Sep 30, 2012
Mark 2:19-28

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What beef did the religious leaders have with Jesus?

1. Jesus ate and drank with tax collectors and sinners.

Jesus not only hung out with questionable characters. 

Jesus would choose to identify Himself with these questionable characters. 

2. Jesusate and drank with tax collectors and sinners” instead of them!

These men couldn’t understand why Jesus would choose to eat with sinners when He could spend His time with them? 

The issue with these religious leaders was the reality.... they simply didn’t realize - they were simply oblivious too - or they simply ignored the truth that there was no moral distinction between themselves and the sinners they looked down upon and judged.

As do all “religious people” these Scribes and Pharisees used the process of moral comparison as their basis for “self-declared-righteousness.”

In verses 18-22 we see their self-righteousness rooted in the fact they were doing something for God (Fasting) that the disciples weren’t doing.

Mark 2:18 “Then they came and said to Him, “Why do the disciples of John and of the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast?”

These religious leaders viewed their ritual fasting for God as evidence that they were more righteous than anyone who didn’t fast in the same manner (AKA Jesus’ disciples). “We’re doing something for God that you aren’t doing” was their motto.... which implied God was more pleased with them than He was with the disciples of Jesus.

The problem with their logic was two fold.... 

1. If you’re doing more for God - than what’s required by God - are you more righteous for it? Don’t forget God had only asked the Jews to fast one day a year on the Day of Atonement. The exercise of fasting twice a week was something these religious leaders had conjured up on their own.

2. They didn’t understand what actually pleases God in the first place. 

Do you realize the only thing you can do to please God is following Jesus. This was a lifestyle the disciples had adopted, but these religious leaders had completely overlooked. 

Simply put.... these religious leaders had it all backwards.... the disciples were actually more pleasing to God because they were hanging out with Jesus. 

In order to nail down this point, Jesus uses 3 word pictures to illustrate this reality:

Mark 2:19-22 “And Jesus said to them, “Can the friends of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them they cannot fast.... But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days.... No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; or else the new piece pulls away from the old, and the tear is made worse.... And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine bursts the wineskins, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But new wine must be put into new wineskins.” 

1. The Wedding Feast

The idea of the “wedding feast” would strike a cord with these religious leaders. The Old Testament Jewish scholars saw Jehovah as the groom and Israel as the bride.... this was an illustration they clearly understood.

By conjuring up this image Jesus was saying, “The groom has arrived for His bride. We’re currently at a wedding.... and no one fasts at a wedding. The appropriate response to this occasion should be joy!” 

Even the Jewish Talmud said that at a wedding ceremony a man is resolved of all other religious duties (even prayer) except one.... rejoicing.

This is what Jesus was getting at.... these religious exercises (like fasting) that were used to approach God become meaningless when God is in your midst. 

  • Jesus is saying that His arrival is a time of rejoicing - not fasting. 

  • It should be a time of relationship - not religion. 

  • In essence.... religious rite should transform into relational joy!

2. Patching a Garment

As any seamstress can tell you, it’s a mistake to patch an old piece of fabric using a fresh piece of cloth. When the new piece of cloth shrinks it will tear the old fabric creating an even greater whole that what you started with. 

Jesus is saying to His audience, “I’m not here to try to patch up the old system (Judaism with all its rules and regulations). I’ve come with the purpose and intention to do something new and fresh.”

Please understand.... Jesus had no desire to patch up a broken system. Man had spent millennia trying to earn God’s favor through religious exercises. And as President Obama once said, “You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig.” 

The system was broken beyond repair - a patch would not only do no good, but in actuality make things much worse.

3. New wine in old wine skins

Because new wine has yet to fully ferment - if it’s placed into an old skin that no longer has any elasticity - when the wine begins to expand it will tear and break the old, inadequate skin and the wine will be lost.

Jesus is using this image to say that He wasn’t trying to reinvent the old religious system of Judaism, but instead came to start something so new it would require a new system as well. New wine demanded new skins.

First Observation: Jesus transcends religion.

All three illustrations were used to describe something new and fresh.... a wedding is a new covenant - a new patch needs a new garment - and new wine needs a new skin.

Religion was an establishment as old as time and provided nothing more than an inadequate system by which man would try prove His faithfulness to God. 

  • Religious systems of “perfecting self” only left self “condemned in failure.”
  • The problem is that with religion man could never actually prove Himself faithful. 

  • Though the Law did a great job diagnosing man’s problem, it never provided a tangible way to deal with man’s problem. The Law provided a way for man to be religious, but never righteous.

