The front page of the Rome tabloids contains the following action scenes from the life of Jesus:
Scene 1: They gather to hear Jesus teach in Peter’s home in Capernaum and the place is rammed. Four guys carry their paralysed friend onto the top floor and dig through the mud roof in order to hoist him down to a surprised Jesus. You don’t go to all that trouble unless you believe that Jesus is willing and able to heal your friend! But equally surprisingly, Jesus keeps that miracle in reserve and first declares the man’s sins forgiven. Think about it – if I steal your wallet and someone else says that they forgive me, it would be ridiculous and meaningless. It only makes sense if the person who is wronged does the forgiving; and yet, here is Jesus acting as though the sins of this man offended him and that He had the right to forgive that offence. The Jewish teachers were correct when they said: “Who can forgive sins but God alone?” – and of course God was standing there in front of them!
Scene 2: If you wanted to rise up the social ladder and gain influence, you didn’t consort with tax collectors, who were literally in the pay of the Romans. Yet this Jesus seemed to want them as his friends and disciples. He genuinely liked their company and broke all the social rules by eating with them and with other outcasts. “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners”, he said. Of course, in reality, there are no righteous, and we are all sinners, but those who think they are good enough on their own will stay on their own. Sinners get rid of their pretence and get a Saviour.
Scene 3: Why are Jesus’s mates so happy that they have to eat to celebrate? Answer: Because they are with him. Fasting? Plenty of time for that later on! (Not the right answer for the Pharisees, though.) The stuff about the wineskins is simple: ‘What the Holy Spirit is doing now, never fits with what he did then! Do we understand? Are our churches and our personal lives flexible enough to hold the vibrant wine of the Holy Spirit within us – or will we crack and burst under the pressure?
Scene 4: Jesus and his followers are walking through a grain field and eating the home-grown cereal bars. Pharisees accuse them of ‘harvesting’ – which of course is ‘work’! (That is so like the way the world works: to effortlessly pigeon-hole an innocent action in the category labelled ‘sin’ and then to punish you as a sinner!) Jesus is cool about this and quotes something that King David (one of the Jews’ heroes) did in exactly the same way. Pharisees NOT impressed, but what can they do: crucify him???
A bit of a whirlwind today – just like Mark’s gospel.