His Voice and His Hands (Mark 3:7-19)
Topic: Mark Passage: Mark 3:7–3:19
I. Involved in the Extra-ordinary
If you’ve recently found yourself in the biography section or autobiography section at the bookstore, then you know that there are more biographies and autobiographies out now than ever before. From 2002 to 2009, there was a 79% increase in the number of biographies published in the U.S., with over 12,000 volumes released in 2009.
But when you look at the subjects of these books, sometimes we’re forced to ask, “What makes someone worthy of a biography.” Certainly putting the latest Hollywood celebrity, the media’s flavor-of-the-month in the same category as George Washington should make us stop and ask some questions.
I think one thing we can conclude is that almost every person who is the subject of a traditionally published biography is a person who in some way, has been involved in the extra-ordinary.
You see, in most cases, no one writes a biography about someone who is lives just an ordinary life. If they claim to be, they are usually writing about an ordinary life that is extra-ordinarily ordinary, to the point of distinction, which of course then makes it not-so ordinary.
But let me ask you this question this morning: do you think anyone will ever write a biography about your life? As most of us shake our heads “no”, I hope you’re not answering that way because you believe you have not been, nor ever will be involved in the extra-ordinary.
This morning, we’re going to be reminded that the vast majority of those who are and who have been, and those who can and will be involved in the most extra-ordinary work in this world, are not, in most cases, nor will they ever be, the subjects of any biography.
Turn with me to Mark 3. This morning, we are going to take another hiatus from our study in I Samuel and, having just completed these books in our 3-a-Day readings, we’re think more carefully about an episode that we find in all three of the Synoptic Gospels (that’s Matthew, Mark, and Luke).
II. The Crowd and The Boat
We’re going to start in verse 7 this morning. But before we do, let’s talk about where we are here in this book. Jesus has recently begun His public ministry of proclaiming the coming of God’s kingdom. In the previous few episodes, Jesus has begin to face severe opposition from the Jewish religious elite because of His ministry to the people.
But in contrast to these critics, we also see that Jesus was gaining a pretty large following. In Galilee, where He lived, Jesus was the the darling of the media. Large amounts of people were coming to be healed or to see others healed.
Let’s keep this in mind as we begin in verse 7:
7 Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the sea, and a great crowd followed, from Galilee and Judea 8 and Jerusalem and Idumea and from beyond the Jordan and from around Tyre and Sidon. When the great crowd heard all that he was doing, they came to him. 9 And he told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, lest they crush him, 10 for he had healed many, so that all who had diseases pressed around him to touch him. 11 And whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God.” 12 And he strictly ordered them not to make him known.
Now what we see here is that the crowds around Jesus were swelling. I mean, they were getting really, really big. This is clear from the place names listed in verses 7 and 8: The punctuation in the ESV here is misleading, but what seems to be happening is that Jesus is still drawing a local crowd from Galliee, there in the north.
But reports about him have also drawn out a large multitude from Judea in the south and Jerusalem, from Idumea in the far south and southeast, to the east, beyond the Jordan River, to the west coast, from Tyre and Sidon on the Mediterranean.
In terms of national appeal, this is like saying that Jesus, if He were ministering right here was drawing crowds from Phoenix and LA, and the Midwest and New York , from Seattle, and even from Florida. Jesus’ fame was spreading like wildfire.
And there are so many people that it’s becoming dangerous. So what does He do?
Yeah, He tells his disciples to get a boat ready (something some of these former fisherman could do fairly easily). So while Jesus is teaching and healing there on the shore, He’s got a “plan B” just in case things get too tight.
He’s probably not planning on leaving in the boat, but doing what we read He eventually had to do at the beginning of the next chapter: teach from the boat just a little offshore.
But notice that Jesus’ tells his followers just to get the boat ready. He doesn’t use it here. And He doesn’t use it here because he wants to stay on the shore as long as He can.
The issue here is not that Jesus is uncomfortable or that there are just too many people for His tastes; the issue is Jesus’ safety (and probably the safety of the crowd).
You see, Jesus came to minister to these people; to touch people and be touched by these people who were pressing in on Him. The option of the boat was not the ideal. If necessary, Jesus would use the boat, but that was not what He wanted.
Jesus wanted to be among the people, teaching them and touching their lives.
And what confirms this fact is what happens next.
III. Twelve More Voices and Twenty-Four More Hands
Look at what Jesus does in verse 13:
13 And he went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him. 14 And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach 15 and have authority to cast out demons. 16 He appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); 17 James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James (to whom he gave the name Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder); 18 Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Cananaean, 19 and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.
Do you see what Jesus is doing here? Do you see how Jesus is responding to the problem of the growing crowds, to the fact that He may have to resort to teaching from a dingy? Look at what He does. He acquires twelve more voices and twenty-four more hands.
From His group of followers Jesus chooses twelve men to be involved in the most extra-ordinary work in the world; to represent Him, to shoulder the burden of this ministry, and to reach the incredible multitude of men and women, boys and girls who are coming to hear and be healed; twelve men to be among the people, teaching them and touching their lives.
