Change is hard.
Do you remember the book Who Moved my Cheese? It is a fun allegory about mice who are desperately looking for cheese in a maze. The experimenters keep moving the cheese on the mice and each mouse deals with the change differently.
There two basic types of change that we encounter in the world:
Invited Change and Inflicted Change.
They both bring stress, but in different ways.
Life is change. That is a fact. Everything is moving, growing, adapting, aging. When we know that change is coming, we can anticipate it, prepare for it, embrace it, and grow through it. The process might be hard, but we know that the change is for our good.
We invite it.
As children, we go to school to prepare for adulthood.
Pregnant couples take birthing and parenting courses to prepare for children.
People in northern regions stock up on salt and tune up the snow blowers when the change of winter approaches.
Middle-aged people learn about estate planning to prepare for retirement.
We look up new neighborhoods and school districts when we are about to move.
Change is good and can be exciting when we are aware of it and participate in its process.
Change can be devastating when it is done to us by an outside force, without our consent.
When a tornado tears your house apart.
When an invading Empire steals you from your home.
When the opposing political party introduces laws that violate your ethical standards.
When technology moves beyond your knowledge base and takes away your job.
When people different from you move into your neighborhood.
When a pastor introduces practices into a church that have never been done before, without asking or preparing the congregation.
When a country rabbi shows up and claims to forgive sins, hangs out with sinners, and doesn’t follow the rules.
These kinds of changes are hard.
How do we deal with them?
I think this is one question that Mark 2:1-22 evokes in us.
The following images walk through the text. You can download the PowerPoint that reveals each panel and word balloon step-by-step. This is a fun way to engage the text and wrestle with these big questions.
Visual Commentary and Resources
The key word in this passage is authority. Jesus had been healing people throughout the region. See the last chapter.
He’s a rock star. That is why they are so crowded in this house that the four friends cannot get in to bring their paralyzed friend.
Jesus changes things up. He first says, “Your sins are forgiven.”
Wait, what? It’s one thing to heal someone’s body, but to forgive sins is something only God can do.
Jesus claims the authority of God.
The leaders don’t like this.
Levi is a tax collector.
Notice that Jesus doesn’t look at Levi and say, “Your sins are forgiven.”
Instead, Jesus says, “Follow me.”
Levi’s entanglement in darkness is very different from the paralytic. The only way Levi can be free is to follow Jesus. That means he has to get up, change what he is doing, and move in a new direction.
The first step he takes is the most natural. He throws a party for his friends. Of course his friends are just like him.
Jesus doesn’t care. He steps across the boundaries of cultural taboo and sits and eats with “sinners and tax collectors.”
Why not? They’re the ones who need to know him the most. How else will they meet him and be invited to follow him if he doesn’t start where they are?
The leaders don’t like this.
Jesus breaks more cultural rules. His disciples don’t fast like good Jewish rabbi’s disciples should.
Jesus’ response to this question is curious. He uses three metaphors:
A Wedding Banquet
When you’re with the bridegroom, you party. When he’s gone, and you’re worried about him, you pray and fast.
Old and New Clothes
If you want to patch an old cloak, you can’t put new cloth on it, because it will shrink.
Old and New Wine
If you make new wine, you have to put it in fresh wineskins that will expand with it and not burst.
Notice something in these metaphors. Jesus does NOT say that we should never fast, or throw out old clothes, or not drink old wine.
In fact, old wine is usually better than new wine.
What he does say is that you have to adapt. New things can’t be placed into old systems.
We must adapt…or the skins burst and there is no wine for anybody to drink.
What changes is God bringing into your life?
A Cartoonist's Guide to Mark
Join the journey from January – April 2020 as we follow the Narrative Lectionary through the Gospel of Mark. Each week a new page of this graphic novel style visual commentary will unfold.