Tuesday, June 21, 2016

"Follow Me"...An Opportunity to Lead

As we resume our study of Jesus life and ministry as recorded by Mark, our emphasis will be to continue trying to understand the culture in which Jesus lived and how He fulfilled His role as Messiah despite not meeting the people’s expectations. In this week’s post, we will see four principles of Jesus’ leadership that we must practice as well.

Leaders must know themselves (Mark 3.7-12).

Mark 3.7 begins with the words, “Jesus withdrew.” Why? Well, in the previous section which we reviewed a couple of weeks ago, Jesus has instigated the religious and now political leaders of the day who were teaming up to destroy Him. Thus many people believe He withdrew in order to escape persecution. And that may be. But Jesus also had just been through five tests (see Mark 2) and needed a break. Thus, I believe a part of the withdrawal was for Jesus to recharge. It wasn’t that He was trying to escape from reality, but Jesus knew that an important moment in His life and ministry was drawing near and He needed time to reflect and gather Himself.

Unfortunately, that didn’t happen as verse 8 reveals that people came from all around – north, east, south, and west. People came, but not to follow Him. Rather, they wanted to experience Him and see what He might do next. In verse 10, the idea of pressing in on Jesus is best understood as people bumping or jostling Him – anything to get close enough to touch Jesus. In our day, we might say they were falling all over him. In the next verse we see the contrast because the demons were falling down before Him. Man and demons, one way or the other fall in the presence of Jesus. This should remind us that, as Paul, says, one day every knee will bow.

Again, Jesus sought to get away, but the people followed. So he retreated further, this time not to the sea, but to a mountain. When we are busy, and especially when facing a major decision, we must take time to reflect. We must find a place to find some solitude. Jesus did this in Mark 1.35 by getting up early in the morning. Here, he does it by finding a place people would no longer follow. That Jesus chose a mountain is significant because God often spoke to people on the mountain – Abraham when he was prepared to sacrifice Isaac, Moses when God gave the law, Elijah when He fled Jezebel, etc. And now, Jesus goes there to hear from the Father in this ministry-defining and world-changing decision. What is that decision? To call Twelve to partner with Him.

Leaders must invest in others (Mark 3.13-19).

Jesus appointed Twelve. While Jesus had many disciples, the reason He chose twelve relates to the 12 tribes of Israel that God had established in the OT. These Twelve were called both disciples and apostles (Mark 3.14). As disciples they were to learn (disciple means one who learns); as apostles they were to go (apostle means one who is sent). By calling them, Jesus was to be their teacher and the sender. But Jesus did this in a manner different than they typical rabbi. In that time period, disciples chose their rabbi. A young boy, at age 12 would choose to follow a teacher of his choice or return to learn a trade (usually that of His father). But Jesus didn’t wait for others to choose Him. Why? They would have chosen Him for the wrong reasons. Like this motley crew of people who were doing all they could just to touch Jesus, many might choose to follow Jesus for awhile, but when times became tough, they would abandon Him. In fact, it has already happened. Notice that everyone followed Jesus to the sea, but when He went up the mountain, He had to call for people to follow.

In Luke 6, we are told more specifically what happened when Jesus went to the mountain. He did so to pray. We can infer that this prayer was about whom Jesus was to call to serve alongside Him in the kingdom work. In fact, in John 17.6, we can find more certainty as Jesus says to the Father that the Father gave these men to Him. But now for the key word in this section. In verse 14, Mark uses a from of the Greek word poieo, which means “made”. The KJV uses “ordained” but that word has additional connotations in our day. These Twelve were special, yet they were ordinary. There is nothing about these Twelve that suggests any affiliations to the elite – religious, political, social, etc. – in any way, yet Jesus chose to make them. He was making something new!

Rest assured this was a new beginning of sorts. Something new was coming, something new was here, and that something would come through these men that Jesus will make. What Jesus was making new is evident because this word “make” represented by the same word in Genesis 1.1 when God made the heavens and earth.

But here is something else. What Jesus makes of us is formed from who we are. For instance, in Mark 3.9, Jesus asked for His disciples to prepare a boat for Him so He can distance Himself a bit from the crowd while He teaches. Where did they get the boat? Likely, it is a boat of one of the fishermen. So, while Jesus transforms us in the present, He also made us in the past. He will use our gifts, our passions, our skills, and even our experiences for His glory. Whatever might be useful to God in His kingdom, He will use to do the work.

That is what the calling of the Twelve represents. Jesus is the leader, but the crowds are limiting where He can go and how much He can do when He gets there. So Jesus commissions others to do the work. Leaders must ask for others to be involved. But, as Jesus shows us, He does not leave them to fend for themselves. He molds them (literally, makes them), by being involved with them and investing Himself in their lives. But I want you to notice one more aspect from these verses. Twelve names are listed here (and in the other lists where their names are given). But most of these names are never mentioned again outside of the lists. (I am aware the names are different in other lists, but this is most likely explained by nicknames.) We hear a great deal about Peter, James, and John. But very little about Andrew. We have a couple of mentions of Thomas. The story of Levi being called, but otherwise, apart from Judas Iscariot, the rest are nameless elsewhere in Scripture. Does that mean that they are not important? Does that mean that they did not follow Jesus faithfully and serve Him well as an apostle? No, it doesn’t mean that at all. How do I know? Revelation Chapters 4 and 5 mention the twenty-four elders surrounding the throne. These twenty-four are almost certainly representing the twelve tribes or Israel and the twelve apostles, all twenty four of whom were ordained, so to speak, by God. So, many great servants will not ever be known on this earth. But what does that matter if our true reward is in heaven?

Leaders must avoid distractions (Mark 3.20-21).

