Mark 3:7-19


We live in the age of the mega ministry.  Televangelism has become a byword and the super-church is becoming more and more commonplace.  And yet, the mega ministry is not something new.  It is very old.  It goes all the way back to a Galilean rabbi and a handful of disciples in a rowboat.


Jesus was a man with a plan.  From a humble carpenter’s village, and in a space of only three years, He would set into motion a ministry which would change the face of the world.  How did He do this?  I want to suggest that it was not without a plan.

Jesus had a very specific and God-ordained strategy for success.  It involved both a ministry to the multitudes as well as ministry to a small, selected group of disciples.





1.         Withdrawal to the Sea.


            Jesus withdrew to the sea with His disciples; and a great multitude from Galilee followed; and also from Judea,  8 and from Jerusalem, and from Idumea, and beyond the Jordan, and the vicinity of Tyre and Sidon, a great number of people heard of all that He was doing and came to Him. (Mark 3:7-8).


The opposition against the person and ministry of Jesus had begun to take on a new turn as the Pharisees joined forces with the Heordians in an effort to bring forth a plan to stop Jesus.


Jesus in the synagogue of Capernaum (3:1-5).

Pharisees & Herodians consult to murder Jesus (3:6)

Jesus & His disciples withdraw to the sea (3:7-8)


At the same time that this opposition was growing, so also the popularity of Jesus was escalating at a dramatic pace.



Ministry of John the Baptist

“All the country of Judea... and all the people of Jerusalem”


Ministry of Jesus

“All the surrounding district of Galilee”


“The whole city was gathered”


“They were coming from everywhere”


“All the multitude were coming to Him”


“A great multitude from Galilee... and from Judea, and from Jerusalem, and from Idumea, and beyond the Jordan, and the vicinity of Tyre and Sidon”


Whereas the ministry of Jesus had originally been confined to the localized areas around Galilee, now He was drawing people from as far away as Jerusalem and the Transjordan area and from the Phoenician coast lands.


What was the attraction?  Why were so many coming such a long way in order to see Jesus?  It was because of what He was DOING.  It was because they had heard of the miracles which He was performing.  They had heard the wonderful stories of this carpenter who could heal the sick, who could cast out demons with a word and restore the paralyzed.


Doctors were going out of business and pharmacies were closing down.  Seeing eye dogs were wandering aimlessly about.  Stores were having liquidation sales on crutches and wheelchairs.


The news was spreading like wildfire.  Jesus didn’t have to launch a publicity campaign.  People did it for Him.


2.         Ministry by the Sea.


            And He told His disciples that a boat should stand ready for Him because of the crowd, so that they would not crowd Him; 10  for He had healed many, with the result that all those who had afflictions pressed around Him in order to touch Him. (Mark 3:9-10).


The word describing a “boat” is in the diminutive - ploiarion as opposed to a ploion (“ship”).  It would have been of the size of a rowboat.

The purpose of the boat was that He might continue to minister despite the great pressing crowds.  Apparently, He would sit in the boat, using it as a floating pulpit as people came to hear Him preach and to be healed.


3.         A Command to Silence.


            Whenever the unclean spirits saw Him, they would fall down before Him and shout, “You are the Son of God!” 12 And He earnestly warned them not to tell who He was. (Mark 3:11-12).


Jesus had been willing to accept the testimony of the masses who had spread the stories of Him throughout the country.  He was more than willing to accept the testimony of John the Baptist.  But there was one testimony which He would not accept, no matter how dramatic it might be.  This was the testimony of the unclean spirits.


It was not that their testimony was inaccurate.  They were absolutely correct in saying that Jesus was the Son of God.  It wasn’t the content of the message that was the problem.  The problem was the SOURCE of the message.  These were unclean spirits.  They were demons.  They were messengers of Satan.  Jesus refused to have anything to do with them.


