Mark 3:7 – 3:19

(A Bible Study Led by Dr. Larry Reynolds – February 23, 2012)


If you’ve been following the outline of Mark I distributed at the beginning of this study, you know that in this session we are moving into the third major section of Mark’s Gospel. 

·         1:1-13 is the introduction that lays the groundwork for the public ministry of Jesus.  These verses focus on three things:

o   John the Baptist as the one sent by God to be the forerunner to the Messiah as prophesied by Isaiah and Malachi (1:2-8)

o   The baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist (1:9-11)

o   The temptation experience of Jesus in the Judean wilderness (1:12-13)

·         1:14-3:6 tells of the early ministry of Jesus in Galilee.  In this section of Mark we see:

o   A summary of the preaching of Jesus (1:14-15)

o   The call of two sets of brothers to follow Jesus—Peter & Andrew and James & John (1:16-20)

o   Various demonstrations of the authority of Jesus over demons and disease (1:21-45)

o   A series of five conflicts between Jesus and the Jewish religious leaders that result in the religious leaders deciding that Jesus must be destroyed (2:1-3:6)

The next major section of Mark’s Gospel is from 3:7 – 6:6a.  In this section we have a summary Jesus’ later ministry in the area of Galilee.  In this larger section are six major movements:

1.      An introductory summary of Jesus’ Galilean ministry (3:7-12)

2.      The choosing of the twelve (3:13-19)

3.      Scandalous accusations from His own family and from the scribes from Jerusalem (3:20-35)

4.      Parables about the Kingdom of God (4:1-34)

5.      A series of miracles demonstrating His power (4:35-5:43)

6.      Rejection by the people of His hometown of Nazareth (6:1-6a)

In this session we will focus on the first two of those six movements.


An introductory summary of Jesus’ Galilean ministry (3:7-12)


“And Jesus withdrew to the sea with His disciples…” – There are several interesting things that should be noted about this statement:

·         The theme of Jesus withdrawing either for prayer or for rest or to spend time with His disciples in private or to escape His enemies is very prevalent in Mark’s Gospel.  No less than eleven times Mark mentions the withdrawals of Jesus.  (See Mark 1:12; 6:31, 46; 7:24, 31; 9:2; 10:1; 14:34-35)

·         The reason for this withdrawal is stated in v.6 which read last week...some very powerful people were out to get Him...the Pharisees and Herodians had formed an alliance to do away with Jesus...rather strange partners...the Pharisees were religious group, desiring uphold traditions of Judaism...Herodians were political group, desiring keep Herod Antipas in power...had diametrically opposite ideas about what was best for future of Israel, but they united because they found common enemy in Jesus... both groups misunderstood Jesus and unfairly attacked Him...because Jesus didn't observe their ridiculous rules about the Sabbath and fasting, Pharisees accused Him of being a religious heretic...because He attracted great crowds the Herodians suspected He would lead a revolt against Herod...imagine that!...what could possibly be more unfair than accusing the Son of God of heresy and the Prince of Peace of being a warmonger?  [APPLICATION:  The next time you're misunderstood or falsely accused or unfairly attacked, instead of striking back or becoming bitter and angry (which is our natural reaction), remember that Jesus understands what you are experiencing and turn to Him for help...]

·         The “sea” referred to is the Sea of Galilee, which is little more than a lake.  The bulk of Jesus’ ministry in Galilee centered around this body of water.


“…a great multitude…” – This exact phrase is used in both verse 7 and verse 8.  The word “great,” polu (πολυ), is in an emphatic position, and calls attention to the fact that it was an exceptionally large crowd. The crowd did not gather in an hour. Mark’s descriptions are sometimes fragmentary, and the gaps must be filled in by the Spirit-taught reader. It evidently took some time for this vast assemblage to gather together.[1]


“… from Galilee followed; and also from Judea, and from Jerusalem, and from Idumea, and beyond the Jordan, and the vicinity of Tyre and Sidon…” - The geographical locations mentioned by Mark--Galilee, Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, beyond the Jordan, Tyre and Sidon-- indicated the people came from north, south, east, and west...His fame had become very widespread...