These next two points are a part of what is called a Markan sandwich. Mark uses this technique frequently in His writing to build suspense or allow something to develop. This is the first direct instance in this book, although I would argue that Mark 1.1 and Mark 15.39 form a full-size sandwich given the use of the Christological title, the “Son of God.”

Family is important to many today, but nothing like it was for the Jews of yesteryear. Consider these two questions. Where did your ancestors live in the year 700 AD? Will your descendants still live in the same area you do in the year 3300? No, and you wouldn’t expect them to. But the people that lived in Galilee, Jerusalem, etc. in Jesus day were the descendants of Joshua, Caleb and the other Israelites that had come across the Jordan despite having been taken captive and removed from the area for a time.

Jesus family had the incentive to protect their name as well. (Reggie has taken a closer look at v. 21 here.) If Jesus was out of his mind, then His arrest could bring trouble for the family as well, especially if Joseph were dead (a possibility given verse 31). But their intentions would serve as a distraction. If He goes home to Nazareth, what happens next? Do the disciples go with Him? The last time we know He was in Nazareth, the people tried to throw him off a cliff (Luke 4.29). So what would happen now? (The answer comes in Mark 6.) Furthermore, Reggie pointed out the main concern was that Jesus was acting a little bizarre (which is a decent translation here). And Jesus just had challenged the religious authorities in their own place of worship apart from the temple in Jerusalem (Mark 3.1-6). Earlier in this post, I mentioned that Jesus went to get away to regroup and recharge. Regardless, for Jesus this was a distraction. Jesus had just prepared for a major transition in His ministry, and the attacks started coming from without (such as we will see next week) and within (his family). And it is here, that Jesus turns everything on its side.

Leaders must first learn to follow (Mark 3.31-35).

Again, the idea of family was extremely important to Jews in the first century. It is important to realize that Jesus does not negate the family’s importance in these verses; rather He redefines the family’s composition. The old adage, “Blood is thicker than water” shows that family ties are blood-based. What we will learn by the end of Mark is that God’s family is based upon the blood of Jesus, but we have many months before we will arrive at that point of our study. What we know now is that Jesus defines family by those who do the will of God. In other words, those that have a common purpose are truly a part of God’s family. And, let’s face it, we all have a “black sheep” right? But not God’s. Sure, I know the argument that Judas perfectly carried out the will of God by betraying Him, but that is not what Jesus means here. Jesus said that the two greatest commandments were to love God and to love others. We do not see anything recorded about Judas that relates to love, except His love for money. So, the will of God, at least in part, must include following the two great commandments – love God and love others. For those who do, they are His family.

This is absolutely remarkable! See, no one can be biologically added to a family after being born. Certainly, adoption is possible – and adoption is an important concern of the New Testament, including here. Who gets adopted into the family of God? Any who do His will!
  • Is Jesus’ biological family welcome? Yes, if they do the will of God, even if they do think Jesus is crazy!
  • Are Jesus’ disciples welcome? Yes, if they do the will of God, even if it takes them a while to develop their faith!

In fact, what Jesus has done here is taken the concept of the family kingdom and expanded it to God-sized portions. The Jews considered the father the ruler of “his kingdom.” That meant he had rights over the children, any servants, and his wife. Those who followed the rule of the father were welcome. Jesus took this concept and made it true of the heavenly Father. All who did His will were welcome – including women (see v. 35).

But let’s not overlook one important piece of this. Jesus could lead others because He knew who was leading Him. Jesus is welcomed by the Father because He did God’s will. Many verses indicate this, but let me give a few. John 5.19 says that the Son only does what He sees the Father doing. John 17.4 says that Jesus accomplished the work the Father gave Him to do. And, most famously, Jesus asked for the Father’s will to be done even against Jesus’ own desires (Matt. 27.39). Thus, like a good and loving older brother, Jesus modeled for us exactly what it means to do the will of the Father, in this case, our heavenly Father.

Why Leaders Fail

Ultimately, what we see in Jesus is a leader who was more concerned about being and doing right than doing what was popular. He was more concerned in leading those who desired to follow God than He was in being with the crowd. Jesus set a high standard, but this passage clearly shows why so many leaders fall today. Simply, they lose their focus. Many leaders lose focus because they:
  • Forget to follow and come to believe they are the one worth following.
  • Allow distractions to keep them from the primary goal.
  • Begin to demand more from others than they invest in them.
  • Seek to appease the crowd rather than stay true to themselves.

Jesus didn’t do that. Jesus wouldn’t do that. Only people who seek their own will end up falling prey. And the best way not to fall prey is simply to learn, to keep watch, and pray.


That is why our JOURNEY letter for today is: O – Observe.

Jesus said that His family consists of those who do the will of God. He doesn’t want individuals who are more interested in building their own kingdom. He is interested in people who will help Him expand His.


Our opportunity this week comes from the idea that people need to be lead, and Jesus has called all of us to lead at some level. How can we respond to the tasks to which we are appointed?  

Learn God’s will. If we are to do the will of God, and lead others to do it as well, we better know it. This week’s prayer guide speaks directly to this – ask, seek, knock.

Live as an example. Dr. Jim says it this way. “We must follow in His steps (1 Peter 2.21) and follow those who follow Him (1 Corinthians 11.1).”

Love others. Living as an example means others will watch you, but including them in your life, and further, investing in their lives is the mark of a disciple-maker. That cannot be done once a week in a building such as this. It must be done throughout the week, in homes, places of business, etc.

Lead intentionally. Know yourself – both strengths and weaknesses. Invest in others. Avoid, or at least, limit distractions. And follow God.


Jesus set an example of what good leaders must do. Four of those qualities are:

  • A leader must know themselves.
  • A leader must invest in others.
  • A leader must avoid (or minimize) distractions.
  • A leader must know who to follow.

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