7 Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the sea, and a great crowd followed, from Galilee and Judea 8 and Jerusalem and Idumea and from beyond the Jordan and from around Tyre and Sidon. When the great crowd heard all that he was doing, they came to him. 9 And he told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, lest they crush him, 10 for he had healed many, so that all who had diseases pressed around him to touch him. 11 And whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God.” 12 And he strictly ordered them not to make him known. 13 And he went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him. 14 And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach 15 and have authority to cast out demons. 16 He appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); 17 James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James (to whom he gave the name Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder); 18 Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Zealot, 19 and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.
An interesting article appeared online recently. It was entitled, “Atheist author explains how Christianity conquered Europe like Starbucks monopolized coffee.” It was a talk given at the Chalke Valley History Festival by author Matt Ridley, a science writer who also is a member of the House of Lords. The talk was entitled, “The Evolution of Everything: How Ideas Emerge.”
A British author who angered Christians when he compared their religion to a virus has found an even more virulent analogy to explain how the faith spread throughout Europe.
Science writer Matt Ridley explained that Christianity spread across Europe and established a “monopoly religion” in much the same way that Starbucks — perhaps the only thing more contagious than infectious disease — has conquered the global coffee market, reported the Daily Mail.
“Religions are a good example of things that have taken a very specific form but have a sort of inevitability,” explained Ridley, a Conservative member of the House of Lords.
He examined his theory, which he explores in his most recent book, The Evolution of Everything: How Ideas Emerge, that history’s most successful trends came from the “bottom up” during this week’s Chalke Valley History Festival.
“We give far too much importance to individuals in history – that is my claim and that is a pretty big claim,” said Ridley, who believes humans share a sort of “collective brain.”
Ridley argued that any of the “many little cults” that existed in the Roman Empire might have become Europe’s dominant belief system, but only Christianity thrived in that way.
“The notion that the Roman Empire was ripe for a monopoly religion to take it over at around the time of Christ is probably an inevitable one,” he said. “There were a huge number of different religions in the empire, and the chances were that one of them would ‘do a Starbucks,’ and become ubiquitous, monopolistic and eventually intolerant and kick the other ones out.”
He explained that a mystic from Cappadocia was far better known and more widely followed than Christ in the first century A.D., but Christianity was ultimately more successful.
“It’s a bit like Google,” he said. “Maybe other companies were just as good at inventing search engines, but Google just happened to scoop the pool.”
That is an interesting thesis, and also a mistaken one. The idea that Christianity emerged and exploded because, basically, the psychological and mental market conditions were right for such, that the collective mind of humanity was ready for Christianity, and that Christianity just happened to tap into the zeitgeist is a serious misunderstanding of the person and magnetic appeal of Jesus. I am not even suggesting that Ridley is completely wrong. In God’s providence, many factors had converged historically to assist Christianity in its explosive growth, but to suggest that “a mystic from Cappadocia” who “was far better known and more widely followed than Christ in the first century” might have just as easily seen his movement explode were the conditions just so is absurd.
Let us remember that Jesus was executed and that so were many of His earliest followers. That hardly sounds like the world was somehow “ready” for Christianity. Yet, Christianity exploded anyway.
In point of fact, Christianity would be the one movement in which “far too much importance” simply cannot be ascribed to the individual founder. It was, has been, and ever will be about the founder of our faith, Jesus. The life and death and resurrection of Jesus, the astonishing teachings of Christ, the countercultural ethic of Christ, the compassion and mercy of Christ: these are the things that caused Christianity to explode and, where it does so today, these are the reasons why.
Mark 3:7-19 is a very helpful text in this regard. We will approach it from the perspective of the “movements” of Jesus. In particular, we will consider how Jesus moved from, moved among, moved against, and then moved with. These movements are the movements of Christ and it is within these movements of Christ that the Church still finds its definition, purpose, and meaning.
Jesus moves from: the break from the synagogues
First, our text presents us with Jesus moving from something.
7 Jesus withdrew…
The verb “withdraw” is telling in this context. Joel Marcus has pointed out that “most of the NT usages of this verb refer to a withdrawal from danger or other undesirable circumstances (see e.g. Matt 2:12, 13, 14, 22; John 6:15)…” To be sure, that was what was happening at this point in the story. Jesus withdrew from the synagogue. The first two words of Mark 3:7 therefore represent a shift in the ministry of Jesus. Having just clashed in the synagogue with the religious leaders (and that not for the first time) over the man with the withered hand, Jesus, aware that they were now actively plotting His death, intentionally comes out from them. William Barclay put it like this:
Unless Jesus wished to be involved in a head-on collision with the authorities He had to leave the Synagogues. It was not that He withdrew through fear; it was not the retreat of a man who feared to face the consequences. But His hour was not yet come…So He left the Synagogues and went out to the lakeside and the open sky.
