Every family has its phrases that are part of their family lore. One of ours is from a time when one of our sons was about 3. He was pitching a fit at dinner and nothing satisfied him. He didn’t want the food. He didn’t want anything to drink. Finally in exasperation I asked him, “Do you know what you want?” And without any hesitation, he replied, “What?” He didn’t know what he wanted either and his question was hopeful that maybe, maybe I knew what he wanted or needed that would solve his evident misery. Do you know what you want?
Do you know what you want from Jesus? A lot of times we think we do know what we want but it ends up being not at all what we really want or need. We want success or we want wealth or health. We ask incessantly and sometimes like a child demand it or try to manipulate Jesus into giving us what we think we want. But do we really know what we want? In the passage we look at this morning, we see two responses to Jesus. The crowds surrounding Jesus knew what they wanted: healing and miracles! Those appointed as Apostles. Those appointed as Apostles didn’t have a clue what they wanted but Jesus lovingly and sovereignly gives them what they really wanted and needed. Let’s read Mark 3:7-19.
I. Let’s look first at the crowds in verses 7-12.
Jesus is still in the area around the Sea of Galilee. Jesus was healing those in need and throngs were following him and wanting more. In fact, Mark says that the crowds were pressing toward him, hoping to merely touch him and be relieved of their sufferings. They clearly only saw Jesus as a miracle worker and they wanted relief. So Jesus withdraws to the Sea of Galilee. Now why here? The retreat to the sea is related to an area that represents the sphere of Satan. That it is the realm of evil is seen in verse 11 where the demons there see Jesus and fall down before him. There is a great irony here as seen when comparing the crowds with the demons. The demons know that Jesus is the Son of God and they bow before him. The multitude think only in terms of a miracle worker to whom they turn for selfish reasons and so they only want what they can get from Jesus.
Why does Mark list all the areas from which the people have come in verses 7-8? The several regions give a comprehensive description for Israel and its neighbors. Galilee, Judea and Jerusalem represent Israel proper. Idumea, Transjordan and the region of the coastal cities of Tyre and Sidon represent the southern, eastern and northwestern borders of the land. These districts listed are important in the Mark’s development of the Gospel. In Mark’s story, Jesus is active in all the places with the exception of Idumea. His entrance into Galilee is reported in 1:14. He visits the Transjordan in 5:1 and the regions of Tyre and Sidon in 7:24, 31. He goes to the territories of Judea and Transjordan in 10:1 and finally enters Jerusalem in 11:11. Mark is giving an outline of sorts of all the areas where Jesus will go.
Among the crowd were also the demon possessed. Notice that the demons addressed Jesus as the divine Son of God. Why? It was believed that if you knew the precise name or quality of a person it implied that you were master over him. The name “Son of God” is a recognition of the true status of their adversary. But Jesus did not allow them to continue their useless noise. With sovereign authority he strictly ordered them to not tell anyone who he was. In this encounter God’s authority confronted demonic authority and God won. More importantly, the revelation of Jesus as the Son of God would be done on Jesus’ terms, not those of Satan or his demons. Before Jesus’ sovereign word of rebuke the demons were helpless.
In verse 13, we read that Jesus went up on a mountainside. We have no idea where this mountain was or which mountain it was. Yet the fact that Jesus went up on a mountain is significant for the mountain is the place of revelation as seen in Sinai in the Exodus. On the mountain God reveals his plan and his will through Jesus to the twelve. Mark says that Jesus simply called those he wanted and they came to him. The call of Jesus simply is really a summons, as seen elsewhere in Mark. One has the clear feeling that they had to respond to Jesus’ call. Jesus simply chose these twelve and from now on Mark refers to the disciples of Jesus is “The Twelve.” The Twelve represent in a new form the people of the twelve tribes of Israel. The Twelve reflect backward on the prior history of the people of God as the people of the twelve tribes. They now will represent the final form of God’s chosen community, the new creation of God and the new people of God found in the church.
The list in verses 16-19 is comprehensive and makes us wonder who these men were. The list is headed by Simon whose call to discipleship occurred already in Mark 1:16. Simon is his Jewish name but Jesus will later rename him Peter for he would be given a specific task to be the rock in the early church. The introduction of the two sons of Zebedee next is appropriate. Soon Peter, James and John would be a privileged group within the Twelve. James and John are given the surname “sons of thunder,” which is appropriate given the fiery outbursts they show later on in the gospel. While Simon and Andrew were called together, Andrew is listed after James and John. He ranks high in the list as one who had followed Jesus from the very beginning.
The names which follow, with the exception of Judas and Simon the Zealot, do not occur again in Mark’s account and these men remain a bit mysterious. Philip is a Greek name, but Jewish forms of this name appear in the Talmud. Bartholomew is not a proper name and so it is likely that this disciple had a personal name as well. Matthew is a common Jewish name and it is probable that this man is Levi who was called to discipleship in chapter 2:14. Thomas is an Aramaic name meaning “twin”. James, the son of Alphaeus is unknown apart for the apostolic lists. If he is the brother of Levi, who is also designated as the “son of Alphaeus” then there were three pairs of brothers among the Twelve. Thaddeus is next but in Luke-Acts his place is taken by Judas, the son of James. It may be that Judas is correct but that Thaddeus was the disciple’s preferred name. Simon the Zealot has this name because he was jealous or zealous for the honor of God. Then there is Judas, whose name Iscariot identifies him as the man from the village of Karioth. The stigma of betrayal of the Lord is attached to his name.
III. And so the question for us today is this: “Who will we be?”
It is clear that many Christians today are like the multitudes as described here. They reflect the nature of the crowds in that they are following Jesus and expecting him to give them what they want. We see it in how some are wanting to be in power in the political realm. Now there is nothing at all with wanting Christian values and attitudes in government but the problem comes when that becomes the final goal. The problem comes when people think they have achieved the kingdom of God when we have the people we want in charge of things in our government or institutions so that we get what we want. We see it when people expect Jesus to make them wealthy or healthy. As long as God gives them what they really want, then they clamor for Jesus and are eager to follow him. People want Jesus to give them what they want instead of asking Jesus what he wants us to do. We must admit that we too have that tendency. There is certainly nothing wrong with wanting material things or wanting good health; I pray for good health for our family every day! But if that is the end all in our desires as Christians, we have missed the kingdom of God that Jesus is calling us to live in.
And so my challenge to us this morning is to follow the call of the apostles. Jesus didn’t lure his disciples in to follow him; nor did he promise them health and wealth or success with the hope that they would follow him. Jesus chose them with the clear intent that they had no choice but to follow him. And how did that work out for them? They all became fabulously rich and made it to the Fortune 500 list, right? They lived to an old age and enjoyed all the fruits of their labors, right? No, they were imprisoned, beaten, persecuted, banished and eventually all of these except likely John, were killed for their faith.
They followed Jesus because he was their Lord even though they didn’t know what to expect. They followed him because they had to and wanted to even though it meant the end of their livelihood and their careers. They responded to the kingdom and as a result received far more than anything that this world could ever offer. And so let’s be willing to say to God, “Send us where you want us to go; use me as you want to use me.” We are not on this earth to benefit ourselves and to gain all we can for ourselves. We are here on this earth to serve our King and to live for him!