Summer Series #2 – The Kingdom Causes Growth…??
Preacher: Kevin Kim / Bible Reading: Mark 2:1-22
Before we get into chapter 2, I thought it would be helpful to look at the overview of this book of Mark as today is first in-person worship for this Mark’s series.
Who wrote the book? The author of Mark was a Christian named John Mark, a relatively obscure person so far as New Testament records indicate. Believed to have been a relative of Barnabas, who was one of the leaders of the church in Antioch, Mark accompanied Paul and Barnabas on one of their missionary journeys and was a companion of Peter during the time when Peter spent his last years in the city of Rome.
WHEN WAS IT WRITTEN?
The Gospel of Mark is considered the earliest written of the four Gospels. It is impossible to determine whether it was put into written form before or after the siege of Jerusalem in 70 C.E., but this event is a landmark for situating the time of Mark’s composition.
Why is Mark so important?
Mark’s gospel portrays Jesus as constantly on the move. The forward motion in Mark’s writing keeps the reader’s mind continually looking ahead to the cross and the resurrection. Thirty-nine times Mark used the word immediately, giving a sense that Jesus’s time on earth was short and that there was much to accomplish in His few years of ministry.
What’s the big idea?
While Matthew’s gospel portrays Jesus as the King, Mark reveals Him as God’s Servant. Jesus’s work was always for a larger purpose, a point clearly summarized in Mark 10:45, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Jesus constantly pointed to the definitive way in which He would serve humanity: His death on the cross and His resurrection from the dead.
And this is an overview of this book –
Now let’s go back to chapter 2. There are so many choices! Forgiveness/healing, or inclusion, or fasting, or conflict with the authorities, or home economics! What will you choose? That is my first reaction to reading the passage from Mark (2:1-22) for this week, five different sermon starters jumped out at me.
We are introduced to three scenes in Mark 2 that deal with different aspects of Jesus’ ministry. The first scene focuses on Jesus as the Son of Man, the second touches on the scope of discipleship, and the third addresses fasting as a spiritual discipline.
SO is the passage mainly about forgiveness? And in the story does Jesus proclaim or offer forgiveness when he says “your sins are forgiven” in the healing of paralytic at the first scene?
OR is the primary focus of this passage the beginning of open conflict with the powers that be? A conflict that will eventually lead to the cross. That conflict could be found in all three narratives.
MAYBE the passage is pushing us to look at who is shut out and who is welcomed in? This is of course also a healing, and is closely tied to forgiveness as a way to that healing.
FINALLY we have the last couple of verses. How does one patch cloth (v 21)? What sort of wine-skins does one use? S Is this possibly the piece that unifies the passage? Mark’s Jesus begins his ministry by proclaiming that the Kingdom is at hand. The time is now, the day has come. Does this perhaps mean that S it is time for new cloth and new wine-skins? Are the healings and the teachings and the conflict signs that there needs to be a new way of looking at things?
With these many questions, I would like to approach this text with this well-known idea of ‘New Wine in New Wineskins’. As not a wine drinker and someone who live in a so different world where Jesus lived, I always found these new wineskins parable was difficult to understand. Please watch a short click from the well-know the chosen series – (WATCH – 3mins)
One of the disciples said, new wine keeps expanding and it will explode! While the old wineskins cannot accommodate the fermentation process of new wine, the new wineskins stretch and grow. If I could borrow another parable of the kingdom of God, God’s kingdom is like yeast (Matt 15:33)… So if the kingdom of God itself is not what grows, but rather what causes growth, new wineskins need to expand and stretch to deal with this growth and accommodate the expansion. Otherwise it will be bursting out all over.
Then how do we understand all other narratives in the light of this new wine and new wineskins’ idea of ‘grow otherwise bursting out’?
The first narrative, Mark 2:1–12 narrates Jesus’ encounter with a paralytic while speaking the word to a crowd in Capernaum. In this context, Jesus’ teaching about the kingdom of God attracts a large enough crowd that the home exceeds capacity. Luke’s version of the account mentions that Pharisees and other teachers of the law were also among the crowd from as far as Galilee, Judea, and Jerusalem (Luke 5:17).
Four men carried him on a “mat” (krabattos), which may have been the paralysed man’s daily bed. Due to the crowd’s size, he had to be lowered through the roof of the house.
