7 Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the lake, and a large crowd from Galilee followed. 8 When they heard about all he was doing, many people came to him from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, and the regions across the Jordan and around Tyre and Sidon. 9 Because of the crowd he told his disciples to have a small boat ready for him, to keep the people from crowding him. 10 For he had healed many, so that those with diseases were pushing forward to touch him. 11 Whenever the impure spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God.”12 But he gave them strict orders not to tell others about him.
(Mark 3:7-12 NIV)
After Jesus’ confrontation with the Pharisees in the synagogue in yesterday’s text, we see Jesus heading outdoors to Lake Genesserat. This was familiar territory, where Jesus called Peter and Andrew, James and John, and probably not far from where He called Levi (Matthew).
In the parallel passage in today’s story, Matthew tells us that Jesus withdrew from city and synagogue to the sea because He was aware of the Pharisees’ plot to kill Him. Was Jesus scared? No. Was He running away from the Pharisees? No. To borrow a common phrase from the Gospel of John, Jesus’ “hour had not yet come”.
Verse 7 tells us that people from all over the region of Galilee were coming to see Jesus. Verse 8 tells us that His renown had already spread beyond Galilee to the surrounding regions. People were coming from as far as Jerusalem, 100 miles away. In Jesus’ day, Jerusalem would be 3 to 4 days’ walk one way. As we’ll see in subsequent chapters, the towns mentioned in verse 8 are the very places Jesus will visit during His ministry.
Jesus’ ministry in this story appeared to be mostly healing. Mark does not mention anything about Jesus preaching to the crowds. The people were flocking to Jesus for what they could get from Him – healing for their ailments. Verse 10 tells us that the crowds were crushing in around Jesus. The crowds were not patiently waiting for Him to address their needs; they were pressing in to touch Him so they might be healed.
In fact, Jesus felt the physical danger for Himself and His disciples so much that He told His disciples to prepare a boat in case the crowds got too overwhelming (v. 9). Jesus had His way of escape if the situation got out of hand.
Verse 11 tells us that the evil spirits in people were also responding to Jesus, proclaiming His deity, similar to the incident in chapter 1 (see 1:25). And just like the incident in chapter 1, Jesus commands the unclean spirits to be silent (v. 12). The impure spirits were declaring Jesus as the Son of God, not in worship of Him as Lord, but calling Him out as an adversary. As we have discussed before, Jesus had not yet revealed Himself as Messiah – that comes later. For now, Jesus’ ministry was preaching the news of repentance.
Jesus delayed telling everyone that He was Messiah because they were not ready to hear that message yet. The Jewish people were looking for a military Messiah; Jesus came as a suffering servant. The Jewish leaders were focused on casting off their Roman overlords; Jesus had come to take away the sins of the world. The Jews’ vision of victory was focused on the Jewish flag flying over the land as a sovereign state; Jesus’ goal was ruling over all eternity in heaven.
Are our vision and goals aligned with those of Jesus? Or are we spending our time and energy trying to establish a temporary heaven here on earth, looking only after our comfort and convenience?
May we pursue the larger objective and trust the Lord for all the little stuff of life.
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
(Matthew 6:25-34 NIV, Jesus speaking)