7 Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the lake, and a large crowd from Galilee followed. 8 When they heard about all he was doing, many people came to him from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, and the regions across the Jordan and around Tyre and Sidon. 9 Because of the crowd he told his disciples to have a small boat ready for him, to keep the people from crowding him. 10 For he had healed many, so that those with diseases were pushing forward to touch him. 11 Whenever the impure spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God.” 12 But he gave them strict orders not to tell others about him.
Horsham, 8th February 2024
There’s a lot going on here. There is the hint that Jesus has withdrawn to somewhere quiet with his disciples, but we should remember that he has based himself in Capernaum on the shore of the Lake, so he’s still quite close to home. Whatever his intention, the celebrity of Jesus means that he will not find much peace and quiet today. A substantial crowd is following his every move. People are flocking from all over the place to be near him. Idumea is at the south of Galilee, perhaps 100 miles away. Tyre is on the Mediterranean coast, a similar distance away. Sidon was around 30 miles north of Tyre, and both were gentile, rather than Jewish cities. You get the picture. In context, all kinds of people have travelled huge distances on foot. Many people in this crowd had travelled a very long way over several days to be there. Many of them did receive healing (v10).
Jesus has made clear that his purpose – his mission – is not to heal, but to preach (Mark1:38). Yet Mark makes clear that these people have not risked everything by travelling through dangerous countryside to hear him speak. This is not a crowd which wants to hear Jesus talk about the Kingdom of God. It is a crowd who have heard about the healing power of Jesus and want to experience or at least witness it.
People who wanted healing were pressing against him, desperate to touch him. People with evil spirits were being thrown to the floor as the spirits found themselves in the presence of Jesus. They scream that this is the Son of God, but he silences them – not because they are wrong, but because such a declaration would place Jesus in peril of his life. At His command, the demons fall silent See also Mark 1:34).
So, the sick are here. The demon possessed are here. And of course the disciples are here. A growing band of people who have been called by Christ or have simply decided to follow. These are not yet the established group of 12, but a larger, less coordinated group of enthusiastic but untrained people who have decided that this radical young rabbi is worth following.
I was once in a slowly moving crowd so dense that one had no control over oneself. As the road narrowed and the density of the crowd grew stronger, I could lift your feet from the ground and be carried along by the mass of bodies. A dense crowd can be dangerous. Such a crowd is following Jesus and his disciples, out of the town and towards the Lake. The press of the crowd could so easily push Jesus into the water, so he procures a boat to avoid the crush.
From the safety of the boat, Jesus puts himself at distance from the hordes who want to touch him. From the boat, his voice amplified by reflection n the surface of the water, can reach the crowd gathered on the gently rising ground beside the Lake. From the boat, Jesus has control. He can fulfill his mission. Having met so many people at their point of need and offered healing. The one who is the Son of God can now preach the Kingdom of God.