A ReMARKable Life Series
  • The gospel of Mark is a short, action-packed book that focuses on how Jesus Christ is the Messiah for every man, woman, and child. Christ – fully man, fully God. But Jesus wasn't the rescuer God's people had imagined, and many didn't recognize Jesus as their answer to prayer. We, too, can miss out on what God wants for us if we're only looking for answers that fit our expectations. Join us for this series as we explore Jesus' heart for people and we can change the world by serving one person at a time and helping them connect with God.
5. Dealing With Difficulties and Doubts (Mark 8:1-21)
  • Jesus feeds more than 4000, creating food for all from 7 loaves of bread and a few fishes. Still, the Pharisees ask for a sign, but Jesus says no sign will be given. He then warns the 12 about the false hope of the religious and world system, and marvels at their lack of understanding.
Sermon Preparation Guide
  • Importance – What are the central ideas of the text?
  • Jesus is the ultimate provider. (Mark 8:18-21)
  • Even the 12 did not fully understand Jesus, who He was and what He did. (Mark 8:4, 16)
  • Jesus is the ultimate provider. (Mark 8:818-21)
  • Implications – What questions should the listener be asking?
  • What is your response to Jesus' miracle of feeding the 4000? What does it say about Jesus?
  • Sometimes Jesus is difficult to understand. What should one's response be in the face of lack of understanding?
  • What is your response to Jesus?
Talk it Over Discussion Guide
  • Interpretation – What is the text telling/showing us?
  • What was the point of the feeding of the 4000?
  • There are varying responses to Jesus. What is the response of the 12? Of the crowds? Of the religious authorities?
  • What does it mean that there were 7 basketfuls of food leftover after the 4000 were fed?
  • What was the agenda of the Pharisees in verse 11? What were they looking for?
  • Why did Jesus not provide a sign to the Pharisees?
  • What is the yeast of the Pharisees and of Herod?
  • Describe the response of the 12 to Jesus' statement about the yeast of the Pharisees and of Herod. Why did they talk about bread? What were they missing?
  • Why was Jesus distressed with the questions of the Pharisees? Compare His reaction to them with His reaction to the multitudes when they were hungry.
  • Implementation – What should the listener’s response be?
  • What does it mean to us today that Jesus provided food for 4000 people from nearly nothing?
  • What is Jesus' attitude towards those who are searching and who are spiritually needy?
  • What is Jesus' attitude towards those who are full of unbelief and reject Him?
  • What signs did Jesus provide as to who He is?
  • What are we to do with the signs that Jesus has given us as to who He is?
  • On what do we base our faith in Jesus?
  • Why does Jesus say things that are hard to understand?
Sermon Teaching Notes (as prepared by Pastor Dick Murphy)
  • Investigation – What’s generally going on in this area of Scripture?
So far, Mark has shown Jesus as Jesus ministering in Galilee and beyond into Gentile areas, performing miraculous healings, making food for thousands, raising the dead to life, ruling the winds and the seas, and teaching that people need to repent for the kingdom of God was at hand. We have also seen the 12 sent out by Jesus to minister in His name, which they did. Further, though Jesus is surrounded by the masses who follow Him everywhere, opposition from the religious authorities has continued unabated. Everyone is asking, “Who is this Jesus?” And some are even thinking and believing that He really is the Messiah. Jesus has been showing by the miracles He has performed that He is indeed the Messiah come to bring salvation. In fact, the miracles seem to sound a call to spiritual understanding – the ears of the deaf man were opened; the eyes of the blind man were opened … “Now listen to what I say and look at who I am,” Jesus is saying. But the people fail to hear and see, and as we know now looking back, the road to bringing about salvation is leading inexorably to the cross, which is not what the expectations of the Messiah are. In the passage covered in these Notes, this on-going question of who is Jesus is again painted in stark relief.

The passage begins with the “great crowd” of people who are following Jesus around (some 4000 men plus women and children) to hear His teaching and, presumably, receive healing. Mark 8:2 indicates that the crowd had been with Jesus for 3 days! So Jesus faces another situation where the people are hungry and need food, and sending them away will create more problems (Mark 8:3). Jesus discussed the matter with the 12, and shared His compassion – His care and concern – for the people. I believe Jesus had this discussion with the 12 in part to discern if they had learned from the miracle of the feeding of the 5000 plus, and that He could - and would – provide. Alas, the 12 still didn’t get it as in answer to Jesus’ concerns they simply say, “How can one feed these people with bread here in this desolate place?” It seems obvious to us that the answer is that Jesus can feed them; yet the 12 continue to be oblivious to the reality of who Jesus is. All they can focus on is the “impossible problem” and not Jesus. So as before, Jesus had the multitude sit down and He then took the bare provisions they did have, namely 7 loaves and a few small fish, gave thanks and started to break the bread and then the fish, and then give the pieces to the 12 to serve them to the multitude. All present ate and were satisfied. It was a miracle,and it showed that Jesus is the one who satisfies completely and with abundance. And not only that, to show that God’s provision is “above and beyond,” there were 7 large baskets full of leftover food. These baskets were much larger than the baskets used for the leftover food in the prior miraculous feeding; those baskets were small wicker baskets that were carried by Jewish people when they were away from home, and were big enough only to hold a meal and some essentials for one individual. The baskets referred to in Mark 8:8 were large enough to hold a person; indeed they were the same kind of basket in which the Apostle Paul was lowered from the wall in Damascus when he escaped from those wanting to kill him (Acts 9:25).

