Jesus and his disciples were popular, but they also stirred up controversy. This week’s lesson includes some of those controversies Jesus faced.
- Jesus and the Sabbath (Mark 2:23-3:6) On a number of occasions during his ministry, Jesus and his disciples face conflict because of their attitude toward Jewish Sabbath-keeping laws. Jesus and his disciples picked heads of grain as they walked on Sabbath, and Jesus healed the sick on Sabbath as well. Both of these activities were considered breaking the Sabbath.According to the Pharisees, medical attention could be given to someone on the Sabbath provided the person was in danger of death. If it was a minor injury or a chronic disease, treatment should wait until the Sabbath was over. If one looks at Jesus’ Sabbath healing miracles, however, several patterns become clear. First, Jesus took the initiative in seeking out people to heal on the Sabbath. Second, the person was not in danger of dying–they could have waited another day. Third, Jesus often performed the miracle publicly. He seemed to purposefully “make a scene” of the miracle. Finally, Jesus often used the occasion to teach something about the Sabbath. In short, Jesus appears to have performed miracles on Sabbath in a way that would stir up controversy with the religious establishment. In fact, his Sabbath miracles directly contributed to his death (Mark 3:5-6).
Imagine someone who says, “The Sabbath must not be very important. After all, Jesus was an intentional Sabbath-breaker.” How would you respond to such a person? Nowadays, Sabbath-keeping Christians have their own list of “rules” about what is appropriate during Sabbath hours. Would Jesus call us to more stringent Sabbath-keeping, or would Jesus set about to intentionally break some of our rules?
When the Seventh-day Adventist Church was first being organized, a leader urged believers to be “Sabbath-keepers” and not merely “Saturday-keepers.” What does this mean?
In Mark 2:25-28, Jesus responds to accusations of breaking the Sabbath by referring to David’s Sabbath-breaking. Does this mean that a godly person (like David and Jesus) are somehow exempt from Sabbath rules? In John 5:17, Jesus is accused of Sabbath breaking. He responds, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.” Is it possible that the more godly one becomes, the less they will be concerned with restrictions on Sabbath behavior? Will they be “always at work,” even on the Sabbath?
In this same passage, Jesus says, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” What does this mean? If this is true, doesn’t it imply that whatever we choose to do on Sabbath, we are free to do (after all, the day was made for us!)? What is missing in this line of reasoning?
- Jesus Calls the Twelve (Mark 3:13-19) In this passage, Jesus calls and appoints twelve apostles. What are the three “tasks” these twelve were appointed for (3:14-15). Which of these activities is most needed? Which is most neglected? Which of these activities do you feel least prepared for? Why?According to Mark 3:13, Jesus called to him “those he wanted.” Among the twelve was “Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him” (3:19). Did Jesus call Judas as a sort of “necessary evil,” or did Jesus genuinely desire him as an apostle? Did Judas take part in the three tasks specified in vs. 14-15? What does this tell us about Jesus–and what does it tell us about Judas?
- The Eternal Sin (Mark 3:20-30) Many Christians have been taught that the eternal (or “unpardonable”) sin is to ignore the voice of the Holy Spirit so consistently that eventually, one loses the ability to hear God speak. Based on this understanding, as long as one feels guilt (or even cares about sin), they may be assured that they have not committed this “eternal sin.” There may be a problem with this interpretation, however. Read again Jesus’ words in Mark 3:28-30. Isn’t Jesus saying something quite different? If we simply take Jesus’ words in context, what does it really mean to blaspheme against the Holy Spirit? How common is this sin? When might we be in the greatest danger of committing this sin?
- Jesus’ Family (Mark 3:31-35) Mark 3:35 is amazing. As we mingle with fellow believers, we are meeting and greeting Jesus’ mother, his brother, and his sister. In fact, we are a family member too. May we treat one another accordingly!