The beginning of chapter 3 really belongs with the section before in chapter 2 where Jesus is presented as Lord of the Sabbath. What I love about this story in the beginning of chapter 3 is that he really doesn’t do any work. He simply tells the man to stick his arm out. He doesn’t really even work on the Sabbath but he follows up his claim in chapter 2, “the Sabbath was made for man, not mad for the Sabbath” with the question of which is lawful on the Sabbath, “to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” Jesus continues to poke holes in their understanding of the Sabbath.
Verses 7-8 makes very clear that Jesus’ fame as a miracle worker as well as a preacher was spreading throughout the region, to a wider extent than that of John’s fame, due to the miracles that he is working. This list of places where everyone is coming from, Jesus will go on to preach in those places (except for Idumea). The point of these geographical references demonstrates that people are coming from all directions: north, south, east, and west, to reach Jesus. At this point the people don’t seem to be “following Jesus” in regards to being his disciples but more so in regards to chasing after him because they have a magical view of him. They believe that if they only touch him they will be well. This leads Jesus to having his disciples prepare a boat so that he can escape the crowed pressing around him. Jesus will still take time to heal many of them but the emphasis seems to be on the word that he has to speak. Remember that preaching and teaching is his primary mission (see 1:38), rather than healing.
Impure spirits force the people they inhabit to fall before Jesus and proclaim that he is the Son of God. Jesus quickly silences them. Why? Some have suggested that the timing of this proclamation is wrong but that doesn’t seem to suffice. It would seem that an endorsement from impure spirits would not be good for one’s ministry. No matter what the reason is, Mark is showing a great irony here that those he came to combat are saying the right things while those he came to save will accuse him of being “possessed by Beelzebul.”
Jesus called the twelve to him to appoint him. Jesus went up on a mountainside to do this. The setting for this appointment is presumably meant to be reminiscent of the setting at which Israel was constituted a people (Ex. 18-19). This sentiment is paralleled where Jesus calls the disciples to him up on the mountain in Matthew 5 to give them the law (the Sermon on the Mount). He calls them so that they can go and do the things that he has been doing: preaching and driving our demons.
Jesus is accused of having a demon, being out of his mind, and his family comes to take charge of him. The actions of an individual in those times had great implications on family. They were afraid of the embarrassment Jesus might cause them because of the things the leader of the people were saying about him. They set out to protect their family honor not realizing they are rejecting God. Jesus offers that all who do God’s will are his brother, sister, and mother. This invitation is open to his family as well. Jesus makes very clear that he is only interested in bringing honor to God and not what his family thinks is honorable. This would have been a powerful reminder to the hearers of Mark’s Gospel who would have quite possibly been receiving the same kind of pressure from their own families who had not accepted Jesus.
We live with this kind of tension as well. We are called to glorify God by doing His will while our country, culture, friends, family, place of business, etc. wants us to glorify them. We continually need to make sure which family we are in and which family we are seeking to glorify.