These small group studies of the gospel of Mark contain outlines, commentary, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, and applications. Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.
Mark 3:13-35 Bible Study Commentary – Free Lesson With Discussion Questions
I. Jesus “commissions” the twelve (13-21)
II. A house divided against itself cannot stand (22-30)
III. Jesus’ spiritual family (31-35)
I. Verses 13-21 Discussion Questions
Why do you think He went up onto the mountain instead of staying by the sea?
What did He do on the mountain?
What did He appoint the twelve to do? He chose them for what purposes? What did being one of His disciples entail?
Why did He choose 12?
Were there any trained leaders from the religious establishment? Why not? What was their task?
What authority did Jesus give to them?
What does “Peter” mean?
What happened when He went back home again?
Why did his family come for Him?
1 Corinthians 1:26-29 – God chose the foolish things to confound the wise.
Ephesians 4:11-12 – Purpose of apostles.
Luke 9:1-6, Luke 10 – Jesus sends out the twelve and the seventy.
John 4:34 – Jesus’ food is to do the work of the Father.
Matthew 10:2-4, Luke 6:13-16, Acts 1:13 – The lists of the disciples. Compare and contrast.
Verse by Verse Commentary
Jesus went up on the mountain – It might seem odd to us to read that Jesus often went to the wilderness or to the mountaintop. But there seems to be a clear reason. In the previous passage (see verse 9), we see that the crowds are pressing around him. Whenever he spent time around the populated areas, people would flock to him in great numbers. The result was basically no privacy. Jesus had two ministry “fronts.” One was to the general public and for this he preached to the crowds. But much of Jesus’ time was spent with His selected disciples, teaching and training them so that they would be well prepared to fulfill the mission He gave to them. When He wanted privacy to spend time with these select men, He would withdraw to remote areas where others could not find Him easily.
Jesus summoned those whom He Himself wanted – The Twelve were personally chosen by Jesus. While He freely preached to the crowds and offered them the chance for repentance, He did not ask everyone to be one of the Twelve disciples. Why?
Jesus appointed Twelve – He could have appointed eight or sixteen or some other number. Why twelve? Israel had twelve tribes. So the number twelve is significant as it symbolically represents one for each of the twelve tribes of Israel.
That they would be with Him – The first thing Jesus appointed them to do was to simply spend time with Him. This came first. By spending time with Jesus, they could learn the truths of God and their character could be transformed as they grew in faith. This required a major sacrifice on their part. To truly spend time with Jesus they couldn’t spend time doing the same things they had done before. They had to give something up. In addition to their jobs, they gave up time with family and friends as well as their personal time for pleasure or entertainment. Quite simply they could not spend the time required to be with Jesus and keep living the same type of life they had before. They had to make a decision which life to follow.
Application: What can we learn from this? When we become a believer, we also have a decision to make. To spend time with Jesus and learning the Word, we also have to give something up. We cannot live the same life we lived before becoming a believer and follow Jesus at the same time. Which will we choose?
And that He could send them out – The second thing Jesus appointed them to do, was to send them out ot preach. That is what the term apostle means, “sent one.” In the gospels, we see them sent out to the towns and cities of Israel. In Acts they are sent out to faraway nations. And history tells us they were sent out in all directions around the world. These two things, being with Jesus and being sent out, were happening simultaneously. See Cross-References. Notice that they were sent out long before the end of Jesus’ ministry and His death and resurrection. They were sent out during their training. They went out and preached and then came back and reported to Jesus as well as told Him about their problems and difficulties to receive His feedback and guidance. See Matthew 17:17-21 and Luke 10:17. The disciples’ training was literally on the job. Much of what Jesus taught them stemmed from a question, an event, or some situation around them. The world was their classroom. What are the positives and negatives from learning in a classroom environment and learning based on real life situations?
At the same time, we see that Jesus appointed them for a clear reason. It was not only for their personal grows (spending time with Jesus), but it was for them to become equipped so that they could reach out to others and reproduce. How successful would it be if the disciples learned all the principles about preaching and evangelism, but never did it? It would be useless. Jesus didn’t want them just to be sitters and listeners, but to be doers. In fact, a person learns best by doing rather than just listening to how to do something.
Application: What can we learn from this? How does this apply to us? How does this apply as we seek to be good disciples? How about as we seek to make disciples?
And to have authority to cast out demons – Jesus also gave the disciples special authority. We see from the passage in Matthew 17 that sometimes they failed in properly exercise this authority that God had given to them. It is vital to continue to rely on the one who sent us out while making uses of the resources He has given us to complete the task He has put before us.
See verses in Matthew 10:2-4, Luke 6:13-16, Acts 1:13. Notice that the lists are very similar. Each list includes three groups of four. The first group is always led by Peter and includes James, John, and Andrew. The second is led by Phillip and includes Bartholomew, Thomas, and Matthew. The third is led by James (son of Alpheus) and includes Thaddeus (also called Judas son of James), Simon, and Judas Iscariot. Peter is always mentioned first as the leader and spokesman. The first four are the inner circle. The second four are also significant, but not as famous. The last several are not well-known. Judas Iscariot is always mentioned last. We can make several conclusions from this.
