Sunday, May 28th, 2023
Christ Covenant Church – Centralia, WA
7 But Jesus withdrew himself with his disciples to the sea: and a great multitude from Galilee followed him, and from Judaea, 8 And from Jerusalem, and from Idumaea, and from beyond Jordan; and they about Tyre and Sidon, a great multitude, when they had heard what great things he did, came unto him. 9 And he spake to his disciples, that a small ship should wait on him because of the multitude, lest they should throng him. 10 For he had healed many; insomuch that they pressed upon him for to touch him, as many as had plagues. 11 And unclean spirits, when they saw him, fell down before him, and cried, saying, Thou art the Son of God. 12 And he straitly charged them that they should not make him known. 13 And he goeth up into a mountain, and calleth unto him whom he would: and they came unto him. 14 And he ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach, 15 And to have power to heal sicknesses, and to cast out devils: 16 And Simon he surnamed Peter; 17 And James the son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James; and he surnamed them Boanerges, which is, The sons of thunder: 18 And Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Canaanite, 19 And Judas Iscariot, which also betrayed him.
Father, we thank you for giving us this gospel to teach us who You are, and to show us what it means to be a disciple of Your Son, the Lord Jesus. We ask now for your Holy Spirit as we consider divine truth, and we ask this in Jesus name, Amen.
Mark 3:7 is the beginning of a new section in Mark’s Gospel, this brings us into the second phase of Jesus’ ministry in Galilee.
The way that most commentators outline the book is to put Mark 1:1 thru 3:6 as Jesus early ministry in Galilee (so all the previous sermons we’ve had fall under that heading), and then from our text this morning, Mark 3:7 thru 6:13 is Jesus later ministry in Galilee.So we are beginning that second half of his Galilean ministry, and this is all setting up what will eventually be his journey to Jerusalem to die. Jesus is showing us the way of the Lord, and that way leads to enthronement via death on a cross outside Jerusalem.
So Mark wants us to pay attention to these various geographic and location markers because of the associations we should have with them having memorized the Old Testament.
Jesus starts in the wilderness where John the Baptist is preaching, and then he comes into the coastal regions of Galilee, teaching and healing people in the synagogues. And this morning we will see Jesus escaping to the sea and then ascending up a mountain. So we should be jogging our memories now for the kinds of things that happen on the sea and on the tops of mountains. What significant events happen there?
Now to remind us of the context, we saw last week that Jesus had a showdown with the Pharisees over Sabbath laws, and Jesus having won that battle, his opponents, the Pharisees and the Herodians immediately go to plot Jesus’ destruction.
So what we have in our text this morning, is Jesus departure from the synagogue and then he travels to two different places:
1. First in verses 7-12, he withdraws/flees to the sea He has a boat that is his floating pulpit, to keep the crowds from thronging him.
2. And then in verses 13-19, he goes up onto a mountain to ordain twelve disciples.
So from the Synagogue to the Sea to the Mountain, that’s the movement here.
7 But Jesus withdrew himself with his disciples to the sea…
The word for withdrew here is the same word (ἀνεχώρησεν) that is used to describe David when he withdraws or flees from King Saul.
1 Samuel 19:10 says, “And Saul sought to smite David even to the wall with the javelin; but he slipped away out of Saul’s presence, and he smote the javelin into the wall: and David fled (ἀνεχώρησεν) and escaped that night.”
So like David, Jesus has the current ruling authorities seeking to murder him, and so naturally he does what David does and flees/withdraws himself. In this case Jesus flees with his disciples to the sea.
…and a great multitude from Galilee followed him, and from Judaea, 8 And from Jerusalem, and from Idumaea, and from beyond Jordan; and they about Tyre and Sidon, a great multitude, when they had heard what great things he did, came unto him.
Here, Mark lists seven different regions from which people are flocking to Jesus. First you have Galilee, Judaea, and Jerusalem which constitute what we might call “Israel proper.” Then in the south you have Idumaea (Edom), to the east you have the region Beyond Jordan (eastern side of the Jordan river), and then up north there are the coastal cities of Tyre and Sidon.
All of these places, with the exception of Idumaea, are places that Jesus will eventually travel to later in this gospel. However, the focus here is on the vast extent from which people are coming to see this Jesus.
It is also likely that this mention of seven regions is meant to call to mind the original conquest of that land under Joshua. Paul says in Acts 13:19, “And when God had destroyed seven nations in the land of Chanaan, he divided their land to them by lot.”
So the same land that God once conquered under Joshua and gave to Israel, Jesus (the new Joshua) is reconquering that same land by his ministry. Joshua conquered with sword and army, Jesus conquers with His word and disciples. That is one of the parallels here.
