A word for the heart

with Alan Bailey

Mark 2:18-3:6 - The Gospel of Mark

Bible study


Welcome to this Bible Study. Read what I have written slowly. If you have a Bible look up the reference verses given, and allow the Holy Spirit to minister to your soul through them.

Mark 2:18-3:6

As we look at the early part of Jesus’ ministry, we can see that opposition has already arisen. Though all the things Jesus did were good, the critics still wanted to find fault. In the verses we are about to read, questions are being asked by these fault-finders and Jesus is answering them. We can learn from His answers.

Verse 18 Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. Some people came and asked Jesus ‘How is it that John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not?’

This ‘John’ is John the Baptist, the man who prepared the people for the coming of Jesus. There were a number who followed John as they saw him as a prophet of God. Others followed the Pharisees, believing they were holy and close to God. The reason for fasting (going without food for a time) was to be still before God, thinking serious thoughts, and praying in a concentrated way. This was not happening with Jesus and His men.

Verses 19 & 20 Jesus answered, ‘How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot, so long as they have him with them. But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on the day they will fast.

Jesus is pointing out that at the time of a wedding, guests enjoy the occasion-- they are not meant to be gloomy. He is saying that at this time, His disciples rightly enjoy His presence because the time will come when He departs and then there will be sorrow.

Verses 21 & 22 No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, he pours new wine into new wineskins.

It is easy to imagine what Jesus is describing here. A piece of new cloth doesn’t match up with old cloth. It simply pulls away when sewn together. A wineskin was a container made from goat skin. When it became old it would be brittle and not be able to withstand the expansion caused by new wine. What was meant by these two pictures? Jesus was letting these critics know that He was not fitting into their patterns of belief and practice. The Jewish worship was now to be superseded by a new way, a new beginning.

in a grain field
Illustration of Jesus and his disciples in a grain field

Verses 23 & 24 One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as His disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. The Pharisees said to Him, ‘Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?’

The Sabbath was the seventh day of the week. The fourth commandment said that this day was to be kept holy and no work done on it. The Jewish people built much more into this commandment than was warranted. Here they are, watching the disciples of Jesus very closely and accusing them of working on the Sabbath because they pulled a few ears of corn with their fingers, rubbed away the husks and ate a few grains of corn. They were not doing wrong, just a very simple action.

Verses 25 & 26 He answered, ‘Have you never read of what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? In the time of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is only lawful for the priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.

Jesus points out an occasion in the life of David the king who lived many years back in history. In desperation, he ate bread that was not meant for him. This looks more like a crime but in fact it was allowed under the circumstances. How much less significant was what the disciples were doing with a few ears of corn in a cornfield.

Verses 27 & 28 Then He said to them, ’The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.’

This is very different thinking from that of the Pharisees. They placed emphasis on keeping the letter of the law, putting themselves in bondage to it. Jesus points out that the Sabbath was instituted for the sake of people. It was a day of rest and reflection. To put man under unnecessary bondage to a day was wrong. Jesus claims that the day is subject to Him as Lord, certainly not the other way round.

Chapter 3
Verse 1 another time He went into the synagogue and a man with a shrivelled hand was there.

Mark is keeping this Sabbath day observance before us. This time, the Lord and His disciples visit a synagogue (the Jewish place of worship) on a Sabbath. Attention is drawn to a man whose hand is deformed. Apparently, many eyes were looking at the poor fellow.

Verses 2-4 some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched Him closely to see if He would heal him on the Sabbath. Jesus said to the man with the shrivelled hand, ‘Stand up in front of everyone.’ Then Jesus asked them, ’Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?’ But they remained silent.

Once again, the Sabbath question comes up. This time, an act of healing on the Lord’s part was seen as a violation of the Sabbath, the day when no work is done. The critics knew that it was very likely that the Lord would heal this man, so they waited to see it happen. But Jesus was not intimidated by them. Instead, He made plain what He intended to do. His questions put the observers on the spot. The answer to those questions was obvious. But stubbornly, they would not reply.

Verse 5 He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored.

What Jesus taught earlier applies here too. That is, man is more important than the day. How hard-hearted were these accusers, more concerned about so-called legality than about the welfare of a needy man. No wonder the Lord was angry with them.

Verse 6 Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus.

The Pharisees add to their sinful attitude the awful resort of putting a good person to death. Not just a good person, but the Son of God. How far from the holiness and righteousness that they professed.


We must never try to please God by keeping a set of rules. God sees what we are like within, and that is where it matters. Having a heart for God, wanting to do His will and trusting in Christ alone for our salvation is the Bible’s way for us to go. The Bible shows that the law made nothing perfect. Only in Christ is true salvation found.

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