Day 22      Mark 2 ... Signal Fires of Opposition

When a new leader starts making waves, opposition is sure to follow. Anyone who declares for the candidacy of the U.S. Presidency, for example, must brace for a long, dreary campaign of rumor, innuendo, and mud-slinging. While on earth, Jesus made a claim more extravagant than any politician's: He claimed to be the Messiah, sent from God. And opposition to him sprang up soon after the wild surge of popularity in Galilee. This chapter tells of three different criticisms that people would make against Jesus throughout his life.

1. He blasphemes. The teachers of the Las were scandalized by Jesus' forgiving sins. "He's blaspheming!" they muttered. "Who can forgive sins but God alone?" Jesus readily agreed that only God could forgive sins - that was his point exactly.

Throughout his life, Jesus faced the strongest opposition from the most pious followers of the Old Testament law. They could never accept that the awesome, distant God of Israel could take up residence inside a human body. Eventually, they had Jesus executed for making that claim. (People who accept Jesus as a "good man and enlightened teacher" today often overlook the scenes where Jesus blatantly identifies himself with God. When the Pharisees reacted violently to Jesus, it was because they had heard him correctly - they simply refused to believe him.)

2. He keeps disreputable company. Everyone wants to be on the side of a popular leader; the rich and powerful, especially, expect certain favors and courtesies from "the new kid on the block." But Jesus showed a distinct preference for the most unseemly sort of people. He offended politicians and religious leaders by calling them names. Even after becoming famous he would dine with an outcast tax collector and his low-life friends. On hearing the gossip about this strange behavior, Jesus said simply, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."

3. He goes against tradition. Jesus didn't require from his disciples anything like the strictness observed by John the Baptist's disciples. To the Pharisees, it seemed Jesus' disciples were even playing fast and loose with the holy Sabbath. Jesus' response: It's a time for a new cloth; the old one has been patched together long enough. Before long, he would introduce the "new covenant." God had some major changes in store for the human race, and the narrow, confining covenant with the Israelites simply couldn't hold all those changes.

Point to Ponder: Try to project yourself back into Jesus' time. What might have shocked you?