If you remember our last study, we saw that Jesus' healing a man on the Sabbath caused quite a stir:
Mark 3:6 (NASB) And the Pharisees went out and immediately began taking counsel with the Herodians against Him, as to how they might destroy Him.
Even though they had witnessed firsthand the miraculous healing of the man with a withered hand, the Pharisees were still intent on destroying Christ. Their blinded eyes could not appreciate the beauty and majesty of Christ before them, so they sought to rid themselves of this One that claimed to be the Messiah. The opposition against Jesus had begun to take on a new turn as the Pharisees joined forces with the Heordians in an effort to bring forth a plan to stop Jesus.
While Jesus was exceedingly unpopular with the Pharisees, He was the favorite of the people. We should probably say that because Jesus was popular with the people, He was very unpopular with the Pharisees. His unpopularity with the Pharisees was very much related to His popularity with the people, something which the Pharisees very much resented. Matthew and Mark tell us that Pilate knew the source of the religious leaders' hostility was jealousy:
Mark 15:9-10 (NASB) And Pilate answered them, saying, "Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?" 10 For he was aware that the chief priests had delivered Him up because of envy.
The extent of Jesus' popularity with the people is evident from two major facts mentioned by Mark. First, the large number of people who were there, even in such a remote place. Second, the great distance from which people were coming:
Mark 3:7-8 (NASB) And Jesus withdrew to the sea with His disciples; and a great multitude from Galilee followed; and also from Judea, 8 and from Jerusalem, and from Idumea, and beyond the Jordan, and the vicinity of Tyre and Sidon, a great multitude heard of all that He was doing and came to Him.
The reason for Jesus' withdrawal in Mark 3:7 is obvious: The authorities were after him (3:6), and it wasn't yet time for Him to be arrested. Matthew tells us that Jesus knew they were planning His death:
Matthew 12:15 (NASB) But Jesus, aware of this, withdrew from there. And many followed Him, and He healed them all,
Christ was not running from them but prudently moved to another area to continue His ministry until that time designated by the Father when He would bear our sins.
As Jesus left Galilee, "a great multitude...followed" They had heard that Jesus was doing great things. Such news could not be kept quiet. The sick were healed; demons cried out and were cast out; and the news spread like wildfire.
Whereas the ministry of Jesus had originally been confined to the localized areas around Galilee, now He was drawing people from as far away as Jerusalem and the Transjordan area and from the Phoenician coast lands.
Let me try to give you an idea of the size of this crowd. This was not just a few people or a few thousand. There were literally tens of thousands of people, undoubtedly, in this crowd. They came from all over this country - from Galilee; from Judea, which began fifty miles to the south; from Jerusalem, the capital of Judea some seventy miles south of the Sea of Galilee; and beyond that from the land of Idumea, or Edom, way down in the southern desert; from the region east of the Jordan River stretching out into the Arabian Desert; and from the west clear to the Mediterranean coast and up the coast to Tyre and Sidon, the area now in the country of Lebanon - from throughout this entire area they came. They flocked out from all the cities to hear this amazing prophet who had risen in Galilee and was saying such startling things.
What was the attraction? Why were so many coming such a long way in order to see Jesus? It was because of what He was DOING. It was because they had heard of the miracles that He was performing. They had heard the wonderful stories of this carpenter who could heal the sick, who could cast out demons with a word and restore the paralyzed. Doctors were going out of business, and pharmacies were closing down. Seeing eye dogs were wandering aimlessly about. Stores were having liquidation sales on crutches and wheelchairs.
Mark 3:8 (NASB) and from Jerusalem, and from Idumea, and beyond the Jordan, and the vicinity of Tyre and Sidon, a great multitude heard of all that He was doing and came to Him.
Here Mark includes a statement of motive - "...heard of all that He was doing and came to Him." This includes a participle and a main verb. The participle is the word "heard of all He was doing" and the main verb is that they "came to Him."
The people came to Jesus, not because of his message of truth, but because of the miracles He did. In the minds of the people, the gracious miracles became a distraction to what Jesus Christ was really all about - He came to proclaim the truth.
Mark 3:9-10 (NASB) And He told His disciples that a boat should stand ready for Him because of the multitude, in order that they might not crowdHim; 10 for He had healed many, with the result that all those who had afflictions pressed about Him in order to touch Him.
Jesus called for a boat that He might push out from the shore a ways, stand in the boat, and preach to them. In the text it says that they might not "crowd" Him. It's the Greek word thlibo, which can mean: "to crush." He was fearful that He would be trampled by the crowd, and He needed an escape just in case it got too ugly.
