The Perfect Servant in Mark’s Gospel: His Activity

The Perfect Servant’s Authority was seen in the actions He performed and the answers He gave. The hostile plotting of Pharisees and Herodians to destroy the Lord concludes the first cycle of the Lord’s activity (1:14-3:6). Mark turns to another aspect of the Lord’s activity: the Attitude of people to His person, words and works.

The Attitudes Toward the Servant (3:7-6:6)

Once again, Mark commences with a brief summary of the Lord’s ongoing ministry (3:7-12), followed by the call and appointment of disciples (3:13-19). Following this, the attitudes of people to the Servant are considered.

Assessing the Worker (3:20-35)

God’s personal assessment of His Servant has been given: “Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (1:11).[1] Others were making their assessments continually. His family, foes and followers all had their opinions.

1. His Family (3:20-21,31-32)

Two factors hindered the family’s appreciation of the Lord’s service. First, they had a concern for Him which, while natural, blinded them to the value of His work. When His family heard that He was so busy that He and His disciples “could not even eat … they went out to seize him, for they were saying, ‘He is out of his mind’” (3:20-21 ESV).

Second, they assumed a special claim upon the Lord Jesus because of their natural relationship to Him. This was a claim the Lord would not accept. When they arrived at His location, they stood outside and “sent unto him, calling him.” They expected Him to heed their summons but He did not respond to them (3:31-32).

The Perfect Servant was willing to deny Himself, and He was not accountable to His family for His service. While He cared for them, He did not allow Himself to be controlled by them. Every servant will, at some stage, be obligated to serve sacrificially. On such occasions, family misunderstanding may be experienced.

2. His Foes (3:22-30)

The popularity and growing influence of the Lord Jesus caused the religious leaders from Jerusalem to become alarmed. A delegation of legal specialists arrived to discredit Him and His ministry. They were determined to finish Him for good. “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” they said, and “by the prince of demons he casts out the demons” (3:22 ESV).

The Perfect Servant experienced misrepresentation, false accusation and slander from those who felt their power base was being eroded by His influence. The Lord reduced their accusations to absurdity. If Jesus were casting out demons by Satanic power, then Satan must be intent on destroying His own kingdom! This was a foolish notion and exposed the desperate levels to which His opponents would stoop to discredit Him.

But, if the Lord’s deliverance of demon-possessed people was not carried out by Satanic power, then by what power was it performed? “No man can enter into a strong man’s house, and spoil his goods, except he will first bind the strong man; and then he will spoil his house” (3:27). To deliver demon-possessed people from the power of Satan, a greater power than Satan’s was necessary. The obvious conclusion was that divine power was on display.

The seriousness of the sin of the visiting scribes is clear. They were, in face of all evidence to the contrary, ascribing works done in the power of the Holy Spirit to Satan. They were knowingly and persistently choosing to call light darkness. This was not a mistake; it was deliberate, defiant resistance to truth. They were setting themselves in malicious opposition to God’s purpose. Continuing in such a path secures certain damnation (3:28-30).

3. His Followers (3:31-35)

The third group to consider was a crowd that “sat about Him” (3:32,34). This group gathered around Him expectantly, heard His words, witnessed His works, and valued His person. Matthew described them as “his disciples” (Mat 12:46-50).

When the family of the Lord arrived, and “standing without, sent unto him, calling him” (3:31), the Lord took the opportunity to draw a clear distinction between natural and spiritual relationships. The crowd informed Him, “Thy mother and thy brethren without seek for thee” (3:32). The Lord responded, “Who is my mother, or my brethren?” (3:33). Such a response must have appeared shocking in Jewish society, where great value was placed on natural relationships. The Lord expanded upon His meaning: “He looked round about on them which sat about him, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister and mother” (3:34-35).

Who enjoyed the closest relationship with the Lord Jesus? Who were His dearest friends? Those who did the will of God. True friendship commences and develops around a common interest, and the deepest desire of the Lord was doing God’s will: “My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work” (Joh 4:34). Therefore, those who shared (in their measure) His delight in doing God’s will He regarded as close family. They were His “brother … sister … and mother.”  Ultimately, the Lord found companionship in a small band of twelve, and closest fellowship with a smaller group of three disciples.

The Perfect Servant was not properly valued by His family. He was also actively opposed and hated by religious hypocrites who were more concerned with their power and influence than God’s will. However, those who were truly seeking to do God’s will were His close companions. They loved and revered Him, and He loved and valued them.

May we be among those who enjoy close intimacy with the Lord Jesus. May we sit at His feet, listen to His words and observe His works. If our hearts are truly submissive, He will open up the treasure of His truth to us and thrill our souls. And may the Lord grant us companions of similar spirit who delight in God’s will.

[1] All Scripture quotations in this article are from the KJV unless otherwise noted.