Once fed, Jesus sent the crowd of 4000 plus people away while He and the 12 got in the boat and left to cross the Sea of Galilee to another location, Dalmanutha (Mark 8:10). It is not known where Dalmanutha was, though it may have been on the western shore of the Sea. In any case, this next scene reported by Mark involves the opposition of the Pharisees, and seems not likely to have taken place after Jesus and the 12 arrived at Dalmanutha as opposed to being a scene inserted by Mark in his compilation to show the on-going opposition to Jesus and His teaching and do so in parallel with Mark’s presentation in the opposition shown in the prior section of this gospel (Mark 6:1-7:37 in which the opposition is set in Mark 7:1-23). The gist of the request of the Pharisees is that they want more proof from God Himself of who Jesus is; the miracles He has already done are not sufficient in their eyes. In short, they are insincere and unbelieving, and are testing (actually, tempting) Jesus, all the while refusing to hear what He had already taught and to see what He had already done as proof enough that He was the Messiah. Jesus responds with grief and disappointment (He “sighed deeply in his spirit.” Mark 8:12) in the hard hearts and unbelief from those who, given their spiritual privilege of knowing the God of the Scriptures, should have responded to Jesus in faith. They did not; their response was rejection, and Jesus refused to give them a sign. Effectively, He made an oath not to provide a sign (Mark 8:12b). Why did He refuse? He had already proven Himself as Messiah by the miracles He had performed, and there was therefore no need for some special “sign.” What He had done was a sufficient basis for responding to Him in faith. Ultimately, His sign would be His death on the cross and His resurrection from the grave. But for now, what He has already said and done were sufficient for a person to respond in faith. Jesus then leaves these unbelieving Pharisees and heads back across the Sea of Galilee.

In the boat, Jesus and the 12 have a conversation about who He is. The 12 still do not see Him clearly, and their mistake in not bringing provisions with them becomes the jumping off point for what Jesus says to them. He tells them to beware of the leaven (yeast) of the Pharisees and of Herod. In the Scriptures, yeast is generally a symbol of evil. So Jesus is saying that the desire of the Pharisees for a sign, indicating their unbelief and hypocrisy, and of Herod, for his desire to be supported in his worldliness and behavior, comes from an evil heart. Jesus is telling the 12 that they must recognize Him by faith for who He is, the Messiah who is the author of salvation. (Mark 8:14 & 15) The 12 apparently miss, or ignore, what Jesus had just told them as they continue to engage in a discussion about the fact that they had no bread. One wonders if they were trying to figure out whose fault it was so they could assess blame. But Mark is pointing out in this that the 12 still do not understand Jesus, nor do they get His point about the error of the Pharisees and Herod. Jesus then essentially rebukes the 12 for their lack of understanding and asks them, rhetorically, if they are the ones who refuse to hear and see who He is. He reminds them of the miraculous feeding of the 5000 and the 4000 for whom He provided bread in abundance, so much abundance that there were many baskets of leftover food. If Jesus did this for those multitudes, wouldn’t he provide for the 12? In effect Jesus said to them, “Who else do you need but Me!” John, the author of the fourth gospel, would perhaps have connected this to Jesus’ saying that He was the bread of life.” (John 6:47-51) It almost seems that Jesus is pleading to the 12 to understand, as if to say, “Open your eyes; get your mind off your stomachs. I am the Messiah, believe in Me.” (Mark 8:21)

