Sunday School Lessons


Commentary by Walter Albritton


March 9


The Inevitable Conflict Begins

Mark 2:1—3:6

Key Verse: {Jesus} saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

 – Mark 2:17


            It actually seems incredible that religious leaders were so opposed to the ministry of Jesus. The very people who should have rejoiced to see people healed and delivered from demonic bondage are the ones who rejected Jesus and wanted him killed.

            What is clear is that the Pharisees expected a Messiah who would affirm them for their righteousness and condemn sinners for failing to meet the excessive demands of their many laws. Jesus, however, understood that his mission was to the poor, the outcasts of society.

            Conflict was inevitable because the Pharisees had a different attitude toward people than that of Jesus. The Pharisees viewed some people, like themselves, as good, while others were bad. Some people were important; others were worthless. Some were righteous; the rest were sinners.

            The righteous had earned God’s favor by keeping the law. This made them “respectable” in their own eyes. The result was a “holier than thou” attitude. They shunned the common people, and felt it beneath their dignity to even eat with or socialize with sinners.

            The behavior of Jesus toward society’s riffraff was thus shocking to the religious hierarchy. They were amazed that Jesus would stoop so low as to even sit down with sinners, much less eat with them.

            No doubt the Pharisees were offended that Jesus did not check in with them and ask their permission to speak of godly matters. They had a good thing going when Jesus appeared. They assumed they had a corner on the truth. Actually, they were cheating the poor and using meticulous laws to keep them “in their place.” Moreover, instead of offering sinners love and mercy, the Pharisees burdened them with condemnation.

            Jesus, however, spoke with an authority the Pharisees had not given him. His authority came from his Father, who had filled his son with grace and truth. The truth of Jesus cut the Pharisees to the quick, while his grace was good news to sinners in need of God’s forgiveness.

            What infuriated the Pharisees, to the point of plotting the death of Jesus, was that they understood what he meant by the terms “the righteous” and “sinners.” They knew that Jesus had tagged them hard, exposing their self-righteousness, when he said that he had come to call “sinners to repentance,” not “the righteous.”

             The bitter truth for the Pharisees was that there are no righteous people! There are only sinners, and all people stand in need of the forgiving love that God offered the world in the gift of his only Son.

            Those who think themselves righteous are perhaps the worst of sinners. Blind indeed are those who think themselves healthy, or whole, when in fact they are sick and in need of the ministry of the Great Physician. They are sicker than those who recognize their need of mercy.

            Even Pharisees may be changed by the power of the gospel. Paul, himself a Pharisee of the Pharisees, was delivered from self-righteousness. So great was his transformation that he even called himself “the chief of sinners.”

            Read the marvelous insight God gave Paul and celebrate its truth. Remember always that out of the conflict which Jesus endured with the Pharisees, came this profound understanding of the good news of grace:

            “This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:22-24, NIV).

            Thanks be to God! There is hope, and salvation, for sinners who believe! + + +