Mark 2:1–3:6

February 4th, 2013| Topic: aBeLOG, Mark | 2

Mark 2:1–3:6

Following Jesus in discipleship involves facing opposition boldly and persistently, without being deterred from God’s calling.

And looking around at them with anger,
grieved at their hardness of heart,
He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.”
And he stretched [it] out and his hand was restored.
Mark 3:5

The plot moves on from Jesus’ increasing popularity (for misguided reasons) in Mark 1:21–45 to escalating opposition in 2:1–3:6 (also for wrong reasons).

That Mark 2:1–3:6 is a separate unit is evident from its deliberate patterning of five controversy units (see table), and it all happens in Capernaum, with each section concluding with an utterance from Jesus.

2:1–12 Authority of the forgiver Scribes, in their hearts, accuse Jesus of blasphemy
2:13–17 Association with sinners Scribes/Pharisees question disciples about Jesus’ practice
2:18–22 Newness of practice “They” question Jesus about his disciples’ non-conformity
2:23–27 Tradition critiqued Pharisees question Jesus about disciples’ “lawbreaking”
3:1–16 Response to opposition Pharisees/Herodians plot to kill Jesus

There is a programmatic escalation of opposition and increasing antipathy towards Jesus and the disciples, culminating in the plot of their enemies to destroy Jesus (3:6). The crescendo is patently audible, and the accusations become progressively more serious; the silent reasoning of the adversaries in the first episode escalates into outright plotting to assassinate Jesus in the last (see table above). In other words, the kinds of opposition the disciple can expect are described in this pericope. This is what those embarking on the “Trip of Discipleship” will likely face: antagonism and hostility.

The first two episodes are linked: they deal, respectively, with Jesus’ divine authority to forgive sin (the healing of the paralytic), and with the fact that all of mankind (self-righteous ones included!) is lost in sin, needing the cure of a Savior (the “physician,” who came to call the sinners). In other words, everyone needs the forgiveness that Jesus alone has the authority to extend; but the opponents reject both Jesus’ authority and their own neediness, and conflict ensues.

The next two episodes are linked as well: they deal, respectively, with antagonism directed towards the changed lifestyles of those who follow Jesus (the disciples not seeing it necessary to fast, as did the Pharisees), and with the implicit critiques those changed lifestyles offer to the mores of the world (the criticism of a hardhearted imposition of traditional—not biblical—rules in hopes of gaining merit with God). In other words, ways of life have changed for the disciples and those new ways silently condemn the old ways of the world. But opponents question the validity and spirituality of these changed lifestyles and reject the critique that such lifestyles offer to their own practices.

The final episode (Jesus’ healing of a man’s withered arm) concludes the pericope, teaching the disciple how to respond: with grief, with firmness, with resoluteness, not letting opposition daunt him/her.

In sum, this pericope lays before us the different aspects of opposition disciples are likely to face: to the divine authority of their leader to forgive sins, to the (implicit) labeling of mankind as sinners in need of a Savior, to the newness of the disciples’ lifestyle that does not fit the world’s definition of spirituality, and to Christians’ critique of the ways of the world.

The “Trip of Discipleship” ain’t gonna be easy!



  1. Scout February 5, 2013 at 8:31 am

    Beautiful piece of work.
    Nice curating.


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