In the first section of Mark 1:16-3:12) the setting was beside the Sea of Galilee. The next section (3:13-6:6a) begins on the mountain top. The third section in Mark (6:6b-8:30) starts with them going from village to village (considered a wilderness section by some – See Swartley, 49 and Witherington, 142). The geography (or topography to be more specific) of Mark follows the Exodus experience from sea to mountain to wilderness. This again highlights two of the central themes of Mark – discipleship (God forming a people for himself) and liberation (the inbreaking of the kingdom of God) that were an enormous part of their heritage and oral tradition in the exodus experience. Each of these three sections also begin with a summary statement of the ministry of Jesus or his disciples.
Ministry Summary (3:7-12):
Jesus now has a crowd following him. After all the miracles and teaching with authority unlike the religious leaders, Jesus has gained a following (3:7-12). Mark tells us that the people came from Judea, Jerusalem, and Idumea (South), across the Jordan (East), Tyre (West) and Sidon (North). In other words, people were converging on Jesus from all directions. What is ironic in this second ministry summary (3:7-12) is that it is not the people confessing who Jesus is. It is the powers of darkness who are falling at his feet and confessing (Reminiscent of Philippians 2:10-11).
Jesus Appoints the Twelve (3:13-19):
Again, the setting is a mountain. That is significant as mountains often signify a place connected with God or where God typically reveals himself (Exodus 18-19). We will later see another mountain at the transfiguration (Mark 9). Of course the 12 has significance with the 12 tribes of Israel. N.T. Wright connects what Jesus does in appointing 12 with the expectation that when the messiah came the tribes of Israel would be restored (Isa 49:6, Ezek 45:8). We also learn from Luke 22:29-30 that they will take part in judging the 12 tribes. Also in Acts 1:15ff the apostles recognize the importance of needing 12 in their decision to replace Judas.
These twelve are designated apostles (those who are sent out). They will not be sent out until chapter 6 but with this mountaintop experience comes an expectation that they will be sent out to do the same things Jesus was doing (3:14-15 – notice parallels with 1:14-15 & 1:21ff). They are not called to be passive observers. They are called to act on behalf of God and his kingdom to make a difference in the world in advancement of the kingdom of God. Jesus didn’t designate 12 bench warmers. He designated 12 to be sent out.
Jesus Accused (3:20-35):
The first big question is who thinks Jesus is crazy? The wording is a little difficult here. It could be his family (literally close associates), it could be the crowd, or it could be the teachers of the law who were present. It is ambiguous in Greek. The same is true of the question of who is the short one in Luke 19? Jesus or Zacchaeus. It is ambiguous in Greek (either Zacchaeus is short and so he cannot see Jesus or Zacchaeus cannot see Jesus because Jesus is short and Zacchaeus cannot see over the crowd). In this case it is probably Jesus family. That is not surprising given passages like John 7 where Jesus brothers don’t believe him. I believe it is Witherington who points out that his family may be trying to save him from shame. I should also point out that this is another instance of chiasmus (or a Markan sandwhich): crowd – family – scribes – family – crowd.
The accusations against Jesus boil down to this – there are only two powers that could drive out demons. Either God or the devil. The religious leaders had decided in advance that Jesus wasn’t doing it by the power of God so to them there was only one other option. Jesus shows logically that it doesn’t make sense for the devil to drive himself out and work against himself. So it must be the other option. They accuse him of being possessed by Beelzebul (Baal (lord) + zeboul (probably house – BWIII, 156). That is why Jesus uses the analogy of the strong man’s house (3:27ff). Jesus is saying he is not working in conjunction with the Lord of the House (Satan) but that in effect he is plundering that house for God. The fact is, Jesus had already started tying up the strong man back in chapter 1 with his wilderness temptation. The inbreaking of the kingdom of God is a plundering of the house and spoils of the devil. On a side note that I think is an interesting take on this is Swartley’s view that as Moses came down from the mountain and encountered idol worship, Jesus comes down from the mountain (appointing the12) and encounters this Beelzebul controversy (Swartley, 52).