Michael Card also sees verse 7 as “a break in the story from the synagogue community and organized Judaism in general,” and points out that in Matthew’s description of this episode in Matthew 12 he gives us some helpful details not included in Mark:
14 But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him. God’s Chosen Servant 15 Jesus, aware of this, withdrew from there. And many followed him, and he healed them all 16 and ordered them not to make him known. 17 This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: 18 “Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles. 19 He will not quarrel or cry aloud, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets; 20 a bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench, until he brings justice to victory; 21 and in his name the Gentiles will hope.”
Jesus came out from the synagogues because He was “aware” of their murderous intent. Let us be clear: Jesus was in no way running from the cross, it was just that Jesus knew precisely when the event of the cross was to take place…and this was not the time. This was about God’s timing and God’s sovereignty, not about fear and avoidance.
In moving from the synagogues, Jesus was recognizing the official break from what He was about and what the old religious establishment was about. Jesus was about the revolution of the Kingdom whereas the old religious establishment was about the maintenance of the old religious establishment. By coming out from them, Jesus was saying (as He had said earlier with the metaphors of the new cloth on the old garment and the new wine in the old wineskin) that there was a fundamental disconnect between who He is and what Judaism had become.
More generally, we might say that Jesus came away from anything that threatened to quench His calling, commission, and Spirit. And, as the body of Christ, so must we. To be a follower of Jesus is to come out from certain things.
We might approach this truth like this: what do you need to come from? What is it that threatens the integrity of your relationship with God? What is it that, if you stayed in it, would disrupt God’s ultimate plan for and calling on your life? What is your synagogue?
To follow Christ is to follow Him out from certain things. You know what those things are.
Jesus moves among: the ministry to the hurting
But it is not only to follow Him from, it is also to walk with Him among. Jesus withdrew from the synagogue, but He did not withdraw from hurting humanity. On the contrary, out there in the actual world, the needy flocked to Christ.
7 Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the sea, and a great crowd followed, from Galilee and Judea 8 and Jerusalem and Idumea and from beyond the Jordan and from around Tyre and Sidon. When the great crowd heard all that he was doing, they came to him. 9 And he told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, lest they crush him, 10 for he had healed many, so that all who had diseases pressed around him to touch him.
Danny Akin has noted both the diversity and the expanding geographical reach of Jesus.
Note the diversity: Some came from Galilee in northern Israel and were mostly Jews, though there were probably some Gentiles too. Others came from Judea in southern Israel and Jerusalem and would have been predominantly Jews. Those who came from Idumea, southeast of Judea, would have been a mix of Jews and Gentiles. Still others came from the East, across the Jordan, from the area of the 10 predominantly Gentile cities known as the Decapolis. Finally, some people came from Tyre and Sidon, northwest of Galilee. These too would have been mostly Gentiles.
From further and further away, the people came to Jesus, and the people were of all races and religions. They came in droves to Jesus, and the heart of Christ was large enough to receive them all. It still is!
Even in Jesus’ withdrawal in the boat, He was not fleeing the people but rather, in this case, an inadvertent death by crushing. He was ever among hurting people. Jesus loves hurting people.
Church, we must likewise be among hurting people.
There are many ways to miss hurting people, one of which is staying in the synagogues of spiritual deadness. To be among we must come out from. And we must not rush past. We must look and see that hurting heart of humanity if we are to care about and then reach towards it with love and compassion.
“Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’?” asked Jesus in John 4:35-36, “I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together.”
Jesus was deeply burdened by the harvest of hurting humanity so He went into the fields of the world to gather men and women and boys and girls into the Kingdom of God.
We will not truly be a church until we do the same!
Let us follow Jesus out of all the structures that threaten the vitality of our walk with God and let us follow Jesus among lost and hurting humanity.
Jesus moves against: the clash with demonic forces
But to move with Jesus from and among means we must also move with Jesus against, for the devil will oppose our efforts. It is telling that the next thing we see is demonic opposition to Jesus.
11 And whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God.”
We saw in Mark 1 that when the demons voice the name of Jesus they are doing so not out of respect but rather defensively and, to some extent, offensively. It was a maneuver, this naming of the name of Christ. For instance, in Mark 1:24 (“What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.”) and in Mark 5:7 (“And crying out with a loud voice, he said, ‘What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.’”) the demons explicitly bemoan the power of Jesus and the possibility of their own destruction in the voicing of His name.