Now the house is up to a full capacity. The house is not able to accommodate the growth that Jesus’ crowd caused. As the house cannot contain the growth, it bursts out. It needs a hole on the ceiling to keep the momentum of growth going. If there is a continuing renewal happening, that momentum could be continuing with a hole in the ceiling, and continue to expand, but if there is no hole in the ceiling and no desire to be open to new changes and growth, it bursts out all over and it might even die.
This is the last of four healing episodes in a row—the man with the unclean spirit, Simon’s mother-in-law, a leper, and now the paralytic man.
“Why is Jesus healing these people?”
It’s all about liberation and condemnation of the systems that marginalize the people. The dramatic exorcism in Mark 1:21-28 is not about a healing. It is about showing Jesus’ authority against the religious rulers.
The healing of Simon’s mother-in-law is about liberating her—and about her leadership. She’s the first woman in the gospel, and when she is touched by Jesus, “she began to serve them.”
Then, in the last healing story of the chapter one, Jesus heals and touches a leper and declares him clean. Jesus subverts the purity code! And then goes one step further. Jesus insists that the former leper “confront the system that keeps him marginalized” by sending the man to the priest.
Do you see? Liberation and confrontation. Not just healing.
And the story of the paralytic in Capernaum? Ched Myers says, “The deeper issue this time concerns the debt code, under which the physically disabled held inferior status in the community because of their ‘flaws.’ Rather than simply ‘curing’ his body, Jesus chooses to challenge the body politic by releasing him from debt.” That is what Jesus was doing when he said, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
Liberation and confrontation.
Jesus is freeing the people marginalized by their culture. Jesus is inviting the people who were oppressed by the old system into his new kingdom. So more and more people were following him and to be able to accommodate that growth, you will need bigger house and bigger plans and visions.
The scope of discipleship
Now the second narrative in verses 13–17 describes the call of Levi son of Alphaeus, who was also called Matthew. The first disciples that were called were Judean fishermen. Levi is described as sitting in a “tax booth”, which would make him a tax collector. Levi hosts Jesus at his home for a social dinner that includes scribes, Pharisees, other tax collectors, and Jesus’ disciples.
Jesus associating with tax collectors and sinners would have been alarming because it went against the expectations of the Messiah and the Son of Man.
Tax collectors ultimately worked for their foreign rulers, the Romans, and sinners needed to repent or face God’s judgment at the hands of the Son of Man. But they missed the twofold nature of Jesus’ advent. Whereas they expected the Messiah to come and overthrow the Gentiles and restore the kingdom to Israel, his first coming was intended to offer forgiveness of sins and salvation first. And as Jesus explains, Jesus’ association with tax collectors and sinners was intended to offer aid as the physician to the spiritually impaired. Therefore, in this narrative of calling and eating with tax collectors and sinners, Jesus brings his kingdom in the midst of those who need his presence and touch, and his kingdom causes growth. His kingdom expands to accommodate the growth – the tax collectors and sinners came to dinners and their table fellowship newly formed and expanded. Then what about us? When the kingdom of God causes growth and brings different people who might have different ideas, lifestyles and theologies, are we ready to accommodate that changes to welcome and include them? Are we willing to have a table fellowship with them and invite and encourage them to be new leaders in the life of this congregation?
The last narrative in verses 18–22 raise interesting questions about fasting as a spiritual discipline. Jesus’ analogies of the wedding guest and the bridegroom, new and old clothes and wineskins, suggest that fasting was not appropriate while he was active on earth. Jesus’ comments clearly were not questioning the effectiveness of fasting nor arguing for its closure. Instead, he practices fasting and gives instructions for it, and the early church continues to do it (Matthew 4:1–2; 6:16–18; Acts 14:23).
The question about fasting raises the issue of the status and practice of not only fasting but spiritual discipline. Spiritual actions like fasting should be undertaken with care after gaining insight into how to do it and, more importantly, for what reasons. S Like including the tax collectors and sinners, fasting also challenges the idea of a spiritual discipline and if that causes growth as a new idea of the kingdom, you will have to accommodate those changes and new ideas.
So on this first Sunday of 2024, God is inviting us to be part of his kingdom, where we will experience the growth in every aspect of our lives. Then we will have to be ready to be stretched and expanded. I believe we are ready to do it. We are willing to do it. I pray that this new year, 2024 will be a time we will witness that growth and expansion as God’s kingdom causes growth within us. Amen.