Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
And again he entered into Capernaum, after some days; and it was noised that he was in the house.Ch. Mark 2:1-12. The Paralytic and the Power to forgive Sins
1. he entered] after the subsidence of the late excitement.
the house] Either His own house, which He occupied with His mother and His brethren (Mark 3:21), or possibly that of St Peter.
And straightway many were gathered together, insomuch that there was no room to receive them, no, not so much as about the door: and he preached the word unto them.2. about the door] All the avenues of approach to the house were blocked up, and the courtyard or vestibule was filled.
And they come unto him, bringing one sick of the palsy, which was borne of four.3. borne of four] Notice the pictorial definiteness of the Evangelist.
And when they could not come nigh unto him for the press, they uncovered the roof where he was: and when they had broken it up, they let down the bed wherein the sick of the palsy lay.4. they uncovered the roof] They appear (1) to have ascended to the flat roof probably by a flight of steps outside (Luke 5:19); (2) to have broken up the tiling or thin stone slabs, sometimes used at this day; (3) to have lowered the paralytic upon his bed through the opening into the presence of the Great Healer. The room was probably an upper-chamber, which often extended over the whole area of the house. For other notices of such upper-rooms compare Acts 1:13; Acts 9:37; Acts 20:8.
When Jesus saw their faith, he said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee.5. their faith] The faith of all, of the paralytic himself and those that bore him. The Holy One did not reject this “charitable work” of theirs in bringing him before Him, any more than He does that of those who bring infants to Him in Holy Baptism.
Son] St Luke, Luke 5:20, gives the words thus, “Man, thy sins are forgiven thee.” St Mark has preserved to us the tenderer word, even as St Matthew has done in his account (Matthew 9:22).
thy sins] His sufferings may have been due to sinful excesses. Comp. the words of the Saviour to the man, who had an infirmity thirty and eight years, “Behold thou art made whole; sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee,” John 5:14. At any rate his consciousness of sin was such that it was necessary to speak to his soul before healing was extended to his body. See Luke 7:48.
be forgiven] The mood here is not optative but indicative. Thy sins are, or rather, have been forgiven thee.
But there were certain of the scribes sitting there, and reasoning in their hearts,6. certain of the scribes] During our Lord’s absence from Capernaum it would seem there had arrived not only from Galilee, but even from Judæa and Jerusalem (Luke 5:17), Pharisees and lawyers, who were insidiously watching all that He did. Emissaries from the hostile party at Jerusalem, where the Lord’s death had already been decreed (John 5:18), they proceeded to carry out a settled plan of collecting charges against Him and thwarting His work of mercy.
Why doth this man thus speak blasphemies? who can forgive sins but God only?7. blasphemies] for the claim to forgive sins implied a distinct equality with God in respect to one of His most incommunicable attributes.
And immediately when Jesus perceived in his spirit that they so reasoned within themselves, he said unto them, Why reason ye these things in your hearts?8. in his spirit] His soul was human, but His “Spirit” was divine, and by this divine faculty He penetrated and then revealed to them the “thoughts and counsels of their hearts,” comp. Hebrews 4:12. On this peculiarly Divine faculty see 1 Samuel 16:7; 1 Chronicles 28:9; 2 Chronicles 6:30.
Whether is it easier to say to the sick of the palsy, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and take up thy bed, and walk?9. Whether is it easier] Observe what is here contrasted, Not, “Which is easier, to forgive sin or to raise a paralytic?” but “Which is easier, to claim this power or claim that; to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee, or to say, Arise and walk”? as He had already said to the impotent man at the pool of Bethesda (John 5:8).
But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (he saith to the sick of the palsy,)10. that ye may know] “By doing that which is capable of being put to the proof, I will vindicate My right and power to do that which, in its very nature, is incapable of being proved.”
the Son of man] This is the first time this title occurs in St Mark, where we find it 14 times. This title is never applied by the writers of the Gospels themselves to the Eternal Son of God. Whenever it occurs, it is so applied by our Lord, and no other. There are only three exceptions to this rule, (1) where the title is used by Stephen (Acts 7:56), and (2) by St John (Revelation 1:13; Revelation 14:14). During, however, the period of His sojourn here on earth, there was no title our Lord was pleased so often and so constantly to apply to Himself. Son of a man He was not. Son of Man he was. The word used in the original for “man” implies human being, and the expression denotes that He who was the Son of God from all Eternity became the “Son of Man” in time, the second Adam, the second Head of our race, the crown of our humanity. For the expression in the O.T. see Daniel 7:13.
on earth] This power is not exercised, as ye think, only in heaven by God, but also by the Son of Man on earth.
