Series: The Good News of Jesus Christ - Part Ten
Pastor Stephen Muncherian
March 25, 2018
This morning we are at Mark 3:7-19. If you’re able - please stand and read with me - as we come together before God’s word.
Jesus withdrew with His disciples to the sea, and a great crowd followed from Galilee and Judea and Jerusalem and Idumea and from beyond the Jordan and from all around Tyre and Sidon. When the great crowd heard all that He was doing, they came to Him.
And He told His
disciples to have a boat ready for Him because of the
crowd, lest they crush Him, for He had healed many, so
that all who had diseases pressed around Him to touch
He went up on the mountain and called to Him those
whom He desired, and they came to Him. And He
appointed twelve (whom He also named apostles) so that
they might be with Him and He might send them out to
preach and have authority to cast out demons.
Mark has taken two separate events and placed them side-by-side in order to give us a contrast - the crowds following Jesus verses Jesus’ calling - what the crowds are all about verses what Jesus is all about. As we think through that contrast.
What we have before us this morning is a great opportunity for us to think through the kind of life that Jesus offers to us. What He calls us to. What that means for us as we follow Him through life.
So, let’s jump into the text. Event #1: The Crowd.
Mark begins by telling us that “Jesus withdrew with His disciples to the sea” - the Sea of Galilee. Which is where Jesus’ has been. Up in the north - Sea of Galilee - the fishing town of Capernaum. Jesus doing ministry.
Jesus engaging growing crowds of people who are struggling to do life - like we deal with the stuff of our lives - Jesus engaging broken and broken down people - and offering to them the good news of God’s kingdom.
Which is what Jesus all about. The good news - the Gospel. That’s why He’s come. Jesus’ message is that the Kingdom of God is at hand. As close as our hand. Which is pretty close. Meaning Jesus is the good news. What He offers us in Himself. Life with God now and forever.
And as we’ve been following Jesus through Mark’s good news account. Jesus moving around healing people and casting out demons and forgiving sin and teaching with authority that can only be Divine authority. As Jesus is proclaiming that message we’ve seen that Jesus is getting push back from the Pharisees.
Jesus Who’s threatening to undo the Pharisees carefully constructed Pharisee centered religious world. The Pharisees - who have a different understanding of Who God is and how God does things and Jesus isn’t it.
We’ve seen a growing controversy and conflict between the Pharisees and Jesus that ultimately will lead Jesus to the cross.
Two Sunday’s ago we saw that conflict escalate. Jesus in the Synagogue on the Sabbath. The Pharisees trying to bring Him down - to accuse Jesus of breaking their version of the law of Moses.
Jesus heals this man who has a damaged and useless hand. And the Pharisees - hard hearted as they were - rather than congratulating the man or thanking Jesus or celebrating the grace and blessing of God - the Pharisees response is to immediately align themselves with the Herodians - a group of Gentile Roman Empire sympathizers - and to begin to plot together to kill Jesus.
That’s the back fill on “Jesus withdrew”
“Withdrew” is strategic. It’s a military term that means that Jesus steps back - not in defeat. But because He’s moving to redeploy later. With all the conflict - the time will come for the cross - the final confrontation. But now is not the time. There’s ministry yet to be accomplished.
So Jesus withdrew with His disciples to the sea. And - Mark tells us - “and a great crowd followed...” Not just a crowd. But a great crowd. Emphasis being great numbers of people.
Mark - emphasizing the great numbers of the crowd - Mark gives us the locations of where that crowd has come from. Which is from pretty much from all over the place. Jesus is trending. Big time. Viral. And not just local. But all over.
Looking at the map. If that looks like a lot of real estate. It is. Those areas cover all of what was Israel during the glory days of Solomon’s kingdom. Anywhere that’s anyplace Jewish is where they’re coming from.
Judea and the capital Jerusalem in the south. The borders of Palestine - way south on the way to Egypt in Idumea. And the regions east of the Jordan River - which is a whole lot of real estate heading out towards the desert. And way up north - Tyre and Sidon - which is off the map. What is Phoenicia - northwest of Galilee.
