Mark 2:18-3:6 – Sermon Manuscript

PLEASE NOTE: these are the notes I use to preach from, if you would like to hear them in context, please watch our YouTube video.

-Slacklining, walking across a flat webbing tied between two anchors (usually trees) Micah informed me it started as a way to help rock climbers with their balance and core strength! But now people have taken it to a whole new level!

-The only way slacklining works is if you have tension in the webbing. If it’s too loose it won’t work, if it’s too tight you don’t have any fun! 

-We as Christians are called to live a life of tension. We’re living between Jesus’ 2 comings, we’re in the world but not of the world. We’re going to see today some of what that looks like in the life of a believer.


-We’re smack dab in the middle of 5 showdowns between Jesus and the religious leaders of his day.

-Last week we saw that Jesus forgave sins and hung out with “scum” (NLT)

-Scum according to whom? Pharisees were seeking holiness isn’t that a good aim? That’s literally what the Lord commands of us (“Be holy as I am holy.” 1 Peter 1:16Lev. 11:44)

-The tension is when the pursuit of holiness focuses on the small issues, but ignores the bigger issues.

-The law was meant to lead to flourishing. It wasn’t in place to force people to be miserable rule followers, it was in place to help people act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly (Micah 6:8). But the prophets looked forward to a time when the law of God would be written on our hearts instead of stone tablets. God’s desire is our hearts, not mere external obedience or mentally thinking correctly. God wants to redeem all those things, even our desires. Have you ever thought about that? Through the Holy Spirit, God can change even our deepest longings! Which is exactly what He’s trying to do. That’s what the Pharisees (and let’s be honest, many of us) keep missing today. 

-So many people today are driven by their desires, or what they claim are their desires, but the difficulty is those desire keep changing, don’t they? If you become addicted to food it slowly takes more and morI e food to feel full. If you become addicted to power it slowly requires more power to feel adequate. If you become addicted to stuff you’re constantly looking for the next thing to buy to ensure you’re feeling satisfied. If you become addicted to recognition you’ll do anything to ensure people still like you.

-The reality is nothing this world offers us will satisfy. There’s no relationship that will fix you, but Jesus provides a new way. The difficulty is that the Bible doesn’t always provide us clear cut answers, instead in many cases we’re forced to live in a tension between 2 seemingly contradictory poles. Think of men/women relationships and what the Bible says: do not lust, treat each other as family. Yet that’s a theme of Scripture: life in tension, isn’t it? 

-If you want to find your life you must lose it. 

-Whoever wants to be first must be last. 

-True leadership is service. 

-It doesn’t make any sense from a purely human perspective, which is part of the reason I find Christianity so compelling!

-As we work through today’s text, be thinking about what ideas Jesus has challenged or needs to challenge in your own life! Because I can guarantee if He hasn’t challenged or pushed you in some area, you haven’t paid close enough attention to His demands!

  1. Over Fasting (18-22)

-What is fasting and what is it’s purpose?

-1st of the spiritual disciplines listed in this section, and something that I think we need more understanding and awareness of today. Had the privilege of studying some of these things in more detail at college and seminary, but it’s a whole lot harder to implement these ideas than it is to study them! Fasting (at least in the 1st century) was abstaining from food and drink for a set period of time. One fast was demanded of all Jews once a year, but in order to prove their piety and obedience, the Pharisees fasted 2 a week (Monday and Thursday). 

-It seems that John’s disciples followed a similar pattern, but remember John’s role: he came to prepare the way for someone far greater than Him! So fasting is part of the preparation for Jesus’ coming! 

-Why do other disciples fast, but Jesus’ don’t? Are they less obedient? Are they more hungry than other disciples? 

-Jesus compares the current state of affairs to a wedding! Think of the joyful celebration that a wedding entails! 2 families become one, good food, good conversation, mediocre dancing. 

-Weddings today can’t hold a candle to weddings in the 1st cent. They were a week-long affair where people descended upon the house with the expectation that a great party would be taking place! And the family getting married had to provide the food for the feast. This is where Jesus’ first miracle recording in John is so significant! Does anyone remember what it is? Water into wine during a wedding. It would have been unthinkable and completely embarrassing to have run out of wine for the guests at the wedding, so Jesus’ first miracle shows that He brings joy instead of mourning, plenty instead of lacking.

