We like stories. Sometimes they are dramatic, sometimes inspiring, sometimes perplexing, sometimes amusing, and almost always entertaining. But we don’t just tell stories to entertain each other. Our stories have purpose; they are designed ultimately to illustrate a truth and instruct the mind and conscience.
The writers of Scripture used stories in the same way — they weren’t told only for the sake of the story (“did you hear what happened in Galilee today?…”), but they are told to provide a picture of a spiritual truth. And even more, they were told to impart a truth about God.
So in Mark 2 there are multiple stories about the increasing conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees. Though these accounts were still early in the ministry of Christ, already there is opposition to Him. And that opposition is demonstrated by the way the Pharisees interact with Jesus. In the healing of the lame man (vv. 1-12), they only verbalize their disagreement inwardly, in their own hearts, without voicing their unbelief (vv. 6-7). But when Jesus had a meal with the tax-collectors and other sinners, they were willing to articulate their thoughts, though only to the disciples (v. 16). By the time the disciples were picking the grains of wheat on the Sabbath and eating them, the Pharisees were complaining to Jesus directly (v. 24).
So the stories tell us about the ways in which unbelievers will oppose Christ. But they also tell us something about Christ Himself. The four stories in this chapter reveal the uniqueness of Christ — He does the kinds of things that only God would do.
Many would heal a lame man if they could, but only God can heal a lame man. And that’s what Christ did. But even more than that, only God can forgive sin. And that is exactly what Jesus did.
Only God has the power to compel a man to follow Him — only God can draw a man to Himself (Jn. 6:44) and only God can call a man like Matthew with the simple words “follow Me” and he will immediately leave all to follow Christ (v. 14).
Only God would have an interest in sinners. Only God would be interested in redeeming what others would say is irredeemable. Only God would eat with the unrighteous (for the purpose of restoring them to Himself, v. 17).
The Pharisees would attempt to moralize and rationalize and legalize the commands of God so that they might self-righteously deem themselves worthy of God when they were not worthy. But only God can reject those man-made rules of religion and re-establish the truth of the Law, because He is Lord of not only the Sabbath (v. 28) and the Law, but He is Lord of all. Only God is the Lord.
When Jesus did these simple deeds — healing, calling, eating, plucking — they were more than just stories. They were assertions of His supremacy, deity, and sovereignty. Only God could do and say the things He did and said. And they were such radical and new assertions that while the Pharisees initially held their rejecting words within, by the end of the chapter, they could restrain themselves no more and their conflict with Him was in the open for all to see.
Only God would do the things that Christ did — and they hated Him for it.