Learning from Christ's Ministry | Mark 3:7–12

Learning from Christ's Ministry | Mark 3:7–12
Shaun Marksbury | Morning Service | 22 April, 2017

This passage gives us a review of all that we’ve seen in the ministry of Christ until this point.  It will serve as a launching point for the disciples in the next passage, for Christ is about to send them out in His Name.  Just as they still had to learn from His ministry, so do we, if we are His disciples.  We will see the wisdom of our Lord, the wonders of our Lord, and the warfare of our Lord.



Sermon Notes
Learning from Christ's Ministry | Mark 3:7–12
Shaun Marksbury | Morning Service | 22 April, 2017

I.               Introduction

Steve Lawson, preaching on this text, notes that this is the midst of the year of popularity.  1:1–1:15 covers His first year, which was spent in obscurity.  From 1:16 until chapter six is His year of popularity.  The end of six through the rest of this gospel is the third year.  So, this gospel is back-loaded, and we’ll spend more time not only in His final year, but in His final week.

Here, though, we see the Lord reaching the height of popularity.  He’s known on earth and hated by the scribes and Pharisees, the object of curiosity for others, and hope for a few.  We’ll see the demons know Him as well, and He silences them.  Of course, since the Son came to earth, He’s known in heaven.  As Martin Luther famously said that he was well known in heaven, on earth, and in hell, so is our Lord, and that is a perfect model for ministry.

This passage gives us a review of all that we’ve seen in the ministry of Christ until this point.  It will serve as a launching point for the disciples in the next passage, for Christ is about to send them out in His Name.  Just as they still had to learn from His ministry, so do we, if we are His disciples.  We will see the wisdom of our Lord, the wonders of our Lord, and the warfare of our Lord. 

II.            The Wisdom of Our Lord’s Ministry (vv. 7a)

Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the sea,

It seems He withdrew because He knew there was a plot against Him.  Remember v. 6, “The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.” The Herodians were a political party in Israel that supported the Roman-appointed King Herod.  As such, the Herodians were Hellenist Jews, those who embraced the Greek and Roman world around them, not practicing separation like the Pharisees.  The Pharisees would typically not engage in work with these compromisers, so animosity against Jesus is making strange bedfellows.

We talked about that last time.  We also highlighted that Jesus chose to do good on the Sabbath, not evil through inaction.  The Pharisees, on the other hand, pursued evil on the Sabbath through conspiracy to murder.  This shows just how lost and hypocritical they were.

Matthew 12:15 thankfully reveals that Jesus perceived this plot.  So, He and His disciples retreated according to this verse.  We’ll talk about why in just a moment.

We mentioned the disciples, some of whom have already been named.  Jesus He had more disciples beyond that.  He’ll name twelve in the next verses, but passages like this show that He had a good number of people following Him.  Unfortunately, many would eventually leave (Jn 2:2:23–25; 6:66).

The fact that they are with Jesus now, though, indicates a shared danger.  One commentator notes, “With his disciples, placed emphatically before the verb in the original, suggests that they intimately shared His alienation from the Jewish leaders.  Their association with Him in the withdrawal seems to have prepared them for a larger position in the work soon to be assigned to them.”[1]

The world hates Jesus, and it will hate them—and you and I must always remember that we’ll never be greater than our master in this regard (Jn 15:18–20).  I’m not saying that we shouldn’t take care not to give undue offence, but neither should we strive for acceptance in the world.  We certainly should never love the world (1 John 2:15–16).  “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?” (2 Cor 6:14).  Such is reality.

Still, we might ask, “Why did He and His disciples withdraw at all?”  He certainly would not react out of fear of man; this merely demonstrates the prudence in retreat.  In other words, He operates just like He did in the temptation, where He quoted from Dt 6:16—“ You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.”  He did not passively wait.  He did not “let go and let God.”  With the boat ready, He had a strategic exit for Himself and His disciples if an attack should come or if too many people press them. 

We should follow His example—not tempting the Lord, but using our God-given brains.  That’s why Christians buckle their seatbelts when they get in the car.  They look both ways before crossing the street.  That’s why they get immunizations, insurance, and savings accounts.  Beloved, it’s not more spiritual to fly by the seat of your pants and trust God for the outcome.  And in the case of persecution, He gave instruction in Mt 10:23, “When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next.” 

Now, His wisdom is seen in much more here.  For instance, the openness of the seaside provided an area for the large crowds that the narrow streets of Capernaum could not.  Clearly, He has planned and chosen the optimal location for continued ministry.  So, this is hardly defeat for our Lord—it demonstrates His wisdom.

Job 12:13 says, “With God are wisdom and might; he has counsel and understanding.”  Romans 11:13 says, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!”  In fact, Romans 16:27 calls Him “the only wise God.”  He’s the only source of wisdom, which is why James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.”

III.         The Wonders of Our Lord’s Ministry (vv. 7b–10)

and a great crowd followed, from Galilee and Judea and Jerusalem and Idumea and from beyond the Jordan and from 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, 10 for he had healed many, so that all who had diseases pressed around him to touch him.

A lot of people have confusion about the Bible, especially in recent years.  Some have thought it to be unreliable concerning the events it reports.  They’ve thought, for instance, that the later disciples of Christ made up stories about Him.  They’ve wondered if, perhaps, Mark is smaller because it has earlier, less fantastic stories about Jesus.  It indeed has eyewitness testimony, but it records signs and miracles throughout. 

