What does it say?
Matthew 8 begins a rapid-fire series of miracles and healings. This will continue into chapter 9. The passage is straightforward and presents no great difficulty as far as understanding what it says. Pay careful attention to details.
Mark 2 presents the touching story of four men who work together to bring their paralyzed friend to Jesus for healing. Here also Jesus calls Levi (Matthew) the tax collector (publican) to be his disciple. The Pharisees (lay religious leaders) are growing increasingly upset with the way Jesus is turning conventional wisdom upside down. Jesus responds by clearly stating that he is ushering in a new era and illustrates that by allowing his disciples to satisfy their hunger by picking grain in a field on the Sabbath thereby demonstrating his lordship over the Sabbath.
What does it mean?
Jesus intentionally returns to the intent and spirit of the Law, yet appears to the religious crowd to violate the Law. When Jesus heals the leper (Mat 8) he deliberately touches him and renders himself ceremoniously impure but also shows that he is above impurity as God in human form. He instructs the leper to offer the proper offering according to the Law because without this offering he would not be restored to the community. The miracles and healings of Jesus are not random but specifically designed to demonstrate that he is fulfilling what the Hebrew prophets wrote of him (Mat 8:17). The demon-possessed Gadarenes that Jesus heals are gentiles.
Mark 2 powerfully shows how Jesus is upsetting the religious establishment. Healing the paralyzed man in the opening verses, Jesus makes a point to show that he has the power to forgive sin. No one was further down the food chain in Jewish society than tax collectors, employed by Rome and taking advantage of their own people for financial gain they were considered traitors. Imagine the stir as Jesus calls Levi to follow him. To have a meal in his home was especially heinous as sharing a meal is a sign of friendship and equality. The rest of the chapter shows his power over the Law and the Sabbath, hallmarks of Jewish life.
How will I respond?
I share the same human nature of the religious leaders in Jesus’ day with the tendency to focus on the letter of the law and not the spirit of the law. What do I find frustrating about my life, my church or my world? Could it be that my frustration has more to do with methodology, minor points and cultural application rather than the essence of God’s truth? What should I do to alleviate this frustration?