The interesting thing is that the device He used to get away was perfectly human. Notice that Jesus didn't do something miraculous here. He didn't build an invisible barrier around himself so that nobody could get close, or He didn't hover above the crowds and preach from above them. He is human. And, in order to escape, He asks His disciples to keep a boat handy on the shore so that he can step into it and move out onto the lake where the crowd can't follow him - in order that He might preach.
Mark 3:10 (NASB) for He had healed many, with the result that all those who had afflictions pressed about Him in order to touch Him.
All they wanted was healing. He wanted to preach. They were traveling a long distance to follow Jesus. But the reality is, they weren't following Jesus, because they didn't really care who He was, and they didn't really care what He had to say. They were pursuing their own personal agendas with the hopes that Jesus could somehow do something for them. They were consumers.
There's a popular message today called "the gospel of health, wealth, and prosperity" that is very appealing to the consumer. It basically says that if you choose to follow Jesus, He will heal all your diseases and He will make sure that you are wealthy and prosperous. Now, who wouldn't want that? That appeals to consumers. They are really not interested in who Jesus is. They are not terribly interested in following Jesus. They are on their own personal missions with their own agendas, and they're hopeful that somehow Jesus can help them fulfill their own selfish desires.
It is my opinion that the church today breeds this consumer mentality - what can Christianity do for me? People don't come to learn about Christ and minister to others. They come to be entertained or to see what they can get out of it - it is totally selfish.
Mark 3:11-12 (NASB) And whenever the unclean spirits beheld Him, they would fall down before Him and cry out, saying, "You are the Son of God!" 12 And He earnestly warned them not to make Him known.
Mark tells us that when the demons saw Jesus they always identified Him. They cried out, "You are the Son of God." And Jesus invariably silenced them and cast them out. Why do you suppose He rejected this testimony from these demonic entities? You remember that when Paul and Silas were in Philippi, a young girl followed them and cried out something similar:
Acts 16:17 (NASB) Following after Paul and us, she kept crying out, saying, "These men are bond-servants of the Most High God, who are proclaiming to you the way of salvation."
They refused that witness. Paul finally cast the demon out. So, everywhere in the Scriptures, you find both the Lord and the apostles rejecting the testimony of demons. Yet it was true. He was the Son of God. But Jesus would not permit that witness to come from these demons.
Mark 3:12 (NASB) And He earnestly warned them not to make Him known.
The warning implies a stern, serious warning not to give His Messianic identity.
Mark 3:13 (NASB) And He went^ up to the mountain and summoned^ those whom He Himself wanted, and they came to Him.
THE CALLING OF THE TWELVE- The primary method of Jesus' ministry was through MEN. The first thing we saw Him doing following His baptism and temptation was to call a few men to follow Him. There were initially four: Simon and Andrew and James and John. Matthew was called later. Now there will be a total of Twelve.
Notice first the sovereign desire of our Lord. It says here that He "summoned those whom He Himself wanted." Jesus called those whom He desired. This is the election of God. It is a manifestation of the greatness of God. On that basis, He calls us; on the basis of His desire for us. I think that is a miracle in itself. That God would desire me is incredible to me. That the all holy God, who is of purer eyes than to look upon iniquity, would desire the fellowship of creatures whose very natures are twisted by sin, is pure grace.
Jesus' choice of disciples would probably not be ours. He chooses a motley crew of followers: Four blue collar fishermen, one hated tax-collector, one doubter, and one betrayer. We know virtually nothing about six of these men whose names never appear again in Mark's Gospel.
Mark 3:14-15 (NASB) And He appointed twelve, that they might be with Him, and that He might send them out to preach, 15 and to have authority to cast out the demons.
Please notice why Jesus calls these men. We often look at this as a call to preach and to take authority over demons. But that's not why He called them. What does the text say? It says He called them to "be with Him."
It is very important we understand that the essence of Christianity is to be with Jesus. It means to dwell in His presence; it's a relationship with Him. Oftentimes we think it is to go out and do something, but the essence of Christianity is to be with Jesus. That is the radical nature of the message. How can sinful people dwell in the presence of a holy God? It is through Jesus the Savior. It is through Jesus, His person and His work, that sinners can dwell in the presence of a holy God. We can be with Jesus.
When Jesus called the twelve,"That they might be with Him," He called them to share His life. He wanted to involve them in intimate communion and fellowship with Himself. He called them to be in a relationship with Him. He desired for them to share their lives with one another and with Him. But more importantly, He desired to impart His life to them.