I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy bed, and go thy way into thine house.11. thy bed] The original word thus rendered means a portable pallet, little more than a mat, used for mid-day sleep, and the service of the sick. It was of the commonest description and used by the poorest.
And immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went forth before them all; insomuch that they were all amazed, and glorified God, saying, We never saw it on this fashion.12. immediately] Observe the suddenness and completeness of the cure, and contrast it with the miracles of an Elijah (1 Kings 17:17-24), or an Elisha (2 Kings 4:32-36).
before them all] Now yielding before him and no longer blocking up his path.
And he went forth again by the sea side; and all the multitude resorted unto him, and he taught them.13–22. Call of St Matthew; the Discourse at his House
13. he went forth] i. e. from the town of Capernaum to the shore of the Lake, probably through a suburb of fishers’ huts and custom-houses.
And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the receipt of custom, and said unto him, Follow me. And he arose and followed him.14. Levi] This was probably the name by which he was known to his Jewish brethren. He may have changed his name after and in memory of his call, so that he who had before been known by the name of Levi, was now known as Matthew, or Mattathias, a favourite name amongst the Jews after the Captivity, and = Theodore, the “Gift of God.”
Song of Solomon of Alphæus] Some have identified this Alphæus with Alphæus the father of St James the Less. But in the lists of the Apostles the two are never named together, like other pairs of brothers in the Apostolic body.
receipt of custom] Situated as Capernaum was at the nucleus of roads which diverged to Tyre, Damascus, Jerusalem, and Sepphoris, it was a busy centre of merchandise, and a natural place for the collection of tribute and taxes.
Follow me] Though he belonged to a class above all others hated and despised by the Jews, trebly hated where, as in the present instance, the tax-gatherer was himself a Jew, yet the Lord did not hesitate to invite him to become one of the Twelve.
and followed him] We cannot doubt that the new disciple had already listened to some of the discourses and beheld some of the wondrous miracles of Christ, so that he was now in the eyes of Him, Who read the heart, prepared for his call.
And it came to pass, that, as Jesus sat at meat in his house, many publicans and sinners sat also together with Jesus and his disciples: for there were many, and they followed him.15. sat at meat] It is St Luke who tells us that St Matthew made, “great feast” in honour of his new Master (Luke 5:29), and to it, perhaps by way of farewell, he invited many of his old associates. This shews that he had made large sacrifices in order to follow Christ; see Neander’s Life of Christ, p. 230.
publicans and sinners] The “publicans” properly so called were persons who farmed the Roman taxes and in later times were usually Roman knights and men of wealth and position. Those here alluded to were the inferior officers, natives of the province where the taxes were collected, called properly portitores. So notorious were they for rapacity and dishonesty that Suetonius (Vit. Vesp. i.) tells us how several cities erected statues to Sabinus, “the honest publican;” and Theocritus in answer to the question, which were the worst kind of wild beasts, said, “On the mountains bears and lions; in cities, publicans and pettifoggers.” The Jews included them in the same category with harlots and sinners; see Matthew 21:31-32; Matthew 18:17. Observe that in his Gospel St Matthew alone styles himself in the list of the Apostles “the publican.”
And when the scribes and Pharisees saw him eat with publicans and sinners, they said unto his disciples, How is it that he eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners?16. they said unto his disciples] Overawed by the miracles He had wrought and the overthrow they had lately experienced at the healing of the paralytic, and not as yet venturing on any open rupture with Him, they vent their displeasure on His disciples. It is not likely that the Pharisees were present at the feast, or they would have involved themselves in the same blame. Probably they looked in while it was in progress, and afterwards came forward to the disciples coming out.
When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
And the disciples of John and of the Pharisees used to fast: and they come and say unto him, Why do the disciples of John and of the Pharisees fast, but thy disciples fast not?18. the disciples of John] The contrast between their Master in prison and Jesus at the feast could not fail to be felt. Perhaps the Pharisees had solicited them to make common cause with themselves in this matter. Their rigorous asceticism offered various points of contact between them and the disciples of the Baptist
used to fast] The Jews were wont to fast on Thursday because on that day Moses was said to have re-ascended Mount Sinai; on Monday because on that day he returned. Comp. the words of the Pharisee, Luke 18:12, “I fast twice in the week.” Perhaps this feast took place on one of their weekly fasts.
