We are continuing our series in Mark this morning. We are picking up the story in chapter three, verses seven through nineteen. I invite you to follow along as I read from God’s holy, inerrant, and inspired Word.
Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the sea, and a great crowd followed, from Galilee and Judea 8 and Jerusalem and Idumea and from beyond the Jordan and from around Tyre and Sidon. When the great crowd heard all that he was doing, they came to him. 9 And he told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, lest they crush him, 10 for he had healed many, so that all who had diseases pressed around him to touch him. 11 And whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God.” 12 And he strictly ordered them not to make him known.
13 And he went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him. 14 And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach 15 and have authority to cast out demons. 16 He appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); 17 James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James (to whom he gave the name Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder); 18 Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Zealot, 19 and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him. 
The grass withers and the flower fades but the Word of our God will stand forever.
Prayer of Illumination:
Father as we come now to study your Word, we ask that you would pour out the Holy Spirit to grant us illumination, insight, understanding, that we might see and hear and respond to the call of the Lord Jesus. We ask this in his glorious name, amen.
Jesus has been ministering in Capernaum for some time. And as he has been ministering there, the tension and temperature with the Pharisees has reached a boiling point. They have been offended by Jesus’ claim that he has the authority to forgive sin, he eats with the wrong people, and he doesn’t follow their interpretation of the Law.
The Pharisees joined with the Herodians who were both offended by what Jesus was saying and doing. The gospel offends both legalists and antinomians; it offends those who view the law as salvation and those who are against the law. The Pharisees and Herodians began to plot Jesus’ death. The time wasn’t right for Jesus to die. So to diffuse some of the tension, Jesus withdrew to the sea with his disciples. As we examine this passage, we’ll see the misunderstanding of the crowds and the right understanding of disciples.
The Misunderstanding of the Crowds
While Jesus and his disciples are out along the sea, a great crowd followed him “from Galilee and Judea 8 and Jerusalem and Idumea and from beyond the Jordan and from around Tyre and Sidon”. The people coming to Jesus were coming from all over. The crowds were greater than what came to John the Baptist. They were coming from Galilee, Judea, and Jerusalem, the major centers of Israel. But people were coming from beyond those regions. There were people coming from Idumea. Idumea was the name of Edom in the New Testament era. Idumea was 120 miles to south. It was an area where Jews and Gentiles mixed relations. Herod, the ruler of Israel during Christ’s birth, was from Idumea.
People were coming from Tyre and Sidon. Tyre and Sidon are cities north of Israel by about 50 miles in what is modern Lebanon. It was an almost entirely Gentile region. And they were coming to Jesus, a Jewish man they heard could perform miracles.
The fact that these people were coming to Jesus was fulfillment messianic prophecy. In Isaiah 49:6 says:
It is too light a thing that you should be my servant
to raise up the tribes of Jacob
and to bring back the preserved of Israel;
I will make you as a light for the nations,
that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”
Isaiah saw a time when the Servant would not only bring back the elect in Israel but also the elect throughout the world. Here, crowds from Idumea, Tyre, and Sidon are coming to Jesus.
But the crowds misunderstood who Jesus is. They “heard all that he was doing, they came to him”. They came to Jesus because they heard there was a miracle worker who could heal them and they came. So they came not understanding who he truly is.
The crowd was so intent on having Jesus healing them that they were crowding him. They were more than crowding him. The word that the NIV translates as “crowding” is better translated as “crushing”. A few years ago, a woman was crushed to death at a Wal-Mart on Black Friday. She was one of the first in line to get into the store when it opened. And the crowd that formed behind her inched closer and closer to the door so they could get faster when the store opened. In the process, they crushed the woman against the glass. That is the image Mark is reporting for us.
So to prevent him from being crushed, “he told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, lest they crush him, 10 for he had healed many, so that all who had diseases pressed around him to touch him”. The image Mark is painting for us is Jesus sitting in a small boat that’s five or so feet into the Sea of Galilee with a line of people wanting to be healed.
And he healed them. He healed the physically ill and the mentally ill; he healed those with deformed hands; those who had lost the ability to see; he healed those who were demon possessed. The crowds are coming for this reason, to be healed; to experience a miracle.
While the crowds misunderstand who Jesus is and why he has come, the demons know exactly who he is. Whenever they saw him, they fell to their knees, and cried out, “You are the Son of God!” There’s an irony here. The people do not know who Jesus is but the demons do. The people crowd him, misunderstanding who he is and why he has come. The demons fall to their knees in submission to God incarnate.
Kent Hughes in his commentary points out that even with the demons coming to Jesus there is an irony. They were fascinated with Jesus, they wanted to see him. But when they see him, they recognize that they are defeated. This is a perfect example of what Paul tells us in Philippians 2:9-10. Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is lord. Some will bow the knee and confess joyfully that Jesus is lord; others will bow the knee and confess in defeat, like the demons.
But as the demons are crying out that Jesus is the Son of God, Jesus commands them to be silent. He does not want his identity to be revealed like this. Why? There are two reasons. The first is that he does not want demons to be the ones who reveal his identity. If they were the first to announce his messianic identity it would do damage to his mission. He does not want demons spreading the message that he is God; he wants his disciples to do that.
The second is this is not the time. Had his messianic identity been announced now, it would have caused an eruption of political activity for and against him. At this point in time, people would have vastly misunderstood him and there would have been revolutionaries seeking to use him as the leader to overthrow Rome. Others, those who were in league with Rome, would have sought to prevent that from happening. So now is not the time for his messianic identity to be revealed.