Some people traveled as far a 100 miles - a five day journey if we’re in good shape. Who knows how long those who needed healing - how long it took them to get there.
Mark tells us that the reason this great crowd came from all over is because of what Jesus was doing. Which is what the crowd is all about. They came for the show. The theater. They came with their sicknesses to be healed. To touch Him.
Jesus telling His disciples to get a boat ready is a practical move. The crowd pressing on Jesus might crush the guy they’re coming after for healing.
Okay - in order to get a sense of this - we need a volunteer...
In order to win the prize in the box you need to correctly answer this question. It’s okay to ask the audience for help.
According to Mark’s Gospel account, how many miracles did Jesus perform?
B. More than Peter
C. 24 (which is a good Biblical sounding number)
D. We don’t know… lots of them
Is that your final answer?
The correct answer is “D” - we don’t know but there were lots of them.
Andrew - tell Michael what he’s won.
“It’s a Vivitar Ultra Sonic Portable Toothbrush! Vivitar’s ultra sonic toothbrush features 22,000 brush strokes per minute and it’s pet friendly. Vivitar, Edison, New Jersey.”
Let’s give a round of applause for our volunteer! Okay. That’s all folks. Enjoy the rest of your Sunday.
What the crowds are there for would be like us showing up here for a worship gathering when it suits us to come - whatever the day or time. Enjoying worship with the band. Hoping the pastor isn’t too dry and not too detailed. And heading out of here feeling better about ourselves. Kind of pumped up to do what we’ve got going on in our lives out there. God our creator and redeemer not even being in the picture.
The crowd is about the show. But Jesus is about the message. The good news of God’s kingdom at hand. What God desires for them which is infinitely more valuable and heart level more deeply needed than what the crowds are pressing in on Jesus for.
Mark clues us in to what’s really - behind the scenes - going on here with the interchange with the “unclean spirits” - the demons that are also following Jesus. What clearly shows us the contrast between what the crowds are all about and what Jesus is all about.
“Son of God” is a title meaning - God the Son - the second person of the Triune God - Jesus the eternal God in the flesh and blood of our humanity.
Meaning the one and only begotten Son of the Father - Immanuel - God with us is Jesus, the Christ - the one anointed - consecrated and set apart - the only one able to fulfill and accomplish the will and plan of the Father. His work of redeeming mankind.
Meaning that Jesus is God choosing to take on the flesh and blood of our humanity. In order to be what He was - sinless and perfect - pure - the sacrificed in our place Lamb of God.
In order to do what He and only He could do - sacrificing Himself in our place - in perfect obedience to the Father - taking on Himself the wrath of God and the rejection of the Father which should have been ours.
In order to become sin for us - that we might become the righteousness of God - redeemed - forgiven - restored - made right in our relationship with God now and forever. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
Jesus “strictly ordered them not to make Him known.” “Strictly ordered” translates a word used in the Old Testament of Divine rebuke. The demons identify Jesus - the Son of God - and why He’s there. And Jesus - with the authority of God - shuts them up - forbids them to speak.
The crowd - caught up in their self-focused paparazzi-ness - they may be clueless. A cluelessness we see over and over again - even in the Palm Sunday crowd. But these “unclean spirits” - the demons - they get Jesus. They get why Jesus is there. The good news of God’s kingdom being at hand.
Event #2 comes in verse 13 - The Calling.
Mark tells us that Jesus “went up on the mountain.” Which mountain? We don’t know. Anyplace is up from the beach at Galilee.
The mountain - the location - isn’t as important as Mark telling us that this is the next event. Mark making a contrast between the craziness of the crowd and what Jesus does next. Jesus separating Himself from the crowd and selecting a small group of twelve men to share His life and ministry in a very special way.
Jesus calling them up to be with Him on the Mountain. Emphasis on the mountain with Jesus.
Mark gives us three details about what happened on the mountain.
First: Jesus called to Himself those whom He desired.