Even Jesus was not able to spend equal time and energy discipling twelve people. He spent more time with His inner circle. Neither can we give everyone as much time as we would maybe like. Therefore we may have to learn to prioritize.
Each group seemed to have a leader. This “small group” leader likely was the spokesmen for his group, kept them accountable, and passed on info to the rest of the group members. This shows that some amount of structure and order is helpful for dividing up labor (just like in the case of Moses when he couldn’t handle the entire workload on his own.)
Not every disciple would be as famous. Jesus said that some seed would bear fruit 30, 60, and 100 fold. It is not important who is or who is not famous. What is important is that every true disciple of God is bearing fruit.
Here is the first record in the book of Mark that Jesus renamed Simon, Peter. What does Peter mean? Rock. Why does Jesus name him this? Do we see in the gospels that Peter is like a rock? It took some time, but finally Peter became a like a rock. He didn’t start off that firm or stable, but through Jesus’ patience and grace He finally was. Jesus chose to see him how he would be instead of how he was.
Jesus did not select any members of the religious establishment – He didn’t choose a Pharisee, a scribe, or a Sadducee. Rather he chose fishermen, a tax collector, a zealot, and other seemingly less educated men. This is an indictment against the religious leaders of that day.
At the same time it is a reminder that this group would have been much more teachable and humble. We never see Jesus’ disciples challenging Him like the Pharisees did. They ask questions, even dumb questions. They sometimes doubt. Often they don’t understand. But they are always willing to learn. We should be too.
Application – What lessons do you learn from this passage? What applications should we make to be a faithful follower of Jesus? Can you learn anything about how to reproduce and make more disciples. See Ephesians 4:11-12. It was not an apostle’s job to do all the work, but rather to equip the saints. As we become equipped, we can then join in this work of reaching out to others.
II. A house divided against itself cannot stand. Verses 22-30 Discussion Questions
Where is back home? What happened when he went back there?
Who do his “own people” refer to? What were they trying to do? Why did they think he had lost his senses?
What were the scribes accusing Jesus of?
What picture do you get in your mind when you see these verses (20-22)?
How did Jesus respond to the accusation that He cast out demons by Satan’s power?
What does the parable in verse 27 mean?
What lessons can we learn from this passage? Are there any implications for own families?
How were the leaders blaspheming? What did Jesus say about that blasphemy? What lesson can we learn from this?
John 8:44 – Satan is a murderer and a liar.
John 10:10 – Satan comes to steal and destroy.
Luke 10:18 – Jesus witnessed Satan falling from heaven.
Hebrews 2:14 – Jesus destroyed the one who has the power of death, Satan.
Verse by Verse Commentary
When Jesus came down from the mountain, He was immediately swarmed again. This time there were so many people pressing around Him making requests that He didn’t even have time to eat.
When Jesus’ family heard about this, they came to forcibly take Him away. In their minds, He was crazy. Why did they think so? Jesus was placing the needs of the crowds above His own. He was using up His time helping all types of people. His family thinks it is too much. They didn’t really understand Jesus’ mission or His purpose. So although it seems they were perhaps acting out what they thought was Jesus’ good, their lack of understanding about Jesus’ mission precluded them from making a valid judgment.
Next up comes some scribes who traveled all the way from Jerusalem to accuse Jesus. When I read this passage, one word comes into my mind, “chaos.” There are all kinds of groups around Jesus, each one with their own agendas. In this passage in Mark 4 we see four distinct groups, the disciples, the crowds, Jesus’ family, and the scribes. The crowds were largely motivated out of curiosity and a desire for physical healing. Jesus’ family wants to exert control over them and have Him follow their agenda. The scribes are there just to accuse Him and argue with Him. Jesus is like the calm in the middle of the storm. If that was me, I probably would have lost my mind. Jesus always maintains His composure and answers with grace and authority.
The scribes accused Jesus of the worst possible thing they could, that He was in league with Satan and doing miracles with Satan’s power, not God’s.
Amazingly, Jesus does not appear to get angry. If it were me, I would have been seething. Here Jesus was spending ALL of His time and energy helping people. He helped everyone who asked and healed them. He did so to the point of physical exhaustion and skipping meals.
And these people, have the audacity to say He is doing this through Satan’s power. If it were me, I would have probably said, “I don’t think Satan can do this”, and then send lightning out of heaven to scorch them. Fortunately Jesus had more restraint.