Jesus saw the need of the multitude, and He saw the need for the multiplication of His ministry. He was going to reproduce Himself in these disciples. But He knew that the only way this was going to be accomplished was to impart His life to these men. The only way life can be imparted is to spend time sharing that life.
This is how Christianity is to work - His people are to share their lives with others. We who are following Christ are to seek to reproduce ourselves in others. Notice what Paul said about Timothy:
1 Corinthians 4:14-16 (NASB) I do not write these things to shame you, but to admonish you as my beloved children. 15 For if you were to have countless tutors in Christ, yet you would not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. 16 I exhort you therefore, be imitators of me.
Paul says, "Be imitators of me." Paul wanted them to follow Christ, and so he encouraged them to imitate him, because he was following Christ. He says this in:
1 Corinthians 11:1 (NASB) Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.
Paul wanted them to imitate him as he followed Christ, but he couldn't be with them so he sent Timothy who was an imitator of Paul:
1 Corinthians 4:16-17 (NASB) I exhort you therefore, be imitators of me. 17 For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, who is my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, and he will remind you of my ways which are in Christ, just as I teach everywhere in every church.
I want you to imitate me so I'm sending Timothy to you. Timothy was a reproduction of Paul. Paul couldn't be there so he sent Timothy who was just like him. This is the goal of Christianity, to reproduce your Christianity in others.
The Bible teaches us that the elders of the church are to be examples to the flock:
1 Peter 5:1-3 (NASB) Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, 2 shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; 3 nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock.
The church of God is to be led by the living visual power of example. We all need examples to follow. Parents, we are also to be examples to our children. You know from first hand knowledge that they pick up what you do much quicker than what you say. The parent who says, "Do as I say, not as I do" is asking the child to overcome the power of example. This is wrong! The child will imitate the parent's example.
Mark 3:14 (NASB) And He appointed twelve, that they might be with Him, and that He might send them out to preach,
The first priority we have is fellowship with Jesus. He called these early disciples to be with Him. He desired fellowship with them, and they needed fellowship with Him. If we would make real progress in our own Christian lives, we must partake of the life of Jesus by being with Him. Apart from spending time with Jesus in fellowship through His Word and prayer, we simply will not grow. There is no shortcut. There is no easy way. Jesus calls us to communion with Him to share His life.
Mark 3:14-15 (NASB) And He appointed twelve, that they might be with Him, and that He might send them out to preach, 15 and to have authority to cast out the demons.
Each activity mentioned is a present, infinitive indicating that it came as a result of something else. The something else is the training that they had received and would continue to receive by being with Him. The principle here is that growth must precede ministry, and ministry must be a result of growth.
Our text says that He not only called them to be with Him, but He called them "That He might send them out to preach." Jesus Himself proclaimed the Good News, and He was reproducing Himself in the lives of these men. They would also be heralds of the truth of the Kingdom of God. And so should we.
Nothing changes in this regard for the people of God today. All have been called to herald the Gospel message by what we do, by what we say, by our example, by our priorities, by our commitments. We are to speak loudly to the watching world concerning the Kingdom.
At the heart of Christianity remains the desire and need of declaring to others the message of the Gospel. It is a desire in that once we have received God's saving grace, we want others to know the same Lord. It is also a need since the only means of the gospel spreading is through the redeemed, now appointed by Christ as ambassadors for the faith.
No place is given in Scripture for being secret disciples or keeping our faith in Christ to ourselves. Believers are compared to a city on a hill, lighted during the darkness of night; Christians "cannot be hidden" anymore than such a city can be hidden (Matt 5:14).
Sadly, in many of the mega churches there seems to be some confusion about the message of the kingdom the Gospel of Christ. Some choose to water down the reality of our sinfulness and God's holiness, and the necessity of Christ's bloody death on the cross confirmed by His resurrection so that we might be redeemed. Instead, these seek to help people feel better about their lives through positive, therapeutic talks that offer only scant reference to Christ and even less reference to His cross. The call for faith in Christ alone finds no place in such a scheme.
Jesus Christ the King appoints His people as messengers of the kingdom, sending us forth to declare the Gospel of the kingdom to a world enslaved by sin. Some of the details of our text are specific to the Twelve at that juncture, but it also contains gospel principles for disciples in every generation. We share an appointment by Christ as kingdom messengers.
