Jesus is a Miracle-Worker

Blindmen2The first group Mark puts into the room with Jesus are the crowds.

Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the lake, and a large crowd from Galilee followed. When they heard about all he was doing, many people came to him from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, and the regions across the Jordan and around Tyre and Sidon. Because of the crowd he told his disciples to have a small boat ready for him, to keep the people from crowding him. For he had healed many, so that those with diseases were pushing forward to touch him. (Mark 3:7-12)

Jesus remained the “popular Christ” with the crowds. They came from the Jewish heartland (Judea and Jerusalem). They came from Gentile territory (Tyre and Sidon). They came from regions near (Galilee) and far (the TransJordan). They flocked. They crowded. They pushed. They pressed so close that Jesus had to place some distance between himself and them—Jesus in a boat, the crowd on the shore, and a ribbon of water to separate. They’d heard “all he was doing.” They wanted to see for themselves. Some needed healing. Some needed exorcism.

In their view, Jesus was a wonder. He was a miracle-worker. He was the possessor of great spiritual power.

As the rest of Mark’s story will demonstrate, however, the crowds were more in love with Jesus’ miracles than his message. They would stay with Jesus only so long as he wowed them. At the first sign of problem, at the first whiff of persecution, they would be gone. They were fair-weather followers, friends “in need” but not “indeed.”

Jesus is Lord

The second group Mark places in the room with Jesus are the disciples.

Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. He appointed twelve[a] that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons. These are the twelve he appointed: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter), James son of Zebedee and his brother John (to them he gave the name Boanerges, which means “sons of thunder”), Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him. (Mark 3:13-19)

There were a few people following Jesus who distinguished themselves from the crowds. They left everything behind to be with Jesus—boats and tables, family and friends. They stayed with Jesus rather than coming and going and accommodating Jesus around busy lives. They marveled at Jesus’ miracles, but they also listened to his teachings. Often, they did not understand what he told them, but at least they tried. They were willing to endure the headaches that hard thinking induced. They didn’t walk away.

Jesus recognized the difference. He honored the difference. He wanted these few to “go with him.” He wanted the few to “be with him.” He called and appointed them. Mark lists them by name.

These man are not perfect, haloed heroes. Far from it. As the remainder of Mark’s Gospel will amply demonstrate, the disciples were fully capable of misunderstanding, mistaking, and missing the point entirely. They were foolish and fumbling and fault-filled. Not one of them was a spiritual giant, a “keeper” for the kingdom (at least, as we would define the term).

Yet they had stretched out their hands and touched God in Jesus. They realized he was more than his miracles. They found the truth in him, the core that would lead them, eventually, to conclude he was the Christ.

Jesus is a Lost Boy

Next, Mark leads the family of Jesus into the room.

Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.” (Mark 3:20-21)

What his mother and brothers discover about Jesus confuses them. They have bumped into his consuming sense of mission before (“Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” Luke 2:49). But never this intensely. Never with Jesus this focused. The crowds are gathered. His disciples surround him. And Jesus is in full-mission-mode: healing, teaching, casting out demons. He doesn’t have time to eat. He doesn’t have time for distractions. He doesn’t have time for them!

Jesus’ mother and brothers put their hands out and touch a Jesus fully engaged in his Father’s business. And they decide, frankly, he must have lost his mind. He should be back in the carpentry shop—making chairs and cabinets, not trouble. He should be taking care of his family, paying attention to them, putting them first. He should be providing for the family’s financial security, not wasting his time on strangers.

This can’t continue. An intervention is needed! The family decide to “arrest” Jesus.

The word Mark uses for their “taking charge” of Jesus is the same word (kratesai) he uses when Herod “arrests” John the Baptist (6:17) and the soldiers “arrest” Jesus (14:44). They deterimine to take him into custody, to bend him to their will, to bring him to his senses. He has lost his way and only a firm, family hand can set things straight.

Jesus is Demon-Possessed

The final group Mark leads into the room with Jesus are the Pharisees.

The teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Beelzebul! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons.” (Mark 3:22)

They’ve been watching all this madness, standing in the background with their arms crossed and frowns on their faces. The pandering crowds. (“Sickening!”) The devoted disciples. (“Sad!”) The desperate family. (“Shocking!”)

But when the Pharisees stretch out their hands to grope for Jesus, they touch something deeply repulsive and spiritually revolting. Jesus is not simply misguided or careless with holy things. His power proves he is a conduit for evil. He is in collusion with Satan. His abilities comes from the Dark Lord. He is a demon driving out demons! The Pharisees touched Jesus and recoiled in horror.

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