-This doesn’t mean there’s no place for fasting, look at vs. 20:

-Once again we find ourselves in a point of tension. The fact that we are no longer dead in our sin should lead us to feasting and rejoicing! But the fact that Jesus hasn’t yet returned should lead us to fasting and pleading for His return. It’s not either/or, it’s both/and. We should take time to feast and praise God for His provision for us, but we should also take time to fast and plead with God for the realignment of our desires and the ability to continue fighting against our sin.

-Jesus talks about this tension with 2 examples: clothing and wine

-As clothing is worn, it changes, doesn’t it? Stretches in new ways, I continue finding snot rubbed on my clothes from my kids! Maybe like me, you’ve had clothes shrink in the wash that would only fit a child! Imagine that shirt has a hole in it that you’ve patched. What would happen if you had patched that hole with a different kind of cloth? Not a pretty site! Pretty much only useful as a rag, it’s completely nonsensical!  

-In a similar way, think of someone making a wonderful wine. In the 1st cent. Brewers would use the skin from animals (usually a goat) to store the wine in, because as alcohol is made, the fermentation process gives off gas that needs some place to go! If the unfermented wine was placed in a brittle, old skin it would continue expanding until the skin breaks, ruining the wine AND the wineskin. Once again, it’s a nonsensical idea! 

-Jesus is making a point here: His arrival means things are completely different. You can’t continue operating under and old mindset or way of living. Think of it like a software update! God’s rules are the same, the goal is still the same, but there’s a completely new way of going about that goal.  

-Jesus ushers in something new, how do we ensure we’re not trying to force God’s plan into our own rules? How do we ensure that we’re not trying to force God’s work into old wineskins that can’t contain what He’s doing?

-Churches are notorious for this! I grew up during the bloody battles now known as the “worship wars” 

-It’s so easy for us to assume our way is the best, or act as if everyone else must be just like us in order to be a Christian, but we forget where we used to be. The older I get, the more grateful I become for people who put up with my dumb tendencies when I was younger. But that also means that in 15 years, I’ll probably look back at myself today and think of how dumb I am now!

-It’s also easy to look back with rose colored glasses and ignore the difficulties and realities of growing up in the church. I’ve been reading a new book about the life of Timothy Keller (pastor in NYC) who attended college/Seminary in the late 60s/early 70s and the culture wasn’t exactly conducive to Christian virtue AT ALL! Free love movement, hippy ideals, protesting of the Vietnam war, Watergate scandal. Today really doesn’t look so bad when you read about some of what was going on back then!

-Just as people needed Jesus to redirect and refocus their aim, so each culture we live in, we need to allow Jesus to redirect and refocus our aim. 

-Maybe you’ve been hearing/seeing videos of what’s been going on in Asbury over the past week and wondered about it. When you look at the Pharisees in the 1st cent. and us today not much has changed! It’s far easier to sit in judgment than it is to allow the Spirit to blow where He wishes and follow where He leads!

-But this isn’t the only religious practice Jesus challenges!

  • Over the Sabbath (23-3:6)

-Sabbath was ritualistically observed by the Jews, Friday sundown to Saturday sundown (saw this in chpt. 1 when everyone waited until sundown to bring their sick to Jesus)

-Sabbath has a long history with God’s people, literally one of the ten commandments! Lots of debate throughout history as to whether it’s still binding on Christians today. I’ve even argued with people about the extent of Sabbath observance (which came about because a friend did a sermon series he titled “The Forgotten Commandment” which assumes it’s still binding). How do we interpret the Sabbath observance on this side of the cross when Jesus tells us the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath, when Paul tells us in Rom. 14:5 “One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.” Or the author of Hebrews tells us “So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.” Through all this we see that even Sabbath is meant to point us to Jesus! We now can rest because of His work finishing the work we could never have completed on our own anyway.

-I’ve wrestled over the years through this idea, and will continue to wrestle into the future I’m sure! But one quote I found that I think is helpful says:

-“If we violate his normative structure, there will be consequences that spiral through all dimensions of life.” (Dan Allender Sabbath

-It’s normative, not mandated. This means it’s foolish to act as if we’re God and need no breaks. Have you ever read about the French Republican calendar? Late 1700s France tried to change the week to a 10 day week instead of 7 attempting to de-christianize even time! Do you know what happened? Injuries, exhaustion, illness saw a sharp increase, and even work animals died at a much higher rate than before. After 12 years of failure, they went back to the 7-day week. It’s almost as if that’s baked into the created order! 

-Let’s work through this text to see what Jesus says about this practice, and then think about what that means for us today.

