Mark 3:13-29; 6:6b-13
The text before us begins with Jesus’ calling of the twelve disciples and ends with Jesus’ instruction to the twelve to go out to the villages. Mark presents the calling and the instruction as two separate events. The gospel of Matthew records the calling and instruction as a single event (see Matt. 10:1-15). Matthew and Mark write from two different perspectives. Matthew writes both of that which he directly experienced and that which he learned from others. Mark writes only from that which he has learned from others. According to early church history, Mark’s primary source was the preaching of Peter. Matthew and Mark declare the same gospel (good news of Jesus the Messiah). Mark reports those things which he received from Peter — things that reflect the atmosphere and circumstances that existed when Peter and the other disciples received the instruction recorded in Mark 6:6b-11.
Let us consider both Mark 3:13-19 and Mark 6:7-11 in the light of that which is recorded in verses 20-29.
“. . . they could not so much as eat bread” (v. 20). The calling of the disciples and Jesus’ instruction which Mark describes is a happening which was surrounded by adversity and distraction. Members of the multitude had witnessed and heard of Jesus’ healings and His casting out of unclean spirits (v. 10, 11). There were a number who fell down before Jesus and cried out, “Thou art the Son of God.”
In verse 21, Jesus’ friends (those who knew Him as the carpenter’s son from Nazareth) attempted to lay hold on Jesus because they thought He was mad. In their minds, there was no way that what the multitudes were seeing could be happening. Their presence and motivation for being present was known to the twelve at the time of their calling. The twelve knew that Jesus’ friends thought that they (the twelve) and all in the multitude were following one who was suffering from a mental breakdown of some sort.
Jesus’ friends were not the lone hinderance to the disciples receiving Jesus’ instruction. There were scribes which came down from Jerusalem. They had heard of the miracles which Jesus had done. Their explanation: “He hath Beelzebub, and by the prince of the devils casteth he out devils” (v. 22). Beelzebub was the name which was assigned to the Canaanite god Baal who was considered to be empowered by Satan. The twelve were aware of this opposition to Jesus when Jesus issued His instruction to go out into the villages. In the minds of the scribes (the religious leaders of Judaism), the twelve were following one who was following Satan.
Jesus responded to the scribes’ accusation in verses 23-29. Jesus said, paraphrasing, that if His works were of Satan then Satan was working against his own interests. “No man can enter into a strong man’s house, and spoil his goods, except he will first bind the strong man; and then he will spoil his house” (v. 27). Jesus had entered into the strong man’s house (Satan is the one whose house was being spoiled). Jesus, in effect, stated that He had been given power to bind Satan and was spoiling Satan’s house by casting out devils.
Jesus did not end His response with these words because the Father had more for the ears of all present to hear. Jesus said that all sins shall be forgiven except blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (v. 29). The words which the scribes had uttered qualified as blasphemy against the Holy Spirit because all that the scribes saw Jesus do was powered by the Spirit. All who believe Satan’s lies are in danger of eternal damnation. The Satan-believing scribes will stand before God and receive their deserved judgment. The disciples heard the words of the scribes and they heard the words of the Son. They chose to believe and follow the Son.
“And he called unto him the twelve . . .” (Mark 6:7). Jesus empowered them to cast out unclean spirits (v. 7). Mark 3:15 states that they were ordained to have power to heal as well as to cast out devils. Mark 3:14 says that they were ordained for the purpose of preaching. Mark 6:8-9 states that Jesus sent the twelve on their way with specific instruction not to make any provision for their journey. In verse 11, Jesus announced that it would be better for Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment than for a city that would not receive them.
The disciples were to embark upon a mission without preparation. Successful completion of that mission required individuals of the villages to receive and hear them (v. 11). The consequence for a village which did not receive them would be worse than for Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment. Why? The Holy Spirit would go before the disciples to prepare hearts of individuals to receive them. Refusal to heed the Holy Spirit is blasphemy. The consequence for denying the Holy Spirit is the same for all — the scribes who attributed the power of the Spirit to Beelzebub and the villages that rejected the urgings of the Spirit who would go before the disciples.
“And they went . . . and preached . . . and cast out many devils . . . healed (the sick)” v. 12-13. The mission was accomplished because the disciples did as the Son commanded them.
Believers of every era have been given a mission. Jesus has commanded us to love one another as He has loved us and to go, to teach others that which Jesus has revealed to us. His Spirit shall go before us. Victory is found in believing and acting upon that which we have received.