Jesus could have called 100 people - a thousand people. How great was the crowd? Great. He could have called thousands. But He called twelve. Those whom He desired.
Looking at the list - it has been said many times that this really is a strange and diverse group of twelve ordinary - average - men. There are no clones in the group. They proved themselves to be quite a handful to herd.
None of them come with impressive credentials. Thanks to the local synagogue they knew their Hebrew Bible. But none of them was a scholar - an expert in the Scriptures.
They were mostly from Galilee. Most from around Capernaum. Four of them were fishermen. Some of them we know practically nothing about.
It’s one thing to choose Simon - aka “The Rock” - but the Sons of Thunder? Probably a well earned nickname.
Bartholomew - elsewhere called Nathanael - who Jesus identifies as being deeply in sync with godliness. Bartholomew “gets it.” Contrasted with Thomas the doubter - who comes across as clueless most of the time.
Matthew the hated tax collector and collaborator with the Roman government and Simon the Cananean - which is the Arabic word for Zealot. Meaning that Simon was probably a nationalist revolutionary sworn to overthrow the Roman government at any cost. Imagine herding that combination.
And Judas Iscariot who may have been from southern Judea or a town in Moab - Karioth - which is what Iscariot may mean. Judas never quite fits in. Mark foreshadows his betrayal of Jesus.
Jesus called those 12 men whom He desired. We need to let that reality sink in.
“Desired” translates a Greek word that has the idea of purpose. Jesus called those whom He desired according to His divine intention and will.
Before creation was creation - God - Jesus - in His sovereignty looking down the ages of history not yet unfolded - Jesus according to His purposes and will for His creation - God’s loving, gracious, merciful, relentless working of His plan of redemption - Jesus desired to call these twelve men.
Jesus created them - the very atoms of their existence - the family lines leading to their birth - all of what has shaped and prepared them for this moment - in all of their bizarre diversity - Jesus created and called them according to the desire of His will.
There may be been some in the crowds of people following Jesus who may have understood His message. Some who - at the heart level - who were seeking after God. Some who - on the surface - may have looked like a more likely candidate for the inner core of Jesus’ expanding ministry. But Jesus desired to call these twelve.
Sin having taken its toll on our lives - but as strange and odd and mixed up and hung up and broken and weak and often times clueless as we may be individually and as a congregation - just saying - none of us is an accident or a mistake. When we gather together to worship and serve God that’s not random. That God has desired for us to know Him individually and to serve and worship Him collectively is a purposeful act of God’s love and grace and mercy towards each of us.
Second: Those whom Jesus called, responded.
“They came to Him.”
The word in Greek has the idea of being intentional. The reason they went up on the mountain to Jesus was because Jesus called them to come to Him. It’s not the mountain that’s important. It’s Jesus.
We’ve seen - as we been studying through Mark - we’ve seen that some had already made the choice to respond. They were already closely associated with Jesus - already following.
For some on the list - even though they may have been followers in a general sense - this is a different type of response. Very specific. Meet me on the mountain.
They came to Him. They left behind whatever needed to be left behind and they came to Him. Because He called them.
Jesus - on the night He was betrayed - Jesus told His disciples: “You did not chose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear much fruit…” (John 15:16)
God chooses us. Sometimes we have this strange idea that we choose God. That we can respond to Him on our terms - in our way - in our timing. Like we’re part of a crowd of Jesus paparazzi. Like salvation and redemption and serving and following is about what we say it is.
But God in His sovereignty chooses us. Which is a good thing because who else would? God chooses and we must respond on His terms if we are to become followers of Jesus.
Third: Those who responded, Jesus appointed.
“Appointed” - verse 14 - translates a Semitic idiom. Literally “He made them twelve.”
Robert Coleman writes in The Master Plan of Evangelism:
“His [Jesus’] concern was not with programs to reach the multitudes, but with men whom the multitudes would follow. Remarkable as it may seem, Jesus started to gather these men before He ever organized an evangelistic campaign or even preached a sermon in public. Men were to be His method of winning the world to God.