Up to this point, Mark has focused upon the authority of Jesus Christ over demons, disease, sickness, and even over the natural realm. Now Christ gives authority to the disciples to cast out demons and heal the sick. Such authority was not natural to the disciples it came as a gift by the King so that their gospel message might be authenticated through exercising Christ-like authority.
Mark 3:16 (NASB) And He appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom He gave the name Peter),
Before we look at these 12 men, let me show you something very important that Mark doesn't mention but Luke does:
Luke 6:12-13 (NASB) And it was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God. 13 And when day came, He called His disciples to Him; and chose twelve of them, whom He also named as apostles:
Luke begins by telling us that the day's events were preceded by a night of prayer on the part of our Lord. How many of us spend all night in prayer? If Jesus found it necessary to do so, how much more so should we pray?
After His all-night prayer vigil, Jesus called a larger group of "disciples" to Him, from which He chose twelve, designating them as His apostles. These were to be the leaders of the church. They were to be apostles. That Jesus spent all night in prayer before their appointment is an indication that these names were not "pulled out of a hat" but were chosen in consultation with God the Father.
The Twelve Appointed
Mark 3:16-19 (NASB) And He appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom He gave the name Peter), 17 and James, the son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James (to them He gave the name Boanerges, which means, "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 Zealot; 19 and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed Him.
There are four lists in the New Testament, which give us the names of the "inner" twelve disciples chosen by Jesus: Matthew 10:2-4, Mark 3:16-19, Luke 6:14-16, Acts 1:13,26.
Let me give you a few facts about these lists of disciples. Simon Peter is always mentioned first. Judas Iscariot is always mentioned last, when he is mentioned at all.
There are three distinct groupings of disciples. Those who were with Jesus the most are mentioned in the first group. Those who are mentioned less often are in the second group. Those in the third group are hardly mentioned at all (with the exception of Judas Iscariot).
The same person always heads up each group. Simon Peter always heads up the first group. Philip always heads up the second group. James the son of Alphaeus always heads up the third group. Let's look at these 12 men.
1. Simon (to whom He gave the name Peter) - Peter is always listed first among the disciples. There is no disciple of Jesus with whom we are more familiar than the person of Peter. We are told here that Jesus gave him a new name; the name given was actually Cephas (kepha), which means: "a rock" (John 1:42).
2. James, the son of Zebedee - James is never mentioned in the gospels apart from his brother, John. Of the two, James is always mentioned first, indicating that he might have been the elder of the two. James was the first martyr among the apostles (Acts 12:2).
3. John the brother of James - John describes himself elsewhere as "the disciple whom Jesus loved." John had a lengthy and extensive ministry in Asia, leaving us a beloved Gospel, three epistles, and the Revelation.
Jesus had a special nickname for these two brothers. It was Boanerges, which is translated by Mark as meaning "sons of thunder," with no explanation given as to why such a nickname should have been applied to them by Jesus. But as names given seem to have pointed at good characteristics, "sons of thunder" may mean thundering against sin (9.38; Luke 9.54).
4. Andrew - Andrew was Peter's brother. He was also the one who brought Peter to know Christ (John 1:41-42). Mark makes no further mention of him in this Gospel account. He is only mentioned twelve times in the entire New Testament.
5. Philip - This is a Greek name. He is always listed first in the second list. He brought his friend, Nathaniel, to the Lord (John 1:43-46). He is only mentioned fifteen times in the New Testament. When some Greeks wanted to come and speak to Jesus, they first went to Philip (John 12:20-22).
6. Bartholomew - He doesn't get mentioned much, appearing only in the four lists. Commentators point out that this disciple has often been associated with the Nathanael of John 1:43-51, and, if this were so, that would increase his mention by six other Scriptures.
7. Matthew - This is the Greek name of Levi whose call we read of in Mark 2:14. He had been a tax-collector; a turn-coat traitor who sold out his country for money. But he had given it all up to follow Jesus. Matthew's call is recorded for us in all three Synoptic Gospels, but, apart from this, his name only occurs elsewhere in the four lists. Matthew wrote the Gospel of Matthew.
8. Thomas - who was also called "Didymus," meaning: "twin," Thomas has gotten a lot of bad press over the years. He has been labeled "Doubting Thomas" because of his reaction to the news of the resurrection of Jesus. But "Doubting Thomas" became "Believing Thomas" when he saw the risen Lord. He also gave us one of the clearest confessions of Christ's nature as God:
John 20:28 (NASB) Thomas answered and said to Him, "My Lord and my God!"
9. James the son of Alphaeus - is distinguished from James the brother of our Lord. Some scholars believe him to be the brother of Thaddaeus.
