The journey begins, 1:1-5:43

3. Conflict in the journey, 2:1-3:6

ii] Call and response


On the road from Damascus, through Capernaum to the sea, Jesus comes across Levi at work in the government toll-house. Jesus calls him to follow as a disciple. As a disciple of Jesus, Levi will take the name Matthew. Later in the day, probably at Levi's home, although possibly at Jesus' family home, Jesus entertains Levi and his friends. The Pharisees are shocked that Jesus would dine with such irreligious folk, but Jesus reminds them that he didn't come to invite the righteous into the kingdom, but outcasts and strangers. In a scene change, Jesus is asked a question concerning fasting. The Pharisees, and the Baptist's disciples, follow normal practise and fast on special days, but Jesus and his disciples seem to ignore accepted piety. Jesus points out that in the dawning days of the messianic age, fasting is incongruous - you don't fast in glad times. Mark supports this story with the saying something old and something new.


Mark presents Matthew's call in much the same terms as that of James and John, and Peter and Andrew, namely, a purposeful call to follow Jesus' in his itinerate teaching and healing ministry. In the next episode, depicting the reaction of the scribes of the Pharisees at Jesus' eating with sinners, we witness, as Edwards nicely puts it, "The Scandal of Grace", so revealing the underlying truth of the gospel. The third episode, the question about fasting, 2:18-22, provides insight into "the eschatological newness of Jesus ministry", Marcus. In this episode we learn that the coming kingdom cannot be contained within the structures of a fading world; "Jesus is like expensive new wine that needs its own wineskin", Edwards.


i] Context: See 2:1-12.


ii] Structure: Our response to Gods:

the call of Levi the tax collector, 2:13-14;

Jesus' eating with sinners, 2:15-17;

the question over fasting, 2:18-22.

How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? v18-20

New wine needs new wineskins, v21-22.


iii] Interpretation:

This episode presents in four parts:

*The call of Levi: Levi, called Matthew in the gospel of Matthew, is a tax collector working for the Roman government and as such was a hated member of Jewish society, an outcast. His tax office in Capernaum was on the road from Decapolis. He obviously knew of Jesus and his teachings, and so when invited to follow Jesus as a disciple, he jumps at the chance.

*Eating with sinners: The form of this incident is quite common in the gospels. Jesus performs a significant act, it is challenged by the Pharisees, Jesus counters with a truth that they may well agree with, but he interprets it radically such that they are silenced. In this episode, the meal represents the messianic feast where forgiven sinners, outcasts, share in God's promised blessings. In the face of his critics, Jesus makes the point that it is the sinner who needs forgiveness, not the righteous, and therefore, it is proper for him to work with those who need forgiveness so they can share in the eschatological feast with the righteous. The Pharisees may well nod in agreement with Jesus' argument, but they fail to recognise that they are themselves sinners and are in need of forgiveness. This is evidenced by their failure to rejoice at the inclusion of the lost

*The question on fasting: The question over fasting serves to challenge Jesus' audience and so provide another opportunity for radical teaching. The Day of Atonement was the only designated fast day, but the Pharisees had developed a pattern of regular fasting, one also followed by the Baptist and his disciples.

*Something old and something new. Jesus may have used these short parables to illustrate the point he has just made, but they may well have attached to the story during oral transmission. It is even possible that Mark attached them for an illustrative purpose. None-the-less, Jesus does use teaching parables to draw out the point he is making; note the similar context in Matt.9:16-17, Lk.5:36-37.

The kingdom of God has dawned with a newness that cannot be contained within the structures of a fading world. The messianic banquet is now, and it would be totally inappropriate to fast in sad reflection as if the day is yet to come. The day is now, and to fail to see the day can only bring ruin.


Who are the "righteous" in v17? "I have not come to call (to repentance???) the righteous, but sinners." Numerous suggestions are proposed:

*The "righteous" are the self-righteous. The self-righteous / so-called righteous stand under judgement and are outside the mercy of God. Jesus does, on occasion, imply that the Pharisees are "righteous", in the sense of self-righteous, but that sense does not fit this context.