There is a lesson here.  It is that you need to take care with whom you associate.  Charles De Gaulle was talking to the Governor General of Algeria.  The Governor General said, “I have talked to a lot of my friends and a lot of my friends have trouble with your policies in Algeria.”  De Gaulle smiled and replied, “Change your friends.”


Jesus took care with whom He associated.  That does not mean that He avoided sinners.  To the contrary, He was criticized for being with sinners.  What it does mean is that He was careful to be with REPENTANT sinners.  He met people where they were, but He did not leave them where they were.  He called them to repentance.





The primary method of Jesus’ ministry was MEN.  The first thing we saw Him doing following His baptism and temptation was to call a few men to follow Him.  There were initially four: Simon and Andrew and James and John.  Levi was called later.  Now there will be a total of Twelve.


1.         A Sovereign Call.


            And He went up on the mountain and summoned those whom He Himself wanted, and they came to Him. (Mark 3:13).


Just as Moses had gone up onto Mount Sinai to receive the Law, so now Jesus goes up onto a mountain to choose those to whom He will entrust His teachings.


He did not call all men at this time.  He only summoned “those whom He Himself wanted.”  Jesus was under no obligation to choose all men.  Neither is He under any obligation to save all mankind.  The fact that He freely offers salvation to all men is a matter of GRACE.


2.         The Purpose of the Call.


            And He appointed twelve, so that they would be with Him and that He could send them out to preach,  15  and to have authority to cast out the demons. (Mark 3:14).


There are three aspects to the purpose of Jesus in calling these men.  He called them so that they could...


m Be with Him.

m Be sent out by Him.

m Have authority from Him.


The first step to being a disciple of Jesus is to “be with Him.”  This is a necessary part of discipleship.  True discipleship is incarnational.  It cannot be long distance.  This is why God became a man - to be with him.


It would not be until the disciples had spent time with Jesus and had gotten to know Him that they would be ready to go out from Him.


There is a principle here.  It is a principle of discipleship.  Disciples must be grown organically and through a process of osmosis.  To state it in other terms, Christianity must be caught rather than merely taught.


3.         The Twelve.


            And He appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom He gave the name Peter),  17  and James, the son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James (to them He gave the name Boanerges, which means, “Sons of Thunder”);  18  and Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Zealot;  19  and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Him. (Mark 3:16-19).


The New Testament contains four different lists of the disciples of Jesus.  It is noteworthy to compare those lists.



Matthew 10

Mark 3

Luke 6

Acts 1

First Group

Simon Peter




Simon Peter




Simon Peter








Second Group

















Third Group




Judas Iscariot




Judas Iscariot




Judas Iscariot





(1)        Simon Peter is always mentioned first.

Judas Iscariot is always mentioned last when he is mentioned at all.


(2)        There are three distinct groupings of disciples.  Those who were with Jesus the most are mentioned in the first group.  Those who are mentioned less often are in the second group.  Those in the third group are hardly mentioned at all (with the exception of Judas Iscariot).


(3)        The same person always heads up each group.

Simon Peter always heads up the first group.

Philip always heads up the second group.

James the son of Alphaeus always heads up the third group.


It has been suggested that each of these three groups had a natural leader.  We know that Peter tended to lead his group and, in fact, provided leadership for all of the disciples.


a.         Simon Peter.


There is no disciple of Jesus with whom we are more familiar than the person of Simon.  We are told here that Jesus gave him a nickname - Peter (PetroV), “Rock.”


b.         James, the son of Zebedee.


James is never mentioned in the gospels apart from his brother, John.

Of the two, James is always mentioned first, indicating that he might have been the elder of the two.


c.         John the brother of James.


John describes himself elsewhere as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.”  Jesus had a special nickname for these two brothers.  It was Bo-anerges, “Sons of thunder.”  This might have been because they were so rowdy.  Or it might have been because of a time when they had asked Jesus to strike a city with a bolt of lightning.


d.         Andrew.