VERSES 9-10 - So many people were pressing upon Him, Jesus told disciples have boat ready in case He needed get away from crowd... that's kind of like being in situation where we keep the car running and the doors open for a quick getaway!

“…in order that they might not crowd Him…” - The word is thlibō (θλιβω), “to press hard upon.” It is so used when speaking of pressing grapes so as to extract the juice. Jesus stayed with the crowds, for they needed Him. But He found it necessary to protect Himself from them, since they might crush Him. Therefore He asked that a little boat be always kept in readiness and in close to the shore so as to be able to take Him off at a moment’s notice, should the crowd throng Him and thus crush Him. [2]


“…pressed about Him in order to touch Him…” – The word translated “pressed” is a compound word.  The first part is a preposition meaning on and the last part is a very meaning to fall.  Literally the text says that people were falling all over Him.  The scene is one of frantic commotion.  The crowd was in a frenzy.  Everywhere Jesus turned there was someone seeking to touch Him.  [APPLICATION:  There is a sense in which this is a sad scene.  The people were mobbing Jesus for the wrong reason.  They wanted something that was, at best, temporary.  They did not understand that His primary mission was not fixing temporary physical problems; His primary mission was to address humanity’s spiritual problem which has eternal implications.  Anytime we are more concerned about or interested in what Jesus can do for us in the present rather than in the eternal, we are guilty of the same thing.]


VERSES 11-12

“…unclean spirits…” – It is not clear in this passage whether the unclean spirits were in some of the people healed by Jesus or whether the reference is the beings in the spiritual world that were visible only to Jesus.  Either way, the meaning of the passage is the same.

“You are the Son of God!” – The unclean spirits recognized the true identity of Jesus.  This is one of the major NT titles for Jesus. … It occurs in the NT over 124 times. [3]

“…earnestly warned them not to make Him known…” – This is the third time we have come across a statement like this in Mark’s Gospel (see 1:34, 44). This is the continuing emphasis on “the Messianic Secret” in Mark. Jesus, by word and deed, is fully revealed as the Messiah early in Mark, but because of the misunderstanding of (1) the Jewish leadership (i.e. Messiah as national hero restoring Israel to world prominence) and (2) the crowd (i.e. Messiah as miracle worker), Jesus admonishes several different people not to broadcast their knowledge of Him. The gospel is only finished after His life, death, resurrection, and ascension.[4]  



The choosing of the twelve (3:13-19)


“…He went up to the mountain…” - Taken by itself, that phrase may not seem very significant...that's because Mark does not spell out for us Jesus' reason for going to the mountain or hill, as the word can mean...but Luke's account of this same event provides some important details...Luke tells us several things not found in Mark's account...

·         Luke tells us Jesus’ purpose for going to the mountain…Luke 6:12 says that Jesus went to the mountain to pray…He needed to get away from the press of the crowds for a while and commune with the Father…

·         Luke tells us the duration of Jesus time on the mountain…Luke 6:12 says that “…he spent the whole night in prayer to God…”  It was after this night of prayer that Jesus “…summoned those whom He wanted…” as Mark 3:13 puts it.  The clear implication is that Jesus carefully sought the Father’s will before choosing the twelve disciples.

·         After calling the twelve to Him, Jesus delivered His most famous sermon while He was on the mountain or hill—the Sermon on the Mount.  Matthew and Luke record the sermon, but Mark does not.  That’s because, as we saw at the beginning of this study, Mark focused more on what Jesus did than on what Jesus said.


