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Mar 10, 2024

Crowds & Core

Passage: Mark 3:7-19

Preacher: John Repsold

Series: Gospel of Mark

Keywords: core, priorities, boundaries, crowds


Jesus had 3 1/2 years to ensure that his work of redemption would spread effectively after his departure. Constantly confronted by the demands of the crowd, Jesus ministered to them effectively but also adopted the priority of ministry to a small core of people. How did he do that and why? What are the implications this has for us expending our lives the best way in what limited life we have in the face of unending needs? This message looks at these critical life-shaping issues and how Jesus' choices can help us today.


 Crowds & Core

Mark 3:7-19

March 10, 2024

Fellowship Question:  Tell someone about one of the largest crowd experiences you’ve ever had.


Imagine this morning that someone comes to you this week and offers you a choice:

  • They promise to pay you $1,000 for 40 days straight. OR
  • They promise to pay you a penny the first day and double that amount each day for 40 days.

But you have to answer in 5 seconds!  Which one would you choose?  Well after today, you hopefully will know.  If you took the first job, you would earn $40,000, no small potatoes.  But if you took the second job, you would end up with $5,497,558,970.88.  That’s the power of multiplication and compounding over time. 

            That has a lot to do with our text today.  Jesus had a choice when he walked this earth about how he was going to build his church.  He had 3.5 years to invest in its foundation.  And we’ve had 2,000 years since then to see how his decision is working out.  By just being who he was, in a matter of days, he was drawing large crowds of curiosity-seekers. But most of those people would never go on to multiply a single disciple.  Most of them would take the healing he gave them or take the bread he fed them and continue on with their lives. 

Jesus knew that, which is why he opted for a different long-term approach to building God’s family, the church.  The result is that today, Christianity claims more adherents than any other religion on the planet—roughly 2.4 billion of earth’s 8 billion inhabitants…plus all the Christians throughout the history of the last 2,000 years.

As we’ll see today, Jesus cares about people, whether they are just crowd-followers or core-confidants.  But HOW Jesus dealt with them was somewhat different.  And that has implications for how He will deal with us and how we should invest our limited lives in other people as well.  So let’s read the passage.  Mark 3:7-19

Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the sea, and a great crowd followed, from Galilee and Judea 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. 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.

Here's where I’d like to focus our study today on this passage. 

  • How did Jesus manage boundaries with the crowds…and what should that teach us about proper boundaries in our own lives and ministries?
  • How did Jesus develop core confidants and turn a handful of diverse, rather common-place disciples into a cadre of people who changed the world?
  • How should that inform and shape how we invest our short lives in people?

Most of us probably feel pretty overwhelmed by the volume of need that exists around us.  Whether it is parenting a gaggle of pre-schoolers non-stop from morning to night or whether it is simply getting off the freeway at Division and 3rd and seeing the crowd of homeless inhabiting our streets, there is far more NEED everywhere we turn than our own resources of time, money, energy, ability and strength.  We have to learn to make good choices and to build healthy boundaries or we will end up being part of the problem instead of part of the solution. 

            From the very first words of verse 7, this passage shouts “BOUNDARIES” to me.  “Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the sea….”  Mark lets us know that, as we saw last week with the sabbath, Jesus was modeling to those who would carry on His work that they needed boundaries with the crowd.  They needed rest and renewal.  They needed recreation and reflection.  So they “go to the lake” to enjoy some “time away”. 

  • Maybe Nathanael just needed to stretch out in the shade under a tree and take a nap.
  • Maybe Peter needed a few quiet hours fishing.
  • Maybe Jesus just wanted to skip rocks with the children.

There were still thousands of sick people to heal.  There were still demon-possessed maniacs needing deliverance.  There were still tens of thousands of poor people who would love a meal. 

            But Jesus understood that he and his disciples would need healthy boundaries if they were to properly steward the great commission he was entrusting to them. 

            So, let’s talk briefly about the boundaries Jesus set around the CROWDS.  (We have a whole course called “Boundaries” that all of us should probably take…and retake… at various times.  So if something I say today about boundaries hits a chord, you should probably consider joining that group at sometime in the future.)

