Desperation and Disciples
by Will Washington
The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.
Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the sea, and a great crowd followed, from Galilee and Judea 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. And he told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, lest they crush him, for he had healed many, so that all who had diseases pressed around him to touch him. 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.
And he went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him. And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach and have authority to cast out demons. He appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James (to whom he gave the name Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder); Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.
Then he went home, and the crowd gathered again, so that they could not even eat. And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind.”
When I was a senior in high school, I got to go to the Georgia vs. Alabama football game in Athens, Georgia. As I was walking towards the stadium before the game, I saw a huge crowd of people begin to follow someone. As I got closer, I realized that the person was PGA golfer Phil Mickelson. Fortunately, he had his security with him because once people realized who it was, they could not help but gravitate towards him.
We see a similar scene in Mark 3. Everything starts to get crazy after a healing miracle. So many people are following Jesus that He tells His disciples to prepare a boat, so the crowd does not crush Him! That speaks to how many people are coming to Jesus after this healing. He is gaining a reputation as someone who heals people of all types of diseases. Desperate, sick, weak sinners flock to Jesus because they know their desperate situations require a powerful yet loving deliverer.
We are all desperate whether we realize it or not. When the Bible describes humanity’s situation, it describes it as a desperate one because of sin. While this might look different for each of us, it applies to every single one of us. It does not matter how good of a person we think we might be externally. However, living in a society of wealth and comfort (especially on a global scale) can give us the illusion that we are secure and in control. Often it takes a crisis to reveal the desperation and weakness that was actually there all along.
The good news of the gospel is that Jesus meets our desperation with His deliverance, our weakness with His strength, our failure with His forgiveness. As Jack Miller once said, “Cheer up! You're a lot worse off than you think you are, but in Jesus, you're far more loved than you could have ever imagined.” Our response to Jesus will largely depend on how accurately we understand our level of desperation and Jesus’ power and love to deliver us. People who understand this live with joyful dependence on Jesus and gentle compassion towards others. Compared to how our world operates, this is upside-down.
What is also upside-down compared to how our world operates is that when these crowds surrounded Him, Jesus specifically chose twelve men to be with Him as His disciples. At this point in Mark, we begin to see that while Jesus had compassion on the crowds and was available to help them, His main focus was on living life with these twelve guys and teaching them. The crazy (and convicting) thing is that many churches and ministries today would not see Jesus’ ministry as a success! Let that sink in. With the opportunity for a flashy and loud ministry, Jesus instead chose to prioritize investing in a small number of relationships. This would probably seem like a failure in our entertainment, noise, and crowd-driven culture. However, history has proven that Jesus’ plan changed the world. And His plan was to deeply invest in these guys’ lives over about a 3-year period. After He ascended, they passed it on to others who did the same, and so on, leading all the way through history to you and me.
Thus, Mark invites us to redefine what it truly means to be well-off: being people who know their need, celebrate their Savior’s healing power and love, and pass on that love to others in the world. We live as His disciples and make disciples of others.
I love what is on the front page of PCPC’s order of worship each week. May we be a group of people who accept this invitation and offer it to others in our lives:
To all who are spiritually weary and seek rest;
to all who mourn and long for comfort;
to all who struggle and desire victory;
to all who sin and need a Savior;
to all who are strangers and want fellowship;
to all who hunger and thirst after righteousness;
and to all who will come, this church opens wide her doors and offers welcome in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.