Oct 14, 2012
Mark 3:7-19

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When dividing Jesus’ three year ministry into sections, your divisions would be:

  • Year 1.... the Period of Obscurity.

  • Year 2.... the Period of Popularity.

  • Year 3.... the Period of Opposition.

Though in the first three chapters of Mark’s Gospel Jesus’ ministry has already transitioned from “Obscurity” to “Popularity” - as we witnessed last week - Jesus picked a fight with the religious leaders which has sown seeds of a rising “Opposition.”

Mark 3:7-8 “But Jesus withdrew with His disciples to the sea. And a great multitude from Galilee followed Him, and from Judea and Jerusalem and Idumea and beyond the Jordan; and those from Tyre and Sidon, a great multitude, when they heard how many things He was doing, came to Him.” 

In order to keep the activity moving along you’ll notice that Mark - from time to time - will  transition from one event to another by interjecting himself into the story as a kind of narrator. 

Because Mark can’t include all the details of Jesus’ life, he does this as a literary technique to fast-forward the storyline when appropriate. We see a great example of this presented to us in these two verses.

Mark’s General Observations on Jesus’ Period of Popularity.... 

1. Jesus focused His ministry on the region of Galilee.... 

Mark tells us “a great multitude from Galilee followed Him.” 

Galilee consisted of 15 cities with more than a million residence. Though focusing on a population center would afford Jesus a natural audience.... Mark tells us....

2. Crowds came to Jesus from all over.... 

From the South, people came up from “Judea and Jerusalem....” 

  • This was the area located at the southern basin of the Jordan which paralleled the Dead Sea. It was the population center of what was remained of Southern Kingdom of Judah.

Further South, Mark says people came from “Idumea and beyond the Jordan....” 

  • “Idumea” was another name used to describe the ancient nation of Edom, which began at the southern tip of the Dead Sea and extended downward through the Sinai to the northern shore of the Red Sea. 

  • One of the cities of Edom was the rock, fortress city of Petra featured in one of the Indiana Jones movies.... today it’s located in the nation of Jordan.

North from Galilee, Mark says people came from “Tyre and Sidon....” 

  • These were two large Phoenician port cities situated on the banks of the Mediterranean Sea.... today this would be considered Syria.

3. The crowd that came to Jesus was “a great multitude....” 

Though it’s difficult to interpret what Mark means by “a great multitude,” some scholars estimate the crowds coming to Jesus during his Period of Popularity were in upwards of 50,000. Needless to say, Jesus drew a crowd.

4. The only publicity was word of mouth....

First Observation.... the best publicity is word of mouth....

Even today, with our sophisticated marketing and advertisement strategies, the best promotional tool is still word of mouth. We see Jesus’ ministry as a great example of this... We’re told by Mark that people came to see what Jesus was doing after “they heard how many things He was doing.” 

The idea conveyed by Mark is that people would come to Jesus from all over - have an experience with Jesus - go back home and naturally share their experience with others - which would result in the people who “heard” going to “see” if these things were true for themselves.... word of mouth promotions.

Over the last few years I have had many well-intentioned, Godly church members give me advice on what Calvary316 needs to do to grow and generate more exposure within the community. I’ve had people tell me we need too.... 

  • Advertise on the local radio.... 

  • Rent a billboard off of Highway 316.... 

  • Pay for a mass mailing campaign.... 

  • Scatter the surrounding neighborhoods with literature.... 

  • Engage in more community outreaches.... 

  • Facebook advertise or generate a stronger Google presence....

Don’t get me wrong the problem is not that any of these things are wrong or even unhelpful.... the problem comes back to two factors.... (A) they all cost money, and (B) they are all secondary to a more effective, free form of advertising.

Advertisers say the best form of advertisement is a satisfied customer. 

When someone has a great personal experience, they are more inclined to pass  along that experience to their friends, family, even acquaintances. It is this spreading of a positive, personal experience to another person that is so effective print and digital media desperately try to replicate this arbitrarily.

