25 April 2021
Series: Hope Emerges
Book: Mark

How Would You Respond?

Bible Passage: Mark 3:7-21

Christ ignited vastly different reactions from the people he encountered. Some even thought He was crazy! How would you respond to Jesus? #HopeEmerges

Series: Hope Emerges – The Story of Jesus

Discussion Guide: Liar, Lunatic, or Lord?

How Would You Respond to Jesus?

Mark 3:7-21

I’ve always been intrigued and inspired by the reactions of people to others.  From the reactions to politicians that capture people’s passion positively or negatively, to videos of a soldier surprising his family after a long deployment, to my own children when their eyes light up at the presents under the Christmas tree.  

One of my wife’s favorite things about weddings is to see the look on the groom’s face the moment they see their bride for the first time.  She has encouraged me over the years to make it more defined by getting the groom to face me until I see the bride is positioned and ready to come down the aisle.  From the reaction of the groom to the beauty of his bride who is getting ready to commit herself to him to the mother who stands and sees her daughter, to the dad proudly escorting his daughter; each has a reaction and response that is priceless because it’s a once in a lifetime reaction. 

So I guess what I’m saying is that the older I get the more of a people watcher I become!  Therefore, it’s to no surprise that I’m deeply intrigued by the various responses to Jesus in Mark.  Today we arrive at a passage full of different responses.  Four totally different groups that respond to Jesus in totally different ways; not based so much on the identity of the group, but rather what the group perceives about the identity of Jesus.  I want to walk you through each of them because they are incredibly applicable to how people respond to Jesus still today – perhaps even how you respond to Jesus!

Mark 3:7-21 highlights 4 different groups who respond totally differently to Christ.

The 1st group is the crowds who are literally swarming around Jesus!

The crowds, now comprised of Jews and Gentiles, swarmed Jesus to be healed but didn’t care to know Him. (3:7-10)

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.

“Equally remarkable is the ethnic diversity of the crowd. Galilee, Judea, and Jerusalem were principally Jewish territories; Idumea and Transjordan were mixed Jewish-Gentile regions, and Tyre and Sidon were largely if not entirely Gentile regions (see Luke 6:17; Matt 11:21–22). The fame of Jesus is far-reaching and all-encompassing, which is all the more remarkable given the social cleavages of the day. The range of Jesus’ influence exceeds that of John the Baptizer, who had attracted crowds only from Jerusalem and Judea (1:5).” 1

“The narrative of opposition is interrupted here, and we are introduced to a scene of another kind. The multitude about Jesus heretofore has been from Galilee, with a sprinkling of hostile Scribes and Pharisees. But now we see it swelled by people from Judea and from the Gentile districts both north and south. It is an eager crowd, moreover, who fall upon him and threaten to crush him in their attempt to obtain his healing touch, so that Jesus has to procure a boat to be in attendance on him.” 2

“Pastoral and folksy stereotypes of Jesus surrounded by lambs and children are skewed caricatures of Mark’s description of Jesus’ early ministry in Galilee. The arrival of a popular leader jostled by crowds and hassled by reporters is more appropriate. The crowd is actually described rather menacingly. The word for “crowding” (Gk. thlibein) would better read “pressing” or “crushing”; and “pushing forward” suggests in Greek “mobbing” or “falling upon” Jesus. The crowd is a paradox. It needs to command Jesus’ attention, and Jesus is fully attentive to the misery present in its numbers, but its clamor is not a response of faith.” 3

The emphasis is that the crowds are coming not because of what He is teaching but because of what He is doing!  They even expressed awe from time to time in His teachings but are soon overcome with nothing but passion for His miracles of healing. They seem more than willing to worship Him in some manner, but only to receive the temporary benefits of His miracles.   In the end, they are not at all interested in what He is teaching, either about the Law or Himself!  They don’t want to know Him, they want to be healed by Him, which is why they are pressing in so dramatically!  

Ironically, it’s what He is teaching that ultimately points to what will eternally heal them!  His teachings were pointing them to repent, believe and follow Him!  His teachings were there to open their eyes to understand all that will be made clear in His death and resurrection!

The 2nd group is not a group of people but a group of demons.

