Small Group Leader Study Guide
Date: May 12, 2019
Series: Son of God, Servant of Man: Gospel of Mark
Bible Text: Mark 3:7-19
This Week’s Printables:
Within recent American history we have witnessed three men become President of the United States by chance. Harry S. Truman, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Gerald R. Ford all served as Vice President to presidents who died in office. In each case, these three men became Vice President as a result of the most unlikely of pathways.
Consider Truman, who served as vice president to Franklin D. Roosevelt. Truman was a small man both in stature and political influence. He achieved political success mostly through the influence of the political strongman Tom Pendergast, the boss of the Kansas City Democratic machine. Elected to the United States Senate, Truman was often referred to as “The Senator from Pendergast” because he was considered a dupe for the much more powerful and influential boss.
With the 1944 presidential election approaching, the obvious choice for vice president was the current VP, Henry A. Wallace from Iowa. Wallace was both popular and powerful figure within the Democrat party, but his politics were a little too far left for the party leadership. Within the smoke-filled back rooms of the Democrat Convention, the party leaders were able to swing enough delegates to win Truman the nomination for vice president.
Just three months after being sworn in as vice president, Harry S. Truman became President of the United States with the death of FDR on April 12, 1945.
There is great irony in studying history to see how often events of great significance and importance often seem to turn on a dime. This is not the case as we look at this week’s text from Mark 3.
After a series of confrontations with the religious leaders, Jesus’ popularity continues to grow. Large numbers of people from all over the country are traveling as far as 100 miles to see Jesus as He ministers in and around the Sea of Galilee.
Yet, it is not the crowds that draw Jesus’ attention, it is a decision He must make. He has come to what one commentator called the most significant decision of His ministry before the Cross—the selection of the twelve men who would become His apostles.
This decision was not to be some random “turn on a dime” decision. Jesus withdrew to a mountain and spent the night before in prayer and then He made His sovereign choice of twelve men, and they followed. After Jesus’ resurrection, the foundation and future of the Church would rest upon the Twelve Apostles.
Summary: The stark contrast in Mark 3:7-19 between the curious masses and 12 committed men gives us insight into the urgency of Christ and his divine compulsion to ensure his Father’s mission continues even after it is, in one sense, completed. Dig further into these two concepts in this message by Pastor Todd from Mark 3:7-19.
Memory Verse for This Week
Mark 3:13 – “And He went up on the mountain and called to Him those He Himself wanted. And they came to Him.”
Core Practice: Humility
Humility (Philippians 2:3-4): I choose to esteem others above myself.
Take Home Truth
A commitment to Christ’s continuing mission means we are willing to move away from consumerism and urgently pursue his missional priorities.
If you suddenly became a national celebrity, how would you deal with the pressing popularity?
Looking back at your notes from this week’s sermon, was there anything that particularly caught your attention, challenged or confused you?
Make sure you ask this question this week. It gives people the opportunity to discuss questions or issues that come up beyond the written questions. People’s responses can often lead to one of the questions in the “Digging Deeper” section. Also, some weeks this question will result in a lot of discussion, other weeks, not so much.
Read the Text
Mark 3:7–19 (ESV)
A Great Crowd Follows Jesus
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.
The Twelve Apostles
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 Zealot, 19 and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.
In this section, feel free to develop your own questions to help guide your group’s discussion. Below are some suggestions. Remember, if you are hearing from everyone in your group, chances are you won’t have time to discuss every question. You may start with one that catches your attention so you don’t run out of time. For example, it’s not odd to start with Question #6, then go to Question #5 and if you have time come back to Question #4.
What does Mark tell us about Jesus’ ministry at this point in verses 3:7-12?
In spite of the dust up with the religious leaders, Jesus’ ministry continues to grow and expand. People are now coming to Galilee from all parts of the country. They came from the south, from Idumaea, from Judea and from the capital itself, Jerusalem. They came from the west and the coastal cities along the Mediterranean Sea.
To grasp what Mark is saying in this single verse, put the geographic description in our terms. If we wanted to describe someone’s popularity nationwide, we would say, “people came from Maine to California, Florida to Seattle.”
Jesus’ popularity continues to grow and expand. He is becoming a national sensation.
What is Jesus’ response to His growing popularity?
Reading Mark 3:7-12 it is relatively easy to discern Jesus’ priority, yet at the same time understand His compassion.
First His priority: Mark tells us “Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the sea” (v. 7). The focus of Jesus’ ministry at this point is to disciple the 12 men He has appointed to be Apostles. These men will carry on His mission after He is gone, do He prioritizes time with this select group.
