Last week in the book of Mark we discussed the three overarching points that Mark is trying to get across to us in his Gospel. We saw all three points incapsulated in the statement that Jesus made where he said, “So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” This pointed to Jesus being God, because he fully understands why the Sabbath was created, because he himself is the Creator. This also pointed to Jesus being our example, because he strips away the things that are unneeded, and only those things that he requires of us are left behind. Finally this statement that Jesus makes, points to his authority, because he is the Lord over all and his word on the subject is final.
Also last week, we talked about the main point of the passage, and what that meant for us. The point of the passage was not about what the Sabbath was, it’s not about when we are suppose to observe it, and it’s not about what we can do on it. The main point of the passage was to help us understand that there are things in our lives that we try to add to God’s word, that shouldn’t be there. It’s these things that we have added, that need to be stripped away, and allow God to speak his truth as it was meant to be spoken. Just like our bodies need water, so too our lives need the pure word of God. Anything else that is added, just needs to be taken away.
As we get into today’s passage starting in Mark 3:7. I want to share with you a glimpse into the struggle of this week for me. The passage we are going to read today, can be taken as two separate passages. And if we were doing a deeper study of these verses, we would do just that. We would take this passage split them in two, because there is a lot that could be dissected. But, the more and more I read this passage, the more and more I felt God laying it on me that we needed to look at it as a whole. Because, that’s what we do on Sunday mornings. We take God’s word and try to look at the verses in a bigger light. This is done so that we can see the overarching points God is trying to make. On Sunday nights at 6pm, that’s when we look to dissect the passage more in depth.
So, we’re going to start in Mark chapter 3 verse 7, and read all the way through verse 19. It’s 13 verses, but in the end I think it is the best approach for today. So let’s start reading in verse 7 of Mark chapter 3.
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, Id-u-me-a, and the regions across the Jordan and around Ty-re and Si-don. 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. 11 Whenever 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.
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 Bo-an-er-gees, which means “sons of thunder”), 18 Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Al-phee-us, Thad-dee-us, Simon the Zealot 19 and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.
So there’s a lot here. There’s the crowds from all over. And we’re not just talking short distances. Some people are traveling up to 100 miles to come see Jesus from places like Idumea, which was in the far-far south. That’s like anyone of us, walking to Yuma or Lake Havasu, or even Buckeye. And to what? Go see Jesus? I don’t know, I’ve never gone out of my way to see any speaker. Life gets in the way too easily. And at this point it’s just rumors and hearsay about this man from Nazareth. People might say that he is healing people of all diseases, but is he really? 100 miles is a long way to walk for a rumor. But people are doing it. So much so, that they’re pushing to get at him, and he has to literally get on a boat so that he has enough room to teach them.
So on one hand this passage is talking about the huge crowds traveling vast distances to see Jesus. On the other hand, Jesus is still dealing with demons that want to announce that he is the Son of God. Again something that Jesus wants people to realize on their own, and especially not from a demonic source. But that will actually be more important next week. So we have the crowds, and the demons. And all of this is taking place at sea level.
But then we have a third hand. Why a third hand, I don’t know, but it’s the other, other hand. This third hand is Jesus calling of the Twelve. Twelve of his closet disciples, that he is going to send out to preach with the “authority to drive out demons,” as it says in the text. And then it lists exactly who those twelve are. And this is all done on a mountainside.
So we have two hands where Jesus is at the sea. One of those hands is about the crowds from all over the area and beyond. The other hand is about Jesus silencing the demons so that people will know him based on their own understanding. And our weird final hand being the calling of the Twelve closest disciples to preach and cast out demons. So, yeah, there’s a lot going on. But what does that mean for us?
