The popularity of Jesus

Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the lake, and a large crowd from Galilee followed. When they heard all he was doing, many people came to him from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, and the regions across the Jordan and around Tyre and Sidon. Because of the crowd he told his disciples to have a small boat ready for him, to keep the people from crowding him. For he had healed many, so that those with diseases were pushing forward to touch him. (Mar 3:7–10)

Mark's Gospel records some of the opposition Jesus received from the Pharisees and teachers of the Law, but far more emphasis is placed on his popularity with the people. Thirty-three times Mark uses the word 'crowd' to describe the numbers that came to see Jesus: an average of more than twice per chapter.

From every direction

V7 tells us that he withdrew with his disciples to the lake (a common name for the Sea of Galilee), and a large crowd from Galilee followed him. Galilee was the region immediately west of the lake.

V8 tells us that many people came to him from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, and the regions across the Jordan and around Tyre and Sidon. Tyre and Sidon were to the north-west, the regions across the Jordan to the east, and Judea, Jerusalem and Idumea to the south.

That means that people were coming to Jesus from almost every point on the compass. Idumea, in particular, was situated one hundred miles to the south. So people were coming from a radius of up to one hundred miles—most of them, probably, on foot. But why were such large crowds coming to him? V8 tells us:

When they heard all he was doing, many people came to him…

You would have thought they would have come to listen to his teaching. Some may, but the majority came to have their physical needs met: to be healed of their sicknesses and diseases and to be delivered from demons.

Followers of Christ

But to be healed by God doesn't make a person a Christian, neither does having demons driven out of them or being raised from the dead. A Christian is a follower of Jesus Christ: someone who has given their life to him and wants to follow him and obey his teaching.

Jesus must have healed thousands of people during his earthly ministry, but only a few became his disciples. Most of them got what they wanted and went home. They wanted the benefits God was willing to give them without the commitment; and how typical that is of human nature.

Jesus said that God causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous (Mat 5:45). In other words, he provides the means for the human race to live and prosper on earth; and yet how many want to serve him?

Even today, how many follow the Lord because of the blessings they receive, rather than from a sincere and pure devotion to him (2Co 11:3)? Yes, he is generous and blesses those who come to him in faith, but he wants something from us in return—he wants us to give our lives to him.

You are the Son of God

Whenever the impure spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, 'You are the Son of God.' (Mar 3:11)

Impure spirits—also referred to in the New Testament as 'evil' spirits (Luk 7:21) and 'demons' (Luk 4:33)—are invisible; you cannot see them with the human eye, but they indwell people and manifest their natures through the people they indwell. They also have knowledge and they knew who Jesus was.

As soon as they saw him, they took control of the people they indwelt. They fell on the ground before him crying out, 'You are the Son of God.' It must have been an amazing sight—people falling prostrate before the Lord as he walked towards them. But something similar had happened in the Old Testament.

The Lord's dwelling place

In 1Sa 5 the Philistines had captured the ark of the Lord and had placed it in the temple of their god, Dagon; but when they went back the next morning the statue of Dagon was lying on its face before the ark. They put it back in its place, but the following morning Dagon was again lying prostrate before the ark of the Lord. Why was that?

The Lord had told Moses to build an ark (a wooden chest) and to cover it with gold. He'd also told him to make a gold cover for it with cherubim at the ends of the cover. The Lord said that he would meet with Moses, between the cherubim, on the gold cover that was over the ark (Exo 25:10–22).

The Lord sat enthroned between the wings of those cherubim (Psa 80:1); that was his dwelling place on earth. So, wherever the ark went, the Lord also went—even into the temple of Dagon! When Dagon (a demonic deity) saw the Lord enter his temple, his statue prostrated itself before him.

That was in the Old Testament, but what about the New? In John's Gospel we read:

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. (Joh 1:14)

The Greek word translated 'made his dwelling' means to spread a tent. It comes from a noun meaning tabernacle or tent. So that verse could be translated as:

The Word [Jesus Christ] became flesh and spread his tent [tabernacled] among us.

The Lord was no longer dwelling among his people between the wings of the cherubim in the tabernacle, he was now dwelling among them in a human body. No wonder demons prostrated themselves before him!

Forbidden to tell

But he gave them [the impure spirits] strict orders not to tell others about him. (Mar 3:12)

Even though the impure (evil) spirits knew that Jesus was the Son of God, he would not allow them to reveal that truth to the people (we came across two similar incidents in Mar 1:23–5 and 33–4). That may sound strange until we realize that God has not given evil spirits the task of teaching spiritual truth on earth: that is the ministry of the Holy Spirit (Joh 16:13).

Impure spirits are under the control of Satan, who is a liar, the father of lies (Joh 8:44) and a deceiver (Gen 3:13; Rev 20:1–3). And even though Satan knows and can quote spiritual truth (Mat 4:5–7), his intention is to deceive; so Jesus commanded the spirits to be silent.

Michael Graham
February 2003
Revised July 2020

Scripture quotations taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version (Anglicised edition). Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica (formerly International Bible Society). Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved.

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