Last week we spent our time on the passage which runs from verse 13 of chapter 2 to verse 6 of chapter 3. And we noticed the growing opposition which the Lord Jesus faced. The Pharisees and the scribes thought they knew best what God was like, and how to worship him, and how to interpret and apply God’s law. And they disagreed with the Lord Jesus over these things and complained about him. Do you remember? They complained because he was mixing with sinners and tax collectors. And they complained because he kept his disciples from fasting. And they complained because he let his disciples pick corn on the Sabbath. And they complained because he was willing to heal the sick on the Sabbath. They kept complaining to him about what he was doing; and in the end the Pharisees and the Herodians — these two groups who had nothing in common; one was a religious party; the other was a political party; they had nothing in common — but they got together to plot how they might kill the Lord Jesus. So, the opposition to the Lord Jesus was growing; it was escalating.
Verses 7 to 12
However, when we get to verses 7 to 12 of chapter 3, it’s interesting to note that the Lord was still very popular among the people. The Pharisees and the scribes may not like him; the Herodians may not like him; but the Lord Jesus remained popular with many, many, many people. And so, we read in verse 7 that he withdrew with his disciples to the lake. Mark is referring to the Sea of Galilee, which was a lake despite its name. And Mark tells us that a large crowd from Galilee followed. And when others heard about the Lord Jesus and all that he was doing, they too came out to see him. And they came from Judea and Jerusalem and from Idumea and from the regions across the Jordan and around Tyre and Sidon.
If your Bible has a map at the back, you may want to look at it to see where these places are, because it’s remarkable how spread out they are. Judea is a region south of the Sea of Galilee. Idumea is a region which is even further south. Tyre and Sidon, on the other hand, are cities to the north of the Sea of Galilee. The phrase ‘the regions across the Jordan’ refers to an area called Perea which was across the Jordan from Judea. So, news about the Lord Jesus had spread north, south, east and west; it had spread far and wide. And so, while he wasn’t popular with the Pharisees and scribes, lots of other people heard about him and wanted to see him for themselves.
And in the verses which follow, Mark summarises for us what the Lord was doing at that time. So, according to verse 10, he was healing the people. In fact, so many people wanted to be healed, that it became difficult for the Lord, because they were all pushing forward to get as close to him as possible. They believed all they needed to do was to touch him and they would be healed. In fact, so many were pressing against him that he needed to get into one of the boats on the lake to keep himself from being crushed by the people.
So, he was healing the people. And he was silencing — and presumably casting out — the demons. So, the demons knew who he was; they knew he was the Son of God. But the Lord wasn’t interesting in their testimony. And so, when the evil spirits fell down before him and cried out who he was, he silenced them.
Once again we need to remember that healing the people like this and silencing and casting out the evil spirits was a foretaste of what he will do when he comes again in glory and power. When he comes again, our weak and frail and earthly bodies will be transformed and made glorious for ever. They will be transformed and made glorious like his body. And at that time, when he comes again, there will be no more death or mourning, no more crying or pain, no more sickness or disease. The former things — the sorrow and sadness of this world and all the disease and death which we suffer now — will pass away; and all of God’s people will be made new; and we’ll live with him forever in the new heaven and the new earth. That’s what he will do for all his people when he comes again. And as a foretaste of that, as a little taster of what he will do later, while he was on the earth he healed the sick and removed their diseases from them as a promise of what he will do when he comes again to renew all things.
And, of course, whenever he silenced the evil spirits and cast them out, it too was a foretaste of what he will do when he comes again, because when he comes again it will be to destroy once and for all the Devil and all his demons and all his enemies who have sided with the Devil against him. Just as he silenced these demons, so all his enemies will be silenced in his presence when he comes again; and just as he cast these demons out, so he will cast his enemies into hell to suffer an everlasting punishment.
The Lord healed many and he silenced and cast out many evil spirits as a foretaste of what he will do when he comes again. And since he’s the one who is able to give us everlasting life, and since he’s the one who is able to destroy all his enemies, then we all ought to repent and believe in him, because whoever repents and believes in him will not be silenced and cast into hell when he comes again, but will receive from him everlasting life in his glorious presence where there will be no more death or disease or sorrow or sadness. Jesus Christ is the mighty king; and we all ought to repent and believe in him while there is time, so that we need not fear his coming, but can look forward to it with hope. This same Jesus who healed the sick and who cast out evil spirits is coming again. And if you repent and believe in him, then his coming will mean for you the end of sickness once and for all and the end of death once and for all and the beginning of new life in the new heaven and the new earth.
Here’s Mark giving us a summary of what the Lord was doing at that time: he was healing the sick; he was silencing and casting out evil spirits. And it was a foretaste of what he will do when he comes again.
