These chapters of Mark’s Gospel record Jesus’ early ministry in Galilee and roughly parallel events recorded in Matthew 4, 8-9, and Luke 4-6. In Mark 2-3 the author emphasizes Jesus’ unparalleled authority in action. For Mark, Jesus stood supreme as the One who had the authority to forgive sins, the freedom to eat with the unclean, and the right to interpret the Sabbath in light of His entrance into the world. In short, Jesus was not only proclaiming the kingdom of God in His sermons, He was also inaugurating it in His actions. Even Jesus’ mother and brothers needed to align themselves with the time of His coming. Mark wove Jesus’ messages and miracles with their Old Testament precedents to portray Jesus’ supremacy in Scripture’s storyline.
(1) In Mark 2:13-17, Jesus ate with those considered unclean by the standards set forth in the law. In Leviticus 11, Moses detailed the various animals that were unclean and to be avoided by those in the community. Moses repeated many of these stipulations in Deut 14:3-20. In Deut 14:21, Moses stated that the people of Israel were allowed to give unclean foods to resident aliens among them or sell those foods to foreigners but said, “You are a holy people belonging to the LORD your God.” Laws detailing unclean food influenced the Pharisees’ social habits. By dining with tax collectors and sinners, Jesus inverted their paradigm and established a new way of thinking about holiness. Sanctification was now to be expressed by loving benevolence to sinners. Jesus said, “Those who are well don’t need a doctor, but the sick do need one. I didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17).
(2) In Mark 2:18-22, Jesus’ statements about fasting focused Israel’s patterns of religion in light of His teaching and ministry. The Old Testament required fasting only on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16), but John’s disciples and the Pharisees fasted more regularly, distinguishing themselves from Jesus and His disciples (Matt 9:14-17//Mark 2:18-22//Luke 5:33-39). When crowds noticed the varying patterns of religion, they approached Jesus asking why He did not follow the same traditions as John and the Pharisees. Jesus answered that His coming in the flesh demanded that all honor Him over and above contemporary signs of piety. Jesus retorted that His message was not an appendage to Judaism, like a new patch on an old garment, or new wine into old skins. His teaching was the new wine and could only be appreciated by fresh wineskins (Mark 2:22). New patterns of piety were in order and only those that centered on Him were to be followed.
(3) In Mark 2:25-26, Jesus justified His disciples’ eating on the Sabbath by citing the event when David and his men ate consecrated bread from the high priest. When David was on the run from Saul, he came to the priest at Nob and asked for food that he and his men might eat. The priest told David, “There is no ordinary bread on hand. However, there is consecrated bread, but the young men may eat it only if they have kept themselves from women” (1 Sam 21:4). David assured the priest that he and his men were pure. The priest gave David and his men the Bread of the Presence and they ate it (1 Sam 21:6; Exod 25:30; Lev 24:5-9). One Sabbath day, Jesus was going through the grain fields with His disciples and the Pharisees complained when the disciples began to pick grain and eat (Matt 12:1-8//Mark 2:23-28//Luke 6:1-5). Jesus asked them, “Have you never read what David and those who were with him did when he was in need and hungry?” (Mark 2:25). Jesus concluded His argument with the Pharisees by stating His own supremacy over all of salvation history. “The Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath. Therefore the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27-28).