Lest we get too judgmental of the 12, at least they were following Jesus despite their lack of understanding. And which of us would have had any greater understanding were we in their shoes. They were Jewish men, steeped in their traditions and regulations, with the same expectations of the Messiah as their fellow Jews. They had heard Jesus, seen His miracles, and interacted with Him as He taught them and spent time with them. They were astonished at the miracles He had done, and had done mission work themselves under His authority. But they yet didn’t understand the height and depth of who He was, God Himself in human form, the Messiah in whom is salvation to those who believe. Nevertheless, they didn’t leave His side; and more importantly, Jesus did not abandon them but continued to pour Himself into them, having chosen them to carry out His work. What an encouragement to us as we can be slow to understand and weak in faith. To know that Jesus is in fact our provider and the One in whom is our salvation and life is the wonder of it all. Praise Him for who He is!
A ReMARKable Life Series
  • The gospel of Mark is a short, action-packed book that focuses on how Jesus Christ is the Messiah for every man, woman, and child. Christ – fully man, fully God. But Jesus wasn't the rescuer God's people had imagined, and many didn't recognize Jesus as their answer to prayer. We, too, can miss out on what God wants for us if we're only looking for answers that fit our expectations. Join us for this series as we explore Jesus' heart for people and we can change the world by serving one person at a time and helping them connect with God.
4. More Than A Story Teller (Mark 6:6b-7:37)
  • Jesus and the 12 withdraw from Nazareth, and He continues to teach and minister from town to town in the region and eventually leaves Galilee. He sends the 12 out to minister, empowering and instructing them in their mission. The story of the beheading of John the Baptist at the command of King Herod is recounted. Jesus feeds 5000 men and those with them, and walks on water, again proving who He is by these and more miracles. In the face of this, the opposition of the Pharisees and the Jewish religious establishment mounts. Though Jesus confronts His opposition, He nevertheless by so doing seeks to show them the true Kingdom of God.
Sermon Preparation Guide
  • Importance – What are the central ideas of the text?
  • Jesus calls His followers to minister in His name. (Mark 6:7-13, 30)
  • Jesus is the ultimate and total provider. (Mark 6:8-10, 42, 51 & 52)
  • Jesus constantly reaches out and responds to those in need because of His love and compassion. (Mark 6:34, 38-44, 55 & 56; 7:33)
  • Implications – What questions should the listener be asking?
  • Where and how are you sent to minister in His name?
  • Do you rely on God's provision and empowering? If not, how can you?
  • Do you have a heart of compassion for those in need like Jesus did? If not, ask God to give you that kind of heart.
Talk it Over Discussion Guide
  • Interpretation – What is the text telling/showing us?
  • Why did Jesus send out the 12?
  • Why did Jesus give the 12 the instructions He gave to them?
  • What is the importance of the story of John's death to the overall story of the gospel of Mark?
  • What did the feeding of the 5000+ and Jesus' walking on the water show about Him, and why did the 12 not seem to get it?
  • What was the error of the religious authorities in their view of ritual cleansing? Why was Jesus correct to indict their unbelief?
  • Why did Jesus leave the Galilee region? Why did He bring His message to the Jewish people first?
  • Describe the faith of the Syrophoenician woman and the men who brought the deaf man with the speech impediment.
  • Why did Jesus command people not to broadcast the news about what He was doing?
  • Implementation – What should the listener’s response be?
  • What is the message that you carry with you as a follower of Jesus?
  • Why are people (like King Herod) afraid of the truth and of righteousness?
  • What What does the story of the feeding of the 5000+ mean to you? What are the implications for your life?
  • What does Jesus' walking on the water mean to you? Why is it important that Jesus thought enough about the 12 to try to get them rest, to calm the water and to continually explain to them what He was teaching?
  • What is faith? How much faith is required for Jesus to respond?
  • What can be the problem with religious traditions and authorities?
  • What does it mean to you that evils come from inside and make one unclean? What can one do about those evils that are within?
Sermon Teaching Notes (as prepared by Pastor Dick Murphy)
  • Investigation – What’s generally going on in this area of Scripture?
In the last Notes, we left Jesus amazed at the unbelief of the people of His home town, Nazareth (Mark 6:6a). Consequently He left Nazereth and taught in the other villages in Galilee (Mark 6:b). Presumably to extend the reach of His ministry, and as a forerunner to His doing so through the Church, Jesus commissioned the 12 to ministry and sent them out in pairs (Mark 6:7). The story of their Jesus’ instructions and their ministry is told in verses 7-13 and 30 of chapter 6. While it is not clear from the text when this ministry of the 12 took place, and where, it seems it is still in the Galilee region. In any case, the 12 are sent by Jesus to preach His message of repentance, to do healings and to cast out demons, all the things that Jesus Himself was doing. The 12 go in His power, not theirs, as His emissaries; their ministry is to be personal, spiritual and shared, and is to be based on fully trusting God for literally everything (Mark 6:8). They are to be considerate of their hosts, staying with them until they leave town, and conscious of the judgment aspect of Jesus’ message, namely that rejection of the message brings judgment (Mark 6:11). So the 12 went out and ministered, and they did just what Jesus had told them to do (Mark 6:13, 30).

Word of Jesus’ ministry was spreading far and wide. Even King Herod (not the King Herod of Matthew 2:1, who was Herod the Great. The Herod Mark mentions is one of his sons, Herod Antipas, who was given a portion of his father’s kingdom by the Romans on his father’s death, specifically the regions of Galilee and Perea. He did not actually have the title of king from Rome, but the title was popularly used. His brother was Philip who ruled in the area of Palestine and in the Northeast.) Mark uses the mention of King Herod to ask the question, “Who is Jesus really?” in the context of the answers people were giving. Some viewed Jesus as John the Baptist risen from the dead; others viewed Him as Elijah; still others as a prophet (Mark 6:14 & 15). Mark also uses the mention of King Herod and John the Baptist to give an account of John’s death. Remember that John’s ministry had ended when he was taken into arrested (Mark 1:14), and now we learn that it was King Herod who had arrested him and put him in prison (Mark 6:17). Upon learning of Jesus ministry of miracles, Herod was thinking that John whom he had beheaded (Mark 6:16) had risen. Herod thought this out of guilt and remorse, not because he thought highly of Jesus. Mark then tells us that Herod had John arrested at the behest of his wife, Herodias, who had left Philip to live with Herod (who was actually her uncle!). John called the King out for his living in this incestuous relationship (Leviticus 18:16), and Herodias hated him for it, wanting him dead. Herod acted as john’s protector, however, listening to him, and knowing him as a righteous man. But Herodias got her way when, at a birthday party Herod held for himself with all his high officials and Galilean leaders (Mark 6:21), she had her daughter dance for Herod and his guests (likely a lewd dance) which so pleased Herod that he made an oath in front of his guests to give her whatever she wanted. The girl immediately went to her mother who told her to ask for the head of John the Baptist, which the girl did and added “at once” and “on a platter.” In that culture, oaths were considered irrevocable, so Herod had no choice but to follow through notwithstanding exceeding sorrow, and forthwith had John beheaded and his head brought on a platter and given to the girl who then gave it to Herodias. John’s disciples took John’s body and buried it. Why all this detail from Mark concerning John the Baptist? It seems Mark’s purpose is to show that Jesus is not John the Baptist resurrected, that the opposition to the gospel is reflected in the rejection by Herod and Herodias of the application of the truth of John’s message, and that the good news will nevertheless continue to be told.

