Summary: Jesus teaches about what it means to be a disciple.


(Series adapted from Wiersbe’s Bible Exposition Commentary)


MARK 3:13-4:34


When we started this series several weeks ago, we noted that Mark’s emphasis was on what Jesus did – the work résumé of the Servant. Today, Mark focuses on some of the Servant’s teaching. The emphasis is on being a disciple – learning and living out the instruction of the teacher.

The meaning of a disciple in Jesus’ day was reference to someone who walked with, lived with, and committed to being like their teacher. When this process was completed, the disciple moved to teaching others what they had learned by both instruction and example.


In this section of Mark, we see Jesus’ encounters with three different groups. These encounters show us that there are some people that think they are close to God and have done what pleases Him. There are those who think they’re doing what is right. And there are those who are actually in relationship with Jesus – following, obeying, imitating. The difference is how they handle their relationship with Jesus

The first encounter is found in Mk. 3:13-19 – “Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. He appointed twelve—designating them apostles —that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons. These are the twelve he appointed: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter James son of Zebedee and his brother John (to them he gave the name Boanerges, which means Sons of Thunder); Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.”

No matter where Jesus went, He was mobbed by excited crowds. If Jesus had come to be a “celebrity”, He would have catered to the crowds and tried to please them with His words and His actions. Instead, Jesus wanted intimate relationship.

Mark describes here how Jesus created an “inner circle” – a close group of people who would be His most intimate companions and students. Mark makes sure to emphasize the number – twelve. That number is significant because there were twelve tribes in the nation of Israel. We learn in the Gospel of Luke that Jesus spent all night in prayer before choosing these twelve men. Lk. 6:12-13 – “One of those days Jesus went out to

a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him

and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles…”

Jesus chose these twelve men for three specific purposes. The first purpose was to train them by personal example and teaching. The second purpose was to send them out to preach the Gospel. And the third purpose was to give them authority to heal and cast out demons. Each purpose ties closely to an overarching purpose: that these men would be able to continue Jesus’ work when He returned to the Father and therefore be able to train disciples to carry on the work of the kingdom after them.

The second encounter starts in Mk. 3:20-21 – “Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so

that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. When his family heard about this, they went to take charge

of him, for they said, ‘He is out of his mind.’” In the time it takes Jesus’ family to go from Nazareth to Capernaum, there is a conflict between Jesus and the teachers of the law. The second encounter resumes in Mk. 3:31-35 – “Then Jesus' mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, ‘Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.’ ‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’ he asked. Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God's will is my brother and sister and mother.’”

In Mt. 13:55, we see a list of Jesus’ half-brothers – James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas. The next verse, Mt. 13:56, mentions that Jesus also had half-sisters but doesn’t give us their names. Joseph and Mary had no physical relations before Jesus was born but God certainly blessed them with children after Jesus was born.

Can you imagine the conversation going on between the brothers and Mary? They were hearing all about what Jesus was doing and the crowds that were pressing in on Him. I’m sure they convinced themselves that they had to save Jesus from Himself! John tells us in Jn. 7:5 – “For even his own brothers did not believe in him.”

The third encounter is recorded in Mk. 3:22-30 – “And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, ‘He is possessed by Beelzebub! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons.’ So Jesus called them and spoke to them in parables: ‘How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan

opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come. In fact, no one can enter a strong man's

house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man. Then he can rob his house. I tell you

the truth, all the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy

Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin.’ He said this because they were saying, ‘He has an

evil spirit.’”

What do these three encounters teach us? When it comes to Jesus, there are “insiders” and “outsiders.” These encounters also teach us that we might be surprised who is “inside” and who is “outside.”

The “insiders” are those people who desire to be close to Jesus. They may not be the most educated or the most talented or the “most-likely-to-succeed.” The “insiders” might not be the ones who should be closest to Jesus. They could be a motley group of men who were fishermen, a tax collector, and other guys who have no résumé that impresses the world.

The “outsiders” are those who oppose Jesus and seek to block His influence and His mission. They may not be people who are outright evil. They might even be family members and religious leaders.

What is Mark telling us? He’s saying that there are two categories of people, two categories that apply to us today just as much as they did when these events took place. There is no third option. This morning you are either standing outside, or you are inside seated in a circle around Jesus Christ. One or the other.


In Mk. 3:23, Mark introduces a new word to his record of Jesus’ life. This new word is the word “parable.” Jesus explained the kingdom not by giving a lecture on theology but by painting pictures that captured the attention of the people. These pictures forced them to use their imaginations and engaged their minds in thinking about what Jesus was talking about.

Our word “parable” comes directly from the common Greek of Jesus’ day and means “to throw alongside”. It is a story or figure placed alongside teaching to help us understand its meaning. A true parable gets the listener deeply involved in the teaching and causes them to make a personal decision about God’s truth in their lives.

A parable begins as a picture that grabs our attention and piques our interest. But then, as we study the picture, it becomes a mirror in which we suddenly see ourselves. It then becomes a window through which we see God and His truth.

One thing that Jesus points out about parables is that how we respond to the truth determines what further truth God will teach us. Jesus’ own followers asked Him why He taught in parables. We find that Jesus says that He so for two reasons.