What’s my point.... the only way we’re going to see Calvary316 packed out on a Sunday morning is for the word to get out - to the people you know and come in contact with - the incredible things Jesus is doing in and through this place! 

Let me ask.... what’s the best way we can get the word out to the people you know and come in contact with.... local radio, a billboard, piece of mail, or by your personal, impassioned invitation? 

I know most of us hear this exhortation.... we understand the concept at large and  even agree with the premise (it’s a good thing to invite people to church), and yet.... in the end, the reality is that the majority of the congregation will still not invite a single person to church this week. As your pastor.... that’s a depressing reality.

In one of his best selling books Malcolm Gladwell defines the phenomena known by economists as “The Tipping Point” as “that magical moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire.” 

Unlike the spread of general “ideas, trends, or social behaviors,” when it comes to our situation there really is no mystery concerning the catalyst of “that magical moment” or even how things will ultimately “cross a threshold, tip, and spread like wildfire....” A work of God is always started by a moving of the Holy Spirit.

I want you to know as your pastor I’m praying, and hoping, and waiting for a spiritual tipping point to be sparked by the Holy Spirit inside each of of you.... 

A moment when the powerful wind of the Spirit so powerfully stokes the flames of your heart that a fire for the Gospel is produced.... 

A fire which burns so fervently that it’s only natural manifestation is to spread like wildfire to our surrounding communities. 

It is my sincere prayer that Calvary316 will be the ground zero for a new moving of God’s Spirit.... a spiritual epidemic of sorts!

This is what is so encouraging and exciting.... ideas (and in our case a fresh moving of God’s Spirit) have the ability to spread throughout a culture in the same pattern as a medical epidemic. Basically, when it comes to ideas, just like epidemics, it doesn’t take a lot of people to start something that can spread and have a huge impact! 

According to Gladwell, “Economists often talk about the 80 / 20 Principle, which is the idea that in any situation roughly 80 percent of the “work” will be done by 20 percent of the participants.... 

In most societies, 20 percent of criminals commit 80 percent of crimes. Twenty percent of motorists cause 80 percent of all accidents. Twenty percent of beer drinkers drink 80 percent of all beer.... 

When it comes to epidemics, though, this disproportionality becomes even more extreme: a tiny percentage of people do the majority of the work” when it comes to the spread of an idea." 

What this means is that a movement of God’s Spirit - a revival in the historical sense - a true and lasting work of God.... doesn’t require a large group of people to begin.... Mark tells us Jesus “withdrew with His disciples to the sea.” 

Think about it.... Jesus would choose 12 men - train them for the work of the ministry - fill them with the Holy Spirit - and light a fire within their hearts so hot that it would set the whole world ablaze for the Gospel! 

This morning may that same work of the Holy Spirit happen in this place and more importantly in our hearts! 

Second Observation.... 

(And this is more an observation specifically for Calvary316....) We observe from this story that when Jesus is at work in a powerful way - in a specific place - at a specific time - and His work is making such a radical impact on those present - that they return home and pass along their personal experience - distance no longer becomes a problem. 

Don’t forget they “heard” then “came” from great distances.

I’ve found that how far I’m willing to go is proportionally connected to how great I perceive to be the thing I’m pursuing.

For example.... if a trusted friend tells me about a fantastic new restaurant Jess and I need to go try out - and his description of the food and atmosphere wets my appetite and peaks my curiosity - I’ll drive almost anywhere to fill my belly with the best food I can find. Gas prices are set aside. My time becomes of no consideration. I’ll even spend money for the experience. 

If it’s perceived to be great, I’ll go the extra mile to try it out.

Though Calvary316 has a heart for our surrounding community, it’s a simple truth that we presently feature members who live all over the place. It really is amazing to think of the diversity of the people who gather to worship together on Sunday morning.

Our worship leader and his wife drive from downtown Atlanta. Your pastor lives in Snellville. We have members who drive from Grayson, Loganville, and Monroe. They come from Suwannee, Auburn, Winder, Bold Springs, and Bethlehem. We even have members who come from as far out as Athens (that’s like another state). 