Any student of Jesus’ life will realize He came to do something totally different. 

  • With religion it was always about what man should do for God.

  • But with Jesus is was what God had come to do for man.

  • With religion is was always about man earning the favor of God.

  • But with Jesus it was God bestowing His favor on man.

  • With religion man had to offer sacrifices to atone for sin.

  • But with Jesus God became the sacrifice to atone for sin.

  • With religion it was always about man working to become a better person.

  • But with Jesus it’s allowing God’s grace to transform a man into a better person. 

  • Religion leaves a man condemned and in need of a Savior.

  • But Jesus came to forgive man and save him from his sins.

Second Observation: Jesus isn’t a patch.

I want you to think about this for a moment.... Isn’t it true that everyone initially comes to Jesus for the exact same reason we often seek out a plumber? 

There is an initial, pressing need that can no longer be ignored. Some kind of crisis finally forces us to make that call. The problem becomes to large for me to fix on my own. The situation stinks so badly it demands immediate attention. In this moment I am forced to call in an expert.

When I call upon Jesus it’s often with the same expectations I have for the plumber. I’m looking for Him to address the specific problem. I’m wanting Jesus to tighten up the facet - fix the leaky drain pipe - maybe even unclog the toilet, but I’m not looking for Him to rip out all of the piping and start rebuilding from scratch.

When we come to Jesus we’re often looking for Him to fix the pressing problem that brought us to Him in the first place. In essence, we’re looking for a patch. But realize, Jesus has no interest in being a patch! Jesus wants to do much more than this. Just doesn’t want to “patch up your life” - Jesus wants to give you a whole new life. 

The Scribe and Pharisees “self-declared-righteousness” began with the false conclusion they were doing something for God - something God found pleasing - that the disciples weren’t doing (Fasting). 

But in the remaining verses of chapter 2, we’ll see their self-righteousness attitude continue in the fact they were not doing something for God - something God found displeasing - the disciples were doing. 

Mark 2:23-24 “Now it happened that He went through the grain fields on the Sabbath; and as they went His disciples began to pluck the heads of grain. And the Pharisees said to Him, “Look, why do they do what is not lawful on the Sabbath?”

Scene of Activity

Jesus is making His way from one town to another.
His route takes Him through a field of grain.
The day is Saturday making it the Sabbath.
The time is presumably lunch because the disciples grab some grain to eat.

The Pharisees Accusation: The disciples were breaking the law by plucking and eating grain on the Sabbath Day.
Picking the grain stalk was considered harvesting. 

Rubbing the stalk - to remove the chaff - to expose the grain was considered threshing. 

According to the Pharisees there were at least three sacrifices that had to be made to atone for these two forbidden actions: harvesting and threshing on the Sabbath day.

Please note.... taking grain that didn’t belong to you wasn’t a violation of the law. 

There were all kinds of provisions for sojourners and the poor when it came to food. 

Interestingly enough, the law required a harvester to leave behind grain for these specific applications. 
The Problem with their Accusation

1. The disciples actions weren’t actually in violation of the Law of Moses, but instead were in violation of the Jewish traditions. Their actions were ok when it came to the written Law, but it was forbidden when it came to the oral law.

One of the negative byproducts that emerged within the Jewish religious culture following the Babylonian captivity was excessive moralism. The Jews were so concerned with obeying the law of God they decided it would be best to over do it just to be on the safe side. 

The oral law (Mishna & Talmud - combined to total over 28 volumes) was developed by the religious leaders to explain and define the vague details of the written law. 

For example, God said to “keep the Sabbath day holy.” To which they concluded God wanted the people to take a day off of work to rest, reflect, and worship. 

In order to make sure no one didn’t violate the Sabbath, the religious leaders sought to define the particulars God had left vague. 

In regards to just the Sabbath Day there were 39 specific rules you could violate with some 39 different ways you could violate each rule. 

What the Pharisees failed to see is that transgressing religious, man-made traditions was not the same as transgressing God’s law. The disciples had violated what man had placed upon God’s command, but they were not guilty of violating God’s commandments.

I asked this question earlier.... If you’re doing more for God - than what’s required by God - are you more righteous for it? We should now consider.... If you’re not doing something for God - when God didn’t ask you not to do it - are you more righteous for it? 

When it came to their self-righteousness, it began with the things they did for God that others didn’t do (Fasting), but then it continued to the things they didn’t do for God when God had never asked them not to do them (the Sabbath Traditions).

