We’re entering into a new section of Mark today, although it’s a short one. This passage is actually a counterpart to an earlier section we’ve already looked at in 1:35-45, where Jesus is mobbed by crowds. [These are the parallels: 1) Jesus went to desolate places – Jesus withdraws to a boat on the sea. 2) People searching, coming to him – a great crowd came to him. 3) The leper kneels to ask for healing – the crowds “fall upon” him for healing. 4) The leper seeks Jesus’ touch – the crowd seeks to touch Jesus. 5) There is geographical expansion in Jesus’ ministry around Galilee – and then throughout the region of Israel and beyond.]
And notice that these two stories about crowds and Jesus are on either side of the section on the five stories of conflict that we just finished.
A. Jesus is mobbed by crowds – Mark 1:35-45
B. Five stories of conflict – Mark 2-3:6
A1. Jesus is mobbed by even bigger crowds – Mark 3:7-12
It was the attraction of crowds by Jesus in the first section which led to opposition from various Jewish leaders. Yet this opposition did nothing to stop even more people coming to him.
Alright, let’s go through our passage and see what God has for us today.
7Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the sea . . .
He withdrew to get away. This means he left the city of Capernaum to the more remote seashore along the Sea of Galilee in that region.
It’s possible that this is in response to the threat against his life in 3:6. (This is how Matthew takes it – 12:15). But it may also just be that he’s trying to get away from the conflict and the crowds. Jesus did this, or tried to, from time to time as we will see in Mark 6:31 where he said to his disciples, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.”
In this case his attempt to get away didn’t work so well, as v. 7 goes on to say –
. . . and a great crowd followed, from Galilee and Judea 8and 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.
There are seven place designations in all. The crowd here is bigger than any before. Mark calls it a “great crowd.”
Despite the opposition of Jewish leaders, Jesus’ influence continues to grow throughout all Israel and beyond. People are hearing about what he’s doing and want to receive from him -just as they have heard others have received from him.
It’s interesting that the crowds even come from the areas connected to the leaders who oppose him. Idumea is where Herod the Great is from, whose family the Herodians support. And Judea and Jerusalem are the home base of the Pharisees and scribes.
9And he told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, lest they crush him . . .
Jesus takes action. He places a restriction on the crowd by getting into the boat. Verse 10 tells us why –
10for he had healed many, so that all who had diseases pressed around him to touch him.
The people in the crowd all wanted to touch him, not just see him or have him say something to them to be healed. So this actually presents a danger to Jesus that he will be trampled by the eager, and in some cases – desperate people in the crowd.
Although no specific healings are recorded, it’s assumed that he healed people in the crowd here as well. (Matthew 12:15 says he healed “all.”)
The phrase, “pressed around” more literally can be translated “fell upon” him. It parallels the very similar word in our next verse – “fell down before” him.
11And whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him . . .
- So those who wanted healing fell upon Jesus to try to touch him to be healed.
- And those who were demonized fell down before him, a position of humility.
and (they) cried out, “You are the Son of God.”
The demons are responding to Jesus’ authority and power. They kneel before him and say who he is. And what they say is correct. Jesus is the Son of God. This is what God called Jesus at his baptism in 1:11. And this is what Mark calls him in 1:1. Jesus is truly the Son of God and the Messiah or anointed one.
As we saw before, Mark tells us that the demons know who Jesus is (1:34). They’re from the spirit world and know these things.
12And he strictly ordered them not to make him known.
The demons know who he is, but others don’t yet understand this. And because demons aren’t the best witnesses and because Jesus wants to reveal himself in his own way and according to his own timing, he silences them. Just as he restricted the crowd, so he restricts the voices of the demons.
Again, no exorcisms are recorded, but it’s assumed that Jesus didn’t just silence them but also cast them out, as was his normal practice (e.g. Mark 1:25; 34).
Here are several things I would highlight for you from this brief passage:
1. Jesus’ amazing power and authority. This is the central theme of this whole part of Mark. In our story, Jesus can heal anyone. And he has complete power over demonic spirits. This teaches us that he has the power to save us whatever our need is; whatever our situation is. This is just who Jesus is.
2. By way of contrast, in this passage we learn what Jesus really wants. With regard to the crowds Jesus patiently ministered to their needs. But as John 2:24 says, “he did not entrust himself to them.” He knows that most of them are coming to him because they want something from him. This is very different than being a disciple, which involves confessing Jesus as God’s son and Messiah and sacrificing to follow him.
He also knows that the crowds are fickle. They like him now, but will eventually turn on him and yell for his crucifixion.
What Jesus really wants is not crowds. Crowds are not a mark of true success in the kingdom of God. What does Jesus want? Disciples who will give their lives for him. This is the mark of kingdom success. (See Luke 14:25-33; John 6:60-67)
With regard to the demons, they do correctly confess that Jesus is the “Son of God.” Yet this is meaningless because they do so, not out of allegiance to him, but from a position of disobedience. You can have right belief – and their confession is orthodox – but still be rejected by God. As James says, “even the demons believe that God is one – and shudder!” 1:19. What they believe is right, but it does them no good.
This is true for people as well. In Matthew 7:21 Jesus says, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” These people correctly called Jesus “Lord.” They knew who he was. They even did miracles in his name. But they’re rejected (7:23) because they don’t do God’s will as Jesus teaches this.
What does Jesus want? Not just a correct confession of who he is, he wants disciples who will obey his teaching.
3. Jesus’ patient love on full display in this story. Jesus’ ministry was grueling. It was very demanding – endless crowds with endless needs. Yet still he patiently ministered to them.
His ministry to the crowds, healing and casting out demons brings to mind two passages from Isaiah, which Matthew notes in his gospel. In his version of this story in Mark, Matthew quotes Isaiah 42:1-3. I’ll just highlight one phrase from this passage. It says, “a bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench.” (Matthew 12:20; Isaiah 42:3)
What a beautiful picture of Jesus caring for the weak and needy. The reed that is almost broken is not crushed. The wick that is barely burning is not extinguished. Jesus gently brings them healing and wholeness.
A second passage, Isaiah 53:4 is also quoted by Matthew. This comes from a different episode, but where Jesus is doing the same thing – healing and casting out demons. It notes that this ministry “was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: He took our illnesses and bore our diseases.’” Matthew 8:17; Isaiah 53:4. (It’s possible that Mark’s word for diseases alludes to Isaiah 53:4, more literally “afflictions.”)
Now we usually only apply this verse to Jesus’ death on the cross. But here Matthew shows us that Jesus bore human brokenness throughout his ministry – to bring healing. He takes on and bears their brokenness and gives them healing and wholeness.
Jesus’ labors during his ministry present a portrait to us of his love, which continues on today for each one of us. Just as he patiently ministered to and loved the crowds in his day, so he patiently ministers to and loves us in all of our brokenness and need and brings us his salvation.