The demons bowed before Him yet refused to worship Him. (3:11-12)

11Whenever 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.

“In addition to the Father (1:11), the demons are the only other party so far in Mark to confess Jesus’ divine Sonship (1:24; 3:11; 5:7).” 4

There is a huge difference between bowing in fear and bowing in worship, adoration, and a commitment to serve and follow!

“The word for “fall before” (Gk. prospiptein) occurs eight times in the NT, and in each instance save one it conveys the image of an inferior prostrating himself in homage before a superior. The word for “evil spirits” is in Greek “unclean spirits,” which is a Jewish formulation. The Greek word used to describe their sight of Jesus is theōrein, a word that is used frequently in John’s Gospel to connote inner comprehension, indeed almost faith. Its meaning falls short of this sense in Mark, however. In the seven uses of the term in Mark, it connotes a rather detached observation or spectating, without any sense of conviction in what is beheld.“ 5

“The emphasis falls not on exorcism per se but on Jesus subduing the demon world to his authority (see the Command to Silence at 1:34). The characteristic of Jesus’ divine authority over evil is Gk. epitiman (“he gave them strict orders”). Used in the OT of the word of God that prevails over both natural (Ps 106:9) and demonic (Zech 3:2) forces, epitiman represents the sovereign command of God to rebuke and subdue evil (1:25; 4:39; 9:25). Jesus’ authority over the demonic realm is total. Demonic forces are left with no other choice than to confess his sovereignty by their subjection.” 6

Homage is paid to Jesus not only by the vast multitude but by demon-possessed persons who prostrate themselves and cry out, “You are the Son of God!” Similar confessions are uttered by demons in 1:24 and 5:7. In each instance the narrative audience totally ignores the information provided by the unclean spirits; the spectators neither accept nor reject the identification. When Jesus later asks his disciples what opinion people hold concerning him, the answer provided by the disciples suggests that the public has paid no attention to the demoniacs (8:27–28). Therefore, Jesus’ silencing of the demons, is not a case of closing the barn door after the horse has escaped. It is Mark’s way of reminding his readers that the public revelation of Jesus’ identity must await his crucifixion. At his death, a Roman centurion will confess: “Truly this man was God’s Son” (15:39). 7

But for now, it’s important to see that bowing down in fear to God is not at all worshiping and following Him!  Understanding who He is, and all His power and authority does not equal faith!!  You can absolutely correctly understand who God is and yet have no faith in Him.  This is as much a contemporary issue in the Bible Belt as it is a reality of Satan and his demons.

The 3rd group is the closest follower of Christ, the 12 disciples.

The Disciples didn’t fully understand who He was but were totally committed to following Him. (3:13-18)

13 Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. 14 He appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach 15 and to have authority to drive out demons.16 These are the twelve he appointed: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter), 17 James son of Zebedee and his brother John (to them he gave the name Boanerges, which means “sons of thunder”), 18 Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot 19 and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

“It is fascinating to me that Jesus did not choose ten, or eight, or twenty. He chose twelve, certainly calling to mind the Old Testament structure of the twelve tribes of Israel. Twelve is not a common number in Hebrew numerology, but by choosing twelve disciples to become the twelve Apostles, Jesus established asymmetry between the church of the Old Testament and the church of the New Testament.” 8

“The simple prepositional phrase ‘to be with him’ has atomic significance in the Gospel of Mark. Discipleship is a relationship before it is a task, a ‘who’ before a ‘what.’” 9  This is a huge testimony to what Christ came to do, to make the way for us to be with God!  To be His children!  The point being, God wants to restore what we ultimately lost in the Garden – not the Garden (although he will in the new earth) but more importantly Him!