What are we to take away from all of this? Well, as I went through these two separate sections again and again and again, there was one thing that caught my eye. And it’s this little phrase from verse 9, “Because of the crowd he told his disciples to have a small boat ready for him…”
Now this doesn’t seem like a big deal. And it doesn’t seem like the focus of the passage, but really, I think it is. Not to say that this phrase is the most important thing that is going on. Each of the three hands that we talked about earlier are very important. But my question is why? Why do we get this first section of the crowds and the demons where it is. We know people are following him, so is Mark trying to bolster the idea that Jesus is becoming more and more popular? I don’t think so. Because, why not talk more about it, and give us some numbers? On the other hand, we know that Jesus has power over demons, but we’ve seen it before in chapter 1, why do we need to see it again. Is this to help us know that he has power over many different demons. That could be true, but then why is the calling of the Twelve right after this?
I mean, that seems to be disconnected to the passage after the calling of the Twelve. In fact, it seems even more disconnected, because as we’ll see next week, Mark continues showing us Jesus’ teaching about demons, not focusing at all on the twelve’s work. So why? Why are these two passages of Scripture together?
As I prayed about this passage and this phrase, “Because of the crowd he told his disciples to have a small boat ready for him…”, God took me back away from the passage. I had to go back and think about what we have already read and I realized something. Up to this point, the disciples have done nothing but eat. Jesus heals Peter’s mother-in-law, she served them food. Jesus calls Levi to follow, Levi invites them to a dinner. They’re all walking in the fields, the disciples are eating grain. Man, it seems like when Jesus said fisher’s of men, the thought of food just stuck in their brain. Because, all that it seems they’ve been doing so far, is eating.
So, why does this phrase, “Because of the crowd he told his disciples to have a small boat ready for him…” from verse 9 stand out? Because it is the first time that the disciples are required to act. It is the first time that we see Jesus giving them something to do. Before this point, the disciples have been on the receiving end. They have been on the feasting end. But now, it’s their time. It’s their time to start working. It’s their time to start participating. It’s their time to start doing what Jesus had called them to do. And it all started with this phrase, “Because of the crowd he told his disciples to have a small boat ready for him…”
This is what it all boils down to, you and I need to prepare small boats. What does that mean? It means, that you and I need to start being used by God for something. Something that is needed, but not necessarily something big. I don’t know why Jesus chose the twelve disciples that he did. Was it because they were the first? I don’t know. Was it because he knew certain things were going to play out a certain way, I don’t know. Maybe it was. Maybe they were the ones that got the boat. I don’t know.
But what I do know, is that Mark tells us that Jesus called the disciples to get him a boat, and then Mark tells us that he called the Twelve. And these are the twelve Jesus sent out to be mini-mes of Jesus. Preaching and casting out demons.
And Mark made it a point that only one betrayed Jesus, that means that the other eleven went on to spend the rest of their lives in service to Jesus. In service until they died.
Now, we’re going to get a little uncomfortable here. We in the church too often are at the feast. We are the receivers, just like the disciples were. And some of us, at one time or another did our boat duty. We were getting Jesus all sizes of boats. Big boats, small boats, boats of kids, boats of adults, boats of teaching, and boats of this this-that-and-the-other-thing. But now we’re back in the feast again, thinking that our service is done. The reality is, it’s not. A Jesus disciple’s work is to prepare boats. It’s to do as the master wants. This past week, preparing for something completely different, I came up with 10 different needs, that I now see are boat needs here in our church. Jobs that are not huge, that are not going to break the bank or break anyone’s body to do. Rather, they are small needs, small boats, that need to be done.
My question is, do we think that it’s okay just to feast with the Savior, without bringing him the boat when needed? This week my challenge is this. Come up with three new boats that you can bring to Jesus. Three things that are needed in the ministry whether at your church up north, or your church down south. Then, work in them. If you are willing to forego the feast and start preparing the boat, then your in a place for Jesus to use you. Just like the disciples whom Jesus used. So that none of us are simply just feasting, without working for the Savior.
Now may God reveal to you the boat he wants you to prepare for him, and may it bring glory to him as we are used for his purposes. Amen