2. It’s clear their traditions had missed God’s intentions.

To illustrate how their traditions had missed God’s intentions when it came to the Sabbath Jesus reminds them of an O.T. story.

Mark 2:24-28 “But He said to them, “Have you never read what David did when he was in need and hungry, he and those with him: how he went into the house of God in the days of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the showbread, which is not lawful to eat except for the priests, and also gave some to those who were with him?” 


David had been anointed the next King of Israel. The problem was that Saul was the current King over Israel and didn’t like the idea of a rival. 

David was on the run from Saul. He and his men were hungry and in need of food when they came by the Tabernacle. Instead of starving, David chose to eat the showbread which was reserved only for the priests. 

Understand, no one - not even the Pharisees - who had placed David on an exalted pedestal saw his actions as a bad thing. Sure.... David might have been breaking the law, but God didn’t judge him so it was universally accepted as ok.

Here’s the point Jesus is making.... If God was ok with David breaking the Law to satisfy a human need, why then was it wrong for His disciples to break man’s traditions to satisfy their own hunger? The underlying accusation.... how is your behavior so righteous if it isn’t even godly?

Mark 2:27-28 “And He said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.... Therefore the Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath.”

Follow Jesus logic:

1. Human need always has precedent over religious rituals.

When it was all said and done.... In God’s eyes David’s actions were ok because his human need for food trumped the particulars of the Law. Sad to say, the Pharisees were not ok with the disciples behavior because their traditions had so muddied the waters they had lost sight of God’s original intentions.

They were so focused on obeying the law, they had forgotten why they were supposed to obey the law in the first place. 

2. God created the Sabbath for man, not to be a burden on man. 

Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath....” 

It’s interesting to note that the first Sabbath was the 7th day of God’s creation. It was the day God ceased from the creation process and presumably reflected on creation. However, the Sabbath was not made for God.... which should change the common misconception that the Sabbath was all about not working. God might have been establishing a healthy principle by His actions, but He wasn’t establishing a religious precedent. 

Though the Sabbath was the final day of creation.... the Sabbath was the first full day of man’s life. God created the Sabbath day specifically for man.... not really for rest, but a day reserved for fellowship and communion with God. 

In Western culture we see Saturday as the end of our week, and so we’ve interpreted the Jewish “Sabbath” in the context of rest and reflection. However, to the Jews of Jesus’ day, Saturday was viewed as the beginning of the week - the first day for man. In much the same way as westerners view Sunday, the Jews viewed Saturday as a day of worship.

The Sabbath was made for man....” God created man - not for work - but for fellowship with God. The traditions of the Sabbath had completely distorted God’s purpose behind the Sabbath. Sabbath wasn’t created for God to cease from work, but instead it was created for man to spend with God.

3. The purpose of Sabbath was being fulfilled by the disciples because they were spending it in fellowship with God.

As the “Son of Man” - Jesus was identifying Himself as the ultimate man. 

As the “Lord of the Sabbath” - Jesus was identifying Himself as God. He was the master - originator - creator of the Sabbath Day. He’s making it clear that He knew God’s intentions, because they were His intentions. 

In Conclusion....

The Scribes and Pharisees “self-declared-righteousness” began with the false conclusion they were doing something for God - something God found pleasing - that the disciples weren’t doing. 

Though they viewed their works (like fasting for God) as the basis for righteousness. Jesus made it clear that a relationship with God - something the disciples and tax collectors had - was the only basis for true righteousness.

But.... their self-righteousness moved beyond what they were doing for God.... it became based upon the things they were not doing for God. They were going above and beyond for God when God had never asked them to go above and beyond. 

Their religious traditions (like the Sabbath day) had created the basis for zealous obedience to the law - an obedience they assumed increased their right-standing before God. However, Jesus once again illustrated that only a relationship with God - something the disciples had that they didn’t - was the basis for true righteousness. 

As we saw with fasting.... 
Just because you do more for God....
Than what’s required by God....
Doesn’t mean you’re more righteous for it.... 
Nor does it make you better than those who don’t do all the things you do. 
Our righteousness is based completely upon a relationship with Jesus. 

As we saw with the Sabbath.... 
Just because you are going above and beyond the Law for God....
Religious sacrifices God has never asked of you....
Doesn’t mean you’re more righteous for it.... 
Nor does it make you better than those who don’t share your same personal, non-Biblical, traditional convictions.
Our righteousness is based completely upon a relationship with Jesus.