“The second purpose of the call is to be “sent.” In Greek the verbal form of the word for “apostle” (Apostolos) is apostellein, meaning “to commission” or “send with a specific purpose.” 10

“To modern ears “apostle” sounds like a title, that is, an indication of status, but in Jesus’ use, it was the designation of persons with a specific function. The Greek word Apostolos means someone who is sent. Jesus probably used shaliach, from the Hebrew verb “send.” In Judaism, this term pointed not simply to the fact that the person so designated was being sent on a specific mission (for example, to negotiate a marriage or a sale of property) but especially to the authorization conferred by the one who sent him. The shaliach was legally empowered to act on behalf of the sender. The concept is clearly reflected in this passage, where twelve are selected to be sent out to preach, that is, to extend Jesus’ message of 1:14–15 and to have authority to cast out demons. God has conferred on Jesus’ authority to proclaim the good news of God’s rule and to act out the good news by attacking the forces of evil (see my comments on 1:21–28). The twelve commissioned representatives receive delegated authority to participate in Jesus’ kingdom ministry.” 11

“Popular Judaism believed that the subduing of demons would characterize the messianic age. This is another example of Mark’s “implicit Christology,” namely, that Jesus’ authority and bearing point to the divine source behind his words and deeds.” 12

Throughout the Gospel, we see the Disciples were on the verge of understanding who He was but clearly didn’t until after the Resurrection, however, this didn’t stop them from following Him.  They have left everything to follow Jesus!   But, this passionate following doesn’t diminish the necessity of knowing who He actually is. Not understanding who He is why they didn’t look for His resurrection, and some like Thomas even doubted it even when they were told it happened.  You cannot truly follow whom you don’t correctly know. I can’t believe in something if I don’t have the correct knowledge about it. If you believe in something without the correct knowledge of what that something or someone is, then your faith is actually not in them but your version of them.  Imagine if your spouse never actually loved you but only the version of you they had made up in their mind and planted on you!  I’m not lessening the fact that they repented, left all they had, placed their faith in Jesus, and followed Him; but rather that there is no spiritual maturity, prosperity, or filling of the Holy Spirit in our life if our faith is not in the actual person of Jesus as defined by His Gospel.       

The 4th group is perhaps the group who knew Jesus the best, His family, and their response may shock you!

His family, who we presume sincerely cared for Jesus, accused Him of being insane. (3:20-21)

20 Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. 21 When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.”

“John 7:5 says that Jesus’ brothers did not believe in Him.” 13

“When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, ‘He is out of his mind.’ ” This startling statement is omitted by the parallels in Matt 12:22 and Luke 11:14. The Greek wording is even more explicit: “they went to seize him, believing that Jesus had gone berserk” (John 10:20). The word for “seize” (Gk. kratein) is regularly used by Mark in the sense of attempting to bind Jesus and deprive him of freedom, which is its sense here.” 14

“It appears that this was an attempt at a family intervention against one who had stirred up a great deal of controversy and hostility.” 15

“What is of importance is simply that they are unable to acknowledge his ministry as evidence of God’s activity, and therefore they must attribute his unusual conduct to madness.” 16

They are likely well aware that religious leaders are coming to disprove that he is the Messiah.  There was no mistaking the presence and demeanor of the Pharisees.  His family likely has no objection to His miracles of healing but His proclamations of being the Son of Man we’re going to get Him killed and possibly his family!  So they have literally come to take charge of Him because they honestly believe he’s gone crazy! C.S. Lewis is famous for his suggestion that you can come to some sort of objective conclusion that Jesus is a liar or a lunatic but we cannot conclude he is simply a healer or a teacher! He was clearly teaching that He was God in the flesh, that He was the promised Messiah; and even though He refused to let the demons have the privilege of announcing His coming, He was squarely proclaiming it so much so that the religious leaders were seeking to kill him!  He was claiming authority over the Sabbath and nobody but God has that! His family responds with an intervention to try and take authority over him making it very clear that they did not believe Him to be who He said He is.

Challenge: How are you responding to Jesus?

Are you believing in and following the Jesus of the Bible or a Jesus of your own making?

Are you responding to Him like the crowds (selfish/foolish)? – You only seek Him to get help in the situation you’re in?  You’re not really interested in letting go/repenting, believing in Him/finding your identity and Hope and Him, and as such surrendering your life to follow Him; you just want out of your mess, healing of your disease, direction on the career you are supposed to pursue, a promotion, rescue from the disaster you are in with your marriage, etc.  These are not bad things to want God to move and demonstrate His glory in, however, when our response to God is first and foremost or even exclusively about those things, then we are not understanding what He has to offer!  We are longing for the temporary more than the eternal, for the corruptible more than the incorruptible.