*The "righteous" are "the truly righteous" and therefore don't need to be called to repentance. Given Jesus' confrontation with the rich young ruler, 10:17-31, Jesus reveals that a truly righteous person does not exist through obedience to God's law, but there are many who are accounted righteous through their faith, a faith like that of Abraham. So, for example, Symeon was a "righteous and devout man on the outlook for the consolation of Israel", Lk.2:25. Zachariah speaks of righteous Jews entering the gates of the kingdom with Gentiles / outcasts holding onto their tassels, Zech.8:23. In the end, of course, there is only one righteous Jew, namely Jesus. Everyone else, Jew and Gentile alike, only sneak into the kingdom by holding onto the tassels of that one righteous man. So, by extension, there has always been a righteous remnant in Israel, a remnant accounted righteous through faith, and Jesus doesn't come to call them to repentance.

*The parallelism in the saying is used to emphasise a single point, namely that as the sick need someone to heal them, so sinners need someone to forgive them. It is because of this truth that Jesus associates with sinners and it is this truth that silences Jesus' critics. He must associate with the ritually impure who come to him if he is to lead them to repentance and forgiveness. So, in simple terms, "the saying is a defence of Jesus' outreach to the disreputable, not a suggestion that there are some who are exempt from his call", Edwards.

Option (b) seems best. When the messiah gathers the irreligious, outcasts and "the stranger within the gates", along with the righteous, then we know for sure that the kingdom is upon us. "I came, not to summon God's righteous remnant to repent, but sinful people."


Form: The five conflict stories, 2:1-3:6, are recorded together by all three synoptic gospels indicating their unity within the oral tradition of the early church. In the first story the conflict is muted, but by the fifth the authorities are plotting against Jesus.


iv] Exposition: A simple exposition of the passage can be found in the pew-level sermon notes Our response to God.

Text - 2:13

i] The call of Levi demonstrates "Jesus' powerful word", Boring, v13-14. Mark does not record either Levi listening to Jesus' teaching, or responding in faith. We may properly assume that both are present, but the authoritative call to follow is the issue at hand. After the success of the healing of the paralytic, 2:1-12, Jesus again confronts the powers of darkness in the wilderness ("beside the lake" = desert). As usual, he does this through a word ("he began to teach them").

kai "-" - and. We would expect a transitional de to introduce a new passage / paragraph, but sometimes kai functions as a default conjunction. See also for v15, 18, 23, ....

palin adv. "once again" - again. Sequential adverb.

para + acc. "beside" - [he went out] beside [the lake, sea]. Spatial; "Jesus went out and again walked along the seashore", Barclay. Jesus move is from Capernaum.

paV oJ ocloV "a large crowd" - [and] all the crowd. Possibly "all the people." Mark is again probably emphasising Jesus' popularity in describing the completeness of the crowd; "a large crowd gathered around him", CEV.

hrceto (ercomai) imperf. ind. act. "came" - was coming [to him]. Imperfect tense, being durative, may give the sense "kept coming", implying that the crowd came, wave after wave. Again a popularity motif. The imperfect may also imply that the teaching was in successive groups, so Taylor.

edidasken (didaskw) imperf. "he began to teach" - [and] he was teaching [them]. The imperfect is possibly inceptive, as NIV, or just "he was teaching them", ESV, the act of teaching being durative by nature.


paragwn (paragw) pres. part. "as he walked along" - passing by. The participle is adverbial, temporal; "while he was on his way", Cassirer.

ton "the son" - [he saw levi] the. Here the article serves as a nominalizer with "son" implied; "the son of Alphaeus."

tou Alfaiou (oV) gen. "of Alphaeus" - of alphaeus. The genitive is adjectival, relational.

kaqhmenon (kaqhmai) pres. part. "sitting" - sitting. The participle serves as the accusative complement of the direct object "Levi", standing in a double accusative construction and asserting a fact about "Levi"; "he saw Levi sitting."

epi + acc. "at" - in. Locative.

