13 January 2016

Mark 3:7-12

“You are the Son of God!” (v. 11)

Psalm: Psalm 9:1-10


Jesus' ministry is clearly growing and his reputation spreading far and wide. Despite the lack of telephone, internet, TV or radio it seems that in a short space of time people from across the country have not only heard about Jesus but also taken the time and energy to travel to see and hear him for themselves. People from Judea and Jerusalem travelled to listen to John the Baptist (Mark 1:5) but we're told that the reach of Jesus' ministry has extended much further, with people from most of the surrounding Jewish populations beyond Judea travelling to Galilee to see what all the fuss was about.

Jesus could have headed to the lake to escape the attentions and increasing animosity of the religious and political authorities in the town, or it could have been because of the sheer number of people who were flocking to see him. Whatever the reason it was safer to take to a boat and preach from a distance rather than risk being swept up in an unpredictable crowd.

Large numbers of people are talking about what Jesus is saying and doing, and so it seems odd for Jesus to say to anyone that they should not say who he was when some declare him to be the Son of God (verse 11). This is a theme that is repeatedly seen throughout Mark's Gospel and is sometimes known as the "messianic secret". Jesus asks for his identity to be kept secret at various points of healing (eg Mark 1:34) or when the disciples claim to understand who he is (eg Mark 8:30; 9:9). He even asks some of those he has healed to say nothing about it (eg Mark 1:44; 5:43; 7:36) although unsurprisingly he is often ignored as it's hard to keep quiet when your life has completely changed.

It may be that Jesus knew that the full understanding of his ministry and who he was would not be understood without the events of his crucifixion and resurrection. The repeated command to secrecy is also used by the Gospel repeatedly to underline to those listening to or reading this account who Jesus was and that they were in on this great secret from the beginning.

To Ponder

  • What would it take to make you travel across the country, without the aid of modern public transport, to listen to a charismatic figure that you'd never seen but only heard about?
  • A belief in demons and "unclean spirits" (v. 11) was widespread at the time of this Gospel account and was the explanation for many illnesses, particularly mental illness and epilepsy. How good are youand/or the Church at supporting people with illnesses that are hard to understand or explain today?

Bible notes author

Dr Richard Vautrey

Richard Vautrey is a local preacher and church steward in Leeds, and a former vice-president of the Methodist Conference. He works as a GP, is an elected member of both the BMA council and Royal College of GPs council as well as being the deputy chair of the BMA's GP committee.