‘The Scribes and the Pharisees’ will appear more and more as Mark’s Gospel continues. But this is their first appearance, and it’s the first sign of conflict between Jesus and the religious leaders. We had a hint in an earlier incident, when the people in the synangogue comment that Jesus is not like the scribes (the scribes were the acknowledged experts in the religious law).
In this exchange, the scribes object to Jesus telling a paralysed man that his sins are forgiven. (Only God can forgive sin) Jesus responds by healing the man, as if to say – ‘You want to know if I have authority to forgive sin, well yes I do!’
The scribes thought that they knew what religion was all about. Thier job was to know the scriptures and to interpret them. But for them it had become a set of rules to follow rather than a relationship to grow in. When religion has become just a set of rules or rituals, rather than a relationship, then we have lost it.
It happens in all areas of life, not just religion. And some people stick to rules not just for themselves, but so that they can control others. But it is especially dangerous when people use God, or rules about religion, to exercise control over others.