There are a couple of things for us. First, it means that Jesus knows what it’s like to be under pressure. The Pharisees and the Herodians are plotting to kill him. Pressure. The crowds are pressing in and surrounding him. Pressure. Throughout our lives, we will experience pressure of some kind. Maybe the pressure will be at work. The boss is breathing down your neck for you to do this or to do that. Pressure to perform. Or maybe it’s pressure within your family. Maybe there is tension within the family, with your kids or your siblings. And you feel the pressure to make peace, to give in.
No matter what the pressure is, you can go to Jesus and know that he understands. Jesus knows what it’s like to be under pressure. So you can go to him. You can take the pressure you feel, go to him, and know that he will take that yoke off of your shoulders and give you his yoke which is light.
Second, let us not misunderstand Jesus. Let us not think of Jesus as some sort of miracle worker whose job is to make our lives better. The crowds that gathered around Jesus here at the Sea of Galilee misunderstood Jesus as miracle worker; they viewed him as someone who could make their lives better.
Today, there are many popular and prominent people who misunderstand Jesus as a miracle worker. They present Jesus as this person whose job is to make your life better. Either they say, “If you believe in Jesus then your life will get better. If you believe in Jesus, you will be happier, healthier, richer”. Or they say, “If you give some seed money, Jesus will cause that to grow and you will end up with more in your accounts, you will end up with better health”. Both of those positions misunderstand Jesus. They treat him like a miracle worker and not the Son of God.
So if we want to have a right understanding of him, how do we do that?
Right Understanding of the Disciples
We read in verses 13-15, “And he went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him. 14 And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach 15 and have authority to cast out demons”.
Some point after the healings on the sea, Jesus retreats to one of the mountains that surround the Sea of Galilee. While he is up there, he called twelve men that he desired, and they came. What Jesus is doing is calling those he has chosen to enter into a relationship with. We have seen him do this already three times before in the gospel; first with Simon and Andrew, then John and James, both in chapter 1, and then in chapter 2 when he calls Levi to himself. Now he does it to finalize the group of men he wants to have around him constantly.
This was not how teachers usually got their disciples. Usually, someone wanted to study under a certain teacher and they would go to the teacher and prove their worthiness to study under that teacher. But that’s not how Jesus works. Jesus calls those whom he has chosen to be his disciples to himself. He selects those he wants. And they respond. Those whom Jesus calls to himself respond; they come and follow.
The twelve that Jesus called to himself, he named apostles “so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach and have authority to cast out demons”.
Notice that he calls twelve. That’s not a random number. Jesus called twelve to be his apostles because he was reconstituting Israel; he was making an implicit statement that those who follow him are the true Israel. Even after Judas’ death, the other eleven Apostles felt they needed a twelfth so they cast lots for Matthias (Acts 1:12-16).
He calls them to be with him. Understanding who Jesus is starts first and foremost with being with him. As we examine the gospel, we’ll see that the Apostles often say something wrong or do the wrong things. But after Jesus’ ascension, they are no longer a band of bumbling buffoons. What changed? They were with him. For the next three years, the Apostles are constantly with Jesus. They eat with Jesus; they walk with Jesus as goes from town to town; they listen to him as he teaches and reveals the Kingdom of God. And that time with Jesus radically changed them.
Are you with him? Are you making time daily to be in his Word, to read it and know it; to meditate deeply on it and let it transform you? I hope you are. I hope you are taking time every day to read the Bible, to know it a bit more each and every day, and to let it transform you. This book is the Word of God. It tells us all we need to know about God, his character, his ways, and the salvation in him. It’s unlike any other book.
If you’re not currently reading Scripture on a daily basis, let me encourage you to do that. Let me encourage you to begin reading Scripture on a daily basis. I’d love to help you find a reading plan that works for you. As you read, you’ll find you’re actually spending time in Jesus’ presence. You’ll find you’re hearing his voice, speaking to you. You’ll find that you’re spending time with him.
In addition to being with him, Jesus would send them out to preach. We’re not told here what it was that they would preach, but it is almost certainly that the kingdom of God was at hand. Jesus would send them out to preach what he had taught them.
After Jesus’ resurrection, we see that was the primary business of the Apostles. Peter and the others were primarily focused on proclaiming the gospel. They had spent that time with Jesus for the purpose of proclaiming the gospel to others. When the Church was growing rapidly and there were so many widows to care for, the Apostles had the congregation choose deacons so they could focus on preaching.
The main focus of the church is the proclamation of the gospel. That is our first task. We are to preach the gospel. So that means when we gather as a body for corporate worship, we proclaim the gospel. When we our out there doing mission, we are to proclaim the gospel. Yes we should be caring for the poor, the widow, the orphan, and the sojourner. But as we do those things, we should be proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Now the twelve apostles are, “Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); 17 James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James (to whom he gave the name Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder); 18 Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Zealot, 19 and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him”.
That group of men is diverse. On one hand you have Matthew, who is probably Levi the tax collector, would have been considered a traitor. Remember, tax collectors worked for the Roman government, the occupying force in Palestine. He might have been even pro-Rome politically. On the other is Simon the Zealot. Zealots were originally freedom fighters who resisted Roman occupation with force. Simon might have participated in some of those fights.
But in Christ those differences take a backseat. Someone can vote for the Republican Party and be a Christian. Or someone can vote for the Democratic Party and be a Christians. Voting for one party does not define a Christian. At times we forget that. We think that if someone votes for that party then they can’t be a Christian.
But that’s not the case. Christians can have differing views on politics. Politics are not what defines a Christians. Following after Jesus, being with him, is what defines a Christian.
Let us not be like the crowds and misunderstand Jesus. Let’s understand him as he truly is, the Son of God who redeems those he has called to himself. Let us know him by taking time to study his Word and join in the proclamation of his good news.