CROWDS PRESS, DEMONS PROFESS

The crowds welcomed Jesus because of his miracles, only demons recognized him as the Son of GodMark 3:7-12.

The third chapter of Mark describes several incidents that occurred while Jesus was proclaiming the gospel in Capernaum. At one point, eager to see his healing powers, the crowd thronged him to the point it became necessary for Christ to speak from a boat along the shoreline. But in the middle of his preaching, demons began to declare that he was the “Son of God.”

After a confrontation with the religious authorities over his healing the man with a withered hand on the Sabbath, Jesus left the synagogue to minister to the multitude gathered outside. His fame was becoming more widespread than even that of John the Baptist. This meant he posed an increasing threat to the Temple authorities.

John drew crowds from Jerusalem and Judea, but Jesus attracted people from as far south as Idumea (Edom), and as far north as the largely Gentile cities of Tyre and Sidon, a geographic range that covered much of Palestine.

Idumea was populated by mixed races of Jewish and Gentile origins, and the cities of Tyre and Sidon consisted of a Hellenized Gentile population with many men of Phoenician stock. The region to the east of the Jordan River also included many Gentiles. Even at this early stage, Jesus began to minister to Gentiles when the opportunity arose.

  • (Mark 3:7-12)  – “And Jesus with his disciples retired unto the sea, and a great throng from Galilee followed, also from Judaea, and from Jerusalem, and from Idumaea, and beyond the Jordan, and around Tyre and Zidon, a great throng, hearing whatsoever things he was doing, came to him. And he spoke to his disciples that a small boat might attend him, because of the multitude, that they might not be pressing upon him. For he cured many, so that they were besieging him, that they might touch him, as many as had plagues. And the unclean spirits as soon as they beheld him were falling down to him and crying aloud while he was speaking: You are the Son of God! And sternly was he rebuking them, lest they should make him manifest” – (Parallel passages: Matthew 4:24-26, Luke 6:17-19).

Mark is the only one of the three synoptic gospels that recorded that the crowds came from as far away as Idumea, the homeland of Herod and his ancestors. Most likely, ‘Mark’ included this information because of the mention of the “Herodians” in verse 6.

The Greek verb rendered “pressing” or “thronging” is thlibō, which is related to the noun often translated “tribulation” in the New Testament. It means “to press, crush; to press in.” While the crowd was not hostile, what occurred resembled a mob scene with people pushing to gain access to Jesus. In previous incidents, he “touched” those in need. Here, people pressed in to “touch” him.

Some demons caused their human host to fall prostrate before Jesus and to declare that he was the “Son of God!” The Greek verbs used to describe this scene are in the imperfect tense, which denotes ongoing action in the past. This was not a one-time occurrence but happened rather frequently that day.

Like the religious authorities from Jerusalem, demons followed Jesus in order to interfere with his ministry. Their confessions distracted people from his message and served to discredit his deeds. Thus, it was necessary to silence them.

But Jesus did not engage in elaborate rituals, “binding” formulas, or lengthy prayers to silence these “unclean spirits.” Instead, he simply commanded them to remain quiet, and thus, he demonstrated his authority over demonic forces. And as elsewhere in Mark, only the demons recognized who he was, not the religious leaders from the Temple, the crowds, and not even his closest disciples – (Mark 1:24, 3:11, 3:21, 5:7, 8:27-38).

While the multitudes welcomed Jesus because of his miracles, only demons recognized him as the “Son of God.” And it was in response to their confessions that Jesus “sternly rebuked them, lest they should make him known.”

This raises the question – Did Jesus not wish to be identified at this point as the Messiah of Israel, or was he concerned more with how others perceived the nature of his ministry?

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