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The shadow of death early in Jesus' ministry

April 3, 2023

Daily Scripture

Mark 2:1-11, 3:1-6

Mark 2

1 After a few days, Jesus went back to Capernaum, and people heard that he was at home. 2 So many gathered that there was no longer space, not even near the door. Jesus was speaking the word to them. 3 Some people arrived, and four of them were bringing to him a man who was paralyzed. 4 They couldn’t carry him through the crowd, so they tore off part of the roof above where Jesus was. When they had made an opening, they lowered the mat on which the paralyzed man was lying. 5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Child, your sins are forgiven!”
6 Some legal experts were sitting there, muttering among themselves, 7 “Why does he speak this way? He’s insulting God. Only the one God can forgive sins.”
8 Jesus immediately recognized what they were discussing, and he said to them, “Why do you fill your minds with these questions? 9 Which is easier—to say to a paralyzed person, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take up your bed, and walk’? 10 But so you will know that the Human One [or Son of Man] has authority on the earth to forgive sins”—he said to the man who was paralyzed, 11 “Get up, take your mat, and go home.”

Mark 3

1 Jesus returned to the synagogue. A man with a withered hand was there. 2 Wanting to bring charges against Jesus, they were watching Jesus closely to see if he would heal on the Sabbath. 3 He said to the man with the withered hand, “Step up where people can see you.” 4 Then he said to them, “Is it legal on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they said nothing. 5 Looking around at them with anger, deeply grieved at their unyielding hearts, he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” So he did, and his hand was made healthy. 6 At that, the Pharisees got together with the supporters of Herod to plan how to destroy Jesus.

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Daily Reflection & Prayer

In Mark’s gospel, death’s shadow hung over Jesus from nearly the start of his public ministry. As he openly forgave a sick man’s sins, some legal experts said, “He’s insulting God. Only the one God can forgive sins.” In chapter 3, Jesus’ determination to heal on the Sabbath (ignoring rabbinic tradition) led the “righteous” Pharisees to an alliance with Herod’s corrupt supporters to destroy Jesus. It was only the third chapter of Mark’s story, and Jesus’ enemies had already decided he needed to die.

  • Some Christians erroneously think Jesus’ death was the only thing that “allowed” God to forgive sins. But Jesus didn’t tell the paralyzed man, “Come back after I’ve died—THEN I can forgive your sins.” And Israel’s God had always said forgiveness was a central part of his character and covenant (cf. Exodus 34:5-7). How did Jesus’ death dramatically show God’s eternal willingness to forgive, rather than creating a “legal” basis for forgiveness?
  • Rigidly pious people, ready to criticize Jesus for healing a man’s withered hand, made the Savior angry. Couldn’t Jesus have just told the man to meet him in secret the next day? In this and other stories (e.g. Luke 14:1-6, John 5:1-18), Jesus seemed to go out of his way to show that he valued people’s well-being more highly than strictly following rules. Do you believe that principle applies in some fashion to any of today’s “we’ve never done it that way before” arguments?

Lord Jesus, thank you for caring about the well-being of both my body and my inner self. Help me to live each day in the beautiful reality of your forgiving, restoring grace. Amen.

GPS Insights

Picture of Katy Bagwell

Katy Bagwell

Katy Bagwell is the Program Director of Missions for Resurrection West. She is a mom of two and loves to be outside in the sunshine, especially if it involves mountains or ocean. She loves hiking, reading, learning, and connecting.

Jesus often teaches us to be meek, humble, wise and gentle, and that is all amazing. But wow, do I get fired up when I read about Jesus standing defiantly in the face of injustice! Throughout his ministry, we find Jesus rejected the religious rules of the Pharisees in order to champion the cause of the poor and oppressed. Jesus showed mercy instead of judgment, tolerance instead of exclusion, and compassion instead of religious superiority. Jesus was outraged by the indifference the religious leaders had toward the suffering of others. Because of this, people were watching his every move and trying to find ways to ensnare him. They wanted to catch him doing something wrong. In these encounters, we get to see Jesus’ consistent response to these watchers is this: do good, no matter what.

The idea that we should “do good no matter what” is present in both stories we read in today’s Scripture. In the first story, we see dedicated, faithful friends determined to bring their beloved one to Jesus for healing. There were many reasons they could have quit—there were large crowds to get through, they were carrying a full-grown man, they had no way in the house, and I don’t know much about property law in Bible times, but I’m pretty sure tearing someone’s roof off was considered property destruction even back then. But these guys? They knew their friend was suffering and that Jesus could heal him, so they brushed past every obstacle to get him in that house.

In the second story, the man with the injured hand was suffering. The Pharisees questioned Jesus, knowing that according to Hebrew law he should not have been allowed to heal on the Sabbath. Jesus was angry with the Pharisees for their willingness to uphold the “rules” while this man continued to suffer. He demonstrated with his words and actions that caring for others is more important than any religious rules and healed the man anyway.

There are infinite excuses we can come up to not do the right thing. We may have to risk putting ourselves out there in uncomfortable ways. We may be the only standing “out there” when we are doing it. What the friends of the paralyzed man and Jesus teach us in these passages is that despite any excuses, big crowds or judgmental eyes, we should always do the right thing. And the right thing to do is to help those who are suffering and to bring healing and love into people’s lives. So, no more excuses! Let’s follow Jesus, and bring love and healing to people who are suffering no matter what stands in our way!

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Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.