This is not worship. This is not even flippancy. This is blasphemy. There titles for Christ are correct, but their motives are nefarious. Once we understand this we are in a position to understand Jesus’ response:
12 And he strictly ordered them not to make him known.
In a general sense, this is consistent with what Jesus does in Mark. He frequently tells people in Mark’s gospel not to mention who He is. But concerning the demons this is also a rebuke and a silencing of their evil intent.
There is a way to say a name in such a way that it insults or demeans the one whose name it is. There is a way to say a title with a sneer. There is a way to dishonor under the thin pretense of honor. This is what is happening.
So Jesus comes from and Jesus comes among but Jesus also stands against.
Church, there are things against which the Church must stand.
“A dead thing can go with the stream,” wrote G.K. Chesterton, “but only a living thing can go against it.” The Church is a living thing and, at times, it will have to go against the stream. This can be costly, but let us make no mistake that one of the primary and most critically important movements of Jesus was against the forces of evil.
The Church today, just like the Church of every age preceding and every age to come, will be forced to stand against the attacks and lies of the devil.
Let me press this point a bit further on those of you who are tempted to think that you can be a follower of Jesus without ever having to pay a price. That simply is not so. Of course, in cultures in which Christianity is still somewhat protected or widely acknowledged the cost may not be as readily apparent as it is in cultures within which Christianity is not welcome, but a price still has to be paid. The reality of the cost of discipleship is so real that Jesus asked all who would follow Him whether or not they had given serious thought to this. Thus, in Luke 14, we read:
25 Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. 33 So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.
Many of us are tempted to want the other movements of Christ without wanting this movement against. Are you prepared to stand against that which you must stand? Are you willing to pay the price of standing against the devil?
Jesus moves with: the commissioning of His disciples
There is a final movement in our text, and it helps us understand all that comes before it. This is the movement of Jesus with. We next find Jesus calling disciples, followers with whom He would journey and followers who would continue His mission after He ascended to the Father.
13 And he went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him. 14 And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach 15 and have authority to cast out demons. 16 He appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); 17 James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James (to whom he gave the name Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder); 18 Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Zealot, 19 and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.
Michael Card notes that Mark’s list of disciples is “more personal,” that “he provides more examples of what might be considered nicknames” than the other gospel writers do, and that “this is certainly due to the fact that Peter is Mark’s source.” That is interesting, and it reminds us that Jesus pulled together a wonderfully eclectic group to be His disciples. He did so then and He does so now.
Why does this matter? It matters because it reminds us that we never have to come out from the soul-deadening structures of religion or philosophy alone. It matters because it reminds us that we never minister among the masses of hurting humanity alone. It matters because it reminds us that we never have to face the devil and his minions alone.
We are, of course, with Jesus, but also, through Jesus, we are with one another, His disciples, His body and bride, His Church.
This with is so very important! We are called out of the kingdom of darkness and into a blood-bought family. Christ is its head and we are together the members of His one body. We are knit together by the Spirit of the living God.
These movements are therefore never isolated or solitary movements. We move with! We move together as friends, as an authentic family around the whole gospel for the glory of God and the reaching of the nations.
When we stand against the devil, we do so with arms interlocked and hearts beating as one. When we face the overwhelming heartbreak and pain of the world, we do so together. We step among and into that pain together. We are salt and light together!
The movements of Jesus and His Church.
We dare not, we cannot reduce the faith we have together in Christ to mere private piety or to mere religiosity. Ours is a faith in motion, a dynamic, vital faith pulsating with life and vitality and joy and love. It is a moving faith. It is almost like a dance.
Let us not forsake the movements of Christ. Let us not move alone. Let us, together, in Christ, empowered by the indwelling Spirit and emboldened by the glory that is God’s alone, “live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).
 https://www.rawstory.com/2016/06/atheist-author-explains-how-christianity-conquered-europe-like-starbucks-monopolized-coffee/; https://www.premier.org.uk/News/World/Spread-of-Christianity-compared-to-Starbucks
 William Barclay, The Gospel of Mark. The Daily Study Bible. (Edinburgh: The Saint Andrew Press, 1971), p.65.
 Daniel Akin, Mark. Christ-Centered Exposition. (Nashville, TN: Holman Reference, 2014), p.70.
 Michael Card, Mark. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2012), p.57.