Second, His compassion: Mark tells us “He healed many” (v. 10). Jesus prioritized time with His disciples, but He also showed great compassion on those who were sick, hurting, or possessed by demons.
This is a good point for a gentle reminder, however; while the crowds are attracted to Jesus at this point in His ministry, there will come a point in time in the months ahead when the crowds will be demanding His crucifixion. No one would deny that it is good that people are attracted to Jesus, but if their focus is on what he can do for them instead of Who He is, they will not follow Him when the going gets tough. The same principle applies to today.
There is also a reminder of a continuing theme with Jesus during these years: He did not want nor did He allow the testimony of demons. Those possessed with unclean spirits seem to follow Jesus wherever He goes. Even though the Scribes and the Pharisees could not recognize Jesus for who He is, the demons have no trouble: “You are the Son of God!” they would cry out, and Jesus would immediately silence them.
What is the difference between an Apostle and a Disciple?
Last week, we noted how this period of time is one of the key turning points in Jesus’ earthly ministry. Mark tells us in 3:6 that it was at this point the religious leader started plotting to destroy Him. We also see the great crowds following Him, but as we just observed, they are following Jesus for what He can do for them, but they are not interested in spiritual things.
Jesus’ response in the midst of this turning point is to select the men who will be called His Apostles. In the parallel passage in the gospel of Luke, we are told, “Now it came to pass in those days that He went out to the mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God” (Luke 6:12).
As one commentator observed,
In one sense, there was nothing in Jesus’ three years of ministry before the cross more important than this. These were the men who would carry on what He started; without them the work of Jesus would never extend throughout the whole world. Therefore, He made the choice with God’s wisdom: He called to Him those He Himself wanted.
Keep in mind a key distinction that we often confuse concerning the Apostles: these men, The Twelve, were chosen from among Jesus’ many disciples. A disciple was simply an apprentice who learned directly from a master teacher. Jesus had many who considered themselves disciples and it was from this larger circle that Jesus chose twelve who would become His Apostles. An apostle simply means a “sent one” and is the noun form of the Greek verb apostellein which means “to send away or send forth.”
What is the key difference between the two groups of people mentioned in this week’s text, the Crowds and the Twelve?
In one way the two groups were similar—they both followed Jesus, but that is where the similarities end. The crowds were following Jesus the Miracle Worker. They were wanted to see the spectacle of people being healed and demons cast out. The confrontations with the religious leaders probably proved to be both exciting and entertaining. At the same time, they wanted nothing to do with Jesus as their Lord. Yes, they followed Him, but only to a point.
The disciples, however, started following Jesus the Messiah. They recognized in Him more than just a carnival sideshow, they saw their Lord and Savior. To the disciples, Jesus was everything. With the exception of Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus, the rest would devote their lives to Jesus.
We are faced with the same choice today: Is Jesus an add-on to your life whom you follow because it fits in with your plan and your preferences, or is He your Lord and Savior?
Why do you think Jesus chose Judas Iscariot as a disciple?
The choice of Judas was just as important as the choice of any of the other disciples, but many people wonder why Jesus choose Judas.
- It wasn’t because Jesus didn’t know how he would turn out. Jesus told His disciples that He chose them and knew one of them was a devil.
- It wasn’t because He had no others to choose. He could raise up followers from stones, so He could easily have found someone else.
- It wasn’t because He wanted a scandalous person, or a “bad boy”—we read of no scandal surrounding Judas during Jesus’ ministry. The other disciples did far more stupid things during their three years with Jesus.
A man once asked a theologian, “Why did Jesus choose Judas Iscariot to be his disciple?” The teacher replied, “I don’t know, but I have an even harder question: Why did Jesus choose me?”
Becoming A House of Prayer
“Even them I will bring to My holy mountain, And make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices; Will be accepted on My altar; For My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.” – Isaiah 56:7.
Prayer is an important part of being in a small group. Group prayer goes better when we follow three simple guidelines.
- WE PRAY FOR ONE TOPIC AT A TIME – Anyone in the group is free to introduce a prayer request either before prayer begins or during the prayer time. Once a topic is introduced, the group focuses on that request alone. Once it’s covered, the group moves on to the next topic.
- PRAY MORE THAN ONCE – Because the group is focusing on one topic at a time, each person is encouraged to pray several times during the prayer time for those topics they feel most led to pray about. No one is required to pray.
- WE KEEP OUR PRAYERS SHORT AND SIMPLE – Group prayer goes better when members keep their prayers short and to the point. When someone prays for a long time, it’s hard for the other members to stay focused and long prayers tend to intimidate those who are just learning to pray out loud in a group. No one is required to pray out loud.