VERSES 14-15 – Mark has already pointed out that Jesus had numerous disciples by this time in His ministry.  Among those disciples were “the twelve.”  The number “12” has special significance in the Scripture.  This is a well-known Hebrew symbol derived by multiplying number for world (4) by number for divinity (3).  It stands for organized religion in the world, thus there are 12 tribes of Israel and 12 apostles.  Some manuscripts insert the phrase “whom He named apostles” after the word “twelve” in verse 14 but most scholars say that was probably a later addition to Mark.  While the twelve were apostles, Mark just refers to them as the twelve (see 4:10; 6:7; 9:35; 10:32; 11:11; 14:10, 17, 20, 43), but he makes it clear, as we shall see in a moment, that they were given the task of being apostles. 


Obviously, these men had already been involved in Jesus’ ministry.  Some of them have already been mentioned by name in Mark’s Gospel.  But this is the account of their official calling out by Jesus and commissioning.  This verse tells us that Jesus summoned them for two reasons:

·         “…that they might be with Him…” – The meaning is that they might be closely associated with Him for the purpose of training.

·         “…that He might send them out…” – The verb is apostello from which the word apostle is derived.  It means one sent on a mission as an authorized representative of another.  These men were called to go into the world on mission for Jesus, doing what He did—preaching the gospel and engaging in spiritual warfare.


VERSES 16-19The Twelve are mentioned in the NT four times (cf. Matt. 10:2–4; Mark 3:16–19; Luke 6:14–16; and Acts 1:13 [identical to Matt. 10:2–4]). The list always appears in four groups of three people. The order often changes within the groups (but Peter is always first and Judas Iscariot is always last). [5] With the exception of Peter and possibly John, we actually know very little about the twelve. 


First Group – Peter, James, & John – This was the inner circle around Jesus

“Simon” – The nickname of Peter (petros is Greek and cephas in Aramaic) means rock.  He was the obvious leader of the group.  He was impetuous and hot-tempered, often speaking before thinking.  As we have seen, he was the source for Mark’s Gospel.  Tradition says he was crucified upside down in Rome.


“James … John … sons of Zebedee” – Jesus gave them the nickname Boanerges, which is Aramaic for Sons of Thunder…apparently, like their fisherman friend Peter, they had a short fuse…we see them living up to that name in Luke 9:54 when they wanted to call down fire from heaven to wipe out an entire Samaritan village that did not welcome Jesus and His companions.  James was the first of the apostles to be martyred (Acts 12:2).  Tradition says that John was the only apostle not to die a martyr, living to a very old age in Ephesus.  To this day there is a tomb in Ephesus that some claim is the burial place of John.


Second Group – Andrew, Philip, & Bartholomew (Nathaniel)

“Andrew” – The Greek term means “manly.”  From John 1:29–42 we learn that Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist and that he introduced his brother, Peter, to Jesus.  According to tradition Andrew preached to the Scythians [modern day Georgia] and Thracians [modern day Bulgaria], and was crucified, suspended on an olive tree, in Achaia [Greece]; and there too he was buried.


“Philip” – He was from Bethsaida along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, the same hometown as Peter and Andrew.  His call is described in John 1:43–51.  He immediately found Nathanael and brought Him to Jesus.  This is probably not the same Philip described in the book of Acts going to preach in Samaria.  Tradition says Philip preached in Phrygia, and was crucified in Hierapolis with his head downward in the time of Domitian, and was buried there.

“Bartholomew” – Also known as Nathanael.  Jesus described him in John 1:47 as “…an Israelite in whom is not guile.”  Tradition says he preached in India and was eventually crucified upside down in Armenai (modern day Georgia). 

Third Group


“Matthew” – We saw the account of his call in our study several weeks ago from Mark 2:14.  His name means “gift of YHWH.”  Tradition says he preached in Parthia (modern day Iran) and died there.

 Thomas The Hebrew term means “twin” or Didymus.  He is known as “doubting Thomas” because he demanded evidence of Jesus resurrection.  Tradition says he preached over a wide area, ending up in India where he was killed with a spear..