What is a boundary?  Something that indicates a boarder or limit.


  • your skin—a boundary between the environment and your body.
  • Your house/apartment—a boundary between weather, temperature, other people and you.
  • Your bank account—a boundary between your money and other people’s money…or greed/theft.

Those are pretty clear, well-defined boundaries.  But then there are a host of not-so-evident/visible boundaries:

  • Touch—do you like to be hugged by lots of people or only want to be touched by your cat?
  • Words—do you love to hear people talk all day and night… or do you need more silence and quiet space?
  • Friendships—do you have many or few? Close or distant?  Transparent or guarded?  Long or short-term?

God created life, people, cities, homes and nations to have boundaries.  And when we fail to guard or enforce appropriate boundaries, life deteriorates.  People are violated.  Crime runs rampant.  Cities devolve into chaos.  Nations are overrun by invaders.  Boundaries could not be a more relevant issue to our survival today. 

            So, Jesus taught his disciples about how to develop boundaries with the crowds that would enable them to have a life of fruitful ministry.  Which brings us to the purpose of boundaries:

Boundaries exist to enable us to love others better, not less.

Whether it is the panhandler on the street who thinks that all the money in your wallet is the solution to his problems OR it is the person renting a room from you who thinks they now own everything in your house, we all need healthy boundaries in order to enable us to love others (and God) better. 


  • If I have poor boundaries about who gets my money, I won’t have enough to take care of my God-given responsibilities of family, self, church, neighbors or government.
  • If I have poor boundaries about my time and don’t reserve some for rest, renewal, and recharging, I’ll end up physically exhausted, sick, irritable, angry and useless to those who are depending on me.

Boundaries exist to enable us to love others better, not less.  They are not to be used as an excuse to be more calloused, more indifferent, more disengaged, more distant or more selfish. Good boundaries will enable us to be more compassionate, more selfless and more engaged than if we didn’t have them.

Godly boundaries assume you are not hoarding what you have but are sharing it.  They assume that you are giving of your time, effort, attention, resources, energies, etc. to such a degree that they could be depleted.  Like our sabbath discussion of last week, boundaries and sabbaths only have meaning when work and giving of ourselves are the norm.   

So, a couple of the boundaries Jesus modeled with “the crowd” were:

  • Time
  • Space

Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the sea, and a great crowd followed…. When the great crowd heard all that he was doing, they came to him.

            So, what do you do when people keep busting your boundaries?  And trust me, they will! 

You make new ones.  You have a “Plan B”.  You adjust to the moment…and you stick to your God-given boundaries.    

 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. 

            Things got worse before they got better.  In response to a planned lake-day, they got an unplanned mob.  Things were getting so out of hand that someone was going to get hurt or trampled.  So, Jesus sets another boundary, this time with a boat. 

ILL:  It reminds me of one of my pastor-friends in this community in years gone by, Tom Starr, did just that with his fishing boat.  That was the one place he could go to get away from the pressure of ministry, be outdoors with God and relax.  He was even smart enough to name his boat “VISITATION” so that when people called the office looking for him, the secretary could honestly say, “Pastor Tom’s not here right now.  He’s out on Visitation.” 

            We need to remember that the needs of the crowd/them will always be greater than the resources of the individual/us.  And no matter how many relief programs, how many meals, how many beds, how many buildings, how much money we make available to the “crowd”, the need will always outstrip the resources. 

            Even when we change their lives as Jesus did through healing or feeding or housing or educating, it is not ministry to the crowd that will make the long-term difference.  For that, we will need a chosen core. 

            One more “boundary” before we look at Jesus’ core-team. 

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.

Don’t let the opposition set the agenda.  To any meaningful spiritual ministry there will always be demonic or ungodly opposition.  This is just an axiom of ministry.  Whenever you start to do something that has real potential to move the needle in your life or a church or a community or a nation, you can be sure that hell itself will take notice and push back.  But we must not let that set the agenda for our time, our teaching or our attention.


  • People I know who have gotten involved in deliverance ministries >> tendency to get over-involved, for Satan to attack their marriages, their children, their health, even their very lives.
  • Distractions/problems/challenges that threaten to consume our time, energies, resources, etc.

