One of the ways a writer expresses what is important is by using a lot of repetition. You can tell what is important to them by the subjects that they bring up the most often and by what themes get the most volume in their writings. This is true of the authors of Scripture as well. The writers of the Gospel gave a lot of space to record the many times Jesus spoke with the religious leaders of His day and the many times they rejected Him.
We believe the book of Mark is a recording of Peter’s account of Jesus’ life. In Mark 3, Jesus is described as becoming deeply troubled and distressed by the hard heartedness of the religious leaders. Imagine Peter, full of love and devotion for his newfound leader, watching Him get rejected. It was brave for Jesus to continue on with His bold message. It was also brave for His disciples to stand by Him.
Jesus knew that the Pharisees and other religious leaders hated Him with a deep, murderous passion. Things were getting dangerous, but it was His time to die. So He left the towns and synagogues where they controlled the population and went to the Sea of Galilee, where He could speak more freely.
The people from all the villages and towns of Galilee came out to hear him. Imagine them streaming along the pathways and roads, chatting and laughing. Imagine them bringing their sick children and lame grandparents with bright new hope. Imagine the paralyzed walking away on their own feet, the deformed made whole. Imagine the quiet and fervent discussions as the people made their way home at night. What wonderful things they saw each day! Surely this man brought a new era…a new world! Was He the Messiah?
Soon, word about His amazing healings spread all over the nation of Israel and beyond. As His fame spread, the desperate and hurting and those that loved them came from all over to seek out His healing touch. And the Spirit of God gave Him great power. All the people were being healed, freed from demonic spirits, and made strong. People walked days to come and see Him, from Judea and Jerusalem and Idumea.
It would be interesting if you and I could join these people on their long walks on the road to Jesus. What do you think they talked about? Some of them probably hoped He was the Messiah. Others probably thought He was a prophet. The Gentiles might have thought he was a magician or a god like one of their idols. But none of them seemed to understand that He was the God of the universe. Did they wonder how He got His power? Did they wonder why He didn’t take any money for these glorious healings?
The people that flocked to Jesus had enough faith to hope that Jesus could reverse the power of brokenness and disease. Little did they understand that Jesus had come to do far more! In the end, He was going to conquer sin and death itself! We know that now, and we can see how He was showing the first glimpses of His Kingdom reign through these powerful works as He preached the Good News.
Imagine what a beautiful scene it was as Jesus preached along the shores of the sea. A light breeze blows almost constantly off the water. The air was fresh, the water azure blue and shimmering in the sunlight on warm days or solemn grey on cloudy ones. Imagine what it was like to sit among the thousands upon thousands of people after your long journey. You would be probably be thirsty and dusty. Here was a fresh water lake to wash and quench your family’s thirst. It was too dangerous to preach in the synagogues, but God had provided Christ with a far more beautiful amphitheater.
In the midst of serving the people, Jesus told His disciples to keep a boat ready for Him in case the people began crowding Him. Often when the demonic spirits who plagued the people saw Jesus, they would make the people they tormented fall to the ground. They would cry out through them, “ ‘Your are the Son of God!’” These demonic spirits were not on the side of Jesus. They were not trying to proclaim the Good News. They were trying to sabotage the Lord’s ministry. It was not time for a full understanding of Christ to be revealed. So Jesus warned them not to tell anyone who He was. And since he is God, they had to take that warning very seriously.
Soon the people from non-Jewish towns as far as Tyre and Sidon heard about the miracle worker in Israel and started making their way to Him. More Gentiles started to flock in from the Decapolis. It was a group of ten cities along the other side of the Jordan River. The lives of the Gentiles had been deeply scarred by the Curse as well. They, too, loved their family members who were lame or suffering from painful diseases. Even though the Jews were their enemies and they didn’t understand the power of the Living God, they did understand their great need for something more. When they heard of this Jewish healer, they came from hundreds of miles to get to Him.
In all of this, the prophecies of Isaiah were being fulfilled. In Isaiah 42:1-4 it says:
“Here is my servant whom I have chosen,
the One I love, in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on Him,
and He will proclaim justice to the nations.
He will not quarrel or cry out;
no one will hear His voice in the streets.
A bruised reed He will not break,
and a smoldering wick He will not snuff out,
till He leads justice to victory.
In His name the nations will put their hope.”
Indeed, as the people of Tyre and Sidon and the Decapolis came, they showed how the whispers of how the nations would put their hope in Him. Two thousand years before, the Lord promised Abraham that His descendants would bless the world. Jesus was just getting started.