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We live in the age of paparazzi … where the rich and famous cannot leave the sanctuary of their residence without being bombarded by the intrusive presence of people pressing upon them and taking snapshots of their every movement. We know very little of the pressures and the pitfalls that such attention and popularity create. Nobody was outside my home snapping my picture as I drove over this morning to preach.

When we study the short earthly ministry of Jesus, His rapid rise to popularity and fame is striking. Jesus had a mission that was targeted to reaching the masses; and yet that very mission created unique difficulties and challenges. Because the gospel message of repentance from sin and faith in Jesus Christ is a very personal message; it must be received personally; the new birth experience is not a widespread people movement but a one-on-one relationship with the living God. The pathway to discipleship involves an intimate fellowship and closeness with Jesus – it has nothing in common with a mob of people pressing to get close enough to Jesus for some type of isolated one-time magical touch that would solve their immediate needs.

Our passage today presents a series of 4 interactions that Jesus has with various groups of people – interactions in the context of His growing ministry popularity and the increasing opposition of religious leaders in particular.

We will see some of the Pitfalls of Ministry Popularity as we look at these 4 Pictures of the Master about His Father’s business


A. (:7-9) We are Amazed at the Popularity of Jesus

1. (:7-8) Magnitude of His Popularity

“And Jesus withdrew to the sea with His disciples; and a great multitude from Galilee followed; and also from Judea, 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.”

Hendriksen: According to the Father’s time-clock Calvary is still some distance away. For the present therefore the seashore is better suited to the Master’s purpose than the synagogue.

Constable: Mark described many people coming to Jesus from all over Jewish Palestine. “Jerusalem” was in “Judea” to the south. “Idumea,” named only here in the New Testament, was the old Edomite territory southeast of Judea. People also came from the east side of “the Jordan” River (Perea and the Decapolis), and from the Mediterranean coast to the northwest (“vicinity of Tyre and Sidon”). It is interesting that these locations form something of an outline of this Gospel. Jesus first ministered in Galilee (chs. 1—6), then in Tyre, Sidon, and the Decapolis (ch. 7), and finally in Jerusalem (chs. 10—16). Notably absent were people from Samaria, the land of Jewish iconoclasts who separated from the other Jews.

Stedman: I think we have difficulty grasping 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. . . You can see how Mark traces the emphasis upon the crowd throughout this division. In Verse 20, he says, “and the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat.” Then in Verse 32, “a crowd was sitting about him; …” And in Chapter 4, Verse 1: “Again he began to teach beside the sea. And a very large crowd gathered about him, …” And then, in Verse 36, Mark says, “And leaving the crowd,” they went across to the other side of the lake. In Chapter 5, Verse 21: “And when Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered about him; …” And in Verse 24: “And a great crowd followed him and thronged about him.” So this is the period when Jesus is pressed by the great masses of people, the period of his greatest popularity.

2. (:9) The Method to Deal with the Problems Caused by His Popularity

“And He told His disciples that a boat should stand ready for Him because of the multitude, in order that they might not crowd Him;”

MacArthur: What do you mean a boat? The diminutive is used in the Greek, a little boat, just a little boat.

B. (:10) We are Reminded of the Power of Jesus

“for He had healed many, with the result that all those who had afflictions pressed about Him in order to touch Him.”

People looking for a rabbit’s foot – someone who would meet their immediate physical needs

Stedman: All they wanted was healing. He wanted to preach. This is one of the things popularity does. It invariably distorts a message and emphasizes something secondary, making it paramount in the eyes of the people, so that they miss the point.

MacArthur: Now chapter 3 verse 7 to 12 is a good place to restart our study. It’s a good place because it’s a summary from chapter 1 verse 1 through chapter 3 verse 6, you kind of have the first act in Mark. And then you have a kind of summary. Summaries are good. Summaries look back and sort of gather up the truth. It is kind of like we’ve been watching a video, or watching a play unfold and it’s just constant action up to now. And all of a sudden, Mark hits the pause button in chapter 3 verses 7 to 12 and says, “Let me give you a still photo, let me give you a snapshot now. Let’s stop the action and let’s freeze the frame and sum up what we’ve learned.”

MacArthur: The results, back to verse 10, was that all those who had afflictions pressed around Him in order to touch Him. Affliction is fascinating. Afflictions is the word mastigos(?), it’s the Greek word for a scourge, a whip. It’s a funny way to refer to your illness, isn’t it? You can refer…we use the word affliction, it’s kind of a benign word in one sense, but the Greek word mastigos, is a whip, a scourge, it is the very word for scourge or whip.

