In my last post on the Gospel according to Mark I showed a structure to Mark 2.1-3.6. On this post I hope to show the connection between Mark 1 and 2, along with what the 5-tier structure means, why it’s important, and why we should care. What do we do with it?
Mark has written 2.1-3.6 in such the same way. Mark 1.1-3 brings together a collection of verses from Ex. 23.20; Mal. 3.1; and Isa. 40.3. (v2 in some translations say “As it is written in Isaiah” rather than “the Prophets.” This isn’t a mistake on Mark’s part. Of the three OT references, the focus is on the Isaiah quotation). Read the surrounding contexts of the 3 OT references, but essentially Malachi shows God (Yahweh) as the one who is going to come like a refiner’s fire and purge the temple of its uncleanness.
Yahweh’s messenger is John the Baptist who will prepare the way for the Lord, Jesus, who is Mark’s main focus. John prepares that way, and who comes? Not Yahweh, but Jesus. In fact, looking through Mark, Jesus’s actions and words are that of which only Yahweh can do and say. (More on that in another post).
Jesus begins his ministry after John the Baptist (the old way; Mk. 2.21) is put in prison. Now the ‘new wine’ (Jesus; 2.22) comes onto the scene. He calls disciples, and begins to cleanse Israel. He casts out unclean spirits (demons; Mk. 1.27; Isa. 19.1), heals many (Mk. 1.29-34), Preaches in Galilee (1.35-39), and cleanses a leper (1.40-45). And through this becomes hugely popular.
Here’s where this chiasm comes into play. Mark 2 brings us to sudden conflict where the scribes and Pharisees plan to stop this unmerited popularity. This was inserted into my last post, but I’ve added it again to remind you of Mark’s structure.
2.1-3.6 is divided up into 5 sections*:
A Healing [2.1-12]
B Eating [2.13-17]
C Fasting and Piety [2.18-22]
B` Eating [2.23-28]
A` Healing [3.1-6]
But not only is there a mirror image, but with each step the conflict grow more tense and abrupt.
*This chiasm comes from the IVP’s Dictionary of Biblical Imagery.
The Controversy Rises
A Anger is mental [2.1-12]
B Anger directed toward disciples [2.13-17]
C Anger directed at disciples [2.18-22]
D Anger is directed at JC [2.23-28]
E Anger is mental, now including a plot to kill Jesus [3.1-6]
The Terrible Two’s
In Mark 1, Jesus, the one who was to come, enters in on the scene presenting the “second exodus” and what God’s kingdom would look like by performing miracles of healing and cleansing (and soon forgiveness). Mark 2, Jesus’ popularity is now contested. His popularity with the religious crowd is zero to none. We see the conflict with the religious elite start early in Mark’s gospel.
Following the chiasm of 2:1–3:6
A Healing (2:1–12)
Jesus forgives and heals a paralyzed man. Forgiveness is something that only God can do, so the scribes mentally accuse Him of blasphemy. Yet, so that they may know [8.11-12] He was the Son of Man who “has” authority to forgive sins, He then heals the man. And the people glorify God.
B Eating (2:13–17)
Jesus calls a filthy tax collector who accepts and holds a dinner party where all feel welcome [reclined; 2.15]. The Pharisees verbally express their disapproval to the disciples, where Jesus answers telling them He came [1.38; 4.21; 10.45] to call sinners. Mark 1.14-15 shows us what Jesus was calling them to “repent, and believe in the gospel, for the kingdom of God is at hand.”
Jesus, the great physician, came to call sinners, the sick, and not the “self-” righteous, to the gospel.
C Fasting and Piety (2:18–22)
Jesus is bringing in the new era. While John the Baptist and his disciples fasted in mourning over the sins of the people and in anticipation of God’s kingdom, and while the Pharisees (and their admirers) fasted for religious reasons, Jesus disciples did not fast. What’s the deal, Jesus? The disciples had the bridegroom [Yahweh: Hos. 2.16, 19-20; Jer. 5.7; Jesus: 2 Cor. 11.2] with them giving way to, not mourning, but celebration. Jesus doesn’t mix with the old traditions of Judaism. The unshrunken cloth will tear the old garment, and the new wine will burst the old wine skins.
2.19 is the first allusion to Jesus’ death. He is the bridegroom who will be taken away. We see a glimpse of how this will play out in the last section.
B’ Eating (2:23–28)
The Pharisees criticize Jesus as a Teacher of the Torah by asking Him why His disciples are breaking the law on the Sabbath. Yahweh was the Lord of the Sabbath because He instituted the Sabbath [Gen. 2.3] and gave the Law in Exodus [20.8]. Yet here Jesus says that, as the Son of Man, He was Lord of the Sabbath. “The followers of Jesus live in a constant Sabbath rest insofar as they live in the kingdom” (L.D. Hurst, Jesus and the Gospels Dictionary; Ethics of Jesus).
“Certainly the Jesus of Mark, who has authority to exercise the divine prerogative of forgiving sins (2:10), whose coming changes fasting to feasting (2:19), who came to seek and save the lost (10:45), could think this way” (Stein, Mark, p. 150).
A’ Healing (3:1–6)
Where is this? I want to elaborate on this one a bit more, so I’ll save it until next time.
Those who ought to know who Jesus is, the ones who should be welcoming Him into their presence, are the same ones who are criticizing Him because of the hardness of their hearts [2.7; 3.5]. Jesus is the ‘new wine’, but new wine can not be placed in old wine skins. Jesus is bringing in a new way, ushering in a new era, better than what the Law could give [Heb. 7.18-22]. He does what God does by forgiving sins, perceiving hearts, and having authority over the Sabbath and the Torah. But we’ll see in the next section that the Pharisees reach a breaking point where they will plot out a need to put Jesus to death, the time surrounding when the bridegroom will be taken away.
In my next post I’ll talk about the final scene and what Jesus did to really grind the Pharisees’ gears. I’ll include a look at how Mark presents Jesus to be closely tied with Yahweh.