Are you responding to Him like the demons (hatred/cold)? – You know very well He’s God but you refuse to believe in Him and follow Him!  You fear God because you know He’s God, but your heart is cold towards Him and you refuse to let go of attempting to be your own God.  Your faith is in yourself, your values, and your ability to live life and therefore you have no intention of letting go, grabbing a hold of all He is, and following Him.  You are actually bothered by God being God because you much prefer yourself and potentially see yourself as an equivalent or even superior!

Are you responding like the disciples (ignorant)? – You’ve jumped on board the Jesus train but you got all kinds of agendas that are blurring your vision to who he fully is, but you’re on the train following Jesus and that’s huge.  The challenge is to see Jesus through the window we have of the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension; and not through the religious filters we all have.  The ones that bend the light into something it’s not, like those mirrors that make you look taller and skinnier or shorter and fatter.  Our response to Jesus is a constant attempt of asking God to clear our vision, to remove our agendas, and to open our eyes to who He is! 

Are you responding like his family (cynic)? – Unlike the demons who know He’s God, you refuse to believe He’s God and therefore you have no intention of following Him! You think this entire thing is ludicrous.  You’ve seen people who claim to be followers of Jesus but whose lives were a living testimony of hypocrisy and as such you have discounted the entire thing.  Maybe you grew up in a church that had no real love for God or anything other than themselves and as such you dismissed Christ instead of them.  Maybe you once had faith but you got your identity caught up in doing church, making the church your god, and in so doing you got burned because it isn’t God!  The problem is you made the church to be god and when the church failed you, your version of God failed you and therefore you tossed out any consideration of who Jesus claimed to be. In the end, the result is cynicism and a general refusal to even consider the worthiness of repenting, believing, and following Jesus.  Your rejection of Jesus, rejection of eternal life, rejection of actual hope is ultimately to your own demise.  The bitterness in your heart is only poison to yourself.  Will you stop looking at all the faults of everybody else, and instead see the condition of your own heart and repent, believe, and enter into the joy of following Him?

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Footnotes

  1.  Edwards, J. R. (2002). The Gospel according to Mark (p. 103). Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: Eerdmans; Apollos.
  2. Gould, E. P. (1922). A critical and exegetical commentary on the Gospel according to St. Mark (p. 54). New York: C. Scribner’s Sons.
  3. Edwards, J. R. (2002). The Gospel according to Mark (pp. 103–104). Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: Eerdmans; Apollos.
  4.  Edwards, J. R. (2002). The Gospel according to Mark (p. 104). Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: Eerdmans; Apollos.
  5. Edwards, J. R. (2002). The Gospel according to Mark (p. 104). Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: Eerdmans; Apollos.
  6. Edwards, J. R. (2002). The Gospel according to Mark (pp. 104–105). Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: Eerdmans; Apollos.
  7.  Hare, D. R. A. (1996). Mark. (P. D. Miller & D. L. Bartlett, Eds.) (pp. 45–46). Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press.
  8.  Sproul, R. C. (2011). Mark (First Edition, p. 62). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.
  9.  Edwards, J. R. (2002). The Gospel according to Mark (p. 113). Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: Eerdmans; Apollos.
  10.  Edwards, J. R. (2002). The Gospel according to Mark (p. 113). Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: Eerdmans; Apollos.
  11.  Hare, D. R. A. (1996). Mark. (P. D. Miller & D. L. Bartlett, Eds.) (p. 48). Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press.
  12. Edwards, J. R. (2002). The Gospel according to Mark (p. 114). Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: Eerdmans; Apollos.
  13. Branscomb, B. H. (n.d.). The Gospel of Mark. (J. Moffatt, Ed.) (p. 68). New York; London: Harper and Brothers Publishers.
  14.  Edwards, J. R. (2002). The Gospel according to Mark (p. 118). Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: Eerdmans; Apollos.
  15.  Sproul, R. C. (2011). Mark (First Edition, p. 66). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.
  16.  Hare, D. R. A. (1996). Mark. (P. D. Miller & D. L. Bartlett, Eds.) (p. 50). Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press.