Are We Listening To God?
Welcome to the study series over the Gospel of Mark! Before we begin, I encourage you to pray and read Mark chapter 3. Ask God to clear your mind and open your heart as we read his word today.
Key Themes Throughout Mark 3:
Jesus’ Authority/power (recurring)
Mark’s intention with his account is to show his audience Jesus’ power and authority through different scenarios. Usually when I think of Jesus’ power, I think of miracles. But he also demonstrates his power when he interacts with his disciples and with the Pharisees and scribes. As followers of Jesus, we want to be like the disciples. However, sometimes we act like the Pharisees. Jesus speaks to both groups in this chapter, and I believe there are important lessons to be learned from both interactions.
Mark 3 begins with a miracle, but it’s a little different than the other miracles that were addressed earlier in the book. Before, people were coming to Jesus with their sickness so they could be healed. This is still occurring, but now, people who oppose him are watching them. This is specifically mentioned in verse 2. The Pharisees want to catch Jesus in the act of breaking their traditions so they could accuse him of wrongdoing. However, when Jesus asks them a question about the Sabbath to challenge their outlook, they stay silent and don’t answer him.
And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. (Mark 3:5, emphasis added)
Every time I read this verse, I notice how it mentions that Jesus was grieved and angry. In the Gospels, it does not mention Jesus being angry very often. What was he grieved about? Why was he angry? Because they didn’t answer his question? Maybe, but I think the answer goes beyond them staying silent.
Jesus is our only way to salvation. He was the Pharisees and Scribes only way to salvation. Jesus knows that they are trapped by their sin, but they continuously reject him anyway. He does miracles in front of them to give them a chance to change their minds... but they never do. He is grieved and angry because he loved them, yet they wanted nothing to do with him. Their hearts were hardened, unable to open to the freedom Jesus offered them.
The world has continuously rejected God over and over and over. You and I have rejected God over and over and over. We are often blinded by our own desires to the grace of God. In our pride, we try to fix all of our problems by human means, when God has the answers to all of our doubts, fears, and questions. When we continuously turn away from God, we are not growing. Focusing on ourselves does not help us be better or “live our best life”. Jesus continuously tries to show the Pharisees the truth and challenge their mindsets, but they aren’t listening. This has to be frustrating.
I know a lot of times when I read about the Pharisees, I think, “I would never do that!” Before we get all self-righteous, we have to ask ourselves, “Am I listening to God right now? Am I putting myself first or Him first?” We must check our hearts. I’m sure our pride has led us away from God, too.
Notice that verse 6 addresses this miracle as a turning point in the Pharisees’ attitude toward Jesus—and not in a positive way. Now, they are no longer simply watching Jesus, but they are going seeking out ways to actively oppose him.
The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him. (Mark 3:6)
After Jesus engages with the Pharisees, he goes away to the sea of Galilee with his disciples. Crowds are still following Jesus, wanting to be healed. Jesus heals them of all kinds of diseases and casts out unclean spirits.
And whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God.” And he strictly ordered them not to make him known. (Mark 3:11-12)
This verse is amazing to me! Jesus didn’t even have to speak for the unclean spirits to know who he was. They saw him and immediately fell before him. Jesus is feared by the unclean spirits! This gives us a very small glimpse into the spiritual warfare that is going on between Satan and God. Even though the unclean spirits are strong enough to control a person, Jesus is stronger! He commands them, and they listen. The very presence of Jesus is more powerful and striking than we could ever imagine.
So, why did Jesus command the unclean spirits not to talk about him?
This is a question I have always wondered. My thought is that it was not time for the people to know Jesus’ identity as the Son of God yet. The timing wasn’t right. However, I am not a Bible scholar, so if you have any thoughts on this verse, let me know in the comments below or send me an email.
When I read this chapter, the theme of discipleship stood out to me the most. Personally, I appreciate and love when Jesus talks about discipleship. Mark really emphasizes on this topic throughout his account. The concept of following Jesus was presented in Mark 1, but now we get the opportunity to dive even deeper.
And he appointed twelve (whom he names apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach and have the authority to cast out demons. (Mark 3:14-15)
Here are three observations I noticed about the roles of the disciples:
Being with Jesus: The role the disciples have is to simply be with Jesus! They walk wherever he walks, listen to him, stand with him in the crowds—they go through life with Jesus. In the same way, we are called to know Jesus and develop a deep relationship with him.
Sending them out to preach: The disciples are sent to spread the word of God. They actively went and spread the messages Jesus wanted to convey. Notice that this comes after they have been with Jesus and have known him. We cannot go out and preach about Jesus if we do not know him.
Casting out demons: In an extremely broad sense, this falls under the umbrella of serving others. Being a disciple means focusing on Jesus, but it’s also a people-focused job.
Jesus never said that being a disciple would be easy. If we read through Acts and the rest of the New Testament, we can see that being a disciple is challenging. However, to walk with Jesus and to know our Creator is amazing. Being in a relationship with Jesus brings so much peace, hope, and joy, even when life is challenging.
Speaking of challenging, in the next section of Scripture, the Scribes are using their power to draw people away from Jesus by saying he is from Satan. Of course, this isn’t true, so Jesus answers them in parables.
“But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he firsts binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house.” (Mark 3:27).
This is one of my favorite verses in this chapter. In this verse, Satan is the strong man, but Jesus is the one who binds the strong man. If you can defeat someone who is strong, you’re pretty powerful. Jesus is stronger than Satan! Even though we are tested in our faith, we doubt, and we question, Jesus has defeated the one who leads us astray. Even though we sin, Jesus has overcome the one who tempts us to turn away from God. The chains of sin are strong, but the grace of God is stronger.
In recognizing that we are trapped by the lies of Satan, we are understanding that we are weak. In our relationship with God, we are the weak ones. It’s okay to realize you can’t do it on your own. I encourage you to take time this week to reevaluate your mindset when it comes to our relationship with God. Ask him to lead you to have an open heart and mind when it comes to his will for your life. Spend some time understanding your role as his disciple, and ask for guidance. Though we may think we are strong and have all the solutions, only God truly knows our hearts.
Thank you for taking part in our study over the Gospel of Mark! If you have any questions or thoughts, feel free to leave a comment below.
Until next time,