Life-Study of Markby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
In 1:14-45 we have seen that the contents of the gospel service include five matters: preaching the gospel (vv. 14-20), teaching the truth (vv. 21-22), casting out demons (vv. 23-28), healing the sick (vv. 29-39), and cleansing the leper (vv. 40-45). Following this, in 2:1—3:6 we see the ways of carrying out the gospel service. In this section of the Gospel of Mark we have five incidents: forgiving the sins of the sick (2:1-12), feasting with sinners (2:13-17), causing His followers to be merry without fasting (2:18-22), caring for His followers’ hunger rather than for the regulations of religion (2:23-28), and caring for the relief of the suffering one rather than for the ritual of religion (3:1-6). These five cases form a single group.
It is difficult to make an outline of the Gospel of Mark. In this Gospel one case follows another without any apparent order or arrangement. For this reason, we may read Mark a number of times and still not be able to make an outline of this book or divide it into sections. But by the Lord’s mercy I believe that we have a useful outline, an outline that helps us get into all the sections of this Gospel. According to this outline, chapter one presents the complete contents of the gospel. Then in chapter two and in the first part of chapter three, we see the Lord’s way of carrying out this rich gospel.
The five incidents recorded vividly in 2:1—3:6 form one particular group, showing how the Slave-Savior as the Slave of God carried out His gospel service to care for the need of fallen people, who were captured by Satan from God and the enjoyment of God. The Lord cared for their need so that they might be rescued from their captivity and brought back to the God of enjoyment.
First, the Lord forgave the sins of the victim of sickness. He did this as God with divine authority so that He might release the sick one from Satan’s oppression (Acts 10:38) and restore him to God. The scribes considered this to be against the theology of their religion (2:1-12).
Second, as a physician to the sick and miserable people, He feasted with the tax collectors, those who were disloyal and unfaithful to their race, and with sinners despised and isolated from society, that they might taste the mercy of God and be recovered to the enjoyment of God. This was condemned by the self-righteous yet merciless scribes of the Pharisees (2:13-17).
Third, He caused His followers to be merry and happy without fasting, as a bridegroom with the sons of the bridechamber. Thus, He annulled the practice of the disciples of John (the new religionists) and the Pharisees (the old religionists), so that His followers might be delivered from the practices of their religion into the enjoyment of God’s Christ as their Bridegroom, with His righteousness as their outer clothing and His life as their inner wine in God’s New Testament economy (2:18-22).
Fourth, He allowed His followers to pick the ears of grain in the grainfields on the Sabbath that they might satisfy their hunger. Thus, they apparently broke God’s commandment concerning the Sabbath. But actually they pleased God, for the hunger of Christ’s followers was satisfied through Him, as the hunger of David and his followers was satisfied with the bread of the presence in the temple. This indicates that in God’s New Testament economy it is not a matter of keeping the regulation of religion, but of enjoying satisfaction in and through Christ as the real Sabbath rest (2:23-28).
Fifth, the Lord healed a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath. He did not care for keeping the Sabbath, but rather cared for the health of His sheep. Thus, He indicated that in God’s New Testament economy it is not a matter of keeping regulations but of imparting life. For this, He was hated by the Pharisees—the religionists (3:1-6).
All the five merciful and living ways taken by the Slave-Savior to carry out His gospel service contradicted the formal and traditional religion and were thus abhorred by its fleshly and stubborn leaders, who were spiritually dead.
We need to be deeply impressed with the fact that chapter one of the Gospel of Mark is concerned with the gospel. This chapter tells us what the gospel is, when the gospel began, and what the contents of the gospel are. In this chapter we see the nature, substance, essence, element, contents, and reality of the gospel. I believe that the churches will carry out this rich gospel through their gospel service.
Having seen the contents of the gospel service in chapter one, we need to see the ways of carrying out the gospel service in 2:1—3:6. It is significant that in Mark the Lord Jesus does not teach us in words how to carry out the gospel service. Instead, in the Gospel of Mark He is portrayed as a working One, a serving One, not as a speaking One. Therefore, in Mark it is mainly by the Lord’s acts, not by His words, that we learn how to carry out the gospel service.
In 2:1—3:6 the Lord does not tell us how to carry out the gospel service. Instead, He does certain things, and the five incidents recorded in this portion of the Gospel of Mark show us how the Lord carried out the gospel service. If we would know how to carry out this service, we need to consider what the Lord does in forgiving the sins of the sick, in feasting with sinners, in causing His followers to be merry without fasting, in caring for His followers’ hunger rather than for religion’s regulation, and in caring for the relief of the suffering one rather than for the ritual of religion.
Many readers of the Bible enjoy the stories in the Gospel of Mark. The five incidents recorded in 2:1—3:6 may be taken merely as stories, stories used in children’s meeting or for reading to children at bedtime. No doubt, these incidents are very good stories. The Bible is a sacred book, a holy writing, and therefore it contains the best stories. However, we should not be satisfied merely to know the stories in the Gospel of Mark.
Because I was not satisfied with such knowledge but was looking to the Lord for light concerning this Gospel, the Lord showed me that in Mark 1 the gospel is fully displayed in His gospel service. In no other chapter of the Scriptures do we have such a full display of the gospel as we have in chapter one of Mark. Not even in the writings of Paul can we find a single chapter that gives us such a detailed and full display of the gospel in its nature and contents. However, we need to be enlightened in order to see what is revealed in chapter one of Mark. Someone may memorize this chapter, yet still not have any light concerning it. Someone else may thoroughly study this chapter in Greek, knowing the meaning of every Greek word, and nevertheless not have any light concerning the gospel displayed in this chapter. I believe that, by the Lord’s mercy, we have seen a clear view of the gospel displayed in chapter one of Mark. Now we also should have a clear view of the Lord’s way to carry out the gospel service, that is, a clear view of what the Lord practices in His gospel service. Let us now go on to consider the first incident related to this, the incident of forgiving the sins of the sick (2:1-12).
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