“James” This is the Hebrew name “Jacob.” There are two men named James in the list of the Twelve. One is the brother of John (cf. v. 17) and part of the inner circle (i.e. Peter, James, and John). This one is known as James the son of Alphaeus and sometimes as James the less.  Tradition says he was stoned to death while preaching in Jerusalem.

Fourth Group

“Thaddaeus” - He was also called “Lebbeus” (Matt. 10:3) or “Judas, son of James” (John 14:22).  His name means mean “beloved child.”  Tradition says he preached in the area of Mesopotamia and is buried there.

“Simon the Zealot” – The word Mark uses to describe Simon is actually Cananaean, which probably means he was from Galilean town of Cana.  Luke calls him a zealot which is the word used to describe anti-Roman firebrands who wanted to incite a rebellion against Rome.  They actually succeeded and the result was the destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman general Titus in 70 A.D.  Tradition says he became leader of the church in Jerusalem after the death of James.

“Judas Iscariot” - Of course, he was the one who betrayed Jesus.  “Iscariot” has two possible derivations: (1) man of Kerioth in Judah (cf. Josh. 15:23) or (2) “dagger man” or assassin, which would mean he was also a zealot, like Simon.  Judas’ motive for betraying Jesus is a mystery.  Some speculate he was trying to motivate Jesus to take a stand against Rome.  When Judas saw the result of his betrayal, he committed suicide.


There are a couple of things we can learn from this list of disciples:


1.      Wherever the people of God gather, there will be a diversity of personalities, interests, tastes, preferences, and ideas.  In The Glorious Company  Avery Lee makes this perceptive statement about the make-up of the twelve Jesus chose: "Some had strong personalities, and some were passive.  Among the disciples were leaders and followers. There were differences of temperament:   Peter, impulsive and quick to act; John, more contemplative, but with a short‑tempered fuse.  They differed in spiritual attitude: Nathanael, quick to believe; Thomas, slow and hesitant.  There were also political differences; Matthew, a collaborator with Rome; Simon, a resister of Rome. Some were firebrands, wanting to throw a fire bomb into a crowd to get rid of those they didn't like.  Some were ambitious, asking their mother to use her influence to get them top positions. One was a traitor to the cause.  They disputed and argued among themselves....This was not an easy group to mold into a cohesive unit."  That’s just a reminder that we should not discourage diversity, we should celebrate it!


2.      From what Jesus did in the lives of the twelve, we see His power to change our lives.

·         Simon, inconsistent and wavering, became Peter, the rock...

·         John, one of the "Sons of Thunder" because of his hot temper, became the apostle of love...

·         Andrew, who spent his life as rather anonymous person in shadow of his dominating brother Peter, became the patron saint of three nations...

·         Thomas, the skeptic, became great man of faith...

·         Simon, the subversive terrorist, became a zealot for Jesus...

·         Matthew, the hated tax collector, became a gospel writer...


3.      From the mission Jesus gave them, stated in last part of v.15, "that He might sent them out to preach" we are reminded of the mission He has given us, His disciples in our world...

[1] Wuest, K. S. (1997). Wuest's word studies from the Greek New Testament : For the English reader (Mk 3:7). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.

[2] Wuest, K. S. (1997). Wuest's word studies from the Greek New Testament : For the English reader (Mk 3:9). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.

[3] Utley, R. J. D. (2001). Vol. Volume 2: The Gospel According to Peter: Mark and I & II Peter. Study Guide Commentary Series (41). Marshall, Texas: Bible Lessons International.

[4] Utley, R. J. D. (2001). Vol. Volume 2: The Gospel According to Peter: Mark and I & II Peter. Study Guide Commentary Series (41). Marshall, Texas: Bible Lessons International.

[5] Utley, R. J. D. (2001). Vol. Volume 2: The Gospel According to Peter: Mark and I & II Peter. Study Guide Commentary Series (42). Marshall, Texas: Bible Lessons International.