The current pandemic makes many things different than what we thought normal. As a sister rightly said, “we had no time when we missed the routines more than now.” The life of a Christian is not an exception. Worship and Bible class are through the internet, the contribution is through Paypal or mail, and Skype and FaceTime replace face-to-face fellowship. These abrupt changes invite us to think about what has to remain unchanged regardless of the situation. I’d like to suggest an answer from a few early chapters of the book of Mark.
This section indicates that Jesus was busy. According to Mark 1:21 through the end of chapter 3, Jesus became renowned (1:28), and great crowds were constantly coming to Him (1:37, 45; 2:2, 13; 3:7-9, 20, and 32). Matthew 3:23 precisely summarizes what Jesus was doing at this time. He was teaching and proclaiming the gospel, helping the sick and the afflicted. In other words, He was busy “doing the will of God” (cf. 3:35).
The antagonists in this section are the Pharisees and their scribes. They were constantly questioning what Jesus was doing, and, finally, they concluded that they needed to destroy Him (3:6). Even though Jesus was doing the will of God, they didn’t or couldn’t see it. Instead, they were trying to find fault with Him. As a result, they were opposed to Jesus, and this tension led to one conflict after another.
The first conflict happened when Jesus said the paralytic was “forgiven” (2:5). They thought a man saying such a thing was a blasphemy against God (2:7). Instead of celebrating the paralytic’s liberation from suffering, they focused on Jesus’ words and accused Him of sinning.
It was the pride of the Pharisees and the scribes that caused the next conflict. They had passed their judgment on tax collectors. To them, the tax collectors were permanently condemned as sinners, and it was useless to help and teach them the truth. So, when they saw Jesus with tax collectors, they criticized Him, instead of praising His effort to save sinners (2:13f).
The worst conflict came when the Pharisees saw Jesus and His disciples violating the Sabbath. They saw disciples plucking some heads of grains when they were passing through a field. Jesus’ response to them suggests that the disciples did this because they were hungry but didn’t have time to eat (cf. 3:20; 6:31). They were too busy helping people.
Then the most decisive incident happened, and tension reached its peak. Jesus did an “unlawful” thing: He healed a sick man on a Sabbath (3:1f). After this conflict, the Pharisees and the scribes conspired to destroy Him (3:6).
Even though the Pharisees and the scribes ignorantly accused Jesus of blaspheming God and violating Mosaic law, what He was so busily doing was the will of God (cf. 3:35). So, how Jesus acted reveals the unchanging truth. He prioritized the needs of the needy and offered help to them even on a Sabbath. His spirit was humane, kind, merciful, and gracious. Everything He did was absolutely out of love.
Jesus knew what couldn’t change. The popular teaching of the Pharisees and the scribes could not restrict His love of people. Even the Sabbath law couldn’t stop His service to people. In every situation, He held on to this truth with all His might—He helped those in need physically as well as spiritually.
The truth is not situational or transitional. It is true at any time, to any people, and in any situation. This section of scripture teaches that keeping a religious tradition or the law of a society, such as the Law of Moses, is not the unchanging truth. They are situational, temporary, and regional. Loving others is universal (cf. 1 Cor. 13:13). It should apply to everyone in all generations all over the world. According to what Jesus exhibited in this section, the truth is loving people by helping them and proclaiming the gospel to them.
This was what the Pharisees and the scribes couldn’t get. Their hearts were darkened so that they did not see the needs of people, have compassion for them, or show kindness and love to them. Not only that, but they were also arrogant, which kept them from seeing that Jesus was righteous. They were like an old garment and an old wineskin that couldn’t contain any new teaching. Blinded by situational things, they ignored the universal truth.
The current pandemic forces us Christians to do many things differently than we would normally do. However, we should not compromise truth even in this dire situation. For example, we can change the ways we love, but we should genuinely love people—especially brothers and sisters in Christ. We can change the way we worship God (e.g., through the internet as we do now), but we should worship in spirit and truth, and in one mind among brothers and sisters in Christ. We can change the way we fellowship in a special situation (e.g., through FaceTime or Skype), but we should remain in the fellowship by walking in the light.