Why would they refer to their illnesses and disabilities as a whip, as if someone is whipping them and scourging them? Because in their system of theology, anybody who had such an infirmity was under the judgment of…whom?…God, in their theology

C. (:11-12) We are Surprised at the Paradox of Jesus = Silencing Testimony About His Identity

1. (:11) Automatic Testimony of Demons

“And whenever the unclean spirits beheld Him, they would fall down before Him and cry out, saying, ‘You are the Son of God!’”

Utley: There is a series of three imperfect verbs in this verse which shows Jesus’ ongoing confrontation with the demonic.

“unclean” — Morally and spiritually filthy

“fall down” — Image of an inferior falling down in a subservient position before a superior

This is a no-contest event – no struggle or conflict involved her

2. (:12) Squelching of that Testimony

“And He earnestly warned them not to make Him known.”

Stedman: Well, we can be sure of one thing — these unclean spirits did not desire to advance the cause of Christ by their witness. They told the truth, but they did so because they knew it would hurt the cause of Jesus, not help it. They were out to mislead people about Christ. So something about the way they told this, though it was true, was nevertheless misleading, and that is what our Lord rejected. . .

These are the twelve whom Jesus selected. It is evident in the contrast between this paragraph and the previous one that Mark wants us to understand that the witness Jesus wanted was not pretentious claims and impressive titles from demons, true as they might have been, but rather he wanted the witness of changed lives and empowered words, of men who had been with him and whose lives were different as a result, who were sent out to say what they had heard and learned, and who therefore had power to speak authoritatively — even over the demons. This was the witness he chose. It is the witness he chooses yet today.

Application: Lord Jesus does not want the testimony of Christians who live in unclean fashion just like the world; He wants testimony coming from transformed lives that are on the pathway of holiness


A. (:13) Setting for the Commissioning

“And He went up to the mountain and summoned those whom He Himself wanted,

and they came to Him.”

Jeff Miller: One might get the impression from what Mark has recorded thus far that Jesus was rather aloof, not allowing folks to talk about Him and not getting too close to anyone. What follows will certainly put an end to such thoughts.

B. (:14-15) Scope of Ministry – 3 Key Functions

“And He appointed twelve,”

1. Personal Discipleship Based on Intimate Fellowship with Jesus

“that they might be with Him,”

Utley: Robert Coleman has authored two helpful books on Jesus’ methods: The Master Plan of Evangelism and The Master Plan of Discipleship, both of which deal with the growth of the early church using the same principles as Jesus.

2. Preaching the Gospel of Repentance and Faith

“and that He might send them out to preach,”

“Apostles” = ones who are sent out on a mission

3. Powerful Dominion Over Demons = Validation of Their Message and Ministry

“and to have authority to cast out the demons.”

Constable: Jesus also gave these disciples the ability (“authority”) “to cast out demons,” along with preaching. The miracles would convince many of their hearers that God had sent them as His spokesmen. Mark probably mentioned exorcisms because this was the greatest demonstration of the disciples’ authority, not the only one.

C. (:16-19) Specific Selection

“And He appointed the twelve:”

MacArthur: Twelve Apostles…why twelve? Because they constitute the new spiritual leadership of Israel. An unmistakable message is sent them to the leaders of Israel that they are unqualified, that they are exempted. An unmistakable message is sent to the nation that the corrupt leadership to which they have been subjected is rejected by God, judged and condemned. . . Throughout His ministry, Jesus attacks their spiritual bankruptcy, pride, hypocrisy, iniquity, cruelty and deceptiveness. And here He pronounces judgment on them while they’re planning His murder. The whole religion of Judaism is set aside for the gospel of grace. And in the future, there will be men who will speak the truth, they will preach the New Covenant gospel. They will preach repentance and forgiveness of sin by faith in Christ alone. They will preach the cross. They will preach the resurrection. But there are none of the leaders of Israel who are qualified for that. . .

You know, I love the simplicity of that organization. I love simplicity. I really do, especially organizational simplicity. I can’t think of anything more simple than this…pick twelve guys and pour your power through them. That’s what Jesus did. The church hasn’t changed, it’s the same thing today. Christ is the head of the church, His power flows through the men He picks to be the elders and the pastors and shepherds. That’s all the organization needs. . .

Apostle was a title with clout…delegated power. Now I can promise you this, these guys had never had a title with clout. Fishermen isn’t that kind of title. Zealot isn’t that kind of title. Tax collector isn’t that kind of title. Farmer isn’t that kind of title. They’ve now been elevated as the official agents of the divine King to act on His behalf for the benefit and exercise of His authority and Kingdom. This is unbelievable for these men. Wow…how high have they been lifted from such obscurity?

