According to Mark: Act 1, Scene 2 (God Is Great, Beer Is Good, and People are Crazy)

Joel Michael Herbert
5 min readMay 1, 2024

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Synagogue in Capernaum today

Many days later, Y’shua returned to Kaphar-Nahum, and word got out that he was back home. So many people showed up to synagogue that Shabbat that there was not room for a single person, even in the entryway. The crowd spilled out into the street, and he began to teach from the Scriptures about the good news of the Divine Kingdom, the crowd drinking it up.

A group of men showed up, carrying on a cot a friend of theirs who was paralyzed. There was no getting into the synagogue, so the men climbed up with the cot onto the roof and dug a hole straight through it, which they lowered their friend through, right on top of where Y’shua was standing and teaching.

Y’shua was deeply moved by their faith and dedication. He looked at the almost comical scene in front of him, the paralyzed man lying in front of him, covered in debris and eyes shining in expectation, and spoke directly to him. “My child, your sin — the shame and guilt from your deepest brokenness — has been washed away.”

Several scribes were in attendance, and they were greatly displeased by this. “Where does he come off speaking like this?” they thought, but keeping it to themselves for now. “Who but the Divine One has authority to forgive sins? This is blasphemy!”

Y’shua could sense that something had shifted in the room as soon as he said these words. He straightened up and looked at the group of scribes sitting nearest him. “You think this feels inappropriate, don’t you? But do you suppose it is easier to say to a paralyzed fellow, ‘your sins are forgiven’? or to say ‘rise up, pick up your bed, and walk’? Surely you of all people are aware that the bar-Adam has been given a dominion on earth — a kingdom, a special jurisdiction — that includes the authority to forgive sins, to dismiss brokenness, to heal at the deepest level of heart and soul. This is at the very core of what it means to be an emissary of the Divine Kingdom!”

When they didn’t respond, Y’shua sighed and looked down at the man, still lying on his mat. “The bar-Adam indeed has the authority for all of this. Young man, I say to you, rise up, pick up your bed, and walk.”

Immediately the man rose, his crooked limbs straightening as he got to his feet in simple obedience. He rolled up his mat, tucked it under his arm, and walked through the crowd as they parted to let him through, stunned, every one. Suddenly the whole assembly erupted into applause, shouting out praises to Adonai, amazed. “I’ve seen a lot of crazy in my many years on earth,” said one old man. “Many things that I can’t explain… but this! Never this!”

Later that week, Y’shua was out by the lake again, and a crowd had gathered, so he began to teach them as best he could, impromptu sermons coming to mind as he expertly weaved together stories from the Torah with psalms, proverbs, and exhortations from the prophets, along with his own unique insight into Isaiah’s Peaceable Kingdom. He noticed a man sitting in the customs booth, on the main road where the tolls were collected, a man named Levi, the son of Alphaeus of the priestly family of Aaron, listening intently.

Y’shua caught his eye. “You,” he pointed at Levi. “Join me. Be one of my disciples as well.”

Levi stood up straight away, abandoned the customs booth, and joined Y’shua’s entourage.

That night, Levi hosted a party at his own house for Y’shua and his disciples, and invited everyone he knew, most of whom were other tax collectors, the lot of whom were considered the “seedy underbelly” of town by the more respectable and especially by the religously observant folks. Many of them had already been following Y’shua around and enjoyed listening to him.

Shimon and Andreas stepped outside for some fresh air, and a couple of the scribes they knew saw them and pulled them aside. “What is your Rabbi doing, eating with people who are not only ritually unclean, but most of whom are known to be bad people, several tax collectors included — sellouts to the Romans! Does he not realize who they are? I mean, I’m glad Levi is turning his life around, but his friends sure aren’t!”

Someone cleared their throat behind them. Y’shua stood there, grinning mischievously, holding a cup in his hand. “When was the last time you set the leg of a sheep that wasn’t broken? When was the last time any of you young men went to see a doctor? You go to see a physician when you are ill, not when you’re healthy. I came to call sinners, not people who are already pious and righteous.” He threw back the rest of his wine, winked at them, then disappeared back into the party.

The next day, when everyone was a bit hungover, someone came and reported to Y’shua, “all the disciples of Johan, as well as all the devotees of the Torah experts, are fasting right now, but you and your disciples are doing the opposite. Why are your people not participating?”

Y’shua responded, “do you fast when you are getting ready for a wedding? No, because the bridegroom is with you, and there is much work to do! But there will be a time for sackcloth, ashes, and mourning, when the bridegroom is taken away, and they will fast in that day.”

“Every good seamstress knows you don’t sew a new patch onto an old garment before the patch has been shrunk — otherwise, when the patch shrinks, it makes the tear even worse. And every viticulturist likewise knows that you don’t put new wine into used wineskins. Otherwise, as the wine ferments, it will burst the old skins, and the wine and the skins will both be wasted. You always put new wine into fresh wineskins.”

The next Shabbat, Y’shua was walking by a corn field, and his disciples were plucking ears of corn off and snacking on them as they walked. Some of the disciples of the Torah teachers saw them and inquired of Y’shua, “why do you allow your disciples to do what the Torah forbids on Shabbat — harvesting grain?”

Y’shua replied, “remember in the book of Samuel, when David was on the run from Saul? Destitute and hungry, he and his followers hid in the tabernacle with Abiathar the high priest and ate the Holy Bread, which the Torah strictly forbids for anyone but the priests to eat?”

“The Torah is given to us for our benefit, for our good, no? In the beginning, Hashem gave us Shabbat, for humankind to rest and refresh, not the other way around. Humankind does not exist for Shabbat, but Shabbat for us. Therefore the bar-Adam has dominion and authority also over Shabbat.”

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Joel Michael Herbert

Husband. Father. Artist. Storyteller. Armchair Theologian. Advocate, activist and politician. Gryffindor. [neuro]Divergent.