The Crowd and the Disciples

The Crowd and the Disciples

The Crowd and the Disciples
Text: Mark 3:7–19

Main Idea: Jesus ministered to the countless masses but he poured his time and energy into twelve chosen men.


I.   The Unparalleled Scope of His Early Ministry (Mark 3:7–12)

II.  The Significant Development in God’s Redemptive Plan (Mark 3:13–19)

III. The Narrow Focus of His Disciple-Making Mission (Mark 3:13–19)

Mark 3:7–19

Whether we realize it or not, God is steadily at work fulfilling his promises and accomplishing his sovereign purposes. This is so much more than God knowing what is going to happen. This is God declaring before the foundation of the world, promising in space and time through the prophets, and bringing to completion through his ordained means for his glory.

And do you know the most amazing part? More often than not, God chooses to accomplish his sovereign purposes by raising up average men and women to both undertake and complete his sovereign plans… which is exactly what we see in text today.

  • Jesus shuns the teeming masses.
  • Jesus bypasses the cultured religious elite.
  • And he chooses 12 ordinary, fickle, hard-headed men to be his official representatives and the very foundation of the New Covenant community we know as the Church.

Main Idea: Jesus ministered to the countless masses but he poured his time and energy into twelve chosen men.

The Unparalleled Scope of His Early Ministry(Mark 3:7–12)

The Impressive Crowd

Mark wants is to see in this passage is that Jesus is not some regional back-water rabbi secretly teaching in the northern reaches of Israel… his ministry is far greater than his predecessor John the Baptist! People came from Jerusalem and Judea to see John (Mark 1:5); whereas, a multitudinous multitude are traveling from every point of the compass.

Galilee is a region that wraps around the western side of the Sea of Galilee.

Judea is the large region south of Galilee.

Jerusalem is the religious center of Israel.

Idumea is a region in the remote South bordering Egypt (120 miles away!).

Beyond the Jordan is everything east such as Decapolis and the region of Perea.

And finally, Tyre and Sidon which were located 50 miles north in the northern region of Iturea.

Now, this is impressive for a time in history where most people traveled by foot! But, commentators like David Garland point us to the fact that Mark is not merely trying to impress us with the massive crowd, but that he is, most likely, depicting this event as an initial fulfillment of Isaiah’s Messianic Prophecy.[2]

 Isaiah 43:5–7 Fear not, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, and from the westI will gather you. 6I will say to the north, Give up, and to the south, Do not withhold; bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, 7everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.”

But, even more interesting is the fact that these geographic areas are ethnically diverse.

Galilee, Judea, and Jerusalem were principally Jewish territories.

Idumea and beyond the Jordan were a mix of both Jewish and Gentile settlements.

Tyre and Sidon were, for the most part, Gentile cities

Ethnic diversity and salvation that Isaiah heralds as well.

Isaiah 43:8–11 Bring out the people who are blind, yet have eyes, who are deaf, yet have ears! 9All the nationsgather together, and the peoples assemble. Who among them can declare this, and show us the former things? Let them bring their witnesses to prove them right, and let them hear and say, It is true. 10You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me. 11I, I am the Lord, and besides me there is no savior.

Jesus is the promised Messiah. He has come to fulfill his promises to Israel and for the nations. He has come to save all who will believe in him…

The Chaotic Scene

Yet, as the crowd assembles, it becomes apparent that they are more interested in what Jesus “does” (3:8) that what he has to say.[3] They are more focused on his miracles than his message, forcing their way to the front of the line so that they can benefit from his healing touch. They don’tseethe supernatural truth that the demons clearly know—Jesus is the Son of God.

Notice, whenever demons are confronted by Jesus, they immediately fall down and immediately confess his true identity. There is no struggle or fight.So why does Jesus continue to silence these demons when they are proclaiming the truth about him? Just image if this crowd grasped his true identity—everything would be different!

I think—especially in this account—that he is preventing these demons from masquerading as agents of divine revelation or making it appear that their authority comes from the same place (the very accusation he will face in verse 22).[4]

Demons have better doctrine than most practicing Christians, but their sound doctrine never produces faith or joyful worship, it merely confirms their coming judgment (James 2:19). Supernatural truth severed from the regenerative work of the Holy Spirit is incapable of eliciting a positive response to the gospel because the Devil and his demons explicit work is to blind humans from the glory of God in Jesus Christ.

2 Corinthians 4:3–4And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

Jesus doesn’t cooperate with demons. Rather he binds them, and banishes them to the abyss because they are his unyielding enemies. Jesus doesn’t need their witness or their work. He will reveal himself to whom he will, as will, and when he will, which is what he does in verses 13–19. (Mark 3:13–15)

The Significant Development in God’s Redemptive Plan

A New Covenant People

Whether you realize it or not, this event is jam packed with redemptive-historical significance in that Jesus choses 12—not 11 or 13—disciples. What I mean by this is that a first-century Jew would have immediately seen in the 12 disciples a connection to the 12 tribes of Israel.[5] (Jacob’s 12 sons – Jesus 12 disciples)

Jesus is building his New Covenant people. And he is building it from ethnic Jews—a restored remnant of God’s Old Covenant people who would ultimately bless all the families of the earth through him.[6] This is something we have seen in out Gospel Foundations class on Sunday morning, God’s plan has always been bigger than Israel!

