This semester, my intermediate Greek students have been working through the Greek text of the Gospel of Mark. In Mark 2, we noted how Mark grouped several stories together that have to do with Jesus and sinners. In these stories, we see the themes of forgiveness and faith surface—forgiveness on Jesus’ part and faith on ours.
In Mark 2:1–12, as Jesus was teaching in a house, four friends of a paralytic lowered the paralytic down through the roof of the house in order for Jesus to heal the man. However, when Jesus saw him, he pronounced his sins forgiven. When the scribes started thinking that Jesus was a blasphemer, arrogating to himself the divine prerogative of definitive forgiveness of sins, Jesus proved his authority to forgive by healing the man. The story powerfully shows Jesus’ ability and authority to forgive our sins.
The next story, in Mark 2:13–17, concerns a similar theme, where Jesus calls Levi the tax collector to follow him. After this, Jesus eats a meal with tax collectors and sinners, which ruffles the feathers of the scribes. The scribes probably thought in terms of the sayings “Like attracts like” or “Bad company corrupts good morals.” To the scribes, Jesus’ meal with sinners called into question Jesus’ virtuous character. But Jesus goes on in the passage to explain his rationale: “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” Jesus’ mission was to save sinners; he is the Great Physician who came to heal us from the sickness of sin. Hence, he seeks out sinners to save.
These two stories powerfully show that Jesus is able and willing to forgive sin. Mark never portrays Jesus in these stories as reluctant to forgive, and Jesus never seems to be troubled by the presence of sinners. In the first story, the sinner (the paralytic) approached Jesus, whereas in the second story he approached the sinner (Levi). But in both stories, unlike what the scribes surmised, Jesus’ willingness to be in the presence of sinners did not indicate his acceptance of sin as morally permissible. Rather, it told of his mission to deal definitively with our sins.
Further, in the first story about the paralytic we get a glimpse of the means by which we receive forgiveness. The key word is “faith” (Mark 2:5), which summarizes the actions of the paralytic and his friends. It is specifically their faith that Jesus takes notice of, which then gives rise to his pronouncement of forgiveness. Even more than the crowds’ typical response of amazement in Mark’s Gospel, faith is the key by which we receive Jesus’ forgiveness of our sins. Faith is in itself invisible, being the assurance or conviction of the truth of someone or something (cf. Hebrews 11:1), but it necessarily will find proper and visible expression. In the case of the paralytic and his friends, their faith gave rise to the dramatic actions of digging a hole in a roof and lowering the paralytic down to Jesus in the house. In the case of Levi, faith looked like Levi following Jesus in response to Jesus’ call.
These stories thus instruct us not only about Jesus’ ability and willingness to forgive us of our sins, but also that he does so by means of our faith in him. At Bethlehem College and Seminary, as my intermediate Greek students work their way through the Greek text of the Gospel of Mark, seeing the character of Jesus refreshes and rejoices our hearts, for we know our need of such a Savior. Further, seeing Mark’s emphasis on the proper response of faith to Jesus’ mission elicits in our classroom a desire to trust in him all the more. May you share with us the refreshment and joy that comes from trusting in our Savior.
Trusting Jesus with you,
Joshua M. Greever
Associate Professor of New Testament
- Pray that the intermediate Greek students would endure in faith as they translate much of the Greek text of Mark this semester.
- Pray that our college and seminary students would grow in godliness through their studies and their participation in the life of the school community and their local churches.
- Pray for those considering attending Bethlehem that the Lord would guide their steps.
- Pray for the full funding of The Serious Joy Scholarship for this year’s students.