Key Verse: 3:8
“When they heard about all he was doing, many people came to him from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, and the regions across the Jordan and around Tyre and Sidon.”
In chapter 2 and the firs 6 verses of chapter 3, we see Jesus forgiving sins, healing people, casting out evil spirits and eating with public sinners. For the common people, the things that Jesus was doing inspired admiration and awe, but to the scribes and pharisees, Jesus actions were seen as a threat and even blasphemous. This all came to a climax when Jesus had a man with a shriveled hand stand up in front of the whole synagogue one Sabbath day. He looked straight at the scribes and pharisees that were questioning everything He was doing, and He asked them a very simple question, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” When they couldn’t even answer Jesus because they thought this would give Jesus credibility in the eyes of the people, Jesus told the man to stretch out His hand. This so enraged the Pharisees that they began to work together with their enemies the Herodians to find a way to kill Jesus.
PART I: GREAT CROWDS FOLLOW JESUS
Look at verses 7 and 8. “7 Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the lake, and a large crowd from Galilee followed. 8 When they heard about all he was doing, many people came to him from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, and the regions across the Jordan and around Tyre and Sidon.” Jesus knew that the time was not right for a confrontation with the Pharisees, so he withdrew from the synagogue the with His disciples and went down to the lake. Verse eight says that a large crowd from Galilee followed him. Jesus was in Capernaum, so we might expect a large crowd from that city to follow Him, but Mark clearly points out that this crowd was from all over Galilee? If you recall from chapter 1, Jesus had already left Capernaum and had gone throughout the region teaching and healing many people. His teaching and healing ministry attracted many followers. In fact, so many people were following Jesus at one point that he could no longer go into the cities but had to remain out in the wilderness areas and the people still came out to Him. When He returned to Capernaum, apparently many of these people followed Him there. Not only were many people following Jesus, but word about what He was doing was spreading rapidly through all of Israel. Verse eight tells us that people from as far away as Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, the region across the Jordan and from around Tyre and Sidon came to Him. That is people from every part of the traditional Jewish lands conquered by the Judges and kings David and Solomon were coming to Jesus. The hatred that the Pharisees, Scribes and Herodians had for Jesus was not affecting the common Jewish people. They heard about what Jesus was saying and doing and they ran to see Him. It was clear to these ordinary people that Jesus was at the very least a great prophet and I’m sure many of them were wondering if He might be God’s promised Messiah. They were not concerned what the intellectual, political, or even the religious leaders thought about Jesus, they wanted to find out about Him for themselves.
The attitude of the common people of Jesus’ time really moved my heart and got me thinking about the attitude of Christians in every age including our own. A true Christian cannot be concerned with what other people think about Jesus even if they are the intellectual, political or even the religious leaders. A true Christian must be willing to put aside the wisdom of the age and give up everything in order to find Jesus and discover whether He is who He claims to be. Verse 8 tells us that many of these people came to Jesus because they heard about what He was doing. What He was doing was teaching the people about the Kingdom of God, healing the sick and casting out demons. It is very important that we not put too much emphasis on the last two things, but focus on the first thing that Jesus was doing. Jesus primary mission at this time was to teach the people about the Kingdom of God and how to be citizens of that Kingdom. The miraculous healings and the casting out of demons were simply signs to testify to Jesus’ authority to teach about the kingdom of God. We must be careful not just to be miracle seekers or we will end up like many of the followers of Jesus from John chapter 6, who quit following Jesus when His teaching became more difficult than the miracles were amazing. Miracles are a wonderful testament to the goodness and power of God, but only knowledge of God through Jesus has the power to save us.
9 Because of the crowd he told his disciples to have a small boat ready for him, to keep the people from crowding him. 10 For he had healed many, so that those with diseases were pushing forward to touch him. 11 Whenever the impure spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God.”12 But he gave them strict orders not to tell others about him.
PART II: JESUS APPOINTS THE TWELVE
Jesus had a great ministry among the people of Israel, but He knew that He would not be on earth forever. Jesus needed a group of core followers who could carry on His teaching ministry after He returned to Heaven. For this He needed to intensively train a small group of people. Look at verse 13. “13 Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him.” In Luke’s gospel we see that Jesus went up on that mountain and prayed all night long before choosing these 12. Luke’s account shows us how important prayer is before making any decision let alone a decision as important as this. These were the men that Jesus was going to rely on to continue His work – that is world salvation work. Even though Jesus was completely filled with the Holy Spirit, He spent an entire night in communication with His Father before announcing His decision. How much more do we need prayer before making important life decisions.
Mark tells us that Jesus “appointed twelve that they might be with him and that He might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons.” The first thing that Jesus wanted to do with these twelve is spend personal time with them, so that He could give them personal teaching and training and that they could really get to know Jesus. By spending this personal time with Jesus they could give eyewitness testimony as to how Jesus lived and in turn, they could learn from this how they (and we) should live as well. The most important thing each of us need as Christians is personal time with Jesus. We need to learn from Him, not only about the Kingdom of God, but how to live in this world as we make our journey there.
As Mark introduces the twelve, he makes a special note about four of these twelve men. He notes that Jesus renamed Simon, giving him the name Peter, which means rock. He also gave a special name to James and John, calling them the “sons of thunder.” The final person Mark makes note of is Judas Iscariot, who he says betrayed Jesus. I think these special notes indicate something about Jesus night long prayer. All of the twelve were just ordinary men. From a human point of view, they were nobody special, but Jesus saw their hearts and He chose them. It is very important to note that Jesus chose them to be his disciples, they did not choose to be Jesus’ disciples. A question might arise in our minds as to why Jesus would choose Judas Iscariot. After all God could have arranged for Jesus arrest and crucifixion without it being caused by one of Jesus closest companions. I’m making this choice was not easy at all for Jesus. In fact, I could imagine Him praying just as He did before His crucifixion, “Not my will, but yours be done.” As I studied this passage, I read several opinions of why Jesus chose Judas even though He knew Judas would betray Him. I think the simplest explanation is that Jesus chose Judas so that scripture might be fulfilled that said “Even my close friend, someone I trusted, one who shared my bread, has turned against me.” In God everything has a purpose and it always bring glory to Him and Jesus.
Today we learn that God calls ordinary people to follow Him and learn from Jesus. I firmly believe that God has called each one of us, in our ordinariness. He has called us to learn from Jesus and carry on His world salvation work in this generation.