One of the other major connections is that this is the same thing that happened to David after he fled from Saul.
In 1 Samuel 22 we read, “David therefore departed thence, and escaped to the cave Adullam: and when his brethren and all his father’s house heard it, they went down thither to him. (we will see Jesus’ family coming out to him next week) 2 And every one that was in distress, and every one that was in debt, and every one that was discontented, gathered themselves unto him; and he became a captain over them: and there were with him about four hundred men.”
So David as a king in exile, with Saul seeking to kill him, has a multitude of followers (sinners and debtors) that he becomes captain over. Likewise, Jesus has far more than 400 men coming out to him, and they are coming from the farthest reaches of Israel, and even beyond its borders.
Now there are two big questions that hang in the air as we continue thru Mark’s gospel:
1. Who is this Jesus?
2. Are you with Him or against Him?
The proclamation of the gospel and the testimony of Jesus’ works, forces people to take sides. This was true then and it is true now. But so far in Mark’s gospel, it is only the demons who seem to really know that Jesus is the Son of God, and they are of course set against Him.
And so among these multitudes who are coming to Jesus, there is still a big question mark over why they are seeking him. Are they traveling all these miles for mere physical healing? Or for the novelty of a prophet, to see a worker of miracles? Or are they seeking him because He is God in the flesh, the one who has the power the forgive sins?
Mark wants us to ask this same question of ourselves. Why are we here? Why do we follow Jesus? What are you hoping to get from all this?
If God were to suddenly appear to you like he did to Solomon and said, “Ask what I shall give thee,”what would you say in return? What do you want?
If God were to say to you, “You have served me well, what reward wilt thou have?” What would your response be?
Well, the answer that we all want to grow up into being able to say honestly is, “Nothing but you O Lord.” As it says in Psalm 73:25, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.”
That is what a real disciple wants, and that is the measure of a true Christian. We want God because in Him is everything (life, joy, love, wisdom, blessedness, satisfaction, resurrection from the dead). As Peter will later say to Jesus,“Where else can we go, you have the words of life.”
So what do you want from God? Why do these multitudes flock to Jesus? Do they really know who He is?
9 And he spake to his disciples, that a small ship should wait on him because of the multitude, lest they should throng him. 10 For he had healed many; insomuch that they pressed upon him for to touch him, as many as had plagues.
Here the presenting reason for their seeking of Jesus and trying to touch him, is for healing from plagues and various diseases. They are still seeking him primarily for his power to heal their bodies.
11 And unclean spirits, when they saw him, fell down before him, and cried, saying, Thou art the Son of God. 12 And he straitly charged them that they should not make him known.
Here again we see that the Holy Land is full of unclean spirits and devils. Just as King Saul was plagued by an evil spirit, so also the rulers of Jesus’ day. If you read Josephus, the Jewish historian, he tells in detail how insane the Herods were. You can think Joe Biden is off his rocker, but the Herods were far worse.
So Jesus is cleansing the land of its impurities and that means healing the sick and casting out demons. We’ve already seen him do this on a smaller scale in the first 3 chapters, and now those waters of cleansing that Jesus carries about in his bosom are growing deeper and flowing farther. The power of the Holy Spirit is cleansing the land as these multitude come to him.
So that’s the first section of our text, Jesus on the sea, and now he ascends a mountain.
13 And he goeth up into a mountain, and calleth unto him whom he would: and they came unto him.
This is the setup for the ordination of the twelve apostles. The location is significant because it is upon the mountain that God often speaks, reveals, and commissions His servants.
In Exodus 19:20 we read, “And the Lord came down upon mount Sinai, on the top of the mount: and the Lord called Moses up to the top of the mount; and Moses went up.”
When God is on Mount Sinai, only those whom he calls is allowed to ascend, and if anyone crossed that boundary, they were to be put to death.
Exodus 19:12 says, “And thou shalt set bounds unto the people round about, saying, Take heed to yourselves, that ye go not up into the mount, or touch the border of it: whosoever toucheth the mount shall be surely put to death.”
So here in verse 13, we have Jesus, we have God on a mountain top, and it says he, “calleth unto him whom he would.”
This is the great offense and scandal of God’s grace. God loves some people more than others. God loves everyone insofar as He created them and gives them their being, and even dies for them such that anyone who believes may be saved (1 John 2:2), but as Jesus says in John 6:44, “no man can come to me except the Father which hath sent me draw him.” Or as God says in Malachi 1:2 (which Paul cites in Romans 9:13), “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.”
