C.i 3:7–3:35 Apostolic ministry: appointment


Apostles appointed, but scribes warned against ultimate rejection. Mother and brothers prompt proclamation of new family.


A 1:1–13 Preparation

B 1:14–3:6 Local ministry in Galilee

C 3:7–4:34 Apostolic ministry

C.i 3:7–3:35 Appointment of apostles

The unclean spirits in the crowd still know him, but turn from him in fear, in contrast with the core of the new people he appoints in private. His natural family and the scribes reject him, and he warns that his call will not last forever. Nevertheless, whoever does the will of God will get the chance to be included among the group he is founding.

Things to talk about

11 There are different sorts of falling down. What clues in the language and narrative is Mark using to show that this is not the repentance Jesus calls for (use the rest of the passage)?
22–30 These are classic "hard sayings" that need close reading, asking questions to draw out the text gradually, not jumping to conclusions. Ultimately, who has initiated the encounter, Jesus or the scribes? (If the answer is wrong, try thinking in terms of, Who is calling who?) So the passage is at its core critiquing a false reaction to Jesus' call; can you see this relating to you now? In 25, who is the attacker (see 23b)? So, how does 26 put a new spin on the identity of the plunderer in 27? Is this reference is correct, what does it say about 28, and in particular, who do we expect to share in the plunder? The accusation of 29 is quite clear, indeed explained in 30, but at this point, Jesus has shifted from defending himself from the scribes as in 24, to going right back to their attitude to his call. Many commentators make the hardening of heart from persistent sin central to the theodicy here (their argument to show Jesus was right to be fierce), and it is worth talking about now. However, I feel that the present warning (cf. Ps. 96:7 Today) is more emphasised here than the standard evangelical response, which explains that the call does not last forever (ending at least in death), and the way we act to harden our hearts now cuts us off from salvation in the future by closing our willingness to accept it. Our choice is not irreversible, and I would prefer grounding this passage in the fact that God's is. Regardless, this passage ought to become a huge challenge to the non-Christian, rather than a difficulty for the Christian.
34 His is this is the natural close to the appointment of the apostles? Look at all the family words in 22–35 (hint: 28 is important).

Handy notes

1 Check out 11:20 for withered.
22 Beelzebul Translated as "The Lord of the Flies" this is the title of a well-known novel. If you have read it or know about it, these are the sorts of references to the bible we can use to prompt or stimulate discussions about Jesus.

For ourselves

4 Think about Deut. 30:15 and the central choice of law, and God's ways to men's. For the keen, get to grips with the end of Deuteronomy (highly rewarding), where God's presence is in the law, obeying which is necessary to be God's people. There are various technical comments made on references to Is. exploring the symbolism, but the central message is simply one of identity. For Jesus to be restating the law from Deut. in these terms, who does he think he is? The law is fulfilled in him, but a bigger claim is being made here in this fifth and final confrontation with the scribes in this area of Galilee.
19 What are the right pastoral implications for these "wolves among the sheep"? How ought we to treat and challenge those at church, and guard ourselves?
21 How should we favour a special relationship with our natural family over the church?
26–27 Here Jesus seems to be assuming a unity of purpose and action among devils, and even though we have seen many individual demons so far, he does not hint that there might be free agents. This is of no concern to us. Think also a bit about the single, unilateral judgement.