Verses 13 to 19
Let’s move on to the next section, because in verses 13 to 19 we read that the Lord went up on a mountain and called to him those he wanted. So, from this great crowd of people who were following him at that time, he chose twelve who would become his apostles. He appointed them to be with him — so that they could learn from him — and he appointed them to preach and to have authority to drive out demons. And then Mark names the twelve.
Have you ever wondered why he chose twelve disciples or twelve apostles? Why twelve and not another number? Why not ten, for instance, a good round number? Why not seven which in the Bible signifies completeness? Or, since we tend to hear more about James and John and Simon and Andrew, why not just four apostles? Why twelve and not another number? And why did he wait until he went up this mountain before appointing the apostles? Is there any significance to the mountain?
On Sunday evenings we’ve just finished going through the book of Exodus. And in the book of Exodus we read how the Lord brought the Israelites out of Egypt and he led them out into the wilderness and he brought them to a mountain. And from the top of the mountain, the Lord spoke to the people and he entered into a covenant with them by which he chose them to be his own special people. They were to be with him; and they were to be a light to the nations, declaring the glory of the Lord. And, if you remember, the Israelites were divided into twelve tribes.
So, back in the Old Testament, at Mount Sinai God chose the twelve tribes of Israel to be his people and to belong to his kingdom. And now, in the gospels, the Lord Jesus Christ, when he was on a mountain, chose the twelve apostles to form a new people for himself who would belong to his kingdom of grace. By choosing twelve apostles when he was on a mountain, the Lord was re-enacting what God did at Mount Sinai in the days of Moses in order to make clear that he was forming a new people for himself. He was making clear that these twelve apostles represent God’s new people.
And this idea — that the twelve apostles represent the church — appears in other places in the New Testament. For instance, in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, he writes about how his readers had become citizens of God’s people and members of God’s household, which is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets. In other words, the apostles along with the New Testament prophets — who together preached the gospel of Jesus Christ — form the foundation of the New Testament church, so that the church is built on them and on their witness to the Lord Jesus.
And in the book of Revelation — which were we studying together on Wednesday evenings — we read about the new heavenly Jerusalem. Now, the new heavenly city which John saw is not really a city. It’s not really a city, because the city in John’s vision is the glorified church, which has been made perfect and glorious in God’s presence. And in John’s vision of the new Jerusalem, he saw that its wall has twelve foundations. And on these twelve foundations were the names of the twelve apostles. Once again this symbolises how the church is built on the apostles and on their witness to the Lord Jesus.
So, in the days of the Old Testament, God called the twelve tribes of Israel to himself at Mount Sinai and he promised that they would be his people, the members of his kingdom. And in Mark’s gospel we read how God the Son called the twelve apostles to himself, because they were to represent the new people of God. They were to form the foundation of the church so that we can say that the church is built them and on their testimony to the Lord Jesus Christ.
As we think about this, we should notice God’s grace, his kindness. How do we see God’s grace? Well, look who he called and think about what they were like. Take Simon Peter, who once opposed the Lord Jesus so that the Lord had to rebuke him and say:
Get behind me, Satan!
And think how Simon Peter denied knowing the Lord three times after the Lord’s arrest. Simon Peter was a sinner who let the Lord down. In fact, all of his disciples abandoned him and fled for their lives when he was arrested. They were hardly loyal and faithful. James and John were given the nickname, ‘Boanerges’, which means ‘Sons of Thunder’. Why was that they nickname? Well, it was because of their angry temperament, wasn’t it? Do you remember that time when they wanted to ask God to pour down fire on a Samaritan village to destroy it? Then there was Levi, or Matthew as he’s called here, who was a tax collector; tax collectors at that time were known to be dishonest and greedy. Then there was Simon the Zealot; the Zealots were a revolutionary political group who weren’t afraid to use violence to get their way. Then there was Doubting Thomas who refused to believe in the Lord’s resurrection without first seeing him with his own eyes. And then, of course, there was Judas, the betrayer.
These are the men the Lord chose for himself. So, he didn’t call the righteous to himself, but sinners. This highlights for us his grace and his mercy, his kindness to undeserving sinners, because he was prepared to call these men to himself and to give them the free gift of eternal life and to appoint them his apostles to preach his word.
Or think of Paul. Think of what he was before he was called to be an apostle, and how he went from place to place, persecuting the church of Jesus Christ. But the Lord was very gracious to Paul, and he showed mercy to Paul, the chief of sinners, and pardoned him and appointed him an apostle and a preacher of the gospel.