to telwnion (on) "the tax collector's booth" - the toll office, customs house, tax booth. Matthew is either a toll collector, or a customs and excise officer. Either way, it was a hated profession in that it suffered from the open cooky jar syndrome (corrupt) and served the Roman invaders.

autw/ dat. pro. "him" - [and he says] to him. Dative of indirect object.

akolouqei (akolouqew) pres. imp. act. "follow" - accompany, attend, follow. Note the similarities of Matthew's call with the call of the other disciples. These incidents demonstrate the authority of Jesus' call - those who are called drop what they are doing and go after Jesus. "Follow me (in discipleship)", TH.

moi dat. pro. "me" - me. Dative of direct object after the verb "to follow."

anastaV (anisthmi) aor. part. "Levi got up" - [and] getting up, rising up. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "he followed", "he rose and followed", but it may be treated adverbially, temporal, "and when Levi got up he followed him", so Decker.

autw/ dat. pro. "him" - [he followed, went along with] him. Dative of direct object after the verb "to follow along with."


ii] A festive meal at Levi's home turns into a conflict story (ending as a pronouncement story), at the conclusion of which Jesus declares that he has come "to call" sinners, v15-17. The use of the verb kalew, "call", should not be confused with Jesus' call of the twelve disciples, the apostles, nor "call" in the sense of an "effectual call", a sovereign determination of the elect. Jesus' "call" here may be an "invitation" to become a disciple of Jesus, but more specifically, it is a "summons" to respond to the gospel in repentance and belief, a call to enter into a saving relationship with Jesus, a call "where people in general are called to repent and believe the good news", France. Jesus came to save the the broken and lost before God, and to this end he calls on everyone to "repent and believe", and so share together in the new age of the kingdom of God.

kai ginetai "while" - and it happened, came about, came to pass. Common Semitic form used to introduce a new episode, similar to the LXX. "So it came about that Jesus sat down to a meal in this man's house", Rieu.

katakeisqai (katakeimai) pres. inf. "dinner" - [he] to recline at a table. The infinitival construction, "he to recline in the house of him", properly serves as the subject of "it came to pass." The accusative subject of the infinitive is auton, "he", presumably refers to "Jesus". Reclining was the normal posture for eating a meal at a low table with cushions used for support; "dined", "having a meal", REB.

en + dat. "at" - in. Local; expressing space.

autou gen. pro. "Levi's [house]" - [the house] of him. The genitive is possessive. "His house" could mean Jesus' house, or better his family's house, given that he seems to act as the host, but Mark describes Jesus as a wandering teacher. The context implies "Levi's house."

aJmartwloi adj. "sinners" - [and many tax collectors and] sinners. Used here most likely in the sense of ritually impure, outcasts, the lost, even strangers, rather than criminals and the like. Jesus has attracted a wide crowd of people who have nothing to do with the niceties of the moral and cultic law. Mark is again noting Jesus' magnetism. "Irreligious people", Taylor.

tw/ Ihsou (oV) dat. "with him" - [were reclining] with jesus. Dative of association; "many tax collectors and sinners were his guests", Berkeley.

toiV maqhtaiV (hV) dat. "disciples" - [and] with the disciples [of him]. Dative of association. This is Mark's first use of the term to describe Jesus' followers.

gar "for" - because. Expressing cause / reason; introducing a causal clause explaining why Jesus was eating with tax collectors and sinners, namely, because many of Matthew's friends and associates had come with him to his house and joined in the meal with Jesus and his disciples.

hkalouqoun (akolouqew) imperf. "followed" - [there were many and] they were attending to. The verb "to follow" is often used of Jesus' disciples, although here, the polloi, "many", here who followed = attended on this occasion are more likely Matthew's associates rather than Jesus' disciples. Mark does not describe Jesus as having "many" disciples. Jesus, at this stage in his ministry, had a popular following, but only a small number of followers.

autw/ dat. pro. "him" - him. Dative of direct object after the verb "to follow."