God does not choose on the basis of man’s wisdom and power:

1Cor. 1:25-29 “Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised, God has chosen, the things that are not, that He might nullify the things that are, that no man should boast before God.”

1. Peter

“Simon (to whom He gave the name Peter),”

Rock – calling him something he was not as yet – saw the potential in Simon

2. James and John

“and James, the son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James

(to them He gave the name Boanerges, which means, ‘Sons of Thunder ‘); “

Must be a reference to the tempestuous nature of their temperament – not exactly mild mannered

Luke 9:54 “Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” (the Samaritans who were not receiving Jesus)

3. Remaining Eight

“and Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Zealot;”

4. Traitorous Judas Iscariot

“and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed Him.”

Sovereignty of the Lord’s selection process; He chose them before they chose to be His disciples

MacArthur: They’re not the highest and the noblest and the best. They’re not the most educated, the most highly skilled, the most gifted, humanly speaking. The truth is, they basically are distinguished by one thing, that is they are ordinary. They have that in common. And they are…they are a motley, motley group. They are a very, very strange group. You couldn’t pull them together any other way than God doing it for His own purposes because of their divergence. While as many as seven of them might have been fishermen, you might have gotten seven guys together on that common ground. The others are so different in the things that they did and we know for sure only four are fishermen that there would be no reason to collect these men together, no reason for them to come together, live together, work together and minister together apart from the purposes of God. They are perfectly ordinary men in every way. Not one of them is renowned for scholarship. Not one of them is renowned for erudition. None of them had a track record as an orator or some kind of theologian. They were outsiders, total outsiders from the religious establishment of Jesus’ day. They didn’t have any particular natural talents. They don’t appear to have any particular intellectual talents. They weren’t highly educated. They were, on the other hand, prone to mistakes and misjudgments and misunderstandings and bad attitudes and lapses of faith and bitter failure and argumentativeness and no more so than their leader, Peter. And Jesus remarked that they were slow learners, they were spiritually dense. They were blockheads. . . They’re going to be the foundation of the church, Ephesians 2:20, the Apostles are the foundation of the church and it all depends on twelve men whose most notable characteristic is that they were just plain ordinary men.


A. (:20-22) Two Unjustified Attacks

1. (:20) Bizarre Situation – Seemingly Unhealthy

“And He came home, and the multitude gathered again,

to such an extent that they could not even eat a meal.”

Stedman: Mark’s intention is to underscore the weakness of popularity, the empty, hollow worthlessness of being popular, and how much damage and danger popularity produced in our Lord’s ministry.

Pressure of the crowds has been huge theme in this section – crowd pictured as pressing upon Him in a dangerous fashion

2. (:21) Unjustified Attack from His Own Family

“And when His own people heard of this, they went out to take custody of Him; for they were saying, ‘He has lost His senses.’”

Have you ever been accused of losing your mind over decisions you made and actions you took to follow Jesus?

They wanted to declare Jesus mentally incompetent and take custody of Him for His physical and mental protection

William Macdonald said it well: ‘It is always true that a man who is on fire for God seems deranged to his contemporaries. If we set out to make a fortune, men will cheer us; if we are a fanatic for Jesus Christ, they will jeer us’…

Constable: Jesus’ family members heard about His extreme busyness. The Greek term translated “His own people” (NASB, lit. “those with Him”) is an idiom meaning His family members, not just His friends. They felt concern for His health. Perhaps they worried that He was not eating properly. They may even have concluded that His overworked condition had affected His mental stability. They decided to come to Capernaum from Nazareth and take charge of Him for His own good. The Greek word kratesai (“take custody” or “take charge”) elsewhere describes arresting someone (cf. 6:17; 12:12; 14:1, 44, 46, 49, 51). Thus it appears that the best of intentions motivated Jesus’ family. However, they misread the evidence. He was not too busy nor was He out of His mind (cf. Acts 26:24; 2 Cor. 5:13). He was simply carrying out His Father’s will. Sometimes those who have concern for a disciple’s welfare apply pressure to depart from God’s will. This constitutes opposition, not assistance.

3. (:22) Unjustified Attack from the Religious Leaders

“And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying,

‘He is possessed by Beelzebul,’ and ‘He casts out the demons by the ruler of the demons.’”

Beelzebul is a reference to Satan here = the ruler of the demons

Utley: The “beel” reflects the Semitic word ba’al, which means “lord,” “owner,” “master,” or “husband.” It was the name for the fertility storm-god of Canaan.