Andrew was a Greek name.  It is the common Greek word for “man.”  Andrew’s claim to fame was that he was Peter’s brother.  Mark makes no further mention of him in this gospel account.


e.         Philip.


This is also a Greek name.  It was the same name as the father of Alexander the Great.  It means “horse-lover.”  Philip may have also had a Hebrew name, but we don’t know what it was.  For some reason, Philip always went by his Greek name.  It is noteworthy that when some Greeks wanted to come and speak to Jesus, they first went to Philip (John 12:20-22).


f.          Bartholomew.


The name “Bartholomew” is made up of two Hebrew words.  “Bar” is the Hebrew word for “son.”  This man was the son of Tolmai (Ptolemy).  He is known elsewhere as Nathanael Bar Tolmai.


g.         Matthew.


This is the Greek name of Levi whose call we read of in Mark 2:14.  He had been a tax-collector; a turn-coat traitor who sold out his country for money.  But he had given it all up to follow Jesus.


h.         Thomas.


Thomas has gotten a lot of bad press over the years.  He has been labeled “Doubting Thomas” because of his reaction to the news of the resurrection of Jesus.  But Doubting Thomas became Believing Thomas when he saw the risen Lord.

Mark 2:14 tells us that Levi was also the son of Alphaeus.  This was a fairly common name and is probably of no relation to James.


i.          James the son of Alphaeus.


In Mark 15:40 he will be called “James the Less.”  That is an unfortunate translation.  He was known as “Little James.”


My younger brother is named Dennis.  My older brother’s son is also named Dennis.  For many years, it was the custom within our family to refer to them as “Little Dennis” and “Big Dennis.”  The problem is that Little Dennis eventually grew up to be bigger and taller and heavier than Big Dennis.  But the designation has managed to stick through the years, much to the chagrin of Little Dennis.


I think that is what happened among the disciples.  It became inconvenient to distinguish between James the son of Zebedee versus James the son of Alphaeus, so the other disciples took to calling them Big James and Little James.


j.          Thaddaeus.


The name “Thaddaeus” means “breast baby.”  This might have been a term of endearment given to the baby of a family.  He is known elsewhere as Lebbaeus, meaning “heart child.”  It is a nickname for someone who is courageous.  His real name was “Judas” - the Greek form of Judah.


k.         Simon the Zealot.


The Zealots were a political party within Judaism.  They were the nationalist party.  They were intent on driving the Romans from the land and restoring an independent state.


A revolt had been organized under a Galilean Zealot named Judas (Acts 5:37).  Judas had been killed and his followers scattered, but the Zealots lived on.


They would finally bring about another revolt in 66 A.D. which would slaughter the Roman garrison in Jerusalem and defeat a Roman legion from Syria.  The Romans would respond by sending a total of four Roman legions and Jerusalem would be destroyed and her temple burned.


Simon was from this movement.  He had looked earnestly for the coming of a military Messiah who would lead the Jews to revolt against Rome.  Perhaps he initially came to Jesus for this reason.  But somewhere along the line, he would fall in love with Jesus.


m.        Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Him.


Judas is the Greek form of “Judah.”  This was a common name among the Jews.  The name “Iscariot” is made up of two words:


(1)        “Ish” is the Hebrew word for “man.”


(2)        “Kerioth” was the name of a town in Judea; located near Hebron.


This designation merely tells where Judas was from.  He was the “Man of Kerioth.”  As far as we can tell, Judas was the only one of the disciples who was not from Galilee.


Judas was initially attracted to Jesus.  He didn’t start off any worse than the other disciples.  Matthew was an extortioner.  Simon was a rebel terrorist.  The whole group of disciples were a motley group of sinners.  But something happened to Judas.  He turned from a disciple to a betrayer.  He stopped loving the Lord and he began loving himself and the money which he could get for himself.  And he ultimately sold his soul for thirty pieces of silver.


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