The level of detail here points to eyewitness testimony.  The areas in vv. 7–8 are all geographically located around the area in which Christ is ministering and historically verified.  In fact, the text gives two groups—those who followed Him in Galilee and those who traveled from afar to see Christ. 

Indeed, Mark shows Christ obscuring John the Baptist’s area of impact while recording this.  Idumea is an area south of Judea populated in the past by Edomites; the point here is that people traveled almost 100 miles north to see the Lord.  They also came from the east, from what would be today the Transjordan.  Tyre and Sidon are north, Phonecian cities, in modern-day Lebanon.  There are perhaps thousands and tens of thousands coming to hear Him; Mark 1:5 says that John the Baptist was pulling mainly from Judea and Jerusalem.

The writer also has other eyewitness hints.  He remembers not only that Jesus had a boat ready, but a “small boat” as the NKJV correctly translates v. 9 (later, in 4:1, Jesus stands in a regular boat).  Mark even knows that Jesus had arranged all this beforehand!

Note also the level of the testimony of the miraculous.   In v. 8, they came because they “heard all that he was doing,” and in v. 10, they sought to touch Him in hopes of being healed.  This hints at Jesus somehow exuding healing power.  Later, the woman who suffered with blood discharge was healed by secreting a touch (5:24–34).  Anywhere He went, people received healing who sought to touch even the fringes of His garments (6:56).  It’s clear that Mark presents an omnipotent Jesus Christ.

This is, of course, a disorganized throng trying to get to Jesus, falling over themselves to touch Him.  Such worship is seen in other situations—how the crowds fall onto doorbusters on Black Fridays, for instance.  What a contrast with those of v. 6—some sought Jesus, and others sought to kill Him.

It’s worth noting that, regardless of the healing, people didn’t come because of what Jesus was teaching.  They’re hoping for a miracle, just like many people opening the Bible for the first time.  It’s trustworthy, and so is the Christ it presents.  However, what Jesus has to say is far more important than any miracle He imparts to the crowds. 

The reason for the healing ministry of Christ was to prove His preaching ministry.  Remember the healing of the paralytic in Mark 2:10—He healed “that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.”  His message never wavered; “Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, 15 and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel’ ” (1:14–15).

If you want to hear the voice of God, open the Bible.  Read the Scripture, mediate on it, repent, and believe in the gospel.  As Colossians 3:16 says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.”

IV.         The Warfare of Our Lord’s Ministry (vv. 11–12)

11 And whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God.” 12 And he strictly ordered them not to make him known.

Popular cinema and other forms of media have portrayed spiritual warfare as a mystical extension of human conflict.  Humans fight with swords and fists in the mud, while angels might do so in aerial displays of grace and power.  Christians are taught to involve themselves by speaking words binding evil spirits until supernatural authorities can cart away the tempters.  When compared to such rhetoric, true spiritual warfare may not seem as spectacular, but it is far more effective.

It’s the presence of Jesus that brings demons to their knees.  True spiritual warfare is fought by Christ and His Word.  That is why we are commanded to “be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might” (Eph 6:10).  We can stand only in the armor He provides us (vv. 11–13).  Our only weapon is the sword of His Word (v. 17), and we must always be in prayer to Him (v. 18). 

Demons know Who Jesus is.  However, here we see that Jesus isn’t going to allow the demon to reveal too much about Him too soon.  Jesus knows many Jews have the wrong idea about what it is to be the Son of God and the Messiah.  If He does not control the flow of information, He might be prematurely crucified, or He could inadvertently spark rebellion against Rome.  As such, this is Christ exercising divine control over the spiritual realm.  He has a great deal of teaching remaining, and He ensures everything proceeds according to the definite plan of God (Acts 2:23; 4:28).

It isn’t our ability that wins spiritual battles—not our standing and fighting, our testimony, our declaring or binding.  As the Sons of Sceva learned, it isn’t even saying the name “Jesus” that’s enough to drive out demons (Acts 19:11–17).  Again, it isn’t our ability that wins spiritual battles.

Instead, the Lord with and residing in His children causes demons to fall (cf. 1 Jn 4:4—“for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world”).  In fact, the imperfect tense of the verbs in the Greek here indicate that the demons kept falling down and He kept rebuking them.  He muzzles them like He quelled the storm (4:39).  Remember that Jesus’s authority over the demonic realm astonished the people (1:27), and we should be resting in His authority.

Those indwelt with the Holy Spirit have the Spirit of Christ (cf. 1 Pt 1:11)—and Christians must prayerfully rest in His strength and Word to win the spiritual victories of the day.

V.            Final Thoughts

We’ve seen a model for ministry today.  We could say that, if we want a ministry like our Lord’s, we should also plan to be prudent in our dealings, work miracles or be wonderful, and engage in battle—but such an application would be to make a hash of Scripture.  The Bible is about Jesus and His kingdom, so we must see that wisdom, wonder, and warfare all belong to Him.  We will not have ministries pleasing to Him if we make them about ourselves or the people we serve—we must make our ministry about the glory of God (1 Cor 10:31).

It starts with knowing Him, with exalting Him for all the work He has already accomplished.  Just like the disciples had to know Christ and learn His ways, we too must sit at His feet with Bibles and prayerful hearts open.  We must also learn dependence upon Him—seeking Him for wisdom to apply His Word and leaving the wonders and the warfare to Him.  May we walk in obedience as we seek to serve in whatever capacity He providentially has for us, to His glory.

[1] D. Edmond Heibert, The Book of Mark, 89.

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