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Mark 2: A Surprising God

posted Oct 10, 2012, 1:00 PM by solomon yang

Four stories. One repeating pattern.

Jesus and His disciples do something.

Religious people are surprised, even offended.

Jesus explains.

Jesus heals a paralytic and tells him, “Your sins are forgiven” (2:5).  The scribes say, “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone” (2:6-7). They are right about who has the authority to forgive sins. They are wrong about who Jesus is. He’s not just a man. Jesus says He is “the Son of Man.” He has “authority on earth to forgive sins” because He is the Son of God, God the Son, the very God of very God who has come to us from heaven to forgive us sinners.

Jesus calls a tax collector named Levi to be His disciple. Soon enough “many tax collectors and sinners” follow Jesus (2:15). He doesn’t mind keeping their company, despite their notorious reputation. In fact, He treats them like old friends. The scribes of the Pharisees see that and say, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” Translation? “Why are you hanging out with scums and moral degenerates?”  Jesus says, “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (2:17). Translation? God is on a mission to rescue sinners.

Jesus’ disciples don’t fast like the disciples of John or the Pharisees. Fasting was a common practice among “spiritual” people. So people ask Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples fast?” (2:18). He responds, “Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast” (2:19). God is here for His bride. That calls for celebration, not fasting.

Jesus’ disciples pick heads of grain on the Sabbath. A definite no-no in the Pharisees’ book. So they say to Jesus, “Why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” (2:24). Rather than debating with them about what is lawful and unlawful on the Sabbath, Jesus reminds them why the Sabbath is there in the first place. “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (2:27). How would Jesus know? Because He’s the One who made the Sabbath! Jesus is LORD even of the Sabbath (2:28).

Do you ever feel like God is doing something contrary to your understanding and expectations? Does God surprise you? “How can God do this?” “How can God let that happen?” Such thoughts stem from spiritual pride that says, “I thought I had God figured out.” But God of incarnation, God of grace leaves us dumbfounded. He defies our understanding, especially our religious understanding. We think God should look certain way and act certain way. We think God should treat certain people certain way. You know, bless good people and punish the bad ones. Little do we realize just how bad we are!

God of the gospel surprises us.  Just look at Jesus. Did you ever expect God to be so human? Take a look at the cross. Could we have ever imagined that THAT will be the answer to our problem? But “the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Cor 1:25).

Why does it surprise us that God can surprise us? Can our finite mind grasp His infinite wisdom? Can we fathom the depth of His love? Can we ever comprehend God in the fullness of His glory? Humility says, “Let God be true, and every man a liar” (Rom 3:4). Expect to be surprised by God. He works in ways we cannot see. Because is He is truly great, too great for us to understand at times. But know this. He is also good and gracious, exceedingly good and gracious. So we stand in awe, submit in trust, and sing for joy. Because guess what? Almighty God is for us!