh ways, from the heart, in light of His Kingdom having come, and the King being so near to us–and being for us, and abiding in us. He is ushering in the time of reformation outlined in Hebrews 9 (a worthy meditation, go, read!).
Before we read, keep in the back of your mind what our own confession teaches, and note that Mark especially thinks we must understand this in light of the wineskins and patches…
The Westminster Confession teaches that we will prepare our hearts for the Sabbath, and prepare physically the day before, so that the Sabbath can be taken up by personal and corporate worship and rest…and performing deeds of necessity and mercy. For this they reference the Matthew verses on this very story. This portion of the Gospel story led our denomination to understand that what Jesus did here was GOOD. Was He breaking the Law by eating bits of grain as He walked through a field, as the Pharisees believed He was? (they say ‘not lawful’) Jesus’ reply “When David was in need, he did something typically unthinkable.” The need was hunger both times. This is the second time in Mark’s telling that Jesus mentions His identity as the Son of Man, claiming that the Son of Man has authority over the Sabbath. Sabbath, ordained in creation for man to rest, to meet the physical need of rest. The Sabbath was made for man, and the Son of Man is lord over the Sabbath.
shows yet another time when Jesus is accused of breaking the law by healing on the Sabbath. Jesus is not teaching His disciples how to disobey, or which laws to do away with. He is showing His identity as LORD of this Kingdom, and of the laws of the Kingdom; He is showing them that the Bridegroom’s presence in their life will be reflected in their obedience and worship.
Sinclair Ferguson says this: “There is only one genuine cure of legalism. It is the same medicine the gospel prescribes for antinomianism: understanding and tasting union with Jesus Christ himself. [the new wine! In the new wineskin!!!] This leads to a new love for and obedience to the law of God, which He now mediates to us in the gospel. This alone breaks the bonds of both legalism (the law is no longer divorced from the person of Christ) and antinomianism (we are not divorced from the law, which now comes to us from the hand of Christ and in the empowerment of the Spirit, who writes it on our hearts).”Sinclair B. Ferguson, The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, & Gospel Assurance–Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2016), 157.
This week read Hebrews 8, which quotes Jeremiah 31; and delight in the Spirit Who will write the law on our hearts. No patchwork. He will lead us to put to death the old man, and put on Christ (Romans 8). The Son of Man is Lord over our hearts!