7 Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the lake, and a large crowd from Galilee followed. 8 When they heard 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 evil 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. (Mark 3:7-12)
John Calvin abridged: Christ tried to withdraw in order to rest, into a desert place before it was daylight. Mark afterward says, that Peter told him, everyone is looking for you; and Luke says that multitudes came to that place. Mark and Luke say that he passed through all Galilee to preach in every place. While Matthew says he passed over to the other side (or farther bank)- which does not necessarily mean the opposite side, but refers to the curvature of the lake below Capernaum. So he crossed over to another part of the lake without leaving Galilee.
Thoughts: Jesus was trying to get a break- perhaps go on vacation. He went to a private place, but the crowds not only followed him- but pressed so hard upon him that he got into a boat in order to get a little space. This happened many times in Jesus' ministry. The feeding of the 5,000 happened when Jesus tried to go to a private place, grieving the death of John the Baptist. Instead of being alone- he looked around and there were 5,000 people- and without food! So- at the beginning of June- a lesson for all true ministers of the gospel- it's okay to seek vacation- but do not expect perfect rest- and when people need you- our Lord's example is to respond. Jesus ideally wanted time alone, but time alone was secondary to doing God's work. His rest was found in the Father's presence. Certainly, Jesus did not leave his faith behind when he tried to go on vacation! He was deeply aware of God's presence and His calling wherever He went. There have been studies that show Americans tend to be a little more immoral when they leave their hometowns. Perhaps we need to remember Jesus' example here.
Another lesson here is that Jesus' ministry early on reached out to the Gentiles. Healing appeals to everyone- touching a deep human need. Idumea, Tyre and Sidon were gentile areas. Jesus knew his ministry was for all the world, and not just for Israel. We should know that too. The gospel is not just for those who may think, look like, or talk like us. It is for all people, and we should have a heart for those who are different from us- who have needs.
In Mark the Spirit world (the Father's voice at baptism and transfiguration) and the demons exclaim that Jesus is the Son of God (Matthew and Luke do this too, but not as consistently). This is the ultimate testimony for Mark. Jesus, however, tells the spirits to be quiet because their intent was to harm his ministry. He was already facing huge crowds- and the crowds would get bigger if that word got out, and the soldiers would quickly come before he had a chance to teach. Even as it was, Jesus only taught for three short years. For some of us, we love popularity no matter when it comes. We want our moment in the world's spotlight even if it means we cannot teach more. Jesus had wisdom to show restraint to the popularity of the world.
Prayer: Give me grace, O Lord, to find rest in you. Help me not to itch for the world's popularity today, but to respond to the needs around me.