The first reason is that He wanted to reveal truth to those who were willing to really listen. For those with a desire to hear, they would ponder the parable, confess their ignorance, submit to the Lord, and then begin to


The second reason is to hide the truth from those who had no desire to really listen. These folks include those who think they already have things figured out as well as those who don’t really care one way or the other.

The first parable Mark records for us in this section is one that we know as the Parable of the Sower. It might more accurately be called the Parable of the Four Soils.

Mk. 4:1-20 – “Again Jesus began to teach by the lake. The crowd that gathered around him was so large that he got into a boat and sat in it out on the lake, while all the people were along the shore at the water's edge. He taught them many things by parables, and in his teaching said: ‘Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, multiplying thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times.’ Then Jesus said, ‘He who has ears to hear, let him hear.’ When he was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables. He told them, ‘The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables so that, they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!’ Then Jesus said to them, ‘Don't you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable? The farmer sows the word. Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—thirty, sixty or even a hundred times what was sown.’”

The seed represents the Word of God and the sower is God’s servant who shares that Word with others. The soil represents the hearts of those on whom the seed falls. Jesus describes four kinds of hearts.

The first kind of heart is the hard heart. It resists the Word of God which makes it easy for Satan to steal the seed away. Soil becomes hard when too many feet are allowed to walk on it.

The second kind of heart is the shallow heart. This heart is compared to soil that sits on rocky ground where it is very shallow. There is no depth, so whatever is planted cannot sink its roots deep enough to draw nutrients and water when the weather is unfavorable.

The third kind of heart is the crowded heart. The soil is infested with weeds and thorns. These weeds and thorns choke out the plant intended to produce fruit.

The three greatest dangers for the seed are the devil, the flesh, and the world. Eph. 2:1-3 – “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world

and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us

also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts.”

The fourth kind of heart is the fruitful heart. This soil is ready to receive the seed, it has been fertilized and cultivated to grow the plant, and it produces fruit. Gal. 5:22-23a – “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace,

patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

The second parable follows in Mk. 3:21-25 – “He said to them, ‘Do you bring in a lamp to put it under a

bowl or a bed? Instead, don't you put it on its stand? For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and

whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.’ ‘Consider carefully what you hear,’ he continued. ‘With the measure you use, it will be measured to you—and

even more. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from


Jesus uses a very common object to His audience. The object is the lamp that is used to produce light in the home. The lamp was basically a clay dish filled with oil with a wick floating in the oil. In order to give light, the lamp had to be lit and placed in a spot where its light could shine forth. It would be completely foolish to put the lamp under a bed or to place a bowl over the lamp.

As disciples, we are called to be light in darkness. If our light is hidden, it’s worthless. If we have no oil, our light can’t shine. The more oil we take in, the more oil we can burn. The more oil we burn, the more oil we receive. It’s a great principle in discipleship that the more we burn, the more the Lord provides for us so that our light can continue to shine.

The third parable is Mk. 3:26-29 – “He also said, ‘This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters

seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does

not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the

head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.’”

The first parable is about sowing seed. We are called to sow seed. This third parable reminds us that the harvest is not up to us. It takes a lot of faith and good deal of patience to sow seed. In the first parable, the seed falls on different kinds of soil. It will do different things in different soils. That could be discouraging.

However, we must be faithful in sowing – no matter what. Here, Jesus reassures us that if we keep sowing, the harvest will come. Gal 9:6 – “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

The fourth and final parable in our study today is in Mk. 3:30-34 – “Again he said, ‘What shall we say the

kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? It is like a mustard seed, which is the

smallest seed you plant in the ground. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants,

with such big branches that the birds of the air can perch in its shade.’ With many similar parables Jesus spoke the word to them, as much as they could understand. He did not say anything to them without using a parable.

But when he was alone with his own disciples, he explained everything.”

Jesus is letting His disciples know that the kingdom of God had small beginnings but will grow to great size. The mustard seed is not the smallest seed in the world but it was probably the smallest seed known to the Jewish people.

Jesus began with twelve men. Later there were seventy disciples. Then there were 120. That number grew to 500 and then on the Day of Pentecost, 3,000 were added. That number steadily increased. The next process we see is that the disciples multiplied and then there were more than could be comfortably counted. One day, saints from every nation will worship before the throne of Lord in heaven.

It’s sometimes easy to get discouraged. We look at the community around us and realize there are more that need Jesus than know Jesus. We think we’re just a small group of people who can’t do what needs to be done. But God loves to work with small, insignificant people. The seed may be small but the impact can be huge.


In Jesus’ day, the selection of disciples was a big deal. At the age of 6, Jewish boys began to learn the Torah. From the ages of 8-10, they would have memorized the Torah. At this time, most boys would then learn the family trade.

However, the best students would advance to the next level. They would memorize the whole Old Testament. After this process, the best of the best would apply to a rabbi to become his disciple.

A disciple did not want to know just know what his rabbi knew. His goal was to become like his rabbi, and do what his rabbi did

Different rabbis had different sets of interpretations of the Old Testament scriptures. When you would apply to the rabbi to become a disciple, the rabbi would give an extensive interview. He might decide that you know the scripture and that you love God but his decision to allow you to become a disciple was based completely on the understanding that you could become like him.

That is Jesus’ call to discipleship. With Jesus, it’s not how hard we’ve worked or how much we know or how much influence we have on people. Jesus call to discipleship is to be like Him.