God loves everyone but in different proportions, in different ways, and to different degrees. So while God loves Esau as his good creation, He does not love him with the same covenantal-electing love that He has for Jacob, and thus that lesser love is called hate by comparison.
It is in a similar sense that Jesus says in Luke 14:26, “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.”
God loves some people (and some nations) more than others. This is really the whole story of the Bible: God looks out a world that is composed exclusively of sinners who deserve damnation, and then He calls unto Himself whoever He will: Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, Paul, etc.
And if that rubs us the wrong way, that God chooses some and doesn’t choose others, well, all I can say to you is what Scripture says: that you have far too high an estimation of yourself, and far too low an estimation of God.
What does the Apostle Paul say to those who feel that God is unfair to choose some and not others, he says,“Who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?” (Romans 9:20-21).
God is free to love whoever He wants however He wants, and none of us deserves that love in the slightest. We call it grace for a reason (Rom. 11:6).
Romans 9:15-16 says, “For God saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. 16 So then it is not of him that wills, nor of him that runs, but of God that sheweth mercy.”
The calling of the disciples, like the calling of salvation, is as Mark tells us here in verse 13, Jesus “calleth unto him whom he would.”
And what is their response to this call? “and they came unto him.”
In verses 14-15 we are then given the purpose for which Jesus ordains these disciples.
14 And he ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach, 15 And to have power to heal sicknesses, and to cast out devils.
Of these four purposes for which Jesus ordains The Twelve, it is not surprising that they are ordained to preach, to heal, and to cast out demons. That is something we have come to expect. But notice what the first purpose is for which Jesus ordains them, “that they should be with him.”
The school of discipleship is first and foremost to simply be with Jesus.These twelve men are going to travel with Jesus, eat with Jesus, talk to Jesus, ask Jesus questions along the way, follow Jesus wherever he goes. And by spending all that quantity time and quality time together, they will eventually be equipped so that three chapters from now, Jesus can send them out two by two to preach the gospel (Mark 6:7).
The training for ministry is to be with Jesus. And when you spend time with Jesus, it will be evident to others.
As it says in Acts 4:12, “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.”
Jesus turns fishermen and tax collectors into preachers and writers of Divine Things. Their Greek might not be the most polished, it may read somewhat crudely, but as the Apostle Paul says in 1 Cor. 2:4-5, “And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: 5 That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.”
The power of God and the demonstration of the Spirit, comes to these apostles thru being with Jesus. And although none of us are able to physically follow Jesus around Galilee today, what we do have are these four gospel accounts that allow us to truly encounter the real and living Jesus. And when we hear His Word by faith, in the Spirit, truly we are with Him.
Finally, in verses 16-19, we have the listing of the Twelve Apostles.
16 And Simon he surnamed Peter; 17 And James the son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James; and he surnamed them Boanerges, which is, The sons of thunder: 18 And Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Canaanite, 19 And Judas Iscariot, which also betrayed him.
Of these twelve names, we are told almost nothing about seven of them. With the exception of Judas and the first four disciples, none of these names will occur again in Mark’s gospel.
What little we are told here is that…
Simon is renamed Peter, which means rock, and this will come to characterize him as both being at times a stone of stumbling that needs to be rebuked, but eventually a firm foundation upon which the church can be built.
James and John are surnamed “Sons of Thunder,” and this also likely has a double meaning. At times they will be overzealous, seeking honor for themselves (to sit at Jesus left hand and right hand), and even wanting to call down fire from heaven. But after Pentecost we see them mature. James will be the first apostolic martyr (Acts 12:1-2), and John will thunder the love of God in his gospel and epistles.
But Mark’s focus is not to give us a biographical sketch of the disciples, as interesting as that would be, Mark’s focus is that Jesus is reconstituting the twelve tribes of Israel in these twelve men.
Just as God gathered the twelve tribes around Sinai and later around the tabernacle, so Jesus gathers twelve men around Himself. Jesus is the mountain of God; Jesus is the tabernacle and center of the world. And these Twelve Apostles are the beginning of a New Israel and the fulfillment of God’s promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
When John sees the New Jerusalem in Revelation 21, it says, “And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.”
Jesus in calling The Twelve, is starting to build that heavenly city, and that building project continues down to this day.
And so as we celebrate our two-year anniversary as a church, let us remember the blood that was spilled so that we could be called to the top of the mountain. Let us remember that special love that God has shown unto us, by calling us elect in Christ. And may grow to be able to say with the Psalmist, “there is nothing on earth that I desire besides You, O Lord.”
In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.