For the Pharisees, the purity of table fellowship was easily stained in the presence of a "sinner", and they were less than impressed by Jesus' failure to remain separate from the unclean.

twn Farisaiwn (oV) gen. "[the teachers of the law] who were Pharisees" - [and the scribes] of the pharisees. The genitive is adjectival, probably partitive, as NIV, but possibly attributive limiting "scribes / teachers of the law; "the pharisaical scribes." The addition of Pharisees to the religious spectators on this occasion serves to emphasise the religiosity of these critics, given that the Pharisees were the puritans of their day.

idonteV "when ..... saw" - seeing. The participle is adverbial, temporal, as NIV, but also a touch causal.

oJti "-" - that [he eats]. Introducing a dependent statement of perception, expressing what they saw; "when they saw that he eats ..."

meta + gen. "with" - with [sinners and tax collectors]. Expressing accompaniment; "in company with."

toiV maqhtaiV (hV ou) dat. "[his] disciples] - [were saying] to the disciples [of him]. Dative of indirect object. The religious spectators approach the disciples rather than Jesus. Mark may be emphasising Jesus' authority in that his accusers cannot quite bring themselves to accuse Jesus face to face.

oJti - that [does he eat with tax collectors and sinners]? This conjunction can introduce a question (interrogative), as in the NIV, so properly oJ ti, "because why" = dia ti, as in Matt. and Lk., "Why is it that your master eats ......", but it is possibly recitative (introducing a dependent statement, direct speech) and therefore producing the accusation "he is eating with toll-collectors and sinners."


akousaV (akouw) aor. part. "on hearing this" - [and] having heard this. The participle is adverbial, temporal, but also with a causal touch; "when Jesus heard this he said to them", NJB. Jesus directly, or indirectly, hears the criticism, and then acts directly; "Jesus heard what they were saying", Barclay.

autoiV dat. pro. "to them" - [jesus says] to him. Dative of indirect object.

oJti "-" - that. Introducing a dependent statement, direct speech. Variant reading.

oiJ isconteV (iscuw) pres. part. "the healthy" - the strong, healthy ones. The participle serves as a substantive. Here the "well and healthy" are intended. "The fit and flourishing", Phillips.

iatrou (oV) "a doctor" - [have no need] of a doctor, physician, healer. The genitive could be classified adjectival, epexegetic, specifying the "need", although the noun "need" naturally takes a genitive complement specifying the need, "need of ......"

alla "but" - but. Strong adversative standing in a counterpoint construction; "no need ....., but ......".

oiJ ... econteV (ecw) pres. part. "the sick" - the ones having [badness] = the ill, sick. The participle and its modifying adverb kakwV, "badly", serves as a substantive.

kalesai (kalew) aor. inf. "to call" - [i did not come] to invite, summon, call. The infinitive is adverbial, expressing purpose; "I have not come in order to call the righteous." The sense "summon", even "invite", is best, as the word "call" carries theological overtones of a divine , or effectual call, a proposition that is not implied here.

dikaiouV (oV) "righteous" - the righteous [but sinners, outcasts]. Accusative direct object of the verb "to call, summon, invite." For the sense of the word "righteous", see Interpretation above .


iii] The question on fasting, v18-20. In this next conflict story / pronouncement story, along with the attached independent saying, something old and something new, Jesus proclaims that the old religious framework of Israel is unable to contain the radical realities of the coming kingdom; it is not able to contain "of the eschatological newness represented by Jesus", Boring, a newness "which supersedes the traditional patterns of religion", France.

Iwannou (hV ou) gen. "John's [disciples]" - [and were the disciples] of john [and the pharisees]. The genitive is adjectival, of relationship.

nhsteuonteV (nhsteuw) pres. part. "were fasting" - fasting. The present participle + the imperfect verb to-be h\san, forms an imperfect periphrastic construction, possibly used to emphasise durative aspect, although not in the sense of "always fasting", or that they were in the middle of a fast at that moment, but that it was their custom to fast; they were regular in their observance of the required days of fasting. So, not "were observing a fast", Moffatt, but better "used to fast", AV. In the Law, fasting was required only once a year on the Day of Atonement, although the Pharisees fasted weekly on Mondays and Thursdays. Jesus again demonstrates his authority by superseding this important element of Jewish piety (prayer and almsgiving were the other key elements of Jewish piety). He turns "the sorrow of fasting into the joy of feasting", Gundry. The very presence of Jesus demands rejoicing. None-the-less, in the coming days, the horror of his death will lead his disciples to fast in sorrow.

