Mark 2 – 3

Readings for this week July 8 – 12
Click here for a pdf of this week’s readings

Day 1 – What Kind of Love….?

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Mark 2:1-4

Too many people and not enough room. Today we read about some friends who showed a completely different quality of love than what might be expected. The love shown in this passage is not nice, polite, it is not considerate of others or their property. It does not wait, it does not show patience, it does not wait patiently in line. It gets in the way. It doesn’t take ‘no’ – or even ‘wait’ – for an answer. A lot of us might have been put off by the unpleasant crush of the crowd. Sure, we were keen to see our friend healed, but perhaps it would be better to come back another time, when Jesus was not so busy? These friends were not put off. They not only climbed all over a stranger’s house – possibly Peter’s house, as some scholars believe, though we cannot be sure – but they ripped his roof to shreds, creating a hole large enough to fit their friend through!

This is not good social behaviour! It is not a ‘nice’ or polite thing to do. It’s a crazy, outrageous love that stopped at nothing to get their paralysed friend near Jesus. This is the love we are to have, a love that goes to any lengths to carry people to Jesus. Even if we have to carry them ourselves—even if we sometimes need other people to carry us—when we love people we realise how vital it is to help them get near, and stay near, to Jesus.

Question to Consider
When you carry someone to Jesus, or someone carries you, how does that affect your relationships—with God, with yourself, and with others?

Prayer
Lord God, may I love extravagantly, the way you do. May I look for places and ways to express your love in this world, not for reasons and excuses to hold back. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – Improvised Faith

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Mark 2:5

When the friends found their way blocked, they could have decided that maybe it wasn’t the right time for them; perhaps it would be better if they took their ill friend home and came back to try and see Jesus later, when he wasn’t so busy. They could have given up and gone away. They could have let the circumstances of the moment determine their response. But they didn’t. They improvised. They found their way blocked, their intentions thwarted, their desires unmet. So they improvised their way in.

What do we do when we find ourselves in a situation not going according to plan? When we feel the way is blocked and we just can’t seem to get to the result we would like, or we find the door we are hoping to get through closing in our face, how do we react? Can we creatively – and faithfully – improvise a way through? Do we feel that what we are trying to achieve and what we hope to accomplish is big enough and important enough for us to not give up but keep on striving to make real? Do we think that God would want us to be there, to push through, to keep going, even though things are not going as we had planned? These friends thought that the chance of their friend receiving the healing they believed Jesus could give him was worth climbing the walls and ripping off the roof. Unorthodox, unpopular, unsocial methods were required, outside-the-box thinking was needed, spurred on by an at-all-costs belief in the power of Jesus and a stop-at-nothing love for their friend.

Questions to Consider
Have you ever “improvised” your way through in a tight spot? How was your faith exercised? How was it strengthened?

Prayer
Creator God, inspire me in creative ways to exhibit my faith in you so that others may see you in my actions, and may experience your love through what I do. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – “Your Sins are Forgiven”

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Mark 2:5-12

Jesus’ pronouncement “Your sins are forgiven” can be interpreted in two different ways. It could mean “God has forgiven your sins,” as if Jesus were reporting on an act of God; or it could mean “I forgive your sins,” as if Jesus were speaking on his own authority. The Pharisees would not be happy with either option. Only God can forgive sins; although prophets sometimes announced the reality of forgiveness, they did not bestow it. If Jesus is claiming divine authority to actually forgive sins, then he is claiming to be God, and thus is guilty of blasphemy and deserving of death. If he is only announcing that God has forgiven the man’s sins, he is still claiming prophetic authority to do so; in other words, still claiming to speak for God.

Jesus’ question to the Pharisees cuts to the heart of his theological claim. “Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and walk?’” Because only God can forgive sins, it is easier to say “Stand up and walk.” Divine authority is needed to forgive sins but it isn’t needed to heal; conversely, healing could be verified, while forgiveness could not. So naturally Jesus does both. He heals the man (which is a more difficult act to verify) to show that he has the authority to forgive (which is an act only God can perform). He shows his divine authority to forgive sins and his role as inaugurator of the kingdom rule of God. He brings healing and wholeness to this man, the outside signs of which reflect his new inner reality.

Question to Considers
What do you think excited/disturbed the crowd more: the healing or the forgiveness of sins? Why? What is your experience of this?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, I thank you that you bring wholeness inside and out, in body and in spirit, in our self and in our relationships. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – Sabbath

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Mark 3:1-2

It is natural for us to see those in opposition to Jesus as automatically wrong; it can be difficult for us to step back and try and see things from the Pharisees’ point of view, to try and understand what they were complaining about – and guarding against – in the first place. We must try and understand their position and their religious values. For them, the Law of Moses was paramount, and one of the commands was the observance of the Sabbath as a day of rest. This was one of the clearest observations that the Jewish people were different from the peoples around them: weekly Sabbath observance. If every aspect of life was to be lived in accordance with God’s commands, then even trivial matters take on vital importance. Disregarding the Sabbath was a violation of God’s commandments, a breach of the covenant, and a weakening of the distinctive calling of God’s people.

It can be difficult for us to understand this today, in a society that has largely eschewed religious observance of any kind, outside of certain publicly sanctioned expressions of religious feeling. Back when society actually took a day off and everything stopped on Sunday, it may have been an easier time to observe the Sabbath, even if only in some token form. But for us today the issue isn’t Saturday or Sunday; it’s Sabbath or no Sabbath. Do we actually make time for a Sabbath in our lives? Do we, like the Pharisees, actually take seriously God’s command to observe a Sabbath? If we aren’t making the Sabbath a vital rhythm of our lives, we have no right to sit in judgement on the Pharisees.

Questions to Consider
What is the Sabbath? What does a typical Sabbath day look like for you?

Prayer
Loving Father, help me remember and celebrate your Sabbath properly, as a sign of your love for me and your sovereignty over my life. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – The (Lost) Purpose of the Law

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Mark 3:1-5

If the Sabbath is a good, God-given thing, one of the Ten Commandments and therefore something central to Jewish life and culture, a key part of the definition of what it means to be one of God’s people, why does Jesus seem so cavalier with it? Why does he seem to so casually disparage it and throw it away? Well, because it seems that rather than the law being something to highlight the status of the Jewish people as God’s people and a light to all the nations of the world as it should have been, it was now being used to bludgeon people into conformity, and to highlight that the Jews were living in the light while the rest of the world was plunged in darkness. Whatever example, exemplar, or beacon, the Israelites were meant to be – and whatever hope they were there to offer – seemed to have been forgotten. That was what Jesus was unhappy with.

All Jesus did was utter a word of command to tell the man to stretch forth his hand, and then leave the man to do so himself. We don’t know whether even these simple actions broke the official or unofficial Sabbath interpretation. But it is clear that, even if not in the details and the particulars of this event, Jesus’ entire attitude is on a collision course with that of the Pharisees’. How does Mark categorise Jesus’ response to the Pharisees’ attitude? He says Jesus was upset at their hard-heartedness – the very phrase the prophets often levelled at the people when they were breaking the law. The purpose of the law had been forgotten. God’s creation and redemption story had been forgotten.

Questions to Consider
Why were the Pharisees watching Jesus like a hawk? What do you think of their motivations?

Prayer
Sovereign Lord, help me always to look for your hand in all I do, for ways in which my life can be a vehicle for your grace. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)