And so, the apostles were able to go and preach the gospel to all, confident that God was willing to pardon every sinner who repents and believes. And they could be confident about that, because the Lord had pardoned them; and, despite their guilt and shame, he was willing to have men like that in his kingdom. And he was able to wash them and cleanse them and transform them. And if the Lord was willing and able to do that for them, then he was willing and able to do that for any who believe.
And so, if you’re sitting here this morning, thinking that you’re too bad for God, that you’re too sinful to belong to his kingdom, that you’ve done too many shameful things in your life and that God will never accept you, then think again about the Lord’s grace and mercy, because those men who formed the foundation of his church were sinners too; and yet they were washed and sanctified and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by his Spirit. And so, there’s no one who has fallen so low that they’re beyond his reach; there’s no sin so dirty that cannot be pardoned, for the Lord is gracious and merciful and he’s willing to pardon all who come to him, confessing their sins, and asking for his mercy.
Preaching and Faith
But please also notice again what the Lord appointed the apostles to do. They were to be with him so that they could learn from him. And we see that in the gospels, don’t we? The Lord was with a crowd, but then he would withdraw with his disciples, the twelve apostles, to talk with them and to teach them and to explain his word to them more thoroughly.
But the Lord also appointed them to preach. You see, preaching is the primary means by which the Lord Jesus calls sinners into his kingdom; it’s the method by which he extends his kingdom throughout the world. The kingdoms of the earth are extended by force, with one army fighting against another army, one nation dropping bombs on another nation. But the kingdom of heaven, Christ’s kingdom of grace, is extended through preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ, who died for sinners and who was raised.
And so, after the Lord’s resurrection, he commanded the apostles to go to the nations. And in the book of Acts we read how they went from place to place, preaching the gospel and bearing witness to the Saviour. And wherever they went, they preached the gospel and people heard and believed. Many did not believe; but many believed and were added to the church so that Christ’s kingdom grew. And according to Paul in his letter to the Ephesians, the Lord Jesus continues to give the church preachers to proclaim his word and to extend his kingdom: in the past, he has given the church the apostles and prophets and evangelists; today he gives the church pastor-teachers to preach his word.
And so, since preaching is the primary means by which Christ extends his kingdom, then we should value preaching. We should pay attention to it carefully and take heed to what the Lord says through his preachers, who come in his name to make his will known. And we should pray for its success, praying that God will use it to convince and convert sinners to faith in Christ and use it to build us up in faith and love. So we should value preaching, because this is the primary means by which the Lord extends his kingdom.
And since preaching it the primary means by which the Lord extends his kingdom, then that tells us that the way to enter his kingdom is by believing the message. The apostle were appointed and sent out to preach. And whoever heard their message about the Saviour, and believed in him, were added to his kingdom. We do not enter his kingdom by our good deeds; we don’t climb our way into his kingdom by the good works we perform; we aren’t reconciled to God by anything we do; no, we enter his kingdom and are reconciled to God by believing in his Son and in what he did for sinners when he died on the cross to pay for their sins. The Lord appointed the apostles to preach, because preaching is the way his kingdom is extended; and believing is the way we enter his kingdom and remain in it.
But notice this one last thing before I finish. The Lord sent his apostles to preach; but he also gave them authority to drive out demons. The Devil and his demons will do whatever they can to oppose the preaching of the gospel. They will do everything they can to blind the mind of unbelievers to keep them from seeing the glory of Christ. The Devil will do everything he can to keep sinners in his grip, so that cannot escape from his dominion. And yet, the Lord gave his apostles power over the demons, so that not even the Devil and all his demons were able to stand in their way and keep them from preaching the gospel and extending Christ’s kingdom.
Think of Pharaoh in the days of Moses who refused to let the Israelites go. But in the end, the Pharaoh was defeated, because nothing and no one could prevent the Lord from saving his people. That was true in the days of Moses. It was true in the days of the apostles who were given this special authority. And it’s true today as well, because even though the Devil blinds the minds of many to keep them from seeing Christ’s glory, nevertheless the Lord is still able — through the preaching of his word — to cause the light to shine in our dark hearts to give us the knowledge of God and of his salvation.
The Devil and the demons could not stop the apostles from extending Christ’s kingdom; and they cannot stop Christ’s kingdom from growing today, because all power and authority in heaven and on earth is found in Christ the King; and by his mighty power he reaches sinners through the preaching of the gospel and he takes hold of them; and he draws them out of Satan’s grip and he brings them into his own everlasting kingdom. And so, we need not fear the Devil, because he will not be able to keep the Lord Jesus Christ from building his kingdom on the earth through the preaching of the gospel.
And all who repent and believe the gospel are added to his kingdom; and we’re able to look forward to that day when Christ the King comes again, because when he comes all who have believed in him will be transformed and made like him; and there will be no more death or disease, but perfect peace and rest and everlasting life forever.