Mark 2 – A Succession of Crazy-Town Bananapants Occurrences

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Today’s PassageMark 2

Mark’s gospel consists mostly of stuff that appears in the other gospels. You can find about 90% of Mark in Matthew, and about half of Mark in Luke, so you’re not going to find a lot of exclusive premium content here. And while most modern scholars think Mark wrote his gospel first, with the other authors drawing on his account as a resource, many early church traditions viewed it as a kind of condensed version of Matthew, due to their similarities. But in today’s chapter, we’ve got an even where Matthew gives the quick-and-dirty rundown, but Mark digs into the details. And the details are so extraordinary, one has to wonder: why did Matthew leave out the most interesting part?

You can find the incident in question in Matthew 9:1-8. Some people bring a paralytic to Jesus, and Jesus gets under the religious elites’ skin by declaring that the paralytic’s sins are forgiven, without going through the sacrificial system of the Torah. To demonstrate his authority to forgive sins, Jesus heals the man and sends him walking home with his pallet.

Matthew gets into the event with minimal-introduction efficiency, in the way that you might expect Mark to, but Mark spends a bit more time on the setup. First, he lets us know that Jesus is speaking indoors, to a crowd so packed that no one else can even fit in the room. Then he introduces us to the four men carrying the paralytic, who obviously can’t get the dude in the door. So these sons of guns (an anachronistic expression; in the first century, guns were not even a twinkle in the eyes of the Chinese) go up to the roof, tear a hole in it, and lower their man down to Jesus in the middle of the crowd. It’s utterly bonkers, and it immediately precedes the point where Jesus calls Matthew to follow him. So I wonder: what bozo told Matthew the event and neglected to relate the most insane part?

Well, okay, the second-most insane part. The most insane part is that the paralytic walks away from the scene carrying his bed.

Both Matthew and Mark include a question Jesus poses to the Pharisees immediately before healing the man. He asks: “Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven’; or to say, ‘Get up, and pick up your pallet and walk’?” (9). And I’ve gone back and forth on which one is easier, to the point where I’m not sure what answer Jesus expects. Part of me is inclined to think he doesn’t expect an answer; the question is rhetorical! His point is to draw attention to the source of validation for his ministry. As Barnes’ Notes on the Bible observes, you can’t instantly heal a paralytic or authentically declare his sins forgiven apart from God. Jesus is, at the very minimum, doing something that you can’t do without God, and his words and actions push subtly at the notion that he wouldn’t be able to do either of these things if he himself weren’t God in the flesh.

The whole scene is crazy-town bananapants. The four men bringing their friend down through the roof exhibit hog-bonkers faith, and Jesus exhibits the kind of hog-bonkers power that can only come from God.

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