ercontai (ercomai) pres. "Some people came" - they came. Historical / narrative present, probably used with discourse intent, ie., indicating new subject matter. As an indefinite plural, the subject is unclear, but most likely it was the usual crowd, this time with a question concerning Jesus' authority. If John and the Pharisees require their disciples to follow Jewish piety, on what authority does Jesus supersede this piety, given that his disciples are obviously following his own example?

autw/ dat. pro. "[asked] Jesus" - [and say] to him. Dative of indirect object.

dia ti "why" - because why. A causal interrogative construction; seeking an explanation.

Iwannou (hV ou) gen. "John's [disciples]" - [the disciples] of john [and the disciples of the pharisees fast]. The genitive is adjectival, possessive / relational.

de "and" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the narrative to a contrasting point; "why is it that John's disciples ......... fast, while your disciples do not fast", Cassirer.

soi pro. "yours [are not]" - your [disciples are not fasting]. Standing in the attributive position; "the disciples which belong to you are not fasting." "Your disciples eat and drink all the time", Lk.5:35.


Verses 19-20 consist of a short teaching parable, which is both "figurative and cryptic", Gundry. It is usually interpreted in the terms of the realisation of the coming kingdom of God in the person of Jesus. The messianic age has dawned, a day of celebration, not a day of mourning. Of course, there will come a day of mourning, the hJmera, "day", when the "bridegroom" is taken from his people, the day of crucifixion. In that day his attendants will mourn. The church will set days of fasting into the future, but Jesus is not addressing that issue here

autoiV dat. pro. "-" - [jesus said] to them. Dative of indirect object.

tou numfwnoV (wn oV) "[the guests] of the bridegroom" - [the sons = attendants = guests] of the wedding chamber / wedding hall = groom [are not able]. The genitive is adjectival, relational. "Wedding guests", Weymouth, or possibly "groomsmen", "the bridegroom's attendants"; BAGD. "Surely the friends of the bridegroom cannot fast while the bridegroom is with them?", Rieu.

nhsteuein (nhsteuw) pres. inf. "fast" - to fast. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the verb "are able." This complementary construction is repeated in the following clause, "are not able to fast."

en wJ/ "while" - in the time which, during the time. Temporal construction denoting contemporaneous time, as NIV.

met (meta) + gen. "with" - [the groom is] with [them]. Expressing association; "in company with."

oJsoV cronon "so long as" - as long time, how long time [they have the groom with them they are not able to fast]. Accusative of time; a temporal construction expressing duration of time; "as long as", BAGD. "Fasting is out of the question as long as they have the bridegroom with them", Phillips.


de "but" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the argument, here to a contrasting point in time terms; when the bridegroom is present and when he is taken away.

oJtan + subj. "when" - [the days will come] whenever = when. This construction (oJtan = oJte an) + subj. introduces an indefinite temporal clause future time; "when he is taken away."

ap (apo) + gen. "from [them]" - [the groom is taken away] from [them]. Expressing separation; "away from them." Idiomatic use of the preposition given that the verb aparqh/, "remove from", takes an apo prefix.

tote adv. "-" - then [they will fast]. Temporal adverb. The "then" referring to when the bridegroom is taken away from them (from the disciples); somewhat redundant, but probably used to emphasise "that day.:

en + dat. "on [that day]" - in [that day]. Temporal use of the preposition. The disciples will fast on the day when Jesus is taken away from them because it will be a day of great sorrow. This verse says nothing about an ongoing Christian tradition of fasting on Good Friday, Fridays, Lent, etc..., but then it also doesn't prohibit fasting. Luke's en ekeinaiV taiV hJmeraiV, "in those days", being plural, reduces the idea of a particular day, the day of Christ's departure. "Then they will go without eating", CEV.