And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bridechamber fast, while the bridegroom is with them? as long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast.19. the children of the bridechamber] i. e. the friends and companions of the bridegroom, who accompanied him to the house of the bride for the marriage. Comp. Jdg 14:11.
the bridegroom] He reminds the disciples of John of the image under which their own great Master had spoken of Him as the Bridegroom (John 3:29), at the sound of Whose voice he rejoiced.
But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then shall they fast in those days.20. the days will come] The thought of death accompanies our Lord even to the social meal, and in the now undisguised hatred of His opponents He sees a token of what must hereafter come to pass. A dim hint of the same kind He had already given in His saying to the Jewish rulers, “Destroy this Temple and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19), and in His conversation with Nicodemus (John 3:14).
taken away] The same word is used by each of the Synoptists, and implies a violent termination of His life. The words occur nowhere else in the New Testament. This is the first open allusion recorded by St Mark, though probably little understood at the time, to the death, which was so soon to separate Him from His disciples.
No man also seweth a piece of new cloth on an old garment: else the new piece that filled it up taketh away from the old, and the rent is made worse.21. new cloth] Literally uncarded or unteazled cloth.
else] i. e. if he do, the new piece taketh from the old garment, and makes worse its original rents.
And no man putteth new wine into old bottles: else the new wine doth burst the bottles, and the wine is spilled, and the bottles will be marred: but new wine must be put into new bottles.22. new] Men do not pour new, or unfermented, wine into old and worn wine-skins. “My disciples,” our Lord seems to say, “are not yet strong. They have not yet been baptized into the Spirit. They need tenderness and consideration. They could no more endure severe new doctrine than an old robe could the insertion of a piece of new cloth which had never passed through the hands of the fuller.” In training His disciples our Lord never took the old wine from them till they were capable of relishing the new. In Romans 14 we have the best practical commentary on His words.
And it came to pass, that he went through the corn fields on the sabbath day; and his disciples began, as they went, to pluck the ears of corn.23–28. The Disciples pluck the Ears of Corn
23. on the sabbath day] St Luke tells us that this was a “second first Sabbath” i. e. either (1) the first Sabbath after the second day of unleavened bread; or (2) the first Sabbath in the second year of a Sabbatical cycle; or (3) the first Sabbath of the second month (Luke 6:1). See Wieseler’s Chronol. Synop. p. 353 sq.
to pluck the ears of corn] From St Matthew we learn that they were an hungred (Matthew 12:1). The act described marks the season of the year. The wheat was ripe, for they would not have rubbed barley in their hands (Luke 6:1). We may conclude therefore, the time was a week or two after the Passover, when the first ripe sheaf was offered as the firstfruits of the harvest. For the exact date of this Sabbath see Wieseler’s Chronol. Synop. p. 225 sq.
And the Pharisees said unto him, Behold, why do they on the sabbath day that which is not lawful?24. that which is not lawful] They did not accuse them of theft, for the Law allowed what they were doing (Deuteronomy 23:25). They accused them of profaning the Sabbath. The Law of course forbade reaping and threshing on that day, but the Rabbis tad decided that even to pluck corn was to be construed as reaping, and to rub it as threshing. They even forbad walking on grass as a species of threshing, and would not allow so much as a fruit to be plucked from a tree on that day. See Lightfoot, Hor. Heb. in Matthew 12:2.
And he said unto them, Have ye never read what David did, when he had need, and was an hungred, he, and they that were with him?25. Have ye never read] Rather, Did ye never read? With a gentle irony He adopts one of the favourite formulas of their own Rabbis, and inquires if they had never read what David their favourite hero had done when flying from Saul. He came to the high priest at Nob, and entered the Tabernacle, and ate of the hallowed bread (1 Samuel 21:1-9), of the “twelve cakes of fine flour” which no stranger might eat (Exodus 29:33).
How he went into the house of God in the days of Abiathar the high priest, and did eat the shewbread, which is not lawful to eat but for the priests, and gave also to them which were with him?26. Abiathar] In 2 Samuel 8:17, and the parallel passage 1 Chronicles 18:16, we find Ahimelech substituted for Abiathar; while in 2 Samuel 20:25, and every other passage of the O. T., we are told it was Abiathar who was priest with Zadok in David’s reign, and that he was the son of Ahimelech. Some therefore suppose that there is a clerical error here in the MSS. Others think that the loaves of shewbread belonged to Abiathar, at this time a priest (Leviticus 24:9), that he persuaded his father to let David have them, and gave them to him with his own hand.
And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath:
Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath.