Mark 2:18



As Jesus began His public ministry, it was immediately evident that there was something different about Him and His message compared to the religious leaders of His day. Remember that for the most part the religious leaders were under the law and they taught law, and they put burdens on people that they themselves could not bear. Jesus was different. He taught grace and he revealed grace in a way that it had never been revealed before. Concerning this difference between Jesus and the religious leaders, the Bible says in Mark 2:18-20, “And the disciples of John and of the Pharisees used to fast: and they come and say to him, Why do the disciples of John and of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples fast not? 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. But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then shall they fast in those days.


To fast means to abstain from eating for a specific time. Interestingly enough, fasting was not ordered as a religious observance in the giving of the law. It appears that fasting came about when individuals were particularly distressed or troubled about some event, and therefore the regular routine of their lives was altered, and they did not take the time to eat. That certainly was the case with the mother of Samuel when it says of her in First Samuel 1:7, “And as he did so year by year, when she went up to the house of the Lord, so she provoked her; therefore she wept and did not eat.” Paul, in speaking of the things that he suffered in order to follow the Lord and spread the gospel, wrote in Second Corinthians 6:5, “In stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in watchings, in fasting.” This kind of a fast, a doing without food, did not always happen by choice. It happened also by circumstance.


First of all, it must be pointed out that fasting in and of itself is not spiritual in nature. Jesus did not fast, something that the Pharisees noted; but one cannot be any more spiritual than Jesus was. Also, fasting was not a part of the law. Fasting was not prescribed even by the strict measures of the law. Jesus is the only one who perfectly kept the law, and He did not fast. Legalistic people like the Pharisees find physical, external things that they can wrap into religious observances. This they did with fasting. Fasting became one of the measurements and one the criteria by which they would look at someone to see if they were religious. There are people like that today. The Pharisees were wrong in the day of Jesus, and the people today who judge in that manner are also wrong.


Of course, there would be many ways in which the Master would prove to be different from the legalistic teachers of His day. The reason for that difference Jesus Himself stated in Mark 2:21-22. Jesus said, “No man also sews 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. And no man puts 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.” Jesus was saying in a sense, “O.K. You are noticing that there is a difference between myself, my behavior, my teachings; and that which you have been accustomed to from prophets, from the teachers of the law, and from other religious teachers of the Jews. There is a difference because I have brought something new: a new doctrine, a new emphasis, a new revelation.” We now have the New Testament instead of the Old Testament. We now have grace instead of law. We now have the church instead of the nation of Israel as God’s instrument upon the earth. When you get something, you want to keep it new. You do not want it to become spoiled by the old. That’s what Jesus was saying with the examples of new cloth and new wine. You will be making a big mistake if you mix the new with the old.


Jesus did not mix the new with the old. He brought a new doctrine and a new emphasis on grace. Jesus lived under the law and He kept the law perfectly as no one else has ever done, but He never emphasized the law in the wrong way: a mistake that the Pharisees often did. One example where the Pharisees were wrong and Jesus was right is found in Mark 2:23-28, concerning the Sabbath day. It says, “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. And the Pharisees said unto him, Behold, why do they on the sabbath day that which is not lawful? 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? 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? 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.”


The Pharisees said that it was not lawful for the disciples of Jesus to do what they were doing to gather food in the fields on the Sabbath day. Of course, one of the problems of the Pharisees was that they had interpreted the law too strictly. The Pharisees had given restrictions that that the Word of God had never intended there to be. There are people who make the same mistake today, and we are not even under law any more. We are under grace.


Jesus referred to an incident in the Old Testament and the time of the law to show that the Word of God never restricts us from doing what we need to do to get our daily provision, even if it must be done on the Sabbath Day. Most Christians now view the Sabbath day as any other day. That’s why we have our church meetings on Sunday instead of Saturday. Not only did David go and get the food that he needed to get on the Sabbath day, but he even went into the temple and got that which was supposed to be reserved only for the priests.  Jesus never reprimanded anyone for what they did on the Sabbath. The only ones who did that kind of thing were the legalistic and self-righteous Pharisees.


Some people regard Sunday as the Christian Sabbath. I personally do not. Sabbath means rest. Our Sabbath is Christ. I view all days the same. Something that is right to do on Monday is also right to do on Sunday. But if you think that you must keep the Sabbath, at least remember the principle that Jesus gave regarding it. He said, “The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.”


Because the view that Jesus had of the Sabbath was so much different than that of the scribes and Pharisees, there were many occasions that the scribes and Pharisees condemned and criticized Jesus for what He did. Mark 3:1-5 says, “And he entered again into the synagogue; and there was a man there which had a withered hand. And they watched him, whether he would heal him on the sabbath day; that they might accuse him. And he saith unto the man which had the withered hand, Stand forth. And he saith unto them, Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life, or to kill? But they held their peace. And when he had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, he saith unto the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it out: and his hand was restored whole as the other.”  


In the incident of gathering food in the fields Jesus taught us very clearly that it is never wrong to do work on the Sabbath that is necessary to put food on the table. The Sabbath was meant to be a benefit to people, not a detriment. No one would be benefiting from the Sabbath if they went hungry for the sake of the Sabbath. What Jesus is emphasizing here in Mark chapter three is that it is never wrong to do right. A particular behavior should be evaluated based upon the rightness or wrongness of the behavior and not based upon the day of the week involved. If it is a good thing to heal someone’s withered hand on Monday, then it is also a good thing to heal someone’s withered hand on Sunday.


Of course, this emphasis that Jesus was making about the Sabbath was much different than that which the scribes and Pharisees had been teaching. And to make matters worse, they could not refute Him. No man’s words could ever stand against the words of the Christ. But instead of humbling themselves and admitting that they were wrong and learning from the Master, the Pharisees decided to plot His death. If they could not beat the competition fair and square, they were going to try and murder Him. Would powerful religious leaders be willing even to commit murder to retain their power and position? It happened in the first century and it has happened many times since. Mark 3:6 says, “And the Pharisees went forth, and straightway took counsel with the Herodians against him, how they might destroy him.”


But thank God that nothing happens without God’s permission, and for those who are in the will of God, nothing happens except that God allows for some very good reason. God allowed this to happen because it would result in Jesus dying on the cross and thereby securing our salvation. In order to help demonstrate that it was all under God’s control, the scripture makes it clear that the religious leaders could not put Christ to death until it was God’s time. Mark 3:7 says, “But Jesus withdrew himself with his disciples to the sea: and a great multitude from Galilee followed him, and from Judaea.” In spite of being in the presence of those who wanted to kill Him, the Bible says that “Jesus withdrew Himself with his disciples.” We have the same kind of protection because we have the Holy Spirit within us. We also have other Christians, which is one of the benefits of being a part of a Bible-believing congregation.  


Mark 3:8 says, “And from Jerusalem, and from Idumaea, and from beyond Jordan; and they about Tyre and Sidon, a great multitude, when they had heard what great things he did, came unto him.” What we learn from this verse is that at this point in the life of Jesus the multitudes that came to Him were still increasing in size and were coming from further and further away. Just in this verse the modern-day counties of Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon are included in the regions mentioned. With the constantly increasing crowds that were coming to Him, Jesus had to keep finding ways of dealing with them. This time He got into a small boat while the crowd lined the shore. Mark 3:9 says, “And he spake to his disciples, that a small ship should wait on him because of the multitude, lest they should throng him.”


At this time in the life of Jesus great numbers of people thronged and pressed after Him. The time would come when some of these would go away, once they heard His doctrine. One thing that we can say about this great crowd of people is that it is evident that with God quality is more important than quantity. Human beings get caught up too much sometimes with numbers. Does God rally want great numbers to be attracted to just one preacher? These great crowds caused the Lord many problems. There are churches today that just might do a better job if they were divided up into several smaller churches. Bigger does not always mean better.


The Lord wants everyone to be able to use their spiritual gifts. Whom the Lord has called, He has given gifts. The Lord does not want just one person to do all the work. He has something for each one of us to do. The Lord did not try to keep all of the crowds for Himself, He wanted to help get others ready to be able to share in the work. “We are laborers together with God.” In just a few more verses the Lord will call the twelve for this very purpose.


But before we see the Lord with the twelve apostles, we are reminded one more time of two of the major activities of the ministry of Jesus: healing and the casting out of demons. Mark 3:10-12 says, “For he had healed many; insomuch that they pressed upon him for to touch him, as many as had plagues. And unclean spirits, when they saw him, fell down before him, and cried, saying, Thou art the Son of God. And he straitly charged them that they should not make him known.”            



Copyright; 2002 by Charles F. (Rick) Creech
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