Specifically, as we can see from verses 14 and 15, the work these men were sent to do was the same work we find Jesus doing since the time He began in Mark 1:14: to preach and cast out demons. We also know from other passages that these Twelve were able to heal the sick.
But remember that the word “preach” is put first here for a reason. Jesus’ primary purpose was to proclaim the gospel, to declare the coming of God’s reign and call for repentance and faith. The healings and exorcisms He performed were ultimately meant to validate His message and His authority as a messenger.
We also read in verse 14 that these men were, in fact, chosen as “apostles”, or literally, “sent ones”. An apostle was someone who was sent out to be an official representative of the sender. For this reason, even Jesus is labeled an apostle in Hebrews 3:1, since He was sent as God’s official representative.
These men, these Twelve Apostles would later become the key pillars of the early church. They were the only ones given the authority to apply Jesus’ teaching and establish doctrine for the early church; for as we read in Acts 2, the early church was committed to the Apostle’s teaching.
Now, there are a few instances in which the word “apostle” (little “a”) is used more generically in the NT in reference to some who witnessed Jesus’ resurrection and those authoritatively sent out by the Apostles (capital “A”) to proclaim Christ. But in most of its eighty occurrences the word “apostle” refers to men who were hand-picked by Jesus: these Twelve from Mark 3, Paul, and probably also James the half-brother of Jesus.
Why Paul and James? Well, what we know is that an Apostle had to be an eyewitness of the resurrected Jesus, and specifically for the Twelve, they had to have followed Jesus from the very beginning, from the time of John’s baptism (we know that from Acts 1). Now Paul and James, for example, had not followed Jesus from the beginning, so they weren’t considered part of the Twelve. But they had seen the resurrected Jesus, and James is mentioned separately in I Corinthians 15. And we know Paul was personally commissioned by Christ.
As Paul put it in I Corinthians 15:8, he was like one who was born at the wrong time, much later than the others. But as he asked his readers in I Corinthians 9, “Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord?”
The distinctiveness of Paul’s apostleship is why you will always find Paul having to qualify His apostleship, having to confirm that, even though he wasn’t there from the beginning, he really was an authorized witness of Jesus (“Paul, an apostle by the will of God” (I & II Cor, Eph, Col, II Tim.)).
I tell you all of this so that first and foremost, you can get a sense of how important this moment is in Mark 3, when Jesus appoints these men, but also, so that we can understand why there are not any apostles today, even though some still claim this title.
Sure there are some who do an apostolic (little “a”) work, that is, there are some church planting evangelists or other leaders who somewhat resemble the apostles in function, but no one in terms of their authority.
Before the establishment of the church, the Twelve did replace Judas, the betrayer, with a man named Matthias, but after that, we’re never told of any replacements, even after one of these men, James the brother of John was killed in Acts 12.
So again, the main point here is that Jesus’ response to the growing crowds is to appoint twelve men to share in, to be involved in His extraordinary work, to become His official, His authorized representatives.
IV. The Ripple Effect
Now, as we talk about the distinctiveness of these Twelve, about the fact that their number was limited, you may be saying, “OK, so how does this relate to us?” Yes, we can be grateful for the faithfulness of these Twelve men, we can respect their courage, but in terms of this passage, is there some way in which we share in their appointment?
The answer is “yes”. Think about this. Some may ask, “If Jesus was God, then why did Jesus need help reaching the crowds? Does God really need our help?” But this question misses a basic truth about the Incarnation, about the coming of the Son of God in human flesh.
In deciding that God the Son was to become a man to redeem men, God was also deciding that the world would be reached with that redemption through mankind.
You see, in taking on the limitations of our flesh, it was now possible for the Son of God, forJesus to be crushed by the crowds, to be overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of people. He couldn’t get to them all in this way. And He didn’t because that wasn’t His plan.
As the numbers multiplied, Jesus multiplied His voice and His hands. Going in His authority, these men would, in essence, be carrying Jesus with them wherever they went.
But, listen to this, as the window of ministry would grow, the voice and hands of Christ would also need to grow.
Even though Christ eventually returned to the Father, new place names were still being added to those mentioned in Mark 3:7, 8, names like Antioch, and Crete, and Ephesus, and Corinth, and Alexandria, and yes, even Rome.
But how could these twelve men reach so many people in so many places? The book of Acts tells us how: they planted churches. There was a ripple effect.
That’s right, they planted new churches and authorized men the NT calls elders to carry on the work of Jesus. And in turn, these elders would then lead that church, all those who had heard the news of Jesus and had been touched by His grace, they would lead that church in carrying out this same work in the place where God had them; and they would extend that work by also planting churches.
And thus this ministry of Jesus, that we read about in Mark 3:7-12, is continued right here, right now, for the church is the body of Christ. For those who belong to Him this morning, we are the voices and hands of Christ.