A Personal View

I know that there heated debate over the Church’s relationship to Israel. Here is my 90 second position. I do not believe the church “replaces” Israel. Rather, I believe that the church is the restored, New Covenant community that God had promised and that Israel’s prophets had been anticipating for centuries. A time when God would forgive his people’s sin, write his Law on their heart, and put his Holy Spirit within them so that they could finally walk in faithful obedience. The Church has always been God’s “plan A” for the redemption and restoration of mankind, Jews and Gentiles alike. But, lest we can disregard our older brothers Paul warns us:

Romans 11:25–27 Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. 26And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written, “The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob”; 27“and this will be my covenant with them when I take away their sins.”

I take this to be a promise that Jesus will call an incredible number of ethnic Jews to himself through the gospel before he returns. Now, we could spend the rest of our time unpacking the broader implications of this development… But, if we did we would completely miss out on the very practical aspects of his disciple-making mission as he transitions from the countless masses to 12 ordinary men.

The Narrow Focus of His Disciple Making Mission(Mark 3:13–19)

Called by His Divine Initiative  

The first thing that I want you to see in this section is that Jesus is completely flipping his culture’s discipleship model on its head. In the first-century, prospective disciples (learners) had to take the initiative and pursue the rabbi that they admired in hopes that they could prove themselves and be admitted to his inner circle.[7]Yet, in this account, Jesus calls 12 men “that he desired” out of the teaming masses to become his disciples.

Now, we might be tempted to think that Jesus picked the most qualified and gifted men for his team, like a NFL coach pursues the most talented prospects. But the reality is that, Mark persistently portrays these 12 men in a rather negative light, in that for the most part, they persistently struggle to grasp the true nature of Jesus’ message and mission.[8] Yet, in this divine calling see a glorious gospel truth. God loves to glorify himself by divinely choosing and using the least likely.

Deuteronomy 7:6–7 For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples.

 1 Corinthians 1:26–31 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 ButGod chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

Jesus doesn’t call the most qualified people to be his disciples, he qualifies and commissions the called.

Commissioned for His Sovereign Purpose

The Second thing I want you to see is the disciples’ Two Fold Mission: (1) “that they might be with him” and (2) “that he might send them out to preach and have authority to drive out demons.” In this we see first and foremost that discipleship is about attachment to Jesus himself; learning from him and learning about him so that we can rightly participate in his mission. Or as commentator James Edwards rightly observes, “Discipleship is a relationship before it is a task, a ‘who’ before a ‘what.’”[9]

These twelve men are going to spend the next three years traveling with Jesus to every corner of Israel on foot. They are going to have a front row seat to everything that he says and does. They are going to see him when he is happy, exhausted, sorrowful, and angry. And in all of this they are going to have the unique opportunity to learn how to live a life that reflects his character and embodies his mission. But, this training was not an end in itself because from the very beginning Jesus’ goal in discipleship is that he would send them out to do the very things that Jesus was already doing—preach the gospel and drive out demons (3:15).


Discipleship is always about preparing and launching individual disciples into personal ministry for Jesus’ gospel mission.

Discipleship is not merely a series of classes that help us understand the  Bible and Christian doctrine.

Discipleship is not just one-on-one meetings with another Christian.

Discipleship is certainly not a defensive posture which we try to shelter one another from the very real pressures of living in this present world.

Discipleship is a messy but worthwhile business that multiplies our effectiveness

What I mean by this is that learning by watching and doing usually involves some degree of failure. Not failure, as in, proven worthless. But, failure, as in, an opportunity to try and support when you don’t succeed.

A Coast Guard commander I knew in Kodiak put it this way as he was giving me a tour of his ship. “I love developing young officers so they can take command someday. But, developing new leaders is a messy job. See, as the Skipper, it’s my duty to teach every new ensign how to dock this vessel. And, it is one of the hardest jobs I do, because the only way they learn to do it right is by slamming my ship into someone else’s pier a couple times and wearing a hole in my multimillion dollar paint job.”

Jesus knew that the best way to train disciples was, first, to model his life before them, and second, to send them out to do it for themselves. People learn best not by reading manuals or hearing lectures, but by watching someone do something and then practicing it themselves. Hands-on training and meaningful feedback is key.

The apostle Paul followed very much the same method. He constantly encouraged his disciples and churches: “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Cor 11:1; cf. 4:16; Phil 3:17; 4:9; 1 Thess 1:6; 2 Thess 3:7–9; 2 Tim 2:2). And we know from his epistles, that as these men grew he launched them into ministry in every corner of the empire.

Because when we come down to it, discipleship is ultimately about training our replacements, whether that be replacements for next year or our replacements for the next generation.

Where are you in your disciple making journey today?

What opportunities do you need to pursue to continue growing and serving?

Who should you be discipling today?

[1]Robert H. Gundry, Mark: A Commentary on His Apology for the Cross(Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000), 157.

[2]David E. Garland, Mark, The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 127.

[3]Garland, Mark, 127.

[4]Garland, Mark, 127.

[5]“Jesus apparently presents himself in the position of Yahweh, who created and elected Israel as his covenant people;” (Mark L. Strauss, Mark, vol. 2 of Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament[Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2014], 159).

[6]Brent E. Parker, “The Israel-Christ-Church Relationship,” in Progressive Covenantalism: Charting a Course between Dispensational and Covenantal Theologies, ed. Dr Stephen J. Wellum and Brent E. Parker (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2016), 47.

[7]Walter W. Wessel and Mark L. Strauss, “Mark,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew–Mark, Revised Edition., eds. Tremper Longman III and David E. Garland (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010), 742.

[8]Mark 4:13, 40; 6:37, 52; 7:18; 8:4, 17–21, 32–33; 9:18–19, 31–32, 38–39; 10:13–14, 35–45.

[9]James R Edwards, The Gospel According to Mark, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002), 113.