The initial objective of Jesus’ plan was to enlist men who could bear witness to His life and carry on His work after He returned to the Father.” (1)
Mark gives us three purposes for Jesus’ appointing - making them - the Twelve.
First: Association - “so that they might be with Him”
It is within the nature of Jesus - being God - being man - desiring companionship. Especially in His humanity. Being human means that we are created for companionship. We see this in the gospel accounts over and over. Jesus loves them. He enjoys their friendship. He shares the real time stuff of life with them.
And, their being with Him is for their sake also. It’s through that intimate day-to-day relationship that the Twelve really get to know Jesus - that they learn to fulfill their task of witnessing of Him in the world. In the day-to-day of relationship their exposed to the powerful influence of His life and ministry.
Years later - as people are astounded by the teaching and witness of the Apostles - especially their wisdom and knowledge of the Scriptures - even though they’d never formally studied Scripture - years later people would remember that these men had been with Jesus - the living Word of God.
Second: Apostleship - [that] “He might send them out to preach”
The Greek word “apostello” which is where our English word… “apostle” comes from - “apostello” means to be sent out by someone - like a courier - being commissioned and sent out with specific message.
In a very unique way the word “apostle” applies uniquely to these twelve men. Each of them is given a unique role in the history of God’s kingdom.
Each one had to be personally acquainted with Jesus’ ministry - an eye witness of Jesus’ ministry - from His baptism by John to His ascension into Heaven.
In the first century the crucifixion was a well known fact. The resurrection was a reality. But it was crucial to the credibility of the message that the apostles had personally seen both.
To be an apostle meant having been personally instructed in the gospel message by Jesus. It meant being personally called and commissioned by the risen Jesus.
Which is why the apostolic age - this unique calling of Jesus to these twelve men - that age of the original apostles ended with the death of John the Apostle at about AD 100.
These men would continue the ministry of Jesus - proclaiming the coming of God’s kingdom through His own life, death, and resurrection. They would go into the whole world as messengers of the good news.
Which is pretty exciting to think about. What we’re reading here is the beginning of an evangelistic campaign which ultimately leads to ourselves and the church in the 21st century - even here at Creekside. We are a part of what we’re seeing Jesus do up on that mountain.
Third: Authority - [to] “have authority to cast out demons.”
Which the Twelve did - casting out demons - as a sign of their God given authority and the validity of their message. To do what Jesus had done in order to demonstrate that God’s kingdom had arrived.
Let’s be careful. Even during Jesus’ ministry very few of His followers are recorded as casting out demons. Which helps us to understand that casting out demons is not part of the average Christian’s experience or calling.
Let’s be careful. Jesus is not calling us to go out and hunt down demons in order to cast them out. Thankfully. The issue here isn’t exorcism but authority.
The whole of Jesus’ ministry is focused on destroying the work of Satan and his minions and the forces of darkness. Jesus didn’t come just to score points against the Pharisees or merely to wrestle with flesh and blood adversaries - He came to wrestle with and triumph over the powers of darkness.
Which He did - on the cross and by coming out of the tomb very much alive.
Paul writes to the Colossians that Jesus “disarmed the powers and authorities [of darkness], He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them on the cross.” (Colossians 2:15 NIV)
So that, Paul writes to the Philippians: “God has highly exalted Him [Jesus] and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9-11).
That’s authority. Divine authority that we get glimpse of in event #1 with the declaration of the demons and Jesus silencing them.
Because Jesus has proven authority over Satan and his minions - even over darkness and death - when Jesus sends out His apostles He sends them under His authority - to proclaim His message - without fear - in boldness - even casting out demons as a demonstration of that authority - in order to communicate the message of God’s Kingdom and to call others to themselves become followers of Jesus.
What’s true of the Apostles is true of us.
Jesus called them - He appointed them - He discipled them - and He sent them under His authority. Their ministry of preaching and teaching mirrored His own. The authority He places them under is a unique moment in His ministry.