The “zebul” can mean (1) heights (i.e., mountain or heaven); (2) prince (i.e., Zabul); or (3) dung. The Jews often changed the letters of foreign gods to form a derogatory pun.

Attributing the power of Jesus to the devil

Recognized that it was more than just magic; more than smoke and mirrors; no natural explanation; there must be a supernatural explanation; balked at acknowledging His claims to deity

B. (:23-27) Refutation of Religious Leaders

(:23a) Series of 5 Responses

“And He called them to Himself and began speaking to them in parables,”

Responds with a series of comparisons – speaking in the form of short proverbs or truisms that could not be denied

1. (:23b) First Response

“How can Satan cast out Satan?”

2. (:24) Second Response

“And if a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.”

3. (:25) Third Response

“And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.”

4. (:26) Fourth Response

“And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided,

he cannot stand, but he is finished!”

5. (:27) Fifth Response

“But no one can enter the strong man’s house and plunder his property

unless he first binds the strong man, and then he will plunder his house.”

C. (:28-30) The Curse of the Unpardonable Sin

“Truly I say to you, ‘all sins shall be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin’ — because they were saying, ‘He has an unclean spirit.’”

Graciousness of God to forgive all of the sins of men – whatever the kind or variety or perverseness

Was this a unique sin that could only be committed by those in the physical presence of Jesus Christ and the validations of His person and ministry?

People who worry about whether they have committed this sin, have nothing to fear

Stedman: And it is true, therefore, that if in the ultimate there is a rejection of Christ, then there is no hope, because there is no ground of forgiveness other than faith in the Lord Jesus. Men are forgiven when they believe in his name — and on no other basis. If that is set aside; ultimately and finally — this is not a single act of rejection which is in view, it is a process — if the heart is resistant and rejects the claims of Jesus as set forth by the Holy Spirit, the result is that there can be no forgiveness. This is Scripture’s sharp way of underscoring the fact which Jesus himself declared “No man comes unto the Father but by me,” {cf, John 14:6}.

Scott Grant: Those who persistently dismiss the saving work of the Holy Spirit through Jesus Christ as the work of evil run the risk of irrevocably placing themselves outside the kingdom of God.

Utley: In light of the above, this sin is committed by those who, in the presence of great light and understanding, still reject Jesus as God’s means of revelation and salvation. They turn the light of the gospel into the darkness of Satan (cf. Mark 3:30). They reject the Spirit’s drawing and conviction (cf. John 6:44,65). The unpardonable sin is not a rejection by God because of some single act or word, but the continual, ongoing rejection of God in Christ by willful unbelief (i.e., the scribes and Pharisees).


A. (:31-32) Close Ties to Physical Family Members

“And His mother and His brothers arrived, and standing outside they sent word to Him, and called Him. And a multitude was sitting around Him, and they said to Him, ‘Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are outside looking for You.’”

Family had traveled to Capernaum from Nazareth; now they arrive and are standing outside;

Another passage that supports the position that Mary, the mother of Jesus, gave birth to other children after Jesus

No mention of Joseph – perhaps he has died by now

What reaction might we have expected from Jesus?

Certainly he held family in high regard and respected his mother – cf. how while on the cross He made sure to provide for her care

Yet when it comes to being about His Father’s business, Jesus did not allow family to trump His ministry priorities – tricky applications for us – not encouraging us to blow off our parents and their concerns . . . as we mature and come to a point of adult independence – we continue to take counsel from our parents .. but must make our own decisions regarding the will of God for our lives and the focus of our ministry

Might end up doing some things where family members would think we have lost our minds .. but easy to abuse this as well

Important passage for children of believing parents – they are not included in the spiritual family just because of their physical connection

B. (:33-35) Greater Ties to Spiritual Family Members

“And answering them, He said, ‘Who are My mother and My brothers?’ And looking about on those who were sitting around Him, He said, ‘Behold, My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is My brother and sister and mother.’”

Look at the sense of community that Jesus teaches here

Importance of spiritual family members

Priority of obedience

Matt. 10:34-38 ‘Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me’.

Jeff Miller: One of the most profound prayers I’ve ever heard simply states:

“Dear God, Your will, nothing more, nothing less, nothing else. Amen.”


Rudyard Kipling on families:

“All of us are we—and everyone else is they. A family shares things like dreams, hopes, possessions, memories, smiles, frowns, and gladness… A family is a clan held together with the glue of love and the cement of mutual respect. A family is shelter from the storm, a friendly port when the waves of life become too wild. No person is ever alone who is a member of a family.”