Two sections, Mark 1:14-3:6 and 3:7-6:13 repeat a similar pattern. Each begins with a summary of Jesus’ ministry, followed by a call to follow him. Today’s lesson is a reflection on the summary in this second pattern of recorded events. The similar pattern in the two sections is no doubt deliberate on Mark’s part and thus we should be aware of it and wonder about its significance. Once again, Jesus is surrounded by crowds at the Sea of Galilee (see 2:13; 4:1).
Prepare to listen. Sit still, take a few deep breaths then pray: Lord God, open my ears and let me hear your words today. Amen.
Read Mark 3:7-12
7Jesus departed with his disciples to the lake, and a great multitude from Galilee followed him; 8hearing all that he was doing, they came to him in great numbers from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, beyond the Jordan, and the region around Tyre and Sidon. 9He told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, so that they would not crush him; 10for he had cured many, so that all who had diseases pressed upon him to touch him. 11Whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and shouted, ‘You are the Son of God!’ 12But he sternly ordered them not to make him known.
With the Pharisees and Herodians plotting together to kill him, Jesus “departed with his disciples to the lake.” The Greek word translated ‘departed’ has the sense of ‘refuge from peril’ (in Myers, 2015, p. 163), and indeed Jesus’ life was in peril. He had just demonstrated his authority over those hostile to him and, instead of reveling in his victory, he withdrew to the lake, away from danger for now. His ministry, however, didn’t stop or tone down, as Mark shows in this summary of Jesus’ actions. The verses underscore why the religious and political rulers were afraid of Jesus and desired to kill him. He was too poplar.
Mark highlights Jesus’ popularity, claiming a “great multitude” from Galilee, plus “great numbers” from all over Palestine flocked to Jesus. He then emphasized the ‘all-over-bit,’ naming places in the south (Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, south of Jerusalem), the east (across the Jordan, which was mostly Gentile territory) and the far north west on the coast (Tyre and Sidon; not part of Israel and entirely Gentile in nature). Most of these were people on the periphery of society; many had been excluded from Jewish religious rites and rituals, from the temple and synagogues because of their unclean (illness, profession) or alien (Gentile) status. In his own way, Mark has recorded the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy, that people would come from north, south, east and west (Is 49:12; see also Luke 13:29) when God restores the world in Messiah Jesus. Mark gives a very simple reason why the people flocked to Jesus, they’d heard “all that he was doing.”
Among those needing healing were people possessed of demons. When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness (1:12-13) Mark doesn’t mention that the devil left him because the devil continued to tempt him throughout his ministry. It continued to tempt Jesus through the people who were demon-possessed and who knew who he was. It would be easy for Jesus to let them be heard by the people and save him the trouble of convincing them of his identity. But, Jesus had his own agenda and intentions for his self-revelation and his mission. Hence, he silences the voice of the demons. Once again exercising an authority that could only be God’s. Jesus was willing to wait for the right time and place to be fully known.
People flocked to Jesus then because of what he was doing. Why do you seek to follow Jesus today?
Respond to Jesus in prayer
Lord Jesus, people followed you because of what you were doing. May my speech and actions today be a reflection of your life and thus encourage others to come to you today. Amen.
Go and live obediently in the world, speaking and acting in ways that reflect Jesus to others.