Jesus’ response:  set boundaries around the darkness.  Limit the impact of the demonic.  Command Satan and all his forces to be silent, even if what they are saying is true at the moment.  (You can be sure any truth they are speaking won’t last long and lies will take over.) Don’t let the evil opposition set the agenda for what God has called you to do.  Don’t let it take more time or energy than absolutely required.  Deal with it in the moment and keep moving.

From the crowd, Mark turns his attention to the CORE.

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….

The remaining bulk of this paragraph lists the names of the 12 disciples/ apostles whom Jesus chose. We won’t go through them today.  Just note that…

  • It was a very diverse bunch, from fishermen to finance people, patriots to traitors.
  • 10 of the 12 were martyred for their relationship and love for Jesus.
  • 1 committed suicide.
  • Only 1 (John) died of old age and natural causes.
  • All were imperfect, sinners, failed along the way but they ended up taking the gospel to the known ends of the earth and changing the world.

Mark tells us that Jesus “appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles).”  The word “apostle” literally means “sent one” or “one who is sent off.”  That noun “apostle” is used in vs. 14.  But the verb behind it is (apostello) is what matters in how Jesus invested his life in this “core.”  But first, back up to vs. 13. 

            Mark doesn’t tell us HOW Jesus chose the core.  But Luke 6 does.  He talks like Mark about Jesus doing this on a mountainside.  But he adds that Jesus went to that mountainside first to pray and spent the whole night praying before he called and commissioned the 12 the next day. 

            You may be wondering, “This is all very interesting.  But I’m not Jesus and I’m not choosing anyone to be on some team.  What has this got to do with me?” 

            May I be so bold as to suggest that while you may not choose 12 people to be on your team for 3.5 years of your life and travel all around the U.S. with them, God will give to all of us who love Jesus…over the course of our lifetime…at least 12 people who we will get to impact at close range.  That may be a spouse.  It may be children…or grandchildren.  It may be foster children.  It may be extended family (nieces/nephews, cousins, in-laws).  It may be friends and coworkers.  It may be ministry partners.  It may be church members.  I guarantee you that if you are walking with the Lord, there will be more than 12 times in this life that you will have opportunity to “choose” to invest in people for the kingdom of God. 

            WHEN that happens, we would be wise to take note of HOW Jesus chose his core and HOW he chose to develop them. 

  1. Choose your core through PRAYER. From the thousands of people whom the Father had brought into his life to that point, Jesus had to decide who was the best to invest into.  To do that, he prayed about it…over a significant amount of time…earnestly. (You don’t stay awake all night without being passionate or very concerned about something.) 

            Are you considering a spouse?  You better spend a LOT of time praying about it…and be committed in advance to DO whatever God says to do in the end.  We shouldn’t pray about stuff we want to retain veto power over.  Once we start praying we must be willing to surrender to whatever God’s answer is. 

  1. Choose only those who are willing to follow. Vs. 13 tells us that Jesus “called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him.  There was a willingness on the part of those he chose to respond to his direction and call.  That doesn’t mean they always agreed with Jesus.  We know that some of them even “rebuked” Jesus for saying things about his impending death.  But then Jesus would need to rebuke them…and he did.  But nowhere, other than Judas Iscariot, do we find the Apostles telling their Rabbi, “No, you’re wrong.  We’re not doing that.”  They joined Jesus’ team because they believed a.) they had some things to learn, and b.) Jesus had some things to teach them.  BOTH those realities need to be in play with people who we choose to invest our lives in.  If they don’t think we have something to teach them OR they are not hungry to be taught, we’re all wasting our time.

            The flip side of this is, don’t join a team where you don’t think you can learn much from the coach.  Don’t join a team if you don’t plan to take direction from the coach.  That doesn’t mean the coach is always right or always makes the best calls on plays.  If that’s what you’re looking for, good luck finding a team.  But if you want to grow, find someone who you respect and from whom you can take direction when it comes time to make plays.