Upon the return of the 12 from their ministry, Jesus wisely suggests they get away from the crowds and rest (And this is a good reminder to all who minister the gospel … it’s OK and in fact wise to pull back from ministry from time to time; rest is truly a “God thing.”). So they leave in the boat to go to a remote place on the other side of the Sea of Galilee (Mark 6:31 & 32). Meanwhile, the crowds figure out what’s going on and travel on foot to where Jesus is headed, actually arriving there ahead of them (Mark 6:33). Instead of being irritated that He and the 12 cannot get away from the multitude, Jesus’ heart of compassion and love goes out to them as He realized they were just sheep without a shepherd (Mark 6:34). So He taught them until the evening at which point the 12 told Jesus He should send them away to get food. Amazingly, Jesus told the 12 to give them something to eat. Impossible! There were (as we learn in a few verses) literally thousands of people there, and feeding them would cost far more money than any one of them had (Mark 6:37). Then, to show that He is indeed God the provider, Jesus has them find and bring him some bread, which they do, bringing Him 5 loaves and 2 fishes (hardly enough for two people), and proceeds to put the people into groups of 50 and 100, and after blessing the food, keeps breaking it until there was enough food for everyone and 12 baskets full left over. Mark tells us “they all ate and were satisfied.” (Mark 6:42). Indeed, as the divine provider, Jesus showed that He meets needs, having just fed 5000 men plus women and children who had nothing. Interestingly, contrast this feeding with the banquet that King Herod gave to the so-called important people who supposedly had everything (Mark 6:21).

From the gospel of John, we learn that the crowd was so taken by the miracle that Jesus had just performed that they were going to take Him by force and make Him king (John 6:14 & 15), which was clearly not why Jesus came into the world. He was not a political Messiah the Jews hoped for, and hence He made the 12 leave immediately by boat to Bethsaida (Mark 6:45), sent the people away, and went away to the mountain to pray (Mark 6:46). It was a time of crisis, namely that the temptation was present to take His ministry in a direction that was other than what the Father and He purposed. It was a time for prayer (another good lesson for all of us in ministry). During the night, between 3-6am, Jesus amazingly saw from afar that the 12 were having trouble in their boat because of difficult headwinds. So Jesus came to them, walking on the water of the Sea, the 12 thought they were seeing a ghost, and were so frightened them that they cried out. But He spoke to them and assured them who He was, and came into the boat whereupon the winds ceased (Mark 6:47-51). The 12 were utterly astonished, but should they have been? Mere hours before they had witnessed Jesus multiplying bread and fish enough to feed thousands. Surely this was the Messiah, God in Person, and so walking on water and stopping the winds should not be a surprise. But they had missed it; Mark notes that their hearts were hardened. Even Jesus’ closest followers were having trouble seeing Him as more than a story teller.

Ultimately they arrived at the northwest shore of the Sea, at Gennesaret, and the people recognized Jesus immediately. So, the ministry scene continues, with people coming from all around for healing. Mark 6:53-56 seems to summarize Jesus’ ministry to date in terms of its impact: people flocked to Him wherever He went, and He responded with healing miracles, undoubtedly teaching them at the same time, and all with a heart of compassion (Mark 6:34) and to reveal that He truly is the Messiah in whom is salvation and forgiveness from sin. But how would people respond to what He was saying and who He really was? Was it just to get healed and nothing more? Was it just to disprove who He was? The tension in Mark’s story is building with each passing verse.

And sure enough, chapter 7 begins with another group of religious authorities from Jerusalem who are following Jesus to judge Him, critique Him, and discredit Him. But why? Because Jesus didn't fit their expectations; because Jesus didn't adhere to their “traditions;” because Jesus threatened their nicely wrought religious order; because Jesus was drawing people away from them and their teachings. In short, they came to Jesus for all the wrong reasons. So they indict Jesus and His followers for not adhering to the Jewish rules about ritual cleansing (which Mark explains in verses 3 and 4). These men weren't worried about Jesus or His health or that of the 12; they were concerned that they weren't “following the right rules.” Interestingly, they didn't criticize Him directly, but asked why His disciples didn't “walk according to the tradition of the elders.” (Mark 7:5). Jesus was unfazed His response was basically that they were hypocrites for equating man's rules with God's Law and actually using man's rules to end-run God's law, all with the appearance on the outside of righteousness yet with unbelief and disobedience on the inside. He even gave an example of one of their rules that, when followed, allowed a child to avoid having to care for his or her parents and thus nullified the requirement of the Law to honor one's parents (Mark 7:9-13). Then turning to the crowd, He told them directly that it's not the food that makes one unclean but what comes from the inside (Mark 7:14 & 15) In private, He spoke to the 12 to explain what He meant, marveling at their inability to understand. Sin comes from the heart, and nothing that goes into a person (i.e., whatever kind of food) makes him or her unclean if their heart is full of evil, and He named a number of evil things that come from within (evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, slander, pride, foolishness. Mark 7:21 & 22). The religious authorities had missed the entirety of the point of the Law, keeping the externals while rebelling in their hearts, such that what Isaiah the prophet pointedly said about the religious authorities of his day (Isaiah 29:13) was absolutely true of those seeking to indict Jesus in His day. The religious authorities weren't following God; they were following man.