And I know there is a general sentiment that your proximity makes inviting people to your church a frivolous exercise.... we falsely conclude Calvary316 is simply to far  from our local community. Let me challenge you to (first) ditch that notion....

  • To begin with, it’s clear you’ve found something at Calvary316 worthy of making the drive for. Who’s to say there aren’t other people in your area who would be willing to do the same. If your experience at Calvary316 wets an appetite for God’s Word and peaks a person’s curiosity.... if what God is doing here is perceived to be great, people will drive the extra mile to see if your right.
  • Secondly, don’t allow Satan to use proximity as your excuse. Understand, he’s looking for any reason he can to dissuade you from reaching the lost.

  • Finally, consider our diversity in a different context.... what if God has brought together a group of people from Atlanta to Athens, and all areas in between for this purpose..... that God desires to use Calvary316 to make an impact not just on one community, but rather a greater region. Could it be that God wants to use Calvary316 as a beacon that shines a light that can been seen from Peachtree Street in Atlanta to Broad Street in Athens?

Mark 3:9-12 “So He told His disciples that a small boat should be kept ready for Him because of the multitude, lest they should crush Him.... For He healed many, so that as many as had afflictions pressed about Him to touch Him.... And the unclean spirits, whenever they saw Him, fell down before Him and cried out, saying, “You are the Son of God....” But He sternly warned them that they should not make Him known.”

Observation: Ministry Requires Relational Balance

In a passage where Mark is summarizing the incredible ministry occurring during this season of Jesus’ ministry, he includes something interesting.... “Jesus told His disciples to keep a small boat ready for Him so He wouldn’t be crushed by the multitude.” 

Apparently there were times when so many people would press about Him that it became detrimental - if not down right dangerous - for Jesus to remain on the shore. 

  • Whether it be when you’re ministering to the family in need down the street....
  • The guy at work who’s marriage is on the rocks.... 
  • The teenage misfit you’re trying to mentor....
  • The friend you’re trying to encourage through some family struggles....

  • Whatever the ministry is or isn’t.... Jesus demonstrated an important principle for His ministry we’d be wise to consider for ours.... Jesus knew there were times when it was appropriate, healthy, and necessary to create a little distance between Himself and the people He was there to minister too.... something to consider....

Mark 3:13-19 “And Jesus went up on the mountain and called to Him those He Himself wanted. And they came to Him.... Then He appointed twelve, that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach.... and to have power to heal sicknesses and to cast out demons.... Simon, to whom He gave the name Peter.... James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James, to whom He gave the name “Sons of Thunder”.... Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Cananite (zealot, “dagger-man”).... and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed Him. And they went into a house.”

Scene of Activity

Jesus created for Himself some “alone time.” He got away from the multitudes - grabbed His North Face gear - His DoubleNest Hammock - and He went for a mountain hike. 

Luke tells us He spent the whole night in prayer. 

Understand, Jesus was at a critical point in His ministry. The “Period of Popularity” was coming to an end, and He was about to enter the final year.... a “Period of Opposition.” 

Because He had offended the traditions of the religious leadership, they had joined with the Herodians to plot His destruction. 

Sure “a great multitude” followed Him, but they were becoming increasingly uninterested in spiritual things.... and in many ways flocked out with the wrong motivations. They came to be wowed by Jesus. The came as consumers, not worshipers. They were a fickle mob who could quickly turned against Him if He didn’t fulfill their expectations. 

It’s interesting to think that with all of these dynamics at play Jesus would decided it was time to appoint twelve disciples from the multitude of followers. 

Two questions come to mind.... 

1. Why spend all night in prayer?

As crazy as it would seem, it would be with these men Jesus would start the church.... one commentator observed that this was one of the most important decisions Jesus would make in ministry. Prayer was crucial.

2. Why would Jesus only choose 12 men when He could have easily selected more from the multitude that followed Him? 

These men would form the nucleus to be the foundation of a new chosen people. As Israel had 12 tribes, Jesus would have 12 disciples.

Observation #1: Jesus Defines the Job of a Disciple

1. A Disciple should walk with Jesus. 

Mark says, “He appointed twelve, that they might be with Him....” 