Do you see how this connects to us? In appointing these men to share in and continue His work, Jesus was marking the very beginning of this new kingdom era when God was going to involve countless men and women in His extraordinary work.
If you are a follower of Jesus, then you stand in this legacy. As Jesus appointed these Twelve, and these Twelve established churches, and those churches established churches of faithful witnesses, we today, almost two thousand years later have been taught about and touched by God’s grace. Is that amazing?
V. Your Voice and Your Hands
You see, our Lord’s agenda was not built around the boat. His plan was not to preach from a distance. His plan was to be among the people, teaching them and touching their lives. So to do this, he created a people to represent Him, to be His body. The question for us is, “Has He made your voice and your hands His own?”
Are you one of the countless people involved in this extra-ordinary work of reconciliation? Do you want to be? As we finish this morning, I want to encourage all of us by looking at what we could call “the pattern of being sent”, the pattern we find in Mark 3:13-15.
While this pattern does not fully apply to us since we’re not apostles, as members of Christ’s body, as participants in this local church, as the inheritors of their work, we can find parallels.
First, notice that Jesus calls those He sends out.(v. 13) And he went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him. If you want to be involved in this extra-ordinary work, if you want Jesus to use your voice and hands, then you have to be called. No one can simply come on their own.
Countless times throughout his letters to the churches, the Apostle Paul refers to followers of Christ as those who are “called to belong to Jesus Christ” (Romans 1:6) or “called according to His purposes” (Romans 8:28), or “called through our gospel” (II Thessalonians 2:14).
The word of God is clear that no one can come to Jesus unless God draws them to Christ, unless God opens their eyes to see the surpassing greatness of His Son.
So how do you know if you’ve been called? By whether or not you’ve responded to Christ’s message, the good news, the gospel. The doorway through which we enter into involvement with God’s extra-ordinary work is turning from sin and self as we submit to Jesus Christ in faith.
Second, notice that Jesus appoints those He sends out. (v. 14) And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles). No one, going in their own authority can be the voice and hands of Christ. You must be appointed to this work.
In Revelation 1:6 we find this same word applied to every follower of Christ. We read: To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood 6 and made [or appointed] us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
You see, we too are appointed like the Twelve, by Christ Himself to be priests to God the Father, to be those who minister on His behalf to a dying world.
So if you’ve been called, then you’ve been appointed. No one can be called and respond to God’s invitation and not be appointed. It doesn’t work that way. All who confess that Jesus is Lord and thus are saved (Romans 10), are also sent out by Jesus, individually and as part of the church.
Do you know that if you belong to Christ, then you are sent out for Him? First, you are appointed to be a part of a local church that is sent to fulfill Jesus’ agenda. Secondly, you and I are also sent individually into our neighborhoods, we are sent into our workplaces, we are sent to your families, we are sent into all of the places and situations where God has sovereignly placed us.
You are appointed to be His voice and His hands. If that’s a scary thought, then remember the words He gave these guys before He returned to the Father: And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…” (Matthew 28:18, 19)
We go out with the comforting knowledge that Jesus’ has all authority, that nothing can stop His work in this world, that He will empower us, and that He has already won the battle.
But we find another comforting idea in Mark 3:14.
This is our third point; notice that Jesus is with those He sends out. 14 And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him
The key to the continuation of Christ’s ministry through these men was the fact that they would be with Him. How could they represent Christ if they didn’t know Him? And how could they know Him unless they were with Him?
But what about when He returned to the Father? Had they learned everything they needed to know? Did they no longer have any need for Jesus? No way! Remember what Jesus said in Matthew 28? All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
The great promise in which you and I can share is that Christ, through the Spirit who was sent to us, is always with those whom He calls and appoints. The question is, are we with Him?
How could we possibly think that we could be the voice and hands of Jesus, or maybe more accurately, that Jesus would use our voice and our hands, if we are not growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ, if we’re not with Him, each day?
Have you been with Jesus today, looking and listening to Him? If you are called and appointed by Jesus, then I can say without a shadow of a doubt that Jesus has been with you.
This should be the goal of our life, the goal of each day, to be with Jesus, to walk with Him.
This is the heart of what we’ve seen this morning: To reach countless lives in a dying world, the Son of God was sent to us so that we might be sent for Him. (2x)
At Way of Grace, one of the ways we describe a healthy follower of Christ in light of our Four Essentials is to affirm that a disciple, a Christian is a “sent one” for Christ. In John 20:21, Jesus told His disciples, As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.
Can you believe it? You and I can be involved in the extra-ordinary; in the most extraordinary work in the world. But even though we have this privilege, like the vast majority of those who have been sent out for Christ, we probably won’t be the subject of any biography. Our names will probably be forgotten by the coming generations.
But if you are called, appointed, and if you are with Jesus Christ, then listen to the words of our Master in Luke 10:20,” rejoice that your names are written in heaven”.
Let biographies be written about those who are involved in all of the things human beings label “extra-ordinary”.
But let us, as His people, respond to the voice of Jesus who is calling us, even this morning, to join Him in His work. Amen?