Jesus then took His ministry away from Galilee and instead went into territory populated mostly by Gentiles. Clearly by such a move He was underscoring that His message was for all. He went first to Tyre, a city on the Mediterranean coast, northwest of Galilee. He stayed in a home to avoid “announcing” His presence (Mark 7:24), but the word of His presence got out anyway as even the folk in this area had heard about this Jesus the miracle worker. Indeed, one woman who had heard about Him and had a demon-possessed daughter came to Him as soon as she knew He was in Tyre. She was a Gentile, described by Mark as a “Syrophoenician” by birth. (The city of Tyre belonged to ancient Phoenicia, an ancient people comprised of various city-states along the Mediterranean coast. The Greek culture had permeated much of the area, such that some translations denominate this woman as a Greek, as opposed to a Gentile.) In any event, she was not Jewish, and yet she came boldly to Jesus and begged Him to drive the demon out of her daughter. Jesus' reply seems very odd as He told her that the children need to eat first, and it is not right to take the children's bread and feed it to the dogs (Mark 7:27). What did He mean by that? In the Greek culture, more well-to-do families had dogs as pets, as opposed to dogs being mere scavangers in Palestine. The children in such households would be fed before any food would be given to the pets. By this illustration, Jesus was indicating that the gospel message was meant first for the Jewish people, and He is not a magician. In effect, He was asking her to demonstrate faith in Him as opposed to a request for Him to do a pagan magic trick to “heal” her daughter. The woman responded, and her answer showed that she understood the priority of the Jewish people in terms of the message of this prophet, but that even dogs get to eat crumbs (Mark 7:28). Notice that she called Jesus “Lord” indicating at least some level of faith in Jesus and His ability to heal her daughter even while attending to the needs of His people first. Having witnessed her faith, Jesus told her that her daughter was healed, and she went home to discover it was true indeed (Mark 7: 29 & 30). The message in this story was not so much Jesus' power to cast out demons, in this case exercised from a distance, but that He was open to the faith of all who came to Him believing, even to Gentiles!

Jesus' ministry to Gentile areas continued after He left Tyre. He traveled through Sidon, which was a city on the coast of the Mediterranean north of Tyre, then to the Sea of Galilee and southeast into the Decapolis region which was inhabited principally by Gentiles (Mark 7:31) While there, a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment was brought to Him (Mark 7:32). Those who brought the man begged Jesus to heal him. Did they have faith in Jesus' ability to heal this man, or did they just think Him to be a pagan magician? It seems the former, and one wonders what they knew of Jesus came from the testimony in their area given by the demon-possessed man Jesus had healed (Mark 5:18-20). The crowd that was gathered may have wanted a public show by this man, Jesus, but He did not allow it and instead took the man aside. He used gestures and signs (fingers in the man's ears, putting spit on the man's tongue; looking up to heaven) so that the man knew what He was doing. He spoke an Aramaic word (which Mark translates for his readers) that was a command, “Be opened.” and the man was healed immediately. As previously (Mark 1:34, 43; 5:43), Jesus told the man and his friends and the crowd not to broadcast what had just happened, but to no avail. The people were amazed and wouldn't stop talking about it (Mark 7:36 & 37).

In this passage from Mark, we continue to see Jesus ministering in Galilee and then beyond into Gentile areas, performing miraculous healings, making food for thousands, walking on the water, and all the while teaching that people need to repent for the kingdom of God was at hand. He also sent the 12 out to minister likewise in Jesus' name, which they did. And all along, the opposition continued from the religious authorities, and we see also opposition to the application of truth that resulted in the murder of John the Baptist. The question, “Who do you say Jesus is?” is the common thread in these stories, and the responses continue to be varied, with the most striking responses of faith coming from the Gentiles, the ones the Jews would least expect to respond much less to be given God's word. And the 12 continue not to understand Jesus, though they see more and more proofs of His divinity (the feeding of the 5000+ and the walking on the water). Where is this all heading? Jesus' ministry is not at all haphazard, but is intentional in terms of His spreading the good news of the kingdom throughout several regions and resisting attempts by people to mold His ministry to political ends. Jesus came to bring salvation; He was the God-man who is showing Himself to be such by unassailable miracles. And what does He ask? He calls people to faith; to believe in Him based on what He has said as attested in its truthfulness by what He has done. He is indeed the Messiah; He calls people to follow Him. And that same message resonates today.
A ReMARKable Life Series
  • The gospel of Mark is a short, action-packed book that focuses on how Jesus Christ is the Messiah for every man, woman, and child. Christ – fully man, fully God. But Jesus wasn't the rescuer God's people had imagined, and many didn't recognize Jesus as their answer to prayer. We, too, can miss out on what God wants for us if we're only looking for answers that fit our expectations. Join us for this series as we explore Jesus' heart for people and we can change the world by serving one person at a time and helping them connect with God.
3. Following the Call of Christ (Mark 3:13-6:6a)
  • Jesus chooses the 12 Disciples, calls the crowd to follow Him, teaches the crowd about the Kingdom of God through parables. He continues to perform more miracles, all of which attest to His power and authority over the physical, the material and the spiritual. However, He is rebuffed in His home town where people took offense at Him and showed an amazing lack of faith.
Sermon Preparation Guide
  • Importance – What are the central ideas of the text?
  • Jesus calls all to follow Him, and those who follow become members of His family. (Mark 3:13, 33-35)
  • There will be varying responses to Jesus' call, and He will answer those who respond in faith. (Mark 4:13-20; 5:23 & 24, 28-34)
  • Once a follower of Jesus Christ, our responsibility is to share the gospel. (Mark 5:19)
  • Implications – What questions should the listener be asking?
  • How does Jesus call people today?
  • How can people respond to Jesus' call today?
  • If you are a follower of Jesus, how can you share the good news of Him?
Talk it Over Discussion Guide
  • Interpretation – What is the text telling/showing us?
  • Why did Jesus call out 12 special disciples? What were their responsibilities?
  • How did the religious authorities view Jesus and why? What did Jesus mean in His reply to them when they accused Him of being possessed by satan?
  • What was Jesus' family's view of Jesus? Why did they come to Capernaum, and what objective were they trying to achieve?
  • Why did Jesus speak in parables? What is a parable?
  • What did Jesus teach in the four parables in Mark 4?
  • What did the incident of Jesus in the boat and the storm show about Jesus?
  • Why did Jesus permit the demons to leave the man from the caves and go into the pigs?
  • Compare and contrast the responses to Jesus of the 12, His family, the religious authorities, Jairus, the woman with the bleeding, the demon-possessed man, the people of Nazareth?