Jesus logically argues that Satan would not work against himself. Why would the demons be sent to possess and control certain people and then Satan demand that they come out again. If Satan was doing that, it would be a civil war among Satan and his demons and none of them would stand. Jesus instead said that the strong man (Satan) didn’t want Jesus doing this, but that He bound the strong man. The idea is that Jesus was more powerful than Satan and by the authority of His word could render Satan powerless to stop him from casting out all of these demons. This is yet another place where Jesus shows His divine nature. He is claiming to be so much more powerful than Satan that Satan can do nothing to stop him. God is the only one with this kind of power.
28-30 – In this passage we see a dire warning. Jesus says that it is unforgivable to blaspheme the Holy Spirit. The scribes were blaspheming because they attributed the good and holy work of the Holy Spirit to Satan. This was not even a casual or flippant comment. It was well-thought out. These scribes came from Jerusalem it seems just to accuse Jesus of this. The warning to us is very clear. Be careful what you say. Do not say something is the work of Satan unless you are completely sure it is. Do not use your own opinion to make judgments, but instead always look to Scripture.
Verses 31-35 Discussion Questions
Who do we know by name from the people mentioned in verse 31?
Why did they have to send word in to Jesus instead of just going in and talking to Him directly?
How did Jesus respond to this news? Why?
What do we learn about the relationship we can have with Christ in these verses? Why is this important? How does this impact you?
Is there anything we need to do based on what we learned today?
Matthew 12:46-50 – Parallel passage in Matthew.
John 1:12 – Those who believe in Him are children of God.
Matthew 13:53-58 – More on Jesus’ family including his four brothers.
Verse by Verse Commentary
We can see again how crowded it was. His family was probably standing outside because it was too jammed with people to even get into the house. They had to pass the message to Jesus by word of mouth.
Jesus is not disrespecting his family. Later while hanging on the cross he told John to take care of His mother. Also, Jesus said that the common practice of children giving what they had to God when their parents needed help was wrong. In John 2, Jesus supernaturally helped Mary when she came to him with a need even though it wasn’t according to His planned schedule. Other biblical passages such as Ephesians 6 also tell us we must honor our parents. Jesus’ point here is not actually about who is not part of His physical family, but who is part of His spiritual family. Jesus often used situations He and the people around Him were part of as object lessons. And this is one of those examples. The issue of “family” came up and Jesus taught them that anyone who obeyed God could be part of His spiritual family.
Again the terms “brother,” “sister,” and “mother” are not the focus here so we don’t need to get caught up in the question of can a believer be Jesus’ spiritual mother (the answer would be no). Jesus’ point is that He has a large spiritual family that anyone can be part of. What can we learn from this?
Jesus welcomes anyone into His family. There are many people from distressing family situations. Fathers abandon their children (like Wayne’s current roommate). Parents get divorced. Children like ABai and other orphans don’t even have parents. Many people that do have two parents, have parents who drink, take drugs, are abusive physically or verbally, argue all the time, ignore them, berate them, dominate them, etc. Siblings are often selfish towards one another even to the point of fighting over their parents’ money after they pass away (see the story of the prodigal son, Esau/Jacob, or Joseph and his brothers for more sibling rivalry.) Yet as bad as your family might be, there is hope. Jesus offers a different kind of family. He offers the love, care, peace, mercy, and kindness that is absent in many homes around the world. Jesus’ own physical family was not like this as his brothers for a time rejected Him and tried to control Him.
The spiritual family is more important than the physical family – Galatians 6:10. This sentence is like a bombshell to the traditional Chinese value placed on family. Remember firstly that our physical family IS very important and that if we don’t care for the members of our family we are worst than an unbeliever. 1 Timothy 5:8. However, many believers are tempted to place the opinions and commands of family members over and above the opinions and commands of God (our heavenly Father.) You can see this with married couples where one spouse still listens to his parents first instead of his wife as the Bible says. You can also see this happen when a child decides not to continue following God because of pressure from his parents. I have seen this happen many times. Those who go down this road have made the decision that their physical family is more important than their spiritual family. This is the wrong decision. Jesus Himself said that He came to bring a sword not peace. See Matthew 10:34.
Try to model your household/family after God’s – Don’t let your family become like those mentioned where the members are divided, lonely, bitter, and angry. Follow God’s rules for your own family and you can have one that reflects God’s own (and this is possible if your family is part of God’s family too.)
Treat brothers and sisters well – One complaint many have is that the church is divided and people often argue with each other there. Don’t be one of those divisive or argumentative people. Treat other believers like God wants us to treat a brother and sister. According to Ephesians 5, that means a mutual submission of our own will to each other.
There is an entrance requirement. Not everyone is part of God’s family. He is not everyone’s Father. Only those who do His will (which is enabled by having faith in Him), can enter His family.
Application Questions: Are you in His family? Are you putting your heavenly Father’s or earthly father’s will first? Are you leading your home to be a model of God’s family or does it look like every other broken household? Do you treat brothers and sisters in the church like brothers and sisters or do you treat them like strangers, nuisances, or even enemies?