  1. Choose people you plan to “be with,” to truly spend time on. That doesn’t mean you will always enjoy being with them.  I’m sure there were plenty of days in just those 3.5 years the 12 were together that that didn’t always love being together.  But they hung together, they traveled together, they ministered together.  And the glue that held them all together was Jesus. 

            You know who I think most consistently models this in our culture?  MOTHERS!  Moms, you are the glue that holds families together.  Most of you are the emotional ‘sticky’ in family.  You’re the hub of communication.  You’re the one most kids call most frequently.  Even in war, your name is most often on the lips of dying men.  Know why that is?  Because you have spent the most time “being with” your children.  These are ‘disciples’ you have chosen to ‘be with’ and spend massive amounts of time with. 

            One of the things that I’m still perplexed by in our culture is how few people seem to understand this very basic concept:  If you want depth of relationship, you must have depth of commitment.  You must commit to showing up every week, every meal planned together, every special event or show.  You must commit to spend both quality and quantity of time.  People who are good friends spend a good amount of time together.  There is NO substitute for steady, regular, consistent TIME with those we both want to impact deeply and by whom we want to be impacted.

APP:  For any of us as followers of Jesus, I hope that we just want to spend time with our Lord.  I hope we’re wanting to be on His “inner circle.”  Just ‘being with’ is one of the great human experiences of life.

  1. Choose people for your ‘core’ you plan to outlast and surpass you.

Vs. 14--“And he appointed twelve… so that…he might send them out….”

Jesus told his disciples that they would do greater works than he did, right?  He told them about what was going to happen to him and what life was going to be like for them when he was gone, right?  He prepared them over and over for when he would be gone.  He even named them “apostles” so that they would know from the very beginning that he wasn’t training them so they could hang around him forever.  He was calling them so that he could send them after they had been with Him. 

            This is the job of every parent, right.  We invest ¼ million dollars in a kid, not so they can be just like us or follow in our footsteps.  We want them to surpass us in qualities and skills we may have only dreamt of. We want them to blaze their own trail, not pave our path.  We want them go out into a future we will never experience and do greater things than we ever did. 

ILL:  arrows I’ve made for my children.  “As arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are children born in one’s youth.”  (Ps. 127:4).

            This has a lesson for any looking to join some ‘core’.  Choose a leader whose passion is your success, not theirs.  Choose a leader who isn’t threatened by someone who does something better than they do but genuinely delights when others outshine them.  Choose a leader who looks for people who aren’t just like them but have different skill sets they bring to the team. 

            Jesus chose men he knew would eventually “go” when he said “go.”  His job was to prepare them to be world-missionaries.  Their job wasn’t to get people to come to them.  It wasn’t to hang out in the synagogues or Temple and become the big show.  What Jesus wants is disciples who love to be with Him BUT who love to GO and tell others about Him too.  He’s looking for people willing to be trailblazers.  He looking for spiritual entrepreneurs who believe that faith in Him makes anything possible in this impossible world. 

            Specifically, Jesus chose his core characters with the end in mind: to be sent out to preach and prevail against the gates of hell! 

“…that he might send them out to preach 15 and have authority to cast out demons.”

I don’t think Jesus was looking for radio or TV preachers.  I don’t think he was looking for showmen who would become known for miracles, signs and wonders.  He just wanted men who wouldn’t back down or give in in the face of demonic activity.  He wanted men who would push back and plunder Satan’s strongholds as they declared the truth of Christ.  He wanted men who, though relatively uneducated and unrefined, could be taught by him, a carpenter, to change the world with His message of salvation. 


  • You willing to be sent out?
  • You ready to make the Gospel your constant, persistent and passionate message/conversation?
  • You ready to stand up to and against the forces of darkness in the lives of others and yourself?
  • You eager to take the message where it’s not been understood or seen or heard before?

That’s the kind of ‘core confidant’ Jesus is looking for.  That’s what will set you and me apart from the ‘crowd’ of people who may be curios about Jesus and may love the benefits there are from hanging out with Him. 

Which do you want to be a part of, the core OR the crowd?  Jesus will serve both groups.  He will love both groups.  He’ll heal and teach and challenge both groups.  But only the core will accept the call, the commission and the commitment that comes with being empowered and sent by the Master.