  • Implementation – What should the listener’s response be?
  • Do you consider that Jesus has called you in a special way and to a particular responsibility? What would that calling and responsibility be?
  • Do you consider yourself a disciple of Jesus? What does that mean?
  • What are the reasons that people in this text reject Jesus? Why do those who are full of “religion” tend to reject Jesus?
  • What does it show to you that Jesus calmed the storm and raised Jairus's daughter from death??
  • How do you understand the parables in Mark 4?
  • What are the common themes running through the scenes in this text?
  • Why was Jesus amazed at the lack of faith of the people of Nazareth? Why did they lack faith? What is the level of your faith? Is it enough to follow Jesus based on what you learn from this text?
Sermon Teaching Notes (as prepared by Pastor Dick Murphy)
  • Investigation – What’s generally going on in this area of Scripture?
Jesus has been ministering in and around the region of Galilee, and is being followed by a great crowd (Mark 3:7). He was teaching about the Kingdom of God, healing many, and casting out demons. As stated in the prior Notes, in Jesus people saw authenticity, a man with a purpose (Mark 1:14, 38; 2:10, 20) and authority (Mark 1:22, 27), a man of prayer (Mark 1:35) with a willing and compassionate heart for others (Mark 1:40 & 41) a man with concern for the spiritual state of people (Mark 2:17), and a man who was always reaching out. But did they yet see Him as the Messiah? They were amazed by the miracles He was doing, but what was their response going to be? Would they follow Him? The response of the religious hierarchy was opposition and hardness of heart (Mark 3:5 & 6). They wanted to kill Him.

In the text for this installment of the Series, Jesus continues to minister in and around Galilee, though He does take a “side trip” to the region southeast of the Sea of Galilee, the region of the Gerasenes. The story of these verses follows a similar cycle to the text covered in the last Notes, namely active ministry which includes teaching and healing, opposition, and responses of faith and lack of faith to His call. Jesus is being followed by many, and for many reasons (Mark 3:7-10); but in the midst of His ministry He went into the hills and called out 12 specific individuals and appointed them as His apostles (literally “ones sent forth”). To these 12 He gave authority to cast out demons and sent them out to preach the gospel of the Kingdom. (Mark 3:13-19) What a “rag-tag” band of men it was: 4 fishermen, 1 hated tax collector, 1 member of a radical group that advocated the overthrow of the Roman government, and 6 other otherwise unknown men. None were priests or prophets or members of the religions hierarchy; they were ordinary Jewish men who had chosen to follow Jesus because they sensed something about Him, and thought that maybe He was the Messiah after all. But all of them heard and responded to Jesus' call to follow Him, and did so not out of self-interest as in wanting healing; no, they wanted to attach themselves as disciples to the One who was extraordinary and who just might be the hope of Israel.

While in Capernaum, Jesus went to a house with His 12 disciples, but the crowds were so big and the ministry demands of both teaching and healing so great, that he couldn't even eat (Mark 3:21). Jesus' family from Nazareth got wind of His situation and thought they could provide what in their eyes was help, so they set out to “seize” him and presumably take him back to Nazareth with them. It seems they had good motives – to care for His well being – but they did not understand Him and His ministry at all, as they thought He was “out of his mind.” (Mark 3:20 & 21) After a time, they arrived in Capernaum and didn't even approach Him personally, but rather sent someone to fetch Him (Mark 3:31 & 32). The messenger entered and told Jesus His mother, brothers and sisters were looking for Him, whereupon Jesus looked at those disciples circled around at His feet and denominated them as His mother and brothers, in effect indicating that their relationship with Him as followers was closer than even a familial relationship. Those who were listening to Him had followed Him for who He was; His family were not followers, but only wanted to remove Him from what He was doing because of their own mixed interests.