3:7–8. The word translated “withdrew” can mean “flee from danger,” and therefore some have thought that Jesus was trying to avoid persecution (cf. v. 6). Others have suggested that it intimates His rejection of Judaism. It likely refers to nothing more than Jesus’ desire to extend His ministry beyond the towns and their synagogues. The lake, of course, is Lake Galilee. “Idumea” is the Greek name for Edom, but it refers not to ancient Edom, but to the area to the south of Judea which the Edomites occupied in the sixth and fifth centuries b.c. after the Nabateans forced them out of their homeland east of the Dead Sea. The Herodian family was Idumean and at most was semi-Jewish. They were forced by the Maccabeans to adopt Judaism or face death.
The “regions across the Jordan” River were known at the time as Perea (from the Greek adverb “peran,” meaning “across, beyond, on the other side”). “Tyre and Sidon” were to the north on the Phoenician coast (in modern Lebanon) and were not in Palestine. All three of the areas were largely Gentile and probably symbolize the world beyond the land of the Jews (Judea and Galilee). Mark seems to have been suggesting that all peoples should seek Jesus, and that they may be assured of acceptance. Readers and hearers of his Gospel naturally think about the later Gentile mission.
3:9–10. The scene is one of great commotion, involving pushing and shoving. Apparently, the crowd sought Jesus because of his healings, not to submit themselves to the reign of God. Even so Jesus “healed many” (which probably means “all who were many”). Verse 9 is the first of eight passages that involve a boat; and whether Mark intended such an idea, ancient and medieval Christian artists used the boat to symbolize fellowship between Jesus and his disciples and, by implication, fellowship among Christians.
3:11–12. In 1:24, the demons knew who Jesus was, and in 1:24 one called him “the Holy One of God.” Here, they explicitly confessed that He is “the Son of God”—the ultimate Christological title. Theirs was, however, not a confession of commitment, but of fear (cf. Jas. 2:19) and even opposition—the latter, because some thought that if one knew and used the name of a divine being, he or she could control that being. This is one reason Jesus refused to let the demons use an otherwise appropriate title. The account provides an example of Mark’s irony. Another reason Jesus silenced the demonic confession is that the title they used can be understood properly only in light of His death and resurrection. Therefore, the time for such explicit confession had not come. Only at the crucifixion did a human being confess Jesus as Son of God (15:39). Mark probably intended to contrast what the demons acknowledged as a fact with what the religious leaders were not willing to consider as a possibility.
3:13-15 The mountain here is not identified. Jesus spent the night praying (Lk 6:12). Summoned those He wanted seems to indicate more than just the 12 disciples (cp. Lk 6:13). The number 12 recalls the 12 tribes of Israel (cp. Mt 19:28; Lk 22:30). Two purpose clauses identify the apostles’ functions. They were to be with Him and learn His message, then go out to preach.
3:16-17 Verses 16-19 identify the Twelve men whom Jesus appointed as apostles. The NT contains three other such lists (Mt 10:2-4; Lk 6:14-16; Ac 1:13), and these contain variations in names and order. Peter is first in all lists. Only Mark says that Jesus nicknamed James and John the Sons of Thunder, possibly because of their temperament (Lk 9:54). Peter, James, and John made up Jesus’ inner circle (Mk 5:37; 9:2; 14:33).
3:18-19 On Andrew, Peter’s brother, see note at 1:16-18. Philip (lit “lover of horses”) is not mentioned again in Mark. Bartholomew may be Nathaniel (Jn 1:45-46), otherwise he is not mentioned in the Gospels again. Matthew is mentioned only here in Mark, but he is the same person as Levi the tax collector (2:14; Mt 9:9; 10:3). Thomas appears in Jn 11:16; 20:24. James the son of Alphaeus is not mentioned again. He is distinguished from James who was the son of Zebedee. Thaddaeus is not mentioned again in the NT and is not in Luke’s lists (Lk 6:14-16; Ac 1:13). Possibly he is the same as “Judas the son of James” (Lk 6:16; Ac 1:13). Simon the Zealot (cp. Lk 6:15) is literally “Simon the Cananean,” an Aramean rendering of “zealous” and not an indication that he was a Canaanite. The term was used of religious and political zealots but here likely refers to Simon’s piety (cp. Ac 21:20; 22:3; Gal 1:14) and distinguishes him from Simon Peter. Nothing more is said about him in the NT. Judas Iscariot appears last in each list. “Judas” is the Greek form of “Judah.” “Iscariot” probably indicates that he hailed from Kerioth and thus may identify him as the only Judean among the group.