  1. Provision (23-28)

-Allowed to eat on the Sabbath, even plucking grain, the disciples are only disobeying the manmade additions to the rules.

-They were so concerned with holiness they had determined exactly what counted as “work.” That’s why if you’re in a largely Jewish area today if you try to use an elevator on Saturdays you’ll be waiting for a while! They stop at each floor because it’s considered work to push the elevator button. In Jesus’ day you couldn’t pluck heads of grain because they counted as harvesting. You also were allowed to take up to 1,999 steps, but that 2,000th step put you over the limit into work! Can you imagine how much work it would have taken to keep track of all these rules on your day of “rest”?

-Jesus goes on to point out that even David, the greatest king in all of Israel’s history, didn’t obey the laws! The bread was saved especially for the Priests and the Levites! Jesus here is pointing out the reality that there’s a difference between the letter and the spirit of the law.

-Think of Jesus’ answers the question: what is the greatest commandment? This would have been a common debate at the time! When we’re faced with a choice between obedience to 1 law or another, which do we pick? Do you remember Jesus’ answer? Love God supremely, and others sacrificially. That’s the sum of the law! And I’ve heard some people argue that by obeying the first, you’ll naturally live out the second! If that’s the summary of the law, how are the Pharisees acting here? They’re 0 for 2: not loving God supremely OR others sacrificially! So in their appeal to the OT, Jesus’ ups them with another OT story:

-If David can eat sacred bread, can’t David’s greater Son eat on the Sabbath? Isn’t a 1 for 1 correlation, David wasn’t eating on the Sabbath, but he was disobeying a rule! 

-Then Jesus makes quite a statement about the Sabbath and Himself: Sabbath isn’t meant to be an onerous chore, it was created to help people orient their lives around God, serving, worshipping, and loving Him. And even that is meant to bring Him glory, so Sabbath is meant to be used in worship of Him. And Jesus doubles down on this in the next story:

  • Doing good (3:1-6)

-Synagogue (his home base for ministry, Saturday meeting)

-“they watched” They is referring to the Pharisees again. Some translations have “watched closely” to signify that they were actively looking for ways to judge Him and hold Him in contempt. But notice that they don’t doubt whether or not Jesus is able to heal this man. They’ve seen or heard enough miracles at this point to know exactly how Jesus operates, his MO has become pretty clear! So Jesus goes right for the heart of the issue:

-“Come here” literally “Stand up into the middle” Everyone would see! Nothing hiding, no tricks, no questions, and no doubts. 

 -Then He turns his attention to the Pharisees and asks them a question: Which is the more important law: doing good, or hurting someone?

The Mishhah (written down oral tradition) says that “whenever there is doubt whether life is in danger this overrides the Sabbath” We’re back to Jesus’ summary once again: love God and love others! Loving ALWAYS takes precedent over ritualistic obedience (defining love correctly)

-What’s their response? They know the right thing to say! They don’t think of a response this time, they know Jesus will know their thoughts. They don’t try to answer back because they know he’ll spin it right back around to them. They remain silent. 

-Why was Jesus angry? We saw him angry in the healing of the leper too. Jesus’ anger isn’t directed toward sinners, but toward those who think they’re in the right standing. He wants people to see what He sees and wants them to live life to the fullest extent possible, but they refuse. 

-How did Jesus heal the man? Did Jesus do any work? All he did was talk, which was supposed to take place on the Sabbath! There’s no work done! But that’s not how the Pharisees see it. This is the 5th instance they’ve seen blasphemy taking place, this is their last straw, it’s time to get down to business!

-Pharisees choose strange bedfellows. The Herodians were pro-Roman occupation. Yet in their anger, they’ll look for anyone to partner with! 

-The irony of Jesus’ question in vs. 4 toward them: they start working on Sabbath to kill Jesus.

-Jesus wants us to live life to the fullest extent we can, which means we must submit every area of our lives to His oversight. 

-The rules are put in place to help us understand how we can love God and love others. It’s once again a tension because God has designed the entire world, and individually, each one of us! So if we want to live this full life, it means we must die to ourselves, take up our cross daily, and follow after Him. It means we’re going to live lives that look RADICALLY different from the people around us, but in the end it’s the only way to find true life.

-We must live in this tension point between seeing and believing, between Jesus’ first and second comings, between the flesh and the Spirit. It’s hard, it takes practice, it takes other’s helping you to see, but it leads to life to the full!

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