These small group studies of the gospel of Mark contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, and applications. Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.
Mark 2:1-20 Inductive Bible Study
Outline of Mark 2:
I. Jesus heals a paralytic (2:1-12)
II. Jesus ministers to tax collectors and calls Matthew (13-20)
III. Jesus offers a new covenant (21-22)
IV. Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath (23-28)
Verses 1-12 Discussion Questions
What do each of the events recorded in this chapter have in common? Can you think of a common thread that links them all together?
What was Jesus focused on when the people gathered together? What were many of the people gathered for?
What do we learn from verse 4 about the houses the people lived in?
Why did they go to such great effort for Jesus to see this paralytic?
Why do you think Jesus only said to the one man that his sins were forgiven instead of to all five? What did He see in that situation that we cannot?
In this passage what is the relationship between their faith and their works?
How did the scribes react? Why did they react like this?
Which do you think is easier to say (verse 9)?
How did the people react to this healing?
What insights into Jesus’ character do you have from this passage?
Are there any applications for us to follow?
Driving away our sins:
Psalm 103:12 – As far as the east is from the west
Jeremiah 31:34 – I will forgive their wickedness and remember their sins no more.
Isaiah 43:25 – Only God can forgive sins.
Matthew 8:20 – Another use of “Son of Man” – used 14 times in Mark.
You will notice that in this chapter each event centers on a controversy between Jesus and the spiritual leaders. There is controversy about Jesus’ forgiving sins, about Jesus choosing sinners, about fasting, and about the Sabbath. These were some of the key quarrels that the religious leaders focused on when attacking Jesus. From this chapter we see a distinct difference from the last chapter. In the last chapter flocks of people were following Jesus. Everywhere he went, he was popular. People crowded to see Him and listen to Him. But not everything was smooth. There was a key and powerful element of opposition to Jesus’ ministry. This was partially motivated by the jealousy of the religious leaders who saw these flocks of people listening to Jesus instead of them. Take special note throughout the chapter of the disagreements, the motivation of these disagreements, and how Jesus resolves them.
These men were very persistent in getting to Jesus. They didn’t let any obstacle keep them from him. We should also set Jesus as the priority in our own lives. Don’t let anything keep you from spending time with Him and serving Him. Their faith was evident from their actions. Is our faith equally evident?
What do we learn about friendship from what these men did for the paralytic? Do you have friends like this in your life? Are you this kind of friend towards others?
Jesus publicly forgave the paralytic’s sin. It is interesting that he forgave his sin, and doesn’t mention that of those who carried him. That would lead me to believe that it was this man who convinced/persuaded his friends to keep trying. In any case, Jesus certainly saw into his heart and observed his faith. Only God has power to forgive sins. By forgiving the man’s sins before healing Him, Jesus knew what his biggest need was. His greatest need was not the need for physical healing, but it was the need for spiritual healing. We should also keep this in mind either while we are in pain and suffering and also when we pray for others.
The scribes who were there rightly concluded only God could forgive sins, but wrongly concluded (against all evidence) that Jesus was not God. Because only God can forgive sins He is the one we must go to. While we should ask people for their forgiveness, God forgives even when people don’t. Also, if God forgives someone, who are we not to?
Jesus is the Son of Man. This title was used in the Old Testament. See Daniel 7:13-14.
Verse 8 – Jesus shows His omniscient character in that He can read their thoughts.
Jesus demonstrated power over illness by healing him, which also proved that He had power to forgive sins. Just for second, imagine that the man didn’t get up. Jesus commands him to rise, his friends seek to stand him up, the man focuses and exerts himself, but nothing happens and he collapses back to the ground. What would have happened to Jesus’ ministry? The crowds would have gradually dispersed.
The Pharisees would have smugly pronounced that Jesus couldn’t forgive sins OR heal. The landlord would have glanced at the ceiling and thought, “what a waste!” But that didn’t happen. The man did get up. This is a reminder that Jesus and His miracles were real. If he was a fake, or an imposter his ministry would have collapsed and the church would not have been established. If he was just a good magician someone would have finally discovered his “tricks” and when Jesus was exposed His followers would disband. The belief and sacrifice of those closest to Jesus continues to be a strong evidence that Jesus is who He said He was.
The people were amazed and glorified God.
Verses 13-20 Discussion Questions
Who is Levi?
How were tax collectors viewed by other Jews? Why?
Why might a person become a tax collector? What can we learn from this about Matthew’s past? What can we learn from this about Jesus?
Why did He choose someone he knew would be looked down on by most Jews?
What did the Pharisees think of Jesus’ habit of associating with these types of people?
What was Jesus’ explanation for this? What does this mean?
What can we learn from this? Is there anything we need to do either in ministry or just as a person to be more like Jesus in this area?
What other complaint did they have about Jesus? What do you think was their motivation for voicing this?
What does Jesus’ answer mean?
Is there any lessons from this verse about fasting?
When Jesus fasted 40 days did anyone witness that?
Matthew 19:24 – Easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter heaven.
Luke 3:12-13 – Jesus told tax collectors to collect no more than they had been authorized to do.
Luke 7:34 – They accused Jesus of being a glutton and friend of tax collectors.
Luke 15:1-32 – Jesus tells parables about why he did ministry to sinners.
Luke 19:1-10 – Zacchaeus, a tax collector, repents.
Levi is Matthew. Probably one is his surname and one is his given name.
This account is similar to Jesus calling Peter and the other disciples who were fishermen. Once again we see that Jesus called a disciple who had low social status. This time it wasn’t because of a low education level, but because of a perceived low morality.
Tax collectors – In the time of Jesus, tax collectors had a very bad reputation. Firstly, they were considered to be sellouts to the Romans. The Romans were a foreign occupying force over Judea. They were often times very cruel and mistreated the Jews. In addition to acts of brutality, they taxed them, sometimes severely. A loyal Jewish sect called Zealots reacted against this occupation by acts of terrorism against the Romans. Most people didn’t resort to overt acts of violence, but harbored bitterness and hatred in their heart towards the Romans. Tax collectors were Jews who worked for the Romans for personal gain. Basically they helped Rome gather taxes from their own countrymen. Tax gatherers are never popular in any country, but especially in this case. But this wasn’t the only reason tax collectors were almost universally hated. The other is that they often collected much more than the amount required and pocketed the difference. While those paying taxes knew this, there was little they could do to stop it. Generally only a person of the lowest moral character who valued money above all else would be willing to sell out their own country (and alienate them) like this. Matthew was one of them.
Jesus is not afraid of the backlash of choosing Matthew as a disciple. While we don’t know all of Jesus’ motives, one clear result is that we once again see that every sinner can be saved no matter what they had done before. Jesus can take the lowest outcast and transform him completely.
Jesus gives the same command, “Follow me.” This time it has some different implication. Matthew was sitting in a tax booth at the time. His life prior to this was likely characterized by the greed and desire for materials we have mentioned above. To follow Jesus, he would have to give up this life. He could not follow Jesus and continue sitting in the tax booth ripping off his countrymen at the same time. His life was at a crossroads and he had to make a choice. During another point in Jesus’ ministry another man had to make a similar choice. A rich young ruler (Mark 10:10-17) chose his riches over Christ and turned away from becoming Jesus’ disciple.
Matthew did not make the same mistake as the rich, young ruler. Instead he willingly left his life and followed Jesus. He gave up a very profitable career because he could not do this with a clear conscience and follow God at the same time. How about you? What are you willing to give up for Jesus? Or perhaps a better question, what are you not willing to give up? Is there something you are holding back and just can’t quite let go of? I would like each person to just think about it for a moment. If something comes to mind, confess this to God, pray for His strength and grace, and make up your mind to let it go.
Jesus didn’t only call a “sinner” here and there, but this passage shows us that a large part of his ministry was focused on these groups of social outcasts. It is important to remember that everyone is a sinner. By labeling these groups of people as “sinners,” Mark is pointing out that they their peers looked down on them as such. Culture accepted that these people were sinners while not recognizing that others (like the Jewish leaders) were as well.
The Pharisees were what we would term self-righteous. In fact, they were sinners like everyone else. Some of their chief sins included hypocrisy, pride, bitterness, legalism, lust for power, and others. Yet on the outside they were very respectable and appeared to follow the rituals of the law closely. Jesus’ close association with “sinners” was scorned by them and was seized as yet another chance to attack Jesus and His ministry. In fact, this is the ministry that they should have been engaged in for a long time, but instead of ministering to these people, they shunned them. See Hosea 6:6 and Matthew 9:13.
Jesus was always ready with an answer to the attacks of His enemies and His answers were so powerful and authoritative that for the moment His enemies were silenced. Jesus wisely observed that only sick people need a doctor. The people he was ministering to needed help and He was willing to offer it them. On the other hand, the Pharisees were actually sick, but they didn’t realize it. That is the most dangerous situation of all. A sick person who doesn’t realize it will not seek help. Instead he will keep following his normal lifestyle until he drops dead.
This is why it is often easier and more fruitful ministering to the sick, poor, and social and moral outcasts. These types of people are more likely to realize that they need help and take the help that is offered instead of those like the Pharisees who trusted in themselves to their own doom. Do we look down on “sinners?” Are you self-righteous? Do we think we are better than others? Like Jesus, we should have compassion on those who need help both physically and spiritually. We should be willing to associate with them for the purpose of reaching them with the gospel instead of shunning them like the plague.
It wasn’t long before the Pharisees thought of another line of attack. Interestingly, this one also stems from their self-righteousness. They placed a high priority on religious rituals such as fasting. It was a way for them to show others how spiritual they were. When they didn’t see the disciples fasting they looked down on them and believed that they were not spiritual. While it seems that Jesus admitted the disciples weren’t fasting, even if they were, if they were doing it biblically the Pharisees would not know it. Fasting is supposed to be private so that others don’t know one is doing it.
Jesus’ explanation is that for this period of time it was almost like a celebration. They were with Jesus night and day. Jesus is in fact the bridegroom of the church. It wasn’t time for fasting. There is a time for fasting and a time not to fast and this was one of the times not to fast. In the latter part of verse 20, Jesus says that when He is gone then they will fast. It is thus implied that fasting is right and believers should do it at the proper time.