 Meanwhile, as Jesus' family was on its way to Capernaum, opposition to Jesus arose again in the house, and it came from the religious authorities who had traveled from Jerusalem presumably to check Him out and determine if He what was teaching was acceptable to the religious authorities (Mark 3:22). It is clear from the text that their motives in listening to Jesus was really to oppose Him, rather to see if He truly was the Messiah. In fact, their response to Jesus was total rejection; quite astonishingly they said that He was possessed by Satan, using the epithet “Beelzebub,” and that it was Satan who was driving out demons. In short, they were charging that Satan and Jesus were in collusion! Jesus' response was to use parables (short stories to make a point) to show how ludicrous the charge was. The parables were to the point: if Jesus were possessed by Satan, Satan would be opposing himself and that is absurd; and moreover, Jesus has instead actually defeated Satan's power by coming into his territory and tying up this alleged strong man. By so saying, Jesus was pointing to Himself as Messiah. Then Jesus went on to warn against blaspheming the Holy Spirit which was really what these religious authorities were doing; in their hardness of heart, in effect they were saying that the Holy Spirit was Satan. Jesus said that such persistent hardness of heart was sin and was unforgivable (Mark 3:23-30). It isinteresting to compare this opposition of the religious authorities with that of Jesus' family; Jesus' earthly family essentially opposed Him out of lack of faith and understanding; but the religious authorities opposed Him out of an outright rejection of who He claimed to be.

After the foregoing instances, Jesus continued teaching. The crowds were so large that he sat in a boat just off the water's edge to do His teaching as the people gathered along the shoreline (Mark 4:1). He taught using parables. But why parables? Jesus used the parables as a way to test people's response to Him. The parables were “proclaimed” to all, but understood, even if not fully, only by those who had faith even if only a small faith (by the way, this is a theme that seems to permeate Mark's gospel). Those hardened in their unbelief did not understand the parables at all (Mark 4:11 & 12). To His 12 apostles, Jesus explained the meaning of the parables in more detail as part of their discipleship process (Mark 4:10 et seq.). Mark recounts four parables in this text – of the sower, of a lamp on a stand, of the growing seed and of the mustard seed (Mark 4:1-34) What is Jesus teaching by these parables? He is teaching that He Himself is the sower who sows the word of the gospel all around, and that the word falls on ears that respond in differing ways, from outright rejection to full acceptance (Mark 4:1-20). He is teaching that His lamp, that is, His light as the Messiah and the means of the gospel, is to be shined out while He is here (Mark 4:21-25). He is teaching that the Kingdom of God takes root, grows and produces “fruit” as the gospel message is accepted, and that this growth will indeed take place (Mark 4:26-29). He is teaching that the kingdom of God starts small but will grow as the gospel permeates human hearts (Mark 4:30 & 32). The message in these parables is consistent, and it is that the gospel will prevail, and that the kingdom of God will grow and it is the work of God that brings the growth, not human effort. If anyone has ears, Jesus says, they are to listen up (Mark 4:23), meaning that what He is teaching is important and is to be heeded, for failure to listen and heed will be tragedy. In these parables Jesus opened up the secret of the kingdom of God, namely that life in the kingdom is through the gospel (that is, through Him!), and the gospel will succeed in the lives of men and women who have faith, and will ultimately permeate the world.

At the end of the day of teaching in Capernaum, Jesus moved on to the other side of the Sea of Galilee by boat (Mark 4:35 & 36). That particular body of water is subject to frequent, furious storms because of where the Sea is situated, below mountains where the wind currents swirl and come up suddenly. Such a storm struck the Sea as Jesus and the 12 were proceeding (Mark 4:37). Being exhausted from the strain of His demanding ministry, Jesus was asleep in the back of the boat, notwithstanding the storm which was severe enough that the disciples thought they were going to die (Mark 4:38). They woke Jesus up and berated Him for not caring about them whereupon He spoke to the wind, rebuking it, and said to the waves, “Be still!” Immediately the wind died down and the water became perfectly calm (Mark 4:39). Jesus commented to the 12 about their lack of faith and their fear (Mark 4:40). On their part, the 12 suddenly realized that Jesus was more than they thought He was; Hecould even command nature! They were awed and filled with reverential fear (Mark 4:14). “Who is this man?” they said amongst themselves.

When they arrived to their destination, they were in the region of the Gerasenes (Mark 5:1). Jesus had hardly stepped out of the boat when a demon-possesed man came up to Him. This man was an outcast from his own community because he was out of control; so he lived in the tombs (people of Jesus' day believed that demons lived amongst tombs). The man, or really the demons in the man, shouted to Jesus, calling Him by name and title and wanting assurance that they would not be tortured (Mark 5:6-8). As we saw previously (cf. Mark 1:23-26), the demons know who Jesus is and are afraid, as He has authority over them in that He is God. It seems that they don't want to be sent into eternal punishment. Jesus inquires about the name of the man, and the demon replies “Legion” ( a Roman legion of soldiers had 3000-6000 soldiers) indicating that there were many demons present (Mark 5:9 & 10). The demons then asked – no, they begged Jesus not to send them away, and asked to be sent into a herd of pigs that were nearby. Jesus gave permission and the demons left the man and entered into the pigs, intent on destruction (Satan is the “Destroyer.” cf.Revelation 9:11), for they immediately made the pig run down the steep embankment and into the lake where they drowned (Mark 5:13). Did Jesus cause the pigs to do what they did? Certainly not; He simply gave the demons permission to leave the man and enter the pigs; it was the demons who destroyed the herd. In any case, the townspeople heard about what happened and came to Jesus before whom sat the previously possessed man, now healed, dressed and in his right mind (Mark 5:14-16). This was another opportunity for people to respond to Jesus. He had just healed a possessed man and set him free; that same freeing power was available to all! But what was the response? It was to fear Jesus, not follow Him; the people were more worried about their physical and economic well-being than about spiritual healing. Consequently, they pleaded for Jesus to leave the area. On the other hand, the healed man begged to go with Jesus; he knew what had happened and was ready to follow Jesus. However, Jesus told the man to go and tell people what had happened; in other words, to go share the gospel. The man did so in the area (Decapolis) around him, and people were amazed (Mark 5:18-20).