Though in the Greek the word used for “disciple” simply means “student,” in the context of the religious culture of Jesus day the word implied much more than this. A better translation would be the English word “apprentice.” 

A disciple’s job was more than learning what a rabbi believed or how he thought.... this could have been accomplished in a classroom or school of some kind.... a disciple’s job was instead to learn how a rabbi lived. This could only be accomplished by living with the rabbi. 

Jesus had a multitude of people who followed Him, but He hand-selected these twelve men to be His disciples. They were to be His “apprentices.” They were to be with Him so they could receive one-on-one training. They needed to learn not only what Jesus believed, but they needed to observe how He lived. And why....?

2. A Disciple should represent Jesus.

Mark continues, “He appointed twelve.... that He might send them out....to basically do the things He had been doing....

A disciple was to live with the master, so by proximity to the master he could learn what the master would do - what he would say - how he might act or react to any given situation.... the idea was for a disciple to become so familiar and in sync with his master that he could effectively represent the master in his absence.

The purpose of the training of these 12 men would be very simple.... Learn what Jesus did and then go out and do it. In essence, “Be like Jesus.” Do what Jesus did.

In much the same way our call to discipleship should begin with a relationship with the Master. We should walk with Jesus, so.... we can effectively represent Jesus to the lost world around us!

Observation #2: Jesus Defines the Criteria for Discipleship!

If you were going to choose 12 men to start your church with, and ultimately ask them to represent you once you left.... can we agree these 12 men would not have made your list? Don’t forget.... Jesus knew these men, and yet He still chose them after spending a night in prayer!

Simon, to whom He gave the name Peter....” Peter was impulsive. He was arrogant. He was proud. He couldn’t figure out when to shut up. And He would deny knowing Jesus on three occasions following His arrest.

James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, to whom He gave the name “Sons of Thunder”....” These men were ambitious to a fault, and it seems from their nickname were a little hot headed. When Jesus was denied entry into a Samaritan town they proposed raining down fire from heaven to kill everyone.

Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, James the son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus.... are so well known.... the only thing we can say for certain is that they also turned their backs on Jesus following His arrest.

Thomas.... is known for one thing.... doubting. 

Matthew and Simon the Cananite (zealot, “dagger-man”).... You have a revolutionary who took pride in killing Romans - coupled with a Jewish traitor who made a living collecting taxes for the hated Romans.

And Judas Iscariot.... who betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver!

Here’s the big question.... If Jesus calls men and women to be His disciples.... from the precedent established with these 12.... (A) Under what criteria does He make His selections, and (B) Am I a worthy candidate? 

Jesus’ criteria was based not on who these men were without Him, but rather who He could make them into. All of these misfits (except Judas) would be used by God in amazing ways, but only after spending time walking with Jesus, and only after being empowered with the Holy Spirit were they able to effectively represent Him. 

If these men were worthy candidates to be disciples, we all are.

Which leads us back to Judas.... Why would Jesus choose Judas? 

First, Jesus didn’t choose Jesus because He didn’t know how Judas would turn out. Jesus told His disciples that when He chose them, He knew one of them was a devil. It was no surprise to Jesus that Judas ultimately betrayed Him.

Personally I believe Jesus included Judas in His story to illustrate one profound truth.... no person can destroy God’s plan for your life. 

Don’t get me wrong there are plenty of things you can do to destroy certain aspects of God’s plan for your life, but understand no man has such a profound influence over your destiny as to derail God’s will. 

This should be a great encouragement to many of us.... there are times when we find ourselves at the mercy of others. We get hurt. We’re taken advantage of. We’re mistreated. We find ourselves betrayed. But take heart.... 

Judas, as evil and malicious as he was, could not destroy God’s will for Jesus’ life. No man has the power to destroy God’s sovereign will for you.

A man once asked a theologian, “Why did Jesus choose Judas Iscariot to be his disciple?” The teacher replied, “I don’t know, but I have an even harder question: Why did Jesus choose me?