10. Thaddaeus - His real name was "Judas" - the Greek form of Judah. Luke calls him "Judas the brother of James." He is known in the Gospels only for asking Christ a question about revelation (John 14:22).
11. Simon the Zealot - The Zealots were a political party within Judaism. They were the nationalist party. They were intent on driving the Romans from the land and restoring an independent state. But Simon's surname may have meant no more than he was zealous either for Jesus or the Law, but the reason for such a nickname has now been lost.
12. Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed Him - is well known in the Gospels. Judas is the Greek form of "Judah." This was a common name among the Jews. This designation "Iscariot" merely tells where Judas was from. He was the "Man of Kerioth." As far as we can tell, Judas was the only one of the disciples who was not from Galilee.
Luke very carefully informs us that Judas "became a traitor" (6:16).This indicates that Judas was not initially a traitor. It tells us that Judas did not purpose to infiltrate Jesus' inner circle as a base of operations. Judas didn't start off any worse than the other disciples. The whole group of disciples were a motley group of sinners. But something happened to Judas. He turned from a disciple to a betrayer. He was the treasurer for the apostles and was swallowed by his own greed. He shows us that the greatest outward privileges may be of no avail. He ultimately sold his soul for thirty pieces of silver.
Tradition has the disciples popping up just about everywhere in the world, and these records should be largely ignored. That the twelve continued to follow Christ and to preach the Good News of the Gospel cannot be either proved or disproved, but one would have expected that they were especially used by Jesus to encourage the believers who were coming to believe in Him, and they would, necessarily, have been the ones who would have been able to have repeated the sayings and miracles of Jesus as they had seen them first hand (John 15:27).
Before we close this morning let me ask you a question, Why choose twelve? We know that there appears to have been an inner "three" within the twelve that Jesus used to give special experiences to (Peter, James and John), so why, if the other nine weren't that important, didn't He just choose three?
This goes back to the very beginning of the original Israelite nation. The promise of God concerning a child had been originally given to Abram (Gen 15:1-6) and, from him, had passed through his child Isaac and then on to Jacob. From Jacob had come twelve sons who were to be the tribes that would make up the nation of Israel (Gen 49:28 is the first place where the twelve sons are spoken of as "the twelve tribes of Israel").
When the Exodus came about from Egypt, there was a slight rearranging of these tribes in that Levi became a distinct and separate priestly tribe given over to the service of God, and the tribe of Joseph was split into Mannasseh and Ephraim, his two sons. But the foundational structure of there being twelve sources through which each Israelite could trace their Jewish origins remained.
The nation was always considered from the time of the Exodus onwards to be one unit that was built upon the twelve sons of Jacob, even though there was a lot of swapping of which tribes were to be considered to be a part of the whole (see especially Rev 7:4-8 where there is a very radical reinterpretation of which twelve tribes constitute the nation).
When Jesus came, and to show that what He was beginning was something radically new, He chose twelve individuals to symbolize the rebirth of the nation - not that He was expecting each of the twelve to have sons and daughters by their wives and so to populate the world by natural offspring, but that they would be the prime movers in spreading the news of the rebirth into Christ throughout the world. Each of the twelve, therefore, were to be something similar to a spiritual patriarch from whom the growth of the Church would be assured.
They are to be the nucleus of the new Israel, the foundation of the new people of God, the new Temple of God (Ephesians 2.20), the Israel of God (Galatians 6.16).
By choosing twelve close followers, then, Jesus was also posing quite a challenge to the established religious leadership of His day for He was inferring that the old nation of Israel had failed to achieve what it had been called by God to do, and that, even now, God was by-passing the descendants of natural lineage to begin again with a spiritual lineage which relied upon faith and forgiveness, mercy and grace, rather than upon the minute extrapolation of legal requirements which had failed the nation so abysmally.
Why twelve? Jesus is reconstituting Israel. God in Christ was starting again - this time with a
new foundation - and the call was going out to all Jews to become a part of that move, to rely not
on their natural descent but upon the mercy and work of God. As such, twelve disciples was the
perfect number; not only to show the ending of the old but of the beginning of the new.
These 12 men were unremarkable men, but we must acknowledge that they accomplished remarkable things because of their relationship to the incomparable Lord! That is the emphasis by the Gospel writers. It was not the greatness of the apostles that led to the explosion of Christianity in the first century, but the supreme greatness of Jesus Christ and His power displayed through them. When we look at these men, we must realize that if God could use them, He can use us as He empowers us by His Spirit as kingdom messengers.
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