Chapter two continues the record of Jesus’ early ministry and includes more teaching than chapter one. Jesus had chosen Capernaum as his ministry headquarters. After spending time in the rural villages, he returned there for some larger urban ministry. It was here, in the cities, that animosity first grew against him. In a demonstration of his deity, Jesus announced forgiveness on a paralytic (Mark 2:3-5). When the religious leaders pushed back against what they knew that meant (only God can forgive, Mark 2:7), Jesus used the healing miracle to authenticate his ability to forgive. This surprised the crowd of people, who turned to God in praise.
Building his group of followers, Jesus invited Levi (Matthew), a tax collector, to follow him, resulting in a dinner party at Levi’s house. Naturally, Levi’s friends were also tax collectors, and the religious leaders (whom Jesus had just embarrassed in the previous miracle) used the opportunity to begin their slander campaign against him. Jesus’ response was that it was those very people who needed him the most (Mark 2:17).
The backlash of the religious leaders against Jesus continued, as Mark showed in the last two accounts. First, they questioned his loyalty to their tradition, because Jesus and his disciples did not fast when John’s disciples and the Pharisees did (Mark 2:18). His response was that fasting often indicated mourning, something that was unnecessary in his presence. Truth is greater than preferred tradition. Second, they questioned his obedience to the Law, because Jesus’ disciples picked wheat on a Sabbath day. He responded that the Law was never intended to keep hungry people from eating, and precedent, in fact, allowed for it. He further insisted that he knew God’s intent when the Sabbath law was made, another declaration of his deity in the face of their interpretation of the Law. Truth is greater than personal theology.