Jesus and the 12 went back across the lake to Capernaum, and was surrounded by the crowd yet again (Mark 5:21). A synagogue ruler (one with responsibility in the local Jewish synagogue, though not a priest) named Jairus came to Him and asked Him to heal his sick daughter (Mark 5:21-23). This man had faith enough to believe that Jesus was both able and willing to heal his daughter. Jesus responded by going with him (Mark 5:24a). As he was walking to the official's house, the crowds pressed around Him, and in the midst of this, a woman with a long-standing health issue of bleeding came up to Him if only to touch His clothing, believing that to do so would be sufficient to provide healing to her (Mark 5:25-28). She was successful and was healed immediately (Mark 5:29). Jesus was aware that His power had been applied and asked who touched Him (Mark 5:30). The 12 were incredulous that he would ask such a thing with all the crowd surrounding Him; they still didn't understand who Jesus was! (Mark 5:31) But Jesus continued to ask and the woman came forward and fell at His feet. By so doing, she showed great courage as given her condition she would have been considered unclean, and anyone touching her would also become unclean as a result. She had already worked her way to Jesus and indeed touched Him. Now she came to Him when He called and told Him what had happened. Jesus told her that her faith had brought about the healing and bade her to go in peace (Mark 5:32-34). What a wonderful result! But meanwhile, the some men from the synagogue came and said that Jairus's daughter had died and he should not bother Jesus any more (Mark 5:35). Jesus told Jairus not to be afraid but just to believe and He continued on to the house with only Peter, James and John, where they encountered a commotion of family and professional mourners (use of professional, paid mourners was customary). Jesus told them all that the girl was not dead, but was merely asleep (Mark 5:37-39). The mourners stopped their mourning and laughed at Him (Mark 5:40a). Certainly they lacked faith to believe. Jesus put everyone out, took Jairus and his wife, along with Peter, James and John, proceeded to the 12-year old girl and spoke to her in Aramaic (which Mark translates), telling her to get up, which she immediately did. He had healed her; indeed, He had raised her from the dead! And to prove it so, and meet her needs, he ordered her to be fed (Mark 5:41-43) Amazing! Everyone was astonished; here was a man who could raise a dead person to life! (Mark 5:42b) But Jesus told them all not to say anything about what He did, one thinks because the news would cause people to respond to Him for the wrong reason, namely for physical healing rather than for spiritual healing (Mark 5:43).

Jesus left Capernaum and went on to Nazareth (Mark 6:1). He didn't go to his home town to visit His family, but rather to teach and bring the gospel message. He went directly to the local synagogue where He, as a visiting personage, was allowed to teach (Mark 6:2). The people were amazed at His teaching, but only because they knew Him as Jesus, the carpenter's son, and who had 4 brothers and at least 2 sisters. And they also noted that He was “Mary's son” which clearly suggests theyviewed Him as being “illegitimate” as Joseph was not Jesus' father (Mark 6:2b & 3). Again, we see an opportunity for people to respond, in this case, people who would have known Jesus for His entire life. And what was their response? It was not to follow Him as He spoke the gospel; rather it was to doubt who He was, to make disparaging remarks about His background, and to take offense (As if to say, “Who do you think you are?”). As a result of this lack of faith and rejection, Jesus did not do many miracles in Nazareth, and was amazed at the lack of faith (Mark 6:4-6a). What a sad scene, to be sure!

Jesus' call throughout this text, and His call continuing to this day, is that one hear His words, come to grips with who He is (the God-man!), and respond to Him. His further call is that one follow Him by confessing who He is and putting one's faith in Him for salvation. Throughout this text, we see different people facing the question of who Jesus is, but with varying responses. The 12 followed Him, answering His call to discipleship even while not fully understanding who He was and the full extent of the meaning of following Him. The religious authorities denied who He was and rejected Him. The crowds had varying responses, from simply wanting what He could give on a material and physical level, to believing in Him (Jairus, and the woman with the bleeding). His family wanted to take charge of Him. The Nazareth community saw Him as their neighbor who had grown up and lived among them, a carpenter with a questionable birth, and they rejected Him. In the foregoing responses, Jesus “rewarded” faith, even if that faith was wavering, small and even tentative. He welcomes those to His kingdom who submit to His Lordship, knowing that their understanding will grow as they come to really know who He is (the Messiah-King, Lord over all, and Lord of their life) and what it means to give up self and become totally His. Indeed, He came for such people, offering life! But those who reject Him, who refuse to bow the knee to His Lordship, who continue to be at the center of their own universe, He will ultimately reject and grant them their choice (Mark 3:28 & 29; 4:11 & 12). Thanks be to God that Jesus the Christ came and that He calls us to follow, and that as we come to Him in faith, He will receive us with open arms into His kingdom!