Today we get to learn about the crowds who came to Jesus in Mark 3: 7-12.
Jesus goes back to the sea. One might wonder why Jesus keeps going back to the sea. Well, the answer is a very busy and popular trade route in Israel called the Via Maris (the way of the sea). This route was the major travel trade route for all points north and southwest of Israel and happens to go right through Capernaum. Thus, it would have been regularly filled with tradesman from all over the Roman world.
Including people from, “Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, beyond the Jordan River, and around Tyre and Sidon.”
At this point, Jesus ministry has spread by word of mouth, and anyone traveling through Galilee on their way to or from Damascus would have heard about the guy healing people in the authority of God.
I love that it mentions Jesus’ asking for a boat. It’s such a practical point, and it really doesn’t add anything to the story other than emphasizing how pushy and desperate the crowd seemed. The Jewish people believed that in order to be healed, they needed to actually touch the healer. There are old Jewish traditions of touching the cloth hanging around the Rabbi’s neck in order to be healed. So, they could touch his clothes or his body and be healed.
It’s an interesting point that Jesus didn’t allow this. He asked to be separated. Did he not want all who touched him to be healed? Did he simply not want to be trampled? Once again, how many damaged, crippled, and unclean people were there? I’m starting to get the impression that Jesus’ world was filled with Quasimodo’s with only a few untouched people.
In verses 11 and 12 we return to Jesus’ old nemesis, the noisy unclean spirit. Once again, he tells them not to talk, and yet “whenever the unclean spirits saw him,” they cried out. Either Jesus really is terrible at getting these spirits to be quiet, or there is something else going on here from a literary perspective.
I think it goes back to the undercurrent of everything Mark has written thus far. Authority. If even the unclean spirits know who Jesus is, it lends to his authority as the Messiah. This is also why we see the messianic title “son of God” here for the first time. That is, the spirits new Jesus was the chosen one, but Jesus didn’t want anyone else to know yet, because they would jump to the wrong conclusions. What more the Messiah means will come up later when there is more of a hubbub about it. I will hint though, the Messiah the disciples thought Jesus was is not the Messiah that Jesus was. (Gasp, but they knew everything!)
I’m not usually one to plug things, but if you want a deeper understanding of some of the Hebrew traditions in the background of these texts, Rob Bell recently published a book called, “What is the Bible?” It’s worth checking out if only to understand that there is so much we don’t know about the world of Jesus, and even more we don’t understand the behaviors and words they used.
Grace and Peace to you all.