What’s here is the first indication that God’s plan of redemption - Jesus work on earth - and His ruling as King of kings and Lord of lords - will not come to completion during his earthly ministry. Somehow His disciples fit into all that. Somehow we all fit into all that. What He desires for us.
Processing all that...
Question: These days, are you hanging out at the beach - with the crowd - or have you come up on the mountain to be with Jesus?
What Jesus gets hit with in event #1 would turn the heart of most of us away from God and on to ourselves. Would temp most of us to stay on the beach. Thousands of people coming from all over anyplace there was any place to come from. The whole of the country could have been His if He’d just reached out and took it.
And yet Jesus isn’t distracted by all that. There’s more going on here that what we get too easily distracted by - Jesus’ purpose for entering humanity - the good news and what it takes to get that message out.
The crowd is there for the show. For what they can get not for what they need. Satan has turned their hearts elsewhere than towards God and what God has for them. The crowd following for what it wants is actually following Satan for what he wants.
A long time ago in a ministry far far away God had me involved with people who were extremely wealthy and people that were very connected politically. I could share about that and if I tossed out names you’d know some of these people by their names and positions in what goes on in the world.
I share that not to brag or draw attention to me. But by means of confession. Because all that really messed with my mind and my heart and my pride and ultimately my relationship with God.
It could be being popular - liked - peer pressure - avoiding conflict - going with the status quo. It could be having bucks in the bank or getting kudos in class or a promotion at work or whatever. Our hearts are way too easily turned from God and what God has for us.
Maybe that’s driven by fear? Or past failure? A lost opportunity? A shattered dream? Weaknesses and inadequacies that you’re painfully aware of? Or maybe just stuff you’re hanging on to that you can’t let go of? Or what’s been done to you? Wounds of the past? Or unresolved issues?
Behind that there’s the demons - spiritual warfare. Not the Hollywood version - which by design is scary enough. But the real thing. The spiritual battle that goes on behind the scenes. Jesus - God - has authority over all that.
But it is easy for us - under attack by Satan and his minions - to succumb to fear or deception - to let our hearts be turned away from God. We all have our points of weakness.
Whatever Satan can use to get his teeth into us and turn our hearts away from God. He’s going to use that to distract us from God’s calling and purpose for our lives. To keep us on the beach.
We’ve got to get off the beach. Staying on the beach is death. On the beach we’re easy targets for Satan and his minions.
Event #2 - the “Calling” - the contrast is really helpful for us to hold on to. What Jesus is all about. Jesus calling these men to Himself and making them to be His Apostles - sent out with authority to proclaim the good news.
God chooses us. We don’t choose God.
We wouldn’t have a clue about God if God hadn’t created us with the ability to have a clue about God Who chooses to reveal Himself to us - and through Christ’s work on the cross to save us - and to graciously enable us to have an eternal relationship with Him. God even choosing to use us to bring others to Jesus.
That isn’t about us choosing God. God is the One who does the choosing. We welcome by faith what God has chosen to do.
Which is humbling and huge to grab on to. Humbling to be reminded that whatever is turning our hearts away from God is worthless compared to the hugeness of God choosing us.
We need to process that and marinate in it.
As strange and broken and messed up and as often distracted and easily heart turned as we are - it is Jesus’ desire to call us to Himself - to call us into a relationship with Him that will transform our lives - to call us to Himself to empower us to testify of His good news. There is nothing more deeply satisfying in life or no greater of purpose for our lives than what Jesus calls us to.
That’s a contrast. A choice. The beach is death. The mountain is life with Jesus.
Question: These days, are you hanging out at the beach - with the crowd - or have you come up on the mountain to be with Jesus?
Step one to getting off the beach is to choose to move up the mountain.
1. Robert Coleman, The Master Plan of Evangelism (Old Tappan: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1964), 21
Sinclair B. Ferguson, Let’s Study Mark (Edinburgh, The Banner of Truth Trust, 2016).
Charles R. Swindoll, Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary, Volume 2: Insights on Mark (Carol Stream, IL, Tyndale House Publishers, 2016).
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.