iv] Saying - Something old and something, v21-22. Most commentators take the view that these short parables serve to illustrate Jesus' teaching on the question of fasting. Jesus may have used them originally in this context, but then he may have used them independently as proclamations of the coming kingdom. If this is the case, then they were attached to the question on fasting during oral period, or by Mark himself, to illustrate the point Jesus is making. So, within the immediate context, the point is something like, the new age of the kingdom cannot be accommodated in the outworn forms of Judaism. I like the way Hunter takes the next step and proclaims that "you cannot combine Law and Grace." True, but I'm not sure these parables can sustain that argument. Anyway, as Moule puts it, "Jesus was introducing something so absolutely new and revolutionary that he could not be expected to accommodate it to the standard religious practices of the Jews."

Gundry develops the argument that Jesus' ministry is driven by the truth of the gospel. This truth, in substance the grace of God expressed in the forgiveness of sinners, causes Jesus to share table fellowship with outcasts and to overturn the practice of pious fasting with the joy that comes from forgiveness. The dynamism of this truth is illustrated in the situation of a patch of new cloth on old cloth and new wine in old wineskins. The power of expansion and contraction destroys the garment and the patch, in much the same way as fermenting new wine will split old wine skins. Following this line of interpretation, the point of the illustrations is that the truth of the gospel cannot be resisted - Jesus' word is powerful and authoritative and so transcends the niceties of prevailing piety.

C.H. Dodd, argues that the image serves to illustrate the realisation of the kingdom of God; it is upon us, it is here - the cloth is torn, the wineskins burst. So, rather than an illustrative / teaching parable, we have here a kingdom parable, a gospel riddle proclaiming that the kingdom of God is now. Within its contextual setting, joy and thanksgiving, rather than sadness and fasting, is the only viable response. The breaking of the fast by Jesus (assumed) and his disciples, heralds the realisation / inauguration of the kingdom of God. It is like new wine bursting out of old wine skins; "the kingdom of God is at hand." Dodd's approach carries weight, although it is not widely accepted.

agnafou gen. adj. "of unshrunk" - [no one sews on, attaches to, a piece] of undressed, untreated. Attributive adjective; "unshrunk cloth."

rJakouV (oV) gen. "cloth" - cloth, rag. The genitive is adjectival, epexegetic, specifying the patch, "a patch which consists of unshrunk cloth."

epi + acc. "on [an old garment]" - upon, on, [an old garment]. Locative / spacial. Somewhat redundant given that the verb epiraptei, "to sow upon", takes an epi prefix - idiomatic.

ei de mh "if he does / otherwise" - but if not = otherwise. Usually serving to introduce an exceptive clause which establishes a contrast by designating an exception, although here more likely to introduce "hypothetical result", Guelich, ie. it expresses "what would happen if the preceding statement were true", Culy; "otherwise", Decker.

ap (apo) + gen. "from" - [the patch pulls away part] from [it]. Expressing separation, "away from". "Tears away", RSV.

tou palaiou gen. "the old" - [the new patch] of = from the old garment. The genitive adjectival, partitive, or ablative, expressing separation, "away from"; "the new patch will take something off the old coat", Cassirer.

ceiron adj. "worse" - [and a] worse [tear, rent, becomes = results]. Predicate adjective. "A new piece would shrink and tear a bigger hole", CEV.


eiV "into" - [and no one pours new wine] into. Locative, indicating the direction of the action and arrival at. Possibly, "new wine is for new wine skins", as RSV, but "into", in the sense of "is put into" is best.

palaiouV adj. "old" - old [wineskins]. Attributive adjective.

ei de mh "if he does / otherwise" - but/and if not = otherwise. Here introducing a hypothetical result; see v21.

apollutai (apollumi) mid. "ruined" - [the wine will rip, burst, the wineskins and the wine] is destroyed, ruined. Middle voice. "The wine and the wineskins will both be lost", Barclay.

alla "No" - but [new wine is poured into new wine skins]. Adversative standing in a counterpoint construction; "No, people pour new wine into fresh skins", Cassirer.


Mark Introduction



[Pumpkin Cottage]