Mark 2: Building a New House
The coming of Jesus is the inauguration of a new Kingdom, a new Israel, and ultimately a new world. Mark displays this through subtle details and sporadic, radical claims. This is the God of Israel remodeling His house, remaking His people.
In the House
Mark is quite interested in giving us particular kinds of details that really seem unnecessary. Notice all the “going in” and “going out” thus far (Lk. 1:12, 21, 29, 35; 2:1, 15; 3:1). The fist place Jesus enters is a synagogue and it has a man with an unclean spirit. He next enters Simon’s Mother-in-law’s house to heal her, and now he has apparently returned to her house in Chapter 2 where yet more healing is taking place. The picture of a house should immediately make us think of Israel. Israel is called a house throughout the Old Testament. And the most prolific uses of this title are throughout the Prophets. The title should remind us of the tabernacle/temple where God made His home with the people of Israel. Israel became a house when God came to dwell with them. To refer to the “house of Israel” is for God to call them by their origin, by their history, by the covenant, by their last name. Israel is a house, an infected house, a defiled, sick and lame house, and Jesus is claiming to be a new house, a new Temple where the unclean can be cleansed and sins can be forgiven (1:41-42, 2:5)
Son of Man
Not only is Jesus claming to be a new Temple, he also give Himself the title “Son of Man” (2:10, 2:28). The title is not unique or new to the New Testament. Throughout the Old Testament it could literally be rendered “Son of Adam”. This means that the title should probably first indicate authority. Adam was given the authority to rule, guard, and fill the world. This same authority is recalled in the Psalms (Ps. 8, 80, 145) and promised by Daniel to be reclaimed (Dan. 7:13-14). But “Son of Adam” is also a title of humility, particularly of being a creature (Num. 23:19, Job 25:6). The first son of Adam was of course Cain, and that should not be forgotten either. The most prolific use of the title is in Ezekiel where Ezekiel is called “son of Adam” throughout. For Jesus to take this title is for Him to be claiming to be an Ezekiel in some fashion. Ezekiel largely spent his ministry enacting the massive transition that was happening and about to happen to Israel (playing a ‘shut in’, laying siege against a clay picture of Jerusalem on his left side for many days, cooking bread over feces and eating it, shaving his head and beard and burning the hair in the city square, packing bags and climbing through a hole in the city wall, eating fearfully, loudly sighing, clapping hands, losing his wife, preaching against objects and various directions). Ezekiel’s ministry was one of playing “Israel”, and thus Jesus is now claiming to be Israel too: a man of authority, a man of the earth, and a man acting out the extraordinary transition that is about to take place.
Jesus continues the Ezekiel theme by speaking and enacting riddles before his audience, claiming to be a bridegroom in response to his disciples’ dietary habits and discussing the principles of mending and fermentation. His answer not only insists that eating and drinking is the right thing to do, but also insists that something radically new is beginning and that Israel will have to change in order to accept it (2:21-22). This is what bridegrooms do: they have asked a woman to become something very new. And this is precisely what Jesus is doing: Jesus is forgiving sins, something that could normally only happen at the temple (Mk. 2:5, Lev. 4-5). Jesus sets his own festival calendar, an amendment of Levitical law (Lev. 23), feasting with sinners and not joining the fast of John and the Pharisees. Finally, Jesus does not follow their traditions relating to the Sabbath. Notice that Jesus defends His Sabbath keeping with reference to David’s actions while fleeing from Saul. If Jesus is the House of Israel, the Son of Man, and David fleeing from Saul (a Pharaoh) then Jesus is the new temple offering forgiveness and cleansing, the new Israel preparing for the death of exile and the resurrection of return, and a King in exile, preparing to usher in a new Kingdom.
There are three houses that show up in Mark 2. From these and the circumstances that surround them we might begin to explore a theology of home, something our culture desperately needs.
A home is a place of forgiveness and healing (2:1-12). Bitterness and grudges can have no place in a Christian home. The writer of Hebrews warns us to take care lest any root of bitterness spring up, which is able to defile many. Confess your sins; forgive one another; keep short accounts.
A home is place for eating and fellowship (2:13-22). Where do you spend the most time as a family? The table is not just for feeding your bodies; food is not just an unfortunate anatomical necessity. The Lord’s Supper teaches us that food is grace. And good food shared is an opportunity to feed souls.
A home is a place of refuge and rest (2:23-28). Unfortunately many homes are where the fighting is the fiercest. But this should not be so. Bickering, complaining, nagging, and competitive spirits have no place in a Christian home anymore than a soldier has the right to return to the barracks guns blazing. You’re on the same team.
As we seek to recover